Upcoming Beers

Here’s a look at what’s coming down the pipeline for can and bottle releases.  All dates subject to change, no guarantees.

6/15 Without You DDH IPA w/Ekuanot and Lemondrop + Raiden DIPA w/ginger and yuzu

6/22 Orange Empress sour IPA w/oranges

6/29 Cherry-Lime Double Vibes Berliner w/cherries, limes, vanilla, and milk sugar + Neapolitik imperial stout w/chocolate, vanilla, and strawberries

7/3 Special release: Young Americans DIPA w/Simcoe, Citra, and Mosaic

7/6 Rosé Empress sour IPA w/syrah grapes

7/14 FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY!  Noriega triple IPA w/pineapple, Starfire sour DIPA w/passionfruit, Glory imperial stout in bourbon barrels

7/20 Razzz sour IPA w/double raspberry, Only You DDH IPA w/Denali and Motueka, Katana DIPA w/cherries and vanilla

7/27 Blackberry Double Vibes + Mochi Orbz DIPA w/green tea and milk sugar


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Core Beer: Charm

charmFor day 5 of American Craft Beer Week, here’s a look at our year-round dark beer, Charm.  Charm is a robust milk stout.  Clocking in at 7% ABV, it’s got some bigger stout qualities, but is still fairly drinkable.

The idea for Charm began when we realized we really needed to have a year-round dark beer, but maybe not something over 10% like most of the stouts we were brewing.  The first batch of Charm did not turn out the way I had planned due to too much extraction on our dark grains, but after some retooling, it’s on the right track.

Charm has a big, chocolate flavor with pretty much zero roastiness.  The beer has a fairly thick body, with a heavy addition of milk sugar.  It’s like chocolate milk, but not sickly sweet.  When wintertime hits, we’ll start releasing some cans of this beer for distribution.

Today, we’re releasing cans of the first of the Charm variants.  For these beers, the can labels all get charming photos of people from our crew.  For each beer, the person on the can gets to pick a candy that we age the beer on.  For our brewer Ryan’s version, we used Reese’s peanut butter cups.  Mckinnen is Charleston Chews, Lee is Butterfinger, Brad is s’mores, Dylan is Heath, and I’m Twix.  We plan on running through our whole staff so everyone gets a can!

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Core Beer: Best Days

best daysIt’s day 4 of American Craft Beer week, and here’s a look at our thick, hazy hefeweizen, Best Days.  This beer is the newest addition to our core lineup!  Best Days has all the qualities of a classic German hefe, with a thick, sweet impression and opaque appearance.

Best Days was first brewed last summer.  I’m a huge hefe fan, and Weihenstephen hefe would definitely be one of my desert island beers.  Best Days uses the same yeast strain.  A little water chemistry gets us the body and haze we want.  The suspended yeast balances the sweetness of the beer, with a nice banana/clove flavor that isn’t too much.

I was pretty impressed with how much people have been digging this one.  A lot of our regular session beers get trashed on Untappd, which is pretty par for the course for those, but a lot of people seem to appreciate this one.  It’s sold really well in the taproom, and I’ve drank gallons of it.  When the heat is on nothing makes me happier than grabbing a pint of this beer.

Look for cans of this one either late summer or next year!

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Core Beer: Cruise Control

CruisePhoto(1)On day 3 of American Craft Beer Week, here’s a look at our year-round pilsner, Cruise Control.  Cruise Control is a full-flavored pilsner, with a robust malt profile and heavy dry-hop of Motueka and Wakatu.  It’s one of my favorite beers!

Cruise Control came about last year when we realized we needed to add a lighter beer.  Our Mexican lager, Carrera, was not moving as fast as we wanted–although a nice beer, it was a shade too dark to attract people that wanted a lighter beer.  Brad, one of our brewers, came up with a pilsner recipe.  Our first batch was exactly what we wanted, and it hasn’t really changed.

Cruise is a heavy pilsner.  The grain bill makes use of a lot of melanoidin malt, a German kilned malt that gives malty, maillard-reaction flavor similar to what is achieved via a decoction mash.  The malt is balanced with a near-IPA level of late addition and dry hops.  Motueka gives a nice lemon-lime flavor, and Wakatu gives a bit of noble hop spice.

We’re going to begin introducing Cruise Control cans in late July.  In the meantime, a pint of this beer is what a lot of us reach for when the day is done.

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Core Beer: Raspberry Empress

EmpressPhotoOn day 2 of American Craft Beer Week, I’d like to take a look at our year-round kettle sour, Raspberry Empress.  Raspberry Empress is a sour with Mosaic hops and raspberries.  Empress turned into a huge hit for us, but it was a bit of a sleeper.

The first time we brewed this beer was back in 2016.  We were first messing around with kettle sours back then and had just made a sour IPA base.  I split some off on some raspberries.  The resulting beer was nice–kind of like a raspberry mimosa.  Empress today is largely unchanged.  We sour using lactobacillus bacteria to achieve a pleasant level of lactic acid, and then boil.  The beer gets a whirlpool addition of Mosaic which contributes some bitterness and a Mosaic dry-hop.  Once we scaled up, we started using large stainless IBCs to sour the beer in before pasteurization, which has allowed us to brew large batches rather than just a single kettle full of beer.

