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Rare Beers, Babies, and Pretty Things – The Grain Bag, Volume I

Welcome to the first ever installment of DCBeer.com’s The Grain Bag, where our crop of phenomenal (and dare I say handsome?  I dare.  I dare.) crop of editors, writers and contributors will answer your beer (and non-beer) related queries each week.  Remember, #dcbrews, The Grain Bag doesn’t judge.  Keep the questions coming and we’ll keep the responses as fresh and informative as our feeble minds allow.

Have something to submit?  E-mail us or click here!  All questions are anonymous.

Where do babies come from?

You had to figure that we would start off with something like this.  Well…you mess with the bull, you get the horns, so here goes. 

There are many differing theories on the origins of babies.  Some believe that babies are created through a complex series of biological processes that begins when two people do something or another together…something about a crowded bar and a series of questionable decisions.  I can’t remember.  Others believe that babies were created by a higher being and then they rode dinosaurs or something.  I’m less sure about the second one.  Regardless, I’ve prepared a series of haikus to explain the process in a manner that I believe will resonate with our readership:

Grain in a bucket
Crushed together in a mill
Less awkward than pubs

Mash in to mash out
No time for a protein rest
Sparge! Time for a nap

The boil begins
Hops to the brewkettle now
Kettle gets bitter

Bottling day now
Spillage is a factor now
Look away! Really!

And that’s how babies are made.  NEXT QUESTION, Y’ALL.

If there are so many pumpkin beers coming out now (in Sept), where are the pumpkins from?  Chile/Argentina?  Last fall?  Pumpkins aren't yet ready to be harvested in the Mid-Atlantic.  Hothouses, maybe?

Due to consistency in quality and overall volume of pumpkin required to produce pumpkin beers, most pumpkin beers produced around this time of year will utilize canned pumpkin.  I’m sure there are some breweries here and there that are importing pumpkins or using some kind of hot-house variety, but the cost and effort associated with that doesn’t appear to be worth it, at least to me. 

That being said, there’s no reason to knock a pumpkin beer made with the good ‘ol canned goopy goodness.  I’ve made a few homebrews using it and it does the trick.  If you’re homebrewing with it, spread it on a sheet tray and give it a quick roast in the oven before adding it to the mash to give it a little extra flavor.  Also, instead of adding it directly to your mash tun (or steeping it, if you’re extract-brewing), put it in a grain bag (a nylon one…not a series of questions answered on DCBeer.com…that would make no sense).  You’ll thank me during clean-up.  If you’re adding it to the boil…well it’s going to be messy in there. 

On a related note, I’d be interested in hearing opinions on the early release of pumpkin/autumn beers.  Obviously, the beers are selling, so it seems like a sound enough business decision; however, I’m personally not really interested in drinking autumn-style beers while my air conditioning is still struggling to keep my apartment reasonably cool. 

Where can I find beers from Pretty Things Brewery?

Hello, I read a post on DC Beer a while back stating that Pretty Things Brewing was distributing in the Maryland/DC area. Where might one find some of their beers?

Two questions about one brewery!  Clearly, Dann and Martha are doing something right.  Their beers are quickly becoming some of the more sought after brews in the region.  Plus, they have a grain of barley with a moustache for a sort of mascot.  I’m just going to say that again – a grain of barley with a moustache.  Phenomenal stuff is going on here, so you should all take notes.

For those of you who don’t know, Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project doesn’t actually own a brewery – they’re gypsy/tenant brewers (à la Stillwater, Evil Twin, Mikkeller, etc.) who rent space from other breweries.  As you might expect, their output is fairly small and their footprint is relatively limited, making their beers a bit rare in these parts.

When available, their beers are distributed by Legends Limited and can usually be found for purchase (in bottles) at ChurchKey and Pizzeria Paradiso.  Occasionally, a bottle or two will make it into a retail shop; however, that’s a bit rarer. 

Check out Connecticut Ave Wine & Liquors, Whole Foods on P St., and D’Vinos/D’Vines.  Good hunting!

What is the best place to find rare brews in the DC area?

A couple of weeks ago, I probably would have said “the basement of the neighbor of [Editor Emeritus] Andrew” because he used to keep his beers there.  Isn’t that strange?  I just wanted to put that on the Internet.  Now, however, since he has packed his things and moved back to his hometown to start a brewery, I’ll have to put a bit more thought into it.

From a restaurant/bar perspective, the number one option always has to be ChurchKey.  They have a continually rotating tap list pouring some of the choicest beers that we can get in the region (and frequently some that we can’t), as well as one of the most comprehensive bottle lists you’ll ever see.  For a different feel, check out Meridian Pint and Smoke and Barrel, which focus more on their draft offerings and frequently have a few gems on tap for the savvy consumer.    

Many of the rare brews released in the DC region will be done at special events and tap takeovers.  While you can walk into a set of bars and potentially find a number of rare beers on any given day, the best way to guarantee a taste of a rare tipple is to attend events.  Gems can pop up anywhere these days.

On the retail side, there are a few places that are pretty solid for some of the rarer stuff.  Keep in mind – there are a plethora of beer nerds in DC who are on the prowl for the good stuff, so it won’t stick around long.  In the District, check out Connecticut Ave Wine & Liquors, Schneider’s, D’Vinos/D’Vines and occasionally the P St Whole Foods.  In Virginia, check out Arrowine in Arlington and Rick’s in Alexandria.  You can also get lucky at the Clarendon Whole Foods every now and then.  If you’re looking for a particular beer – call these retail shops ahead of time and save yourself the trek.

What breweries should we expect to enter the DMV in the near future?

The DC area certainly has been experiencing a surge in brewery openings over the past few years – thankfully, it shows no signs of stopping.  Over the next few months/years, expect the following breweries to open and make a splash.  Check out the links for more info.

·         Right Proper

·         Bluejacket

·         Hellbender

·         LowBrau

In terms of existing breweries entering into the market, that’s much harder to predict. We’ll keep our ears to the ground for any scuttlebutt that we can pass on though. We have no such scuttling of butts at the present moment.

I want to know your thoughts on a good session beer that is readily available in D.C.  As much as I enjoy a good 9% double barrel aged [insert popular style of the moment here], now that it is football season I'd like to have a quality option that I can drink all day.

I’m glad someone asked this question.  Generally, when looking for more sessionable beers, look to brewing traditions keen on high volume drinking over a long period of time – Germany and Great Britain are two that come to mind first.  Oh, and me in college, but I don’t think we need to go there. 

Here are a few potential candidates:

·         Schlafly Kolsch
·         21st Amendment Bitter American
·         Lagunitas Daytime IPA
·         Flying Dog Underdog Atlantic Lager
·         New Belgium Shift

Steve Jones from Oliver Breweries out of Baltimore makes a number of great session beers that can be found on tap throughout DC.

Put some more ideas for your favorite session beers in the comments!

That’s it for The Grain Bag for this week.  Keep the questions coming!

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