Monday, April 29, 2019

☸️ Various and sundry

A roundup of my recent beer and four-legged passions. All photos enlarge with a click.

Our trek for brewed (and fermented) beverage enjoyment resumes. This month Neal and I paid a visit to Phase 2 Brewing, the brainchild of Cathy Frye and her sister, Mary Battaglia. They opened Brew Loco, a coffee shop and home-brew supply store, back in 2014 with an idea for beer production as a second phase. More recently, they introduced Phase 2 Brewing. We visited on a quiet Saturday afternoon. As is our MO, we ordered flights of everything. I checked in my beers with Untappd.

One pleasure of a brewery visit is finding a brewer who creates unique beers with unusual incredients. We found one very good example in Bagel Run wheat ale; it really was like drinking a raisin bagel, but not cloyingly so. Cathy and her husband make regular runs back to New York for family visits, returning with bags of bagels for themselves and friends. Some make it into the brew kettle. What is often a bready beer style–wheat ale–lended itself to this flavorful treat.

My favorite beer, though, was Sibling Rivalry, an IPA loaded with two of my favorite hops, Citra and Mosaic. The balance between malt and hops was pitch-perfect; I'd place this one among my top-5 of this style. It hekps that I'm a big fan of west coast IPAs, the northwest variant in particular.

A close second was Mango Mama DIPA. As with any imperial beer, the less of its high-alcohol content tasted, the better. In this case not one iota of 'Mama's 8% ABV was evident, but its lush tropical hops and mild malt finish were right up my alley. Pungently flavorful and potent, this beer was terrific.

Our first four samplers at
Phase 2 Brewing.
Half Wit Radler made for a notable and unusual offering: parts hibiscus witbier and lemonade, this 3.5% ABV beer makes for a delicious and attractive afternoon thirst-quencher. Carefully poured, the beer stratifies by density; alcohol is less dense than water. See if you can pick it out in the photo.

Cathy is one of those brewers who has an innate sense of flavor. She marries traditional hops with malt with the odd adjunct to create a balanced and very satisfying beverage in which both the beer and the adjunct flavoring are each discernable, yet pair perfectly. Some brewers do this better than others. We ventured elsewhere thereafter, but the day's highlight was enjoying our time and beers at Phase 2.

As an aside, of all the many breweries I've visited, this is the first owned and operated by a woman. It's unremarkable that a woman can brew delicious beer, but it is remarkable that there are so few doing so in this beloved, independent industry. More on that later.

***

Me, panicking while sampling
Pen Druid's Colonial Panic porter.
(Inside joke.)
The annual Sperryfest in Sperryville, Virginia. Neal and I stopped off at Pen Druid Brewing upon arrival last weekend for an hour-plus session of delicious beers, chats with co-owner Jennings Carney, and a dissection of the recently-released film Avengers: Endgame. We ordered a flight of everything.

(In a world of beer operations, this act in this particular place is one of my very favorite pasttimes. There's a hidden, end-of-the-world feel to Sperryville and Pen Druid's modest tasting room that lends itself to happy chats with friends while sipping great beers.)

Pen Druid usually has six taps pouring wild, spontaneous-fermentated and barrel-aged beer. I was offline for the visit and didn't log my beers in Untappd, but I'll point to Golden Swan, a wild blonde incorporating organic wheat; Colonial Panic, a wild porter incorporating organic wheat, sorghum, and raw buckwheat honey; and Celestial Event, a wild dark strong ale also incorporating organic wheat as the day's highlights.

I've visited and written about Pen Druid before. The beer there is never routine. Although the phrase "craft beer" is common today, I've never found a more concrete example than the Carney brothers' process, facility, and product. Regional beer fans, and particularly those who enjoy sours and the process of spontaneous fermentation should pay them a visit.

We moved on to the primary focus of our day's trek: the Great Rubber Duck Race down the Mighty Thornton River, and Sperryfest. The ducks are indeed rubber, the Thornton was mighty (in a small-town sort of way), and everyone had a great good time, with kids and dogs in abundance. I got right down to the river's edge for the action-packed video at left.

Afterward, we took a stroll up Main Street, looking for and finding Dennis and Dave, our friends from Hinson Ford Cider & Mead. I previously wrote about their mead and cider production facility and tasting room. Our visit this weekend happily coincided with a new mead release: orange blossom. Mead is wine made from honey rather than grapes; this one is based on orange blossom honey. Yes, it tasted a wee orange on my palate.

