A deep mahogany color with rich pale amber highlights, this beer is as enjoyable to look at as it is to drink. A soft, fluffy, not-quite white head is evocative of a mountain of mashed potatoes and leaves lingering lacing down my dimpled mug.

The beer is a deep reddish brown color. The nose smells like bright citrus, right next to a hop field in the Hallertau region of Germany, buzzing with bees. The beer buzzes too; its electricity is evocative of the life of a spring meadow. The fresh aroma that leaps out of the mug reminds us of warmer weather despite the cold snap in the DC metro. Thank you Spalt hops, you’ve ripped me from the clutches of old man winter!

The flavor is a lovely melding of mild cocoa and citrusy-yet-earthy hops. There is a good malt character, but instead of a roasty, pumpernickel profile, it’s more along the lines of a whole wheat baguette. They Both Melt dunkel lager comes across the way you’d expect whole wheat to be hearty, but instead it’s highly digestible and almost too easy to polish off. The beer has a deceptive sweetness, but the dark lager finishes more dry than full bodied. It’s the illusion of palate fullness as the 5.6 % alcohol by volume lager warms you as you cruise through a few liters. Dark at first sight, it transforms via a hoppy levity, and the lightness in terms of gravity that comes from the dark is as pleasant as Bavarian-style lager gets.

Bluejacket’s dunkel was brewed with Weyermann malts. The freshness found in the beer is remarkable and a testament to the brewer’s art as it spent over four weeks in a horizontal tank. Spalt hops are perhaps where this dunkel differs from its German brethren. Consider Hofbräu Dunkel, a dark lager that of course tastes much different in Munich than it does in DC. Lately, Hofbräu Dunkel has been tasting thin and perhaps too dry compared to the way it tastes in Bavaria. Consider Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, which features a hefty malt character, even when it has been sitting on a shelf for too long. Ayinger dunkel is more coffee and pumpernickel going down. Bluejacket’s They Both Melt dunkel lager stands out with the crisp crop of Spalt hops making the lager hum in addition to standing out for its freshness, as I’ve never found an Ayinger or Hofbräu dunkel fresher in DC, Maryland, or Virginia. You’d have to travel to Bavaria to get a fresher Dunkel than this one pouring at Bluejacket currently.

I got to enjoy this beer with Bluejacket Director of Brewing Operations, Ro Guenzel and as we sipped, our conversation turned to family. I had taken Beer Director Tim Liu up on his offer of, “Can I get you a beer?” Guenzel then chimed in with something along the lines of “What if I’d like a beer too, Tim?”

Sponsorship

As we convened at the Bluejacket bar, organically our conversation turned to family. I’d mentioned my kid, and my folks as we Steins live three generations under one roof. Guenzel mentioned westward travel to his childhood home, as he and his extended family typically don’t see much of each other; they live further away from the DC metro region. Liu’s holiday plans were local like mine, and we talked more about our families.

I mentioned the blessings of having family, and the difficulties inherent with keeping lines of communication open and navigating the tricky web of familial alliances. Someone’s uncle has been temporarily excommunicated. Your sister-in-law, your kid’s aunt, has decided she can no longer have peace and your father-in-law in her life together. You have to understand that to her, they’re mutually exclusive. We are blessed to have family, the ones we’re born into and the ones we choose, but the difficulties we endure to keep it all together calls for a beer that is dark on the outside looking in, and has a snappy hoppy flavor that is electric on the front palate, but smooth going down the gullet.

They Both Melt will cost you $12 for a four pack of the beer to go. In house the beer is $3 for a taster or $7 for a full pour.

*The lager on draft and the cans to go were comped by Bluejacket. Despite the freebie, the author has paid many dollars for many cases of this beer since 2019.