I like Empress for a variety of reasons.  First, it’s not too sour.  It usually finishes at around 3.2 PH, with a mild perceived acidity and fruit flavor from the bacteria we use.  It’s a sour beer you can drink quite a few of.  Second, it’s very clean.  We’ve brewed a lot of this beer, and I’ve never had any issues of off-flavors that can creep up in quick-soured beers.  Lastly, we’ve created some cool variants.  A month ago, we released Orange Empress in cans, which did pretty well.  Next month, we’ll release Razzz, a double-fruited version, and after that, Rosé Empress with grape must.

Empress was really interesting for us in distribution.  Last summer when I was doing a lot of our sales, I didn’t have a lot of luck with Empress.  First, before we got our souring tank we couldn’t produce a lot of it, so it wasn’t available often enough for the people that wanted it.  Second, it was a hard sell to a lot of beer buyers.  They were not familiar with a fruited kettle sour, and were skeptical that it would sell.  It always sold really well in our taproom, and I was confident it would do well on tap at most bars, but it was difficult to convince buyers.  Things really changed as soon as warm weather hit this year.  Now we cannot make enough Empress!  In a month, our second souring tank will arrive and we can begin canning large runs of Empress!

Empress is available year-round in both cans and draught.  Look for it on tap or at some Virginia and D.C. bottle shops!

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Core Beer: Heart and Soul

heart and soulIt’s American Craft Beer Week!  To kick off the week celebrating the best thing in America, I’d like to take a minute talking about all of our core beers.  Right now, we have three, but we’re excited to be tapping the latest two additions this week.  Each day, I’ll post an in-depth look at these beers.

Our first core beer is Heart and Soul.  This is a new-school IPA that borrows from New England style and is a little bit like a west coast IPA as well.  I developed this beer after trying some IPAs that I found reminiscent of a juicebomb beer but a little bit easier drinking.  The beer utilizes English ale yeast, wheat malt, Mosaic, and 007 hops.  The water chemistry and grain bill leaves a soft, juicy beer with a little bit of haze, pleasant Mosaic sweetness, and bit of 007 dankness.  With a small charge of bittering hops, the beer has some stable bitterness and can sit on the shelf for a bit.

Heart and Soul was also designed to be economical to brew as well.  The hopping rate of 2.5 lbs of hops per BBL is higher than a lot of old-school IPAs, but way lower than a lot of newer, super dry-hopped beers.  We use 007, probably one of the most potent hops out there, to provide a lot of flavor for less usage.  It’s interesting–the beer actually improved when we cut the amount of 007 in half, keeping the rest of the hop additions the same, since 007 is so strong.

We’ve continued to tweak this beer and the latest iteration is most likely going to be the final recipe.  I’m very happy with what this beer has turned into–an IPA I could drink every day, with a soft juiciness and balanced flavor.

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Trade Secrets

breaking ties 2.jpgLongtime readers of this blog may have noticed a change in the content over the last year: now, my posts contain little-to-no information on recipes or brewing technique.  This, unfortunately, is the consequence of an ever-evolving beer market, increased competition, and time invested in R&D.

At this point, no one should have to tell you that adjunct-laden beers and hazy IPAs are dominating the hyper-local market.  If you want to move cans, you need to know how to brew good versions of these styles.  While pilsner and other regular beers will still sell great in taproom pint sales and distro, they do not generate the excitement that a can release of a more hyped-up style does.

Back in 2016, we started pivoting towards this trend, albeit without the canning line.  While our beers still need some work in my opinion, we are getting better at brewing some of these styles, and I’ve come up with some creative stuff in the pipeline soon.  In the meantime, we keep tweaking our beers to hopefully lock on to some good stuff.  Little changes here or there can eventually add up to something great, and mastering your production schedule to offer the right balance of beers and really optimize output is the other half of the equation.  Hopefully, this pays off and you see double can releases of some creative-yet-polished beers in the coming months.

Consequently, I am not going to reveal the techniques we’ve learned.  People will figure these things out eventually.  Ten years from now I think some breweries in the 10-15 BBL range will have expanded and begin offering distro, as larger breweries with multi-state distro and regional breweries that are either slow to adapt or make sub-par beer begin to close.  The most successful breweries right now are all the early adopters of these styles.  More people will start figuring them out, but until then good producers have a large competitive advantage.

One critical thing I will talk about is to reiterate the importance of scheduling and marketing.  Beer releases need to be consistent, i.e. 1-4 beers per week, appropriately marketed, i.e. good labels and social media leading up to it, and appropriately sized.  The last one is a bit trickier.  You need to make sure you don’t overproduce anything.  If you don’t sell out of the beer, people stop caring as much about it.

This last part can be really tricky for a brewery without an established demand for cans.  The issue you have is that some of these beers are so expensive to make that you can’t really distribute the cans and make much money, and there isn’t enough market for draught.  That last one really aggravates me.  I remember last summer sampling various buyers our Berliner with blackberries, vanilla, and milk sugar.  The reaction I got ranged from “this is weird” to “I like it, but I don’t think customers will.”  I happen to make my living off knowing what customers like, and I’m looking forward to a time when bar managers are caught up with today’s trends.  Fortunately, we have good bars like Meridian Pint, Churchkey, and others that we can sell some kegs to, but there aren’t enough folks running great beer programs to handle much volume unless you go outside your local market (not a bad idea, by the way, which I’ll discuss in my next blog post).

However trends change, whatever you do, I think you need to be true to who you are.  I am somebody who enjoys nearly all styles, so I get excited about brewing practically anything.  There is one style I don’t care for and won’t brew (and it’s super-popular) but otherwise I feel good about brewing anything.  Beer fans, I believe, can really sense in-authenticity.  Brew beer you believe in.  It’s important.

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