Though I’ve had a slight compunction in the past in hanging out with the geekiest of beer geeks, this weekend I found myself at Washington, DC’s Savor beer and food “experience.” Said experience was held in the lovely National Building Museum, a phenomenal space where smartly dressed people, and your’s truly, enjoyed fine beer and soggy finger foods. A crowd seemingly consisting more of foodies, cultural scenesters, and folks that enjoy wearing blazers just for the heck of it, the beer geeks were easily spotted as those hirsute men taking copious notes in their Moleskines, spending far too many seconds with their noses inside the rims of their tasting glass before taking a sip, too scared to look any of the many attractive women in the eye, and those lads treating Tomme Arthur and the godfather of craft Jim Koch as if they were Dino and Frank (uh…guilty as charged*).
According to my count, I sampled 36 of the 118 available frat sodas, so take the following for what it’s worth. My highlights from the “experience” include, in alphabetical order:
Avery’s aromatic and white-winey wild Brabant, Boulevard’s silky funky Saison-Brett, The Bruery’s bready and creamy Saison Rue, Foothills’s slightly overrated but still spectacular Sexual Chocolate (on tap!) and vastly underrated Hoppyum IPA, Great Divide’s decadent Espresso Oak Aged Yeti imperial stout, The Lost Abbey’s deserves-all-the-praise-it-gets Angel’s Share bourbon-barreled as well as their tart/sour/boozy Cuvee de Tomme, New Holland’s refreshingly zesty Golden Cap saison, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder which I had misjudged the first and only previous time I’d had it as this is an A+ worldbeater no question, and Two Brothers’s caramelly Cane & Ebel red rye.
Now the above “honorable mentions” are a smattering of A-’s and A’s and perhaps even an A+ or two, but my three Best in Shows in ascending order were:
3. Smuttynose Gravitation (Big Beer Series) — By far my biggest surprise of the evening. I knew the boys up in Portsmouth made good if not great stuff and I’d seen this one on shelves plenty of times, but who knew this 8.5% ABV quadruple was so goddamned spectacular?! Actually, apparently no one knows that or even thinks that as it gets a pedestrian B user grade on Beer Advocate, but let me just state that this is one beauty. A dominating explosion of sweet Belgian candi and sugary dark fruits, this beer still remains incredibly smooth and drinkable with absolutely no cloyingness. Honestly, I really can’t think of a better Americanized quad out there, and lest you think I was already in the can and am thus overrating this one compared to seemingly everyone else…it was my first beer of the evening and next to nothing else came close to it for the next four hours. In fact, periodically throughout the night I would revisit the Smuttynose booth to selfishly have a second and third and fourth pour.
2. Russian River Consecration — Already quite “famous” in its short period of existence, it deserves all its hosannas as this brew instantly replaces Allagash Interlude as both my favorite wild ale and red wine-barreled beer. A rust red pour full of acidic tartness, oaky Carbenet flavors, green apple sourness, and some funky vinegar sensations this brew was shockingly refreshing and I could not get enough of its glory. I’m also glad I didn’t have to pay the bloated costs for this one–reportedly around $25 a bottle–which perhaps led me to enjoy it at maximum capacity.
1. Odell Woodcut #2 Oak Aged Golden Ale — I’m embarrassed to admit I knew next to nothing about this Fort Collins, Colorado based brewery, had never had one of their beers before, and didn’t even have this brew on my fairly lengthy “to drink” crib sheet I was carrying around in my ass pocket. Luckily, about halfway through the evening, I serendipitously ran into a beer geek friend and a seemingly innocuous question of “So…whadaya enjoying here?” let to him all but grabbing me by the scruff of my neck and dragging me over to the Odell booth where he claimed that easily the best beer in the house resided. Quite skeptical, I took his word for it and, wow!, he was 100% right. A handsomely champagned bottled with a slick label befitting the beer’s name, this is truly one of the most flavorful beers I’ve ever had in my life. A creamy malt backbone with tastes of buttery toffee and caramel, clean oak, vanilla, and candi this beer is phenomenal and I feel lucky to have tried it. Now I’m sorry I missed out on Woodcut #1 which my minimal research shows me was released last year in a stingy small case number. I’d love to get my hands on a full bottle of Woodcut #2 but it doesn’t even appear to have been officially released yet and doesn’t even have a placeholder entry on BA yet.
Whatever the case, Odell hits a moon shot home run in their first at bat against me. That’s a 1.000 OBP and a 4.000 slugging. As good as it gets.