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Checking Out Mad Fox, Port City, and Beltway Brewing Companies on the NoVA Brew Bus [Slideshow]

I know what you're thinking: "B-b-but, Mad Fox, Port City, and Beltway Brewing are all in Virginia. DCBeer went to Virginia? Surely you jest." No this isn't April Fool's Day come early, I did actually go over the river to the Commonwealth with DCBeer contributor and craft beer freelancer Aaron Morrissey. It's a lot easier to go out there when you're on a chartered limo bus that's getting you to points A, B, and C. Reston Limousine offers monthly (if not more frequent) tours of the NoVA Brew Bus that takes craft beer fans out to area breweries. (They also offer wine tours, but no one drinks wine anymore, pro-tip). They were nice enough to invite us along as their guests on their most recent trip on Saturday, February 1.

The trip started off at Mad Fox Brewing Company, where head brewer Charlie Buettner took Brew Bus attendees on a tour of the brewhouse. Hard to believe that this 15-barrel system is pumping out 2,000 barrels of beer that supplies not only the brewpub and some distribution in DC but will also soon feed an upcoming Glover Park branch of Mad Fox as well as potentially distribution in Virginia. The tour was augmented by tastes of winter warmer and a new west-coast style IPA right off of the fermentation vessels. The "Sandy Eggo" (say it out loud) IPA is fantastic and will absolutely satisfy the craving of any hophead. Employing Columbus, Cascade, Centennial, and Amarillo hops, this is a dank brew that can go toe-to-toe with offerings from Green Flash, Ballast Point, Stone, etc. Buettner, by the way, is the longest-tenured employee of Mad Fox outside of the owners and board and will celebrate his four year work anniversary in a few months, coinciding with Mad Fox's own fourth anniversary. After getting his start at Growlers of Gaithersburg, Buettner moved down to Mad Fox where he has overseen brewing operations (which, he stresses, involves a lot of cleaning) under the tutelage of executive brewer (and Mad Fox CEO) Bill Madden.

From East Falls Church, we headed to Alexandria to check out Port City Brewing Company. Fresh off of what sounded like a packed Third Anniversary Party (as well as stops at some of the venues pouring Colossal Three, a Heller Bock) founder/CEO Bill Butcher had another packed house on Saturday. What is a Heller Bock, you ask? PCBC describes it as "the palest and hoppiest of Bock style beers. Ours is a beautiful tawny color which comes from the Munich malt. We have chosen noble hop varieties that impart floral, spicy aromas and flavors." This one packs a punch, folks, believe me. Fan of the Port City anniversary beers? Good news, both Colossal One (an imperial stout and 2013 GABF bronze medal winner) and Colossal Two (a smoked imperial porter) are getting re-brewed this year, and Bill Butcher tells us that we should be on the lookout for an event at which all three are poured at once. Beyond new beers, PCBC is also moving into new markets, including international ones. New York City receives its first shipment in the next few weeks, and some brews have already been shipped up to Canada in the brewery's first cross-border excursion. 

After getting my growlers filled for the Super Bowl (Monumental IPA and Porter, for the curious), we headed from Alexandria to Sterling to check out Beltway Brewing Company. Haven't seen Beltway cans or bottles on shelves anywhere? You won't. That's because this operation is dedicated to partner and contract brewing and producing private label beers. Founder Sten Sellier took time to talk with us about the daily inquiries he's getting from both start-up and established breweries looking for either recipe advice, tank space, or both. On tap at Beltway were "Batch One," an amber ale reminiscent of North Coast's Red Seal Ale; Suite Dee, a session IPA produced for Wooden Skiff Brewing Company in South Carolina Correction: Suite Dee was "Batch Two" for Beltway, and is a brand of the brewery's own available in the tasting room; and B/A/Y/S imperial stout from Adroit Theory, among others. Beltway currently has seven fermentation vessels, the ability to both bottle and can (via a mobile canning unit out of Richmond), and plenty of space to expand. They're working right now with just two full-time employees, Sten and his brewer, Drew, which is largely thanks to the level of automation built into their DME Brewing Services system. From the control panel in the brewhouse, Beltway can manipulate just about any stage in the brewing process. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming interview with Sten and the Beltway team as we hear more about their model.

After a full day of checking out Virginia breweries, Reston Limo's bus, named "Mississippi," one of 160 in their fleet, got us safely back to the East Falls Church Metro where we headed back into more familiar territory in the District. Thanks again to Reston Limo for hosting us and to Mad Fox, Port City, and Beltway for their hospitality. Check out some of the great photos we got in the slideshow below!

Created with flickr slideshow.

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