Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Caboose, an Old Ox and a Lost Rhino ... A Journey Through Northern Virginia Craft Beer

A year ago, for my birthday, my beautiful Angel took me on a tour of Maryland's farm breweries, such as Red Shedman and Milkhouse Breweries. This year, the tour went across the Potomac to the State of Virginia.   The Old Dominion State has a lot of craft breweries.  Until a week or two ago, the only craft brewery that I visited in Virginia had been Port City (which, by the way, is a very good brewery and whose Porter I have previously reviewed).  My birthday celebration took me to three different breweries in Northern Virginia ... a caboose, an old ox and a lost rhino.  The trip touched the whole range of brew styles.


The first stop was Caboose Brewing Company in Vienna, Virginia.  The brewery is located at end of an industrial complex (as many craft breweries are).  The Caboose had over twelve beers on draft,  providing a wide range of styles to choose from.  I decided to do a flight of beers, so that I could pick from that range.  I tried the Crazy Train Tripel, the Citra Session IPA, the Stop, Drop & Doppelbock and the Gandy Dancer, which was a Schwartzbier.

All four beers were very good, but my favorite was probably the Crazy Train Tripel.  Setting aside my preference for Belgian beer styles, the Crazy Train hit the mark when it came to the style.  Elements of bananas and cloves were both on the nose and the palate, with the slight sweetness from candy sugar.  With a 9.0% ABV, there was a little booziness in the background.  The Doppelbock was also very good, with a light coffee taste accompanied by some raisin notes.  While this beer had an ABV of 8.2%, it was lighter than the tripel and a little deceiving in that respect.  The Schwartzbier also represented its style well, with the roasted malts suggesting dark roast coffee and well toasted bread.   The Citra Session IPA was good, providing a little citrus bitterness that one expects with a session pale ale.


The next stop was Old Ox Brewery, located in Ashburn, Virginia.  The name comes from one of the oldest roads in Loudoun County, which connected farmers to the markets.  Old Ox is a familiar name, as I have seen six packs of their beers -- such as the Alpha Ox Session IPA and the Golden Ox Belgian Style Golden Ale -- in local grocery stores.   However, I have to admit that I never had their beer, before this trip.  

I started first with the rarest beers offered on the board that day ... a collaboration between Old Ox Brewing and Ocelot Brewing, which is another Virginian craft brewery.  The beer was named Sir Oxcelot, and was a Belgian Quadrupel.  (Remember, I am a big fan of Belgian beer styles.)  This Quad,  rang in at a whopping 14.3% ABV.  This makes any description about it being boozy perhaps the most obvious statement one could make about the beer.  Still, the beer poured a nice dark brown, with notes of toffee and caramel in both the nose and the palate.  There was also some dark berry notes which I could not really place. 

Although one beer would have been enough, I did not know when I would be back in Ashburn, Virginia.  So, I also tried the Hoppier Place Powder to the People Imperial India Pale Ale.  This beer was relatively lighter when it came to the ABV, registering just 8.5%.  This ABV ensured a smoothness to the Imperial IPA, but the hops were aggressive enough so that the piney notes gripped the edges of the tongue with every sip.   Both are great sipping beers, which allowed me to sit back and relax a little with my beautiful Angel, as we watched our kids try to understand corn hole  (Needless to say, they did not quite get the game, but they nevertheless had fun trying to get the beanbags through the hole.)  

The two beers - the Sir Oxelot and the Hoppier Place -- were both very good beers.  I wish were bottled or canned, because I would have bought a couple to go.  Needless to say, I just bought a six pack of their Hardway Summer Lager. 


The last stop was the Lost Rhino Brewing Company, which was just a mile or two from the Old Ox.  Just like Old Ox, I have seen various beers from Lost Rhino in the grocery stores; and, I had not tried any of them before this visit.  The tap room had about eight different beers on tap, some of which were styles that I had not seen at either Caboose or Old Ox.  I decided to try a couple of them.  

First, I decided to try the Meridian Kolsch.  This was perhaps the lightest beer that I had tried during this trip.  It was refreshingly different, with a light yellow appearance that could have been mistaken for a hefeweizen.  The kolsch was a well balance of malts, both Pilsner and wheat, with just a hint of hops.  An easy drinking beer, as most kolsch beers are.   The only question was which beer to try next.  Having had an easy drinking beer, it was time to try the exact opposite.

That would be the Alphabrett beer.   This is a Belgian-style brown ale.  It is first brewed with a Belgian yeast (St. Bernardus) and then is aged for two years in wooden barrels with Brettanomyces or "Brett."  This is the name for wild yeast, which were in the barrel.  

The result is a very sour beer, which would probably turn off the casual beer drinker.  However, if you are someone who loves craft beer, especially trying something different, then this is the type of beer you should seek out and try.  The Alphabrett pours a light, wooden brown, and its aromatic elements provide advance warning of the sour notes from the wild yeast.  The flavor of the beer is a sour, slightly puckering green apple.  The Alphabrett was a great way to end an adventure through Northern Virginia craft beer. 

In the end, another successful expedition through craft beer of a region.   I can't wait until my next birthday.  Too bad I have to wait a year.  Until that time ...


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