June 30, 2014

Man in search of beer in America: Part Two -- Washington, DC

Leaving my mother in good hands, Trudy and I flew up to Washington DC to spend a few days with our son Ami, who's been living in this city since 2007.  Ami's apartment is in the dynamic and trendy Adams Morgan neighborhood, filled with little specialty shops and all kinds of restaurants and pubs.  Some have impressive craft beer menus, but since it was close to Shabbat, we went out to a local liquor store to bring home a few bottles.   
"Sorry!  No single-bottle sales."

The store, De Vinos, had more than 100 different beers -- but we hit a hurdle right off.

"We don't sell the small single bottles," said the attendant.  "You have to buy the whole six-pack."

"But these are craft beers," I responded.  "What if you want to try a few different ones?"

"Sorry."

Only in America.  You have to buy six bottles of a beer you don't know and may not even like!  I began to miss the super supermarket in Florida, with its single bottle mixing and matching.  Don't retailers realize that this may be a better way to sell craft beers?

The one way out was to buy the bigger bottles, those of one pint (473 milliliters) or more.  We chose the Whiter Shade of Pale Ale White IPA from Starr Hill Brewery in Crozlet, Virginia, and Red Wheelbarrow Ale from the Maine Beer Company in Freeport, Maine.     

We come for the beer:
Doug, Trudy and Ami in the nation's capital.
The Whiter Shade accompanied our Shabbat lunch, and once again it was a great choice.  This beer is a very successful fusion of a Belgian wit wheat ale and an Indian pale ale, with 7.5% alcohol.  It's massively hopped and has strong citrus and pine aromas.  I imagined that the beautiful white head smelled just like the fields or forests where the fresh hop clusters grow.  Belgian wheat beer adds the very dramatic fruity and spicy flavors.  If you're any kind of an IPA fan, this beer should be on your "must try" list.

The Red Wheelbarrow Ale is also a beauty.  Although it's called a red ale and not an IPA, it comes awfully close.  The deep red-copper color and red-tinged head are not indicative of IPA's, true, but the hop-heavy aroma and taste, and the 7% ABV certainly are.  There is also a chocolaty sweetness that I found different and delicious.

The Maine Beer Company does a lot or ecological-friendly activities, to their credit, and their slogan is "Do it right."  In this case, they certainly have.

Ami with his pale wheat;
me with my dark rye IPA.
On Saturday night, we took Ami out to eat at a so-called "small plate" Italian restaurant.  "Skimpy portions" is more like it.  Getting into the spirit of things, we ordered small glasses (10 ounces or 295 milliliters) of beer.

I chose the Rowdy Rye IPA from the local Atlas Brew Works in Washington, DC.  It poured very dark and tasted very bitter as an IPA should be, with a 6.2% ABV.  The hoppiness was also there but the rye replaces the floral scents and spice you expect in an IPA.  It's almost as if there isn't room for both.  This was a pleasant change for me, since I thoroughly enjoy the taste of rye whisky -- not to mention rye bread.

Ami had Optimal Wit from Port City Brewery in nearby Alexandria, Virginia.  It was as pale and transparent as Rowdy IPA was dark and opaque.  This is beer in the Belgian wit style, and brewed with the prerequisite coriander, orange peel and peppery grains of paradise.  It had a distinctively lemony taste alongside clove and grassy tones.  It's a wheat beer that flaunts its wheatiness, but I don't think I would have ordered it with pasta.

Ethiopia's St. George:
rich and tasty brew.
Before we left Washington, we took Ami and Trudy's niece Marcia out to one of the many Ethiopian restaurants in the city.  I find Ethiopian food to be a lot like Indian, and we ordered a large vegetarian platter.  It was served with mounds of the flat and spongy injera bread made from teff, which you use like a scoop to eat the food. 

What better way to accompany Ethiopian food than with Ethiopian beer?  We ordered a bottle of St. George.  Although it is an industrial beer from somewhere in Ethiopia (most of the label was in Amharic), it was actually a rich and tasty brew, going well with our strong, spicy food.

If Ethiopia could do it, why couldn't American "big beer" like Budweiser and Coor's be this good?  St. George was actually closer to Israeli-made Goldstar and Tuborg.  Maybe that's why I was getting a little bit homesick.  But I had two more states to cross before heading back to Israel.

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