May 20th

Now this is what a vacation should be all about: sitting outside on a patio for lunch, drinking some cask ale in beautiful weather. Lunch was at one of the Capitol City brewpubs, this one being in Shirlington, Virginia. They have four main brands (Amber Waves Ale, Prohibition Porter, Capitol Kolsch and Pale Rider Ale) with rotating seasonals (a Maibock and ESB were the seasonals at the time). No surprise, the cask beer sounded the most intriguing to me, so I had a Capitol City Pale Ale with Peppercorn.

The Pale Ale came with a large, foamy head and cloudy orange body. Nice nose of floral hops. A little butterscotch in the beginning, tropical fruits, then a spicy and lightly bitter finish. There is no noticeable peppercorn, but it is obvious where the spice is coming from. Medium bodied and really sessionable. From a brewpub that I had middling expectations for, this quirky pale ale was quite nice. I also tried a sip of the Amber Waves Ale (fresh and balanced) and the Kolsch (a definite pass).

Two comments on American bars: 1) They love the shaker pint glass. No matter what beer you’re drinking, this is how they’ll serve it. It looks unassuming, but trying to pick up aromas can be quite hard at times. It also feels quite odd to hold. 2) Cheap beer! The Happy Hour concept is weird to Canadians. Example: on Thursday afternoons the main four Capitol City beers are $2/pint. Compare that to Toronto where a pint of craft beer is cheap if it costs $5. Of course, beer is also significantly cheaper in grocery stores (though imports are often more expensive than through the LCBO). Not trying to get on a soapbox, just pointing things out.

After some more beer shopping, it was back to drinking. First was a bottle of Highland Oatmeal Porter. Poured a dark brown, but still with some light coming through. A trace head on the beer, with a strong, but bland, nose of chocolate and roasted malts. Heavy on the chocolate flavour but little else aside from some malt. Not creamy, as I would expect from a beer brewed with oatmeal, or bitter. Body is a tad thin as well. Overall, disappointing.

Then it was back to the big boys after dinner and it was a chance at redemption for the Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. Great mixture of aromas with citrus fruits, pine and some caramel. The beer is a wonderful auburn colour. Lots of grapefruit and tropical fruits, with some pine and caramel in the mix. The fruit becomes even more pronounced as the beer warms up. Quite bitter in the finish, but really well balanced. I didn’t get much oak – maybe a hint of butter, though I didn’t have the Arrogant Bastard to compare. A really nice body. Quite the excellent beer and one that is probably on par with the Dogfish Head 90.

The nightcap was a bottle of Victory Storm King Imperial Stout. It poured pitch black with two inches of brown, dense head. Coffee and dark fruit aromas. Really strong taste of espresso, with some fruit hidden deep down and an intense bitterness that covers my whole mouth. Unfortunately, I also get a bit of a metallic taste. The body is decent for an imperial stout. A good beer, but I think some more time in the bottle could have taken this to the next level.

Highland Oatmeal Porter on Ratebeer

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale on Ratebeer

Victory Storm King Imperial Stout on Ratebeer

Today: 1.5L. Year-to-date: 104.58L.

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