When was the last time you rode a train? Not the Metro or another form of subway, but an actual above ground train? With the clanking wheels, groaning track bed, and the veritable bells and whistles? It’s probably been a while, I imagine, and that may have something to do with one of the several breweries in VA which either began in or have hitched their wagons to local rail stations. This particular brewery is Roanoke Railhouse, which began back in the Craft Beer Dark Days of 2009. No, they may not be well known, but I was delighted to come across a few bottles of their Amber several months back. With the denizens of Roanoke imploring for a visit to tour all the breweries popping up in that corner of the Commonwealth (well, at least one of the denizens is clamoring), I imagine this is a fairly good place to start.
Track 1, Roanoke Railhouse Brewery (Roanoke, VA) – @roanokerailhous
Amber Lager, ABV 4.8%, IBU 18
Presentation: Bottle pour into a tuliped glass.
Appearance: Deep red with ruby at the heart and flecks of bourbon on the edges. Moderate head that lingered for a minute but no noticeable lattice.
Taste: Mellow caramel nose. A malty backbone stretches across the slightly sweet body, the latter of which is primarily what diffentiates it from a Vienna Lager in terms of taste. A bit of chestnut and other roasted elements in a protracted finish. There is a definite sweetness to the flavor profile which is either your thing, or it isn’t. On Untappd RR likens their creation to a Dunkel in profile more than a true Amber, but I think Vienna Lager is the better comparison here. There isn’t the same “yeastiness” or shallow bitters of a Dunkel, nor the same malted backbone of a true Amber.
ABV/IBU: Marketed as a session beer, it’s fairly smooth all around.
Overall: Track 1 is certainly not a complex sipping beer destined to spend the next hour in your snifter. If you understand that going in, and even pair it with something acidic to balance out the sweet/caramel flavors, what you get in return is a flexible beer to accompany dinner or snacks while watching the game. In my case, it paired wonderfully with some stewed lentils but anything with tomatoes (soup, salsa, etc.) should do the trick. It plays more as a macro in that regard – versatile, easygoing – without feeling watered down or cloying as some of the mass market Ambers can be (looking at you, Michelob!) There are some snobbish comments floating around about this very beer, but ignore them and let your tastebuds be the judge. Just remember that with any beer you have, how you frame the flavors matters just as much as what’s actually in your glass. And you’re gonna like the way this beer tastes if you treat it properly.