28 April 2009

Beer Diary #13 - Jim | (Not) Banned in D.C.

Date: 24 April 2009
Location: Rustico Restaurant & Bar
Alexandria, Virginia

While most of the KOTBR were heading up to Munster for Dark Lord Day, I traveled to the Washington D.C. area to visit my sister, Lisa, for a long weekend. Being the wonderful sister that she is, Lisa was more than willing to accommodate my desire to adopt a beer-centric agenda for our dining plans. Therefore, upon my arrival in Alexandria, Virginia (where Lisa lives), we headed to Rustico Restaurant & Bar for dinner and beer.

Rustico anchors a commercial corner in a new "village concept" neighborhood in Alexandria. It's one of those modernish restaurants that features Italian-influenced cuisine with a heavy emphasis on wood-fired cooking. Pizzas are their specialty, and so is beer. Rustico has dozens of brands in bottles and 30 on tap, including a hand-pull tap for cask conditioned ale.

On the night of our visit, Rustico's cask ale was Weyerbacher's Old Heathen Imperial Stout.

Lisa isn't much of a beer drinker; she's all about wine. So, while Rustico listed some heavy-duty craft beer selections that looked amazing (e.g., Del Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout), I started with something light that I thought Lisa would enjoy--St. Louis Framboise. St. Louis Framboise was a solid raspberry lambic with an excellent balance of sweet and tart flavors. Indeed, it struck a great balance between the sugary-sweet lambics like Lindemans and the heavily sour lambics like Cantillon. With its champagne-like character, the St. Louis Framboise was a great beer to use to introduce Lisa to the craft beer world. Yes, she liked it, and I won't be surprised if she orders it the next time she goes to Rustico.

As we waited at the bar for a table to open up, I polished off the rest of the St. Louis and decided to drastically switch gears by ordering a Weyerbacher Old Heathen. I wanted to show Lisa what a real ale is like. This Imperial Stout was served in a glass that was too cold. As a result, the beer's chocolate and coffee notes were muted into a bland chalkiness. Therefore, I let the beer sit for a little bit while I explained the concept of cask conditioning to Lisa. After warming up, the Old Heathen displayed its true character; it was very chocolaty and light for an Imperial Stout, and surprisingly smooth as well.

We finally got our table on the outside patio, ordered our dinner (a great asparagus salad and a pesto pizza), and hit our last round of drinks. At this point, I was yearning for a crisp, hoppy beer to complement the salad and pizza. Therefore, I went with a known quantity: Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale. The KOTBR previously reviewed this beer (served from one of Oskar Blues's trademark cans) and gave it a middling mug rating. On tap, however, this beer was amazing. It's a great representation of the American Pale Ale style--slightly malty with a piney hop nose and a somewhat soapy character in the nose and flavor.

Date: 25 April 2009
Location: Dogfish Head Alehouse
Falls Church, Virginia

Beer-drinking target number two was the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church. My visit wasn't the first by a member of the KOTBR; Mike and Gina visited in 2007. Even the beer coasters seemed to realize the attractiveness of the place to our ilk:

Mike gave a good physical description of the place in his post, so I won't rehash it here.

The restaurant was experiencing a crowded Saturday night when Lisa and I arrived. Fortunately, we snagged a couple seats at the bar right away. With three bartenders behind the bar, the staff was doing a friendly and efficient job of taking care of everyone.

Our bartender was extremely knowledgeable and helpful with potential selections. Here were our options:

Lisa went back to the wine well with a pinot noir; I started with an Alehouse 75, which is actually DFH's 75 Minute IPA, a blend of DFH's 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs. It's not a stretch to say that DFH would sell the hell out of this beer if it bottled it because the 75 perfectly walks the middle path between the 60 Minute's dry pine character and the 90 Minute's malty sweetness.

I really wanted another 75, but I needed to hit some other DFH beers that I'd never tried. Our barkeep gave me samples of the following: Midas Touch, Immort Ale, and Black & Blue.

The Midas Touch was wine-like in color and character with a mild apple flavor. It made me think of a Tripel that was dialed back several notches. The Immort Ale, an oak-aged Strong Ale, is brewed with maple syrup. The nose was a bit disconcerting, as the maple syrup gave it a dog-pee character. The flavor was definitely oakey and syrupy, sort of like a lighter version of the ubiquitous bourbon-barrel-aged beers. After trying the Black & Blue sample, I settled for a snifter of the stuff. Brewed in the Belgian Strong Ale style, this beer is fermented with blackberries and blueberries. It poured with a purplish-orange color, smelled of candi sugar and berries, and had a silky mouthfeel. The flavor was like that of a Quadrupel--sweet and heavy--but with a touch of berries. Had the berry presence been greater, I don't think that I would have liked this beer at all. However, the berries were just barely there, which made it a truly enjoyable beer.

Post-script. We had plans to go to The Brickskeller (which Mike and Gina also visited in '07), but didn't have the time to make it there.

Some advice for falafel fans--Check out the Amsterdam Falafelshop in Adams Morgan. There are only three menu items: the falafel sandwich (accompanied by a huge toppings bar), Belgian-style frites (with several sauces, including peanut sauce and Dutch mayonnaise), and brownies (I know what you're thinking, but they're not that kind). Despite the limited menu, all menu items are done amazingly well. You won't regret a visit. Just make sure that you have time for an afternoon nap if you visit for lunch.


  1. Bad Brains reference.. Love it

  2. Good to see that someone is paying attention. :)