Hinson Ford's meads and ciders are on the dry side, and are imbued with a wide variety of flavors. If you live in the region and enjoy fine meads and ciders, but eschew the sweeter versions found elsewhere, try Hinson Ford.

We wound up our short visit to Sperryville chatting with friends we bumped into along the way. There were a lot of people enjoying themselves in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, Saturday.


***

I've sampled this year's Hoppy Honey saison ale at both Twinpanzee Brewing and Phase 2 Brewing recently. (It's pouring at Solace Brewing, too, which reminds me that I need to make another visit there. They've gotten terrific peer comment in the 2018 regional beer review, along with the aforementioned Pen Druid.)

Hoppy Honey, Twinpanzee Brewing
Hoppy Honey's story is contemporary good will. The Pink Boots Society, a collaborative effort to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education, publishes a new brew recipe every year. Brewers take it into production, donating back to the Society a cut of the proceeds. This year the beer is a moderately hoppy honey wheat ale, all of which hits the palate at once. I rated both samplings 3.5/5 on Untappd, and advocate buying a pint for both enjoyment and support of women brewers. As mentioned above, Cathy Frye is the first woman owner-brewer I've encountered, and I'd very much like to see more women working the brewhouse side today.

***

Kelly and I joined our pals Mike and Susan for a quick weekend drive to Ocala, Florida to attend a wedding in Citrus Hills a few weeks ago. Our mutual friends Scott and Michelle were married in a lovely outdoor ceremony, and we enjoyed a fun evening reception and dinner afterward. Unsurprisingly, we managed to find a local brewery for a visit, too: Tampa Beer Works. My beers are logged in Untappd.

This place is a brewery after my own heart: a tiny brewhouse in the back room produces award-winning beers sampled in an utterly unpretentious taproom up front. The space is small, the decor pedestrian at best; a hole in the wall. The beer was terrific. When in Tampa, blow off restaurant beer and go here, instead.


***

The Bitter Truth aromatic bitters
The Bitter Truth bitters and your next Manhattan. So I made a cocktail for myself last evening while Kelly's delicious lasagna was heating. She's out of town visiting family in North Carolina this weekend, and I'm spending much of the time on yard work. After mowing and over-seeding, I had earned a craft cocktail.

I tried a little something different in this one: an "aromatic" bitters from The Bitter Truth. I received a collection of these from our friend, Kathy. This was my first go with this particular bottle.

I mixed three dashes of aromatic bitters with three ounces of Masterson's Rye Whiskey and an ounce and a half of Carpano Antica Formula, which is an artisanal vermouth of great repute, in a mixing glass with ice and good wishes. What emerged was sublime. If you're accustomed to using Angostura aromatic bitters, retire them and buy a bottle of aromatics from The Bitter Truth. They sell a wide variety of others, as well.

If you're new to bitters, I wrote a piece about them a while back on Bazinga Journal, and The Washington Post published a very good primer, as well.


***

Bodhi at twenty-two months
The Bodhi. My pal turns two years old June 16. In the wake of our losing Zele, I thought I'd never love another dog as much as I did that sweet girl. Two years down the road, I've learned that's not so.

Bodhi has emerged as one of the great ones; he's a playful, sweet boy who wants nothing more than to be around Kelly and me. We routinely enjoy walks together. Today he romped the front yard while I worked, investigated the full length of our fence, then laid just inside the open gate while I worked at sectioning tree limbs and moving them to the woods. He's a joy. I so love this boy.

Avengers: Endgame is in theaters, so Kelly and I joined Neal and a cast of friends for opening night. Without spoiling the many threads tied up, the story was satisfying and the production was near top-notch Marvelesque. I think last year's Avengers: Infinity War was a wee tighter in execution, but I wasn't disappointed by the new film. Resolution of Captain America's life was particularly satisfying. After attending, ask yourself, "where did Loki go?"

Bodhi and his new pals, Jack and Harper
The twins. We have two new members in our family, Jack (Kerouac) and Harper (Lee). Our friend Pam rescued a mama cat who produced a litter in need of homes. We've been missing our Izzy since losing her nine years ago. Time flies. Our home once again bears the sound of romping cat paws.

***

I'm listening to Maggie Rogers as I write. This young woman's music and lyrics nearly brought Pherrel Williams to tears during a masterclass session. Her EP Now That The Light Is Fading does not disappoint, and her newer full-length album expands her pop. Alaska is particularly beautiful, and On + Off showcases both her voice and her expertise blending backing vocals and looped instrumentals. Look her up, download, and enjoy.

#AvengersEndgame #beer #cocktails #bodhi #jack #harper #theTwins #maggieRogers