On Vacation, Beer Tasting

The weather report says 55% humidity, but it lies; the air feels much heavier. When we left the house, the reading indoors was 70% and I’d wager it is closer to 89% outside. A moist haze, unlike California smog, mingles high with threatening cumulous giving the sun an indistinct outline. I am escaping the ninety degree heat at one of the Washington DC metro area’s best Irish pubs – The Old Brogue. Situated in Great Falls, VA it lies a mere twenty minute walk from my grandfather’s home and stables. We drove, however. It’s hot. The pub is a typical Irish pub; picture Molly McGee’s or O’Flaherty’s. Dark wood everywhere, green accents, a tiny raised stage, and decent selection of pub beer.

I am most of the way through Magic Hat #9 and need to get a review of the previous beer down before I forget it entirely. Thirty minutes ago the waiter brought me a bottle of Victory Prima Pils. It poured a pale straw color with a thin white head smelling of floral hops. The bottle says “whole flower European hops” and I picked up citrus and spice. Unlike traditional pilsners with their subdued but palatable bitterness, Prima Pils comes at me more like a West Coast American pale ale. After returning to the house I will be surprised to find it in the BJCP’s list of commercial examples of German Pilsner. Guess I need to taste more German nobles. Although the hops are unexpected, Victory obviously took the usual route when crafting the grain-bill. It is soft and crisp. Malt character takes a back seat to this spicy hop ride. Carbonation and other mouthfeel details conform to style. Overall, the beer is good, but I wouldn’t order it again. Before I return home my palate will find a famous Victory Hop Devil.

The steamed mussels just arrived. I have an inch and a half of #9 left. gulp Less than that now. A narrow ring of white head still clings to the top of the beer. “It’s on draft. It’s an apricot beer,” was all the young waiter could tell me about it. The dulcet aroma is heavy with fruit. In general, I do not detect the fruity smells of most ales. My nose is just not attuned to that scent, but it has no trouble with these ‘cots. When I peer through the beer in the dim light it appears a slightly darker straw than the pils, with an orange-pink tinge. Fortunately, this beer does not taste as sweet as it smells. It is nearly dry in defiance of a full apricot flavor with complementing hop spice like a subdued sassion. The last sip, warmed, goes down easy making for a drinkable beer. Not a style of my liking, but enjoyable.

Just in time for this paragraph the attentive waiter places a Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA next to me. My wife, head buried in her iBook, has helped me make a small dent in the mussels. The IPA wafts promises of American hops and a wink of malty sweetness to my nose. The light shines through palest golden leaving you with the impression of lager rather than ale. Hops and bitterness hit my tongue. This is a great IPA. Sharp, fresh, with citrus undertones, not overpowering, makes for a good complement to the Chesapeake Bay mussels that now sit nearly finished by my laptop. While the hops grab my attention, if I concentrate I can taste the supporting malt quietly providing a backbone to the beer. Saving the last swallow, my concentration turns to the mussels. Adrienne’s battery is almost dead, she’s fidgeting now, and our waiter is quitting for the day. I am going to miss this IPA when I get back to the West Coast.

This is just the beginning. More tasting sure to come.

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