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10 Beers for 10 Years: Sapwood Cellars 3.8 Special

DC Beer turns 10 years old this year and what better way to celebrate than collaborating with some of the breweries that mean the most to us, with beer styles we’d like to see more of in the DC metro area, in our 10 beers for 10 years series.

The first beer we ever slapped our brand on was made in collaboration with Rocket Frog Brewing, last year. Their Snark Infested Waters was a delicious schwarzbier, a black lager. We wanted to see more black lager, so we made one. Or, rather, they made one, and we took some credit. Thanks, fellas. Maybe we’ll make another. Stay tuned.

10 Beers for 10 Years starts with Sapwood Cellars

First up in the 10-10 series is Sapwood Cellars. Scott Janish and Mike Tonsmeire were both active in the area’s homebrewing and beer blogging scenes prior to teaming up at Sapwood, making it a natural fit for a collaboration with DC Beer. The brewery is unique in that its co-founders are both authors, writing The New IPA and American Sour Beer, respectively. Given such a pedigree, and the area’s oppressive summer weather, what better time for a session IPA? Enter 3.8 Special, a 3.8% ABV session India Pale Ale packed with Amarillo and Vic Secret hops. 

Sapwood Sellars collaborated with DC Beer to produce 3.8 Special for the 10 Beers for 10 Years celebration.
Sapwood Sellars collaborated with DC Beer to produce 3.8 Special for the 10 Beers for 10 Years celebration.

Consider the style. The poorly-made session IPAs have too little body and are thin tasting, leaving little more impression than tepid hop broth. Thus the trick here is to add thickness, but not too much, creating a beer you’d actually want to session. Sapwood accomplishes this by starting with a base of with Golden Promise, a malt made of Scottish-grown barley. As is the case with hazy IPAs, there are flaked oats in the grain bill. A bit of rye, too, which adds both texture and a slightly spicy snap. And if you really want to nerd out, there’s more chloride in the water in this session IPA. 

How does it taste? Think honeysuckle and vanilla on the nose, with a hop bill reminiscent of nectarines, mango, and tangerine up front, and lime zest towards the finish. The oats are more present than the rye, and overall the malt bill reminds us of semolina flour. Though it’s only 58% attenuated–again, you want the proteins in suspension to create both haze and body, which means taking it easy on the yeast–there’s enough carbonation and dryness that you’ll want another sip. 

Sapwood made 9.5 barrels of this beer, it’s on tap at their Columbia, Maryland brewery. It’s also available for growler fills, should you want a proper session. But we’re guessing you’ll share it, right? Right? 

Jacob Berg and Michael Stein jointly wrote this story.

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