What happens when you have a Friday off, with a buddy in town from abroad who has spent most of the last 2+ years in areas of the world with little more than the local equivalent of moonshine and “lagers?” You drink good beer, naturally. You also give them good food. The combination of the two, in the current microbrewery environment, either pushes one towards gastropubs who brew on site, or a pub with an extensive list of craft beer on draught. My friend Sully has been so desperate to find (good) beer in places like Asia and Latin America that he’s slowly learning to just brew it on his own, and the scene here in NOVA (and in a broader sense, the DMV or DC-Maryland-Virginia) has exploded so rapidly since he left that my only goal has been to make sure he gets caught up. I also wanted to make sure he tried plenty of beer styles which one simply can’t find in much of the world, which led us to the nanobrewery and lunch room at bluejacket. 20 beers on draught, 5 on cask? That’s a start!
Friday Night Flight: bluejacket, Washington, DC
Featured Styles: Farmhouse Ales/Saisons and Cask Ales
With a couple of hours to kill, we settled in and realized it probably wasn’t in our best interests to go the “EVERYTHING!” route for our tasting. Being a pedestrian for the day, Sully started with a flight of wild and sour ales and I did the regular version of the Mexican Radio (we’ll get to the cask version in a bit). From there on we split a couple of flights over food, to at times amusing effect.
When this first flight came out, we were so busy chatting and perusing the food menu that neither of us caught which beers were which, and without a decoder ring we were left to our noses and eyes to try to get the order right. Nothing like burying your nose into the glass to try to pick out hops, right?
Anacostia Delta: Mellow, with mild fruits throughout. 6.0
Duchamp: A playfully breezy, tropical nose which in no way hints at the peppery body. The Cascade Hops dominate the finish. 7.0
Full Bloom: Wild, indeed. I would never have expected something like a lemongrass beer, but that’s precisely what this reminded us of. It’s also a bit hop forward, and I was curious how it would do with a more chilled presentation. 6.0
Scarecrow: Certainly dry up front, seguing into mild citrus notes. The hops return and sit on the tongue well after the finish. 6.7
Something to note at this point is that bluejacket distinguishes itself from many other breweries by using exact temperature control on all of its brews. I’m more than willing to imagine that Greg Engert, the Beer Director at both bluejacket and ChurchKey, and Josh Chapman, the Head Brewer, know far more about this aspect of Beer Science than I may ever hope to know, but at the same time I’m somewhat curious how some of these brews would compare when tasted at the ideal temperature alongside the “normal” one you’d get from a run of the mill beer fridge. To wit, almost everything at bluejacket is a tad warmer than you may be used to.
While initially on the cask menu there were two single-hopped versions of the Goldfinch (the other with Amarillo), we had to “settle” for only four more decent sounding beers. Drat!
Lost Weekend: Orange flavors and a hint of what felt like molasses. Those delightful Citra Hops are a great backbone, and completely belie those 75 IBUs (but in a good way). 8.3
Imposter: Peach nose with a mild finish. I didn’t get much of either the rye or the hops, and think those might’ve been a bit bolder on draught. 6.0
Goldfinch w/Cascade: A grapefruit and somewhat tart citrus nose, and a fair amount of Cascade-infused bitterness comes out in the finish. Well polished overall, and I was quite surprised how well a Blonde fared with cask conditioning. 7.5
Mexican Radio: The original is a phenomenally well-balanced stout with a bit of kick to it. In the cask version, the vanilla is the star with lots of those cacao nibs on the nose and again in the finish. You do get some of the ancho chiles in the finish, as well, but with that being the only flavor which truly lingers it feels a bit more unbalanced in the absence of any carbonation-aided acidity. Still solid, though. 7.0
Being there for a few hours, we munched on olives, the creamiest and lightest hush puppies known to Man, and a few sammies for good measure. No really, I could have ordered a few servings of the hush puppies and floated out of there. A bit more leisurely of an experience than my typically rushed flights between work and picking up the kids, but with a menu as deep as bluejacket’s, you really can’t rush your way through things. Stop by some afternoon or evening and dedicate yourself to some quality beer.
Get out and try: Lost Weekend, Mexican Radio, and Goldfinch