While the NoVA beer scene now counts nearly 20 breweries and brewpubs (with an average of 3-4 new ones every year), the vast expanse of the region means that some of the brewery clusters require a full day of planning and driving just to hit 3-4 on a Saturday afternoon (with a DD or Uber to help out, of course). For those of us with rugrats, a better bet can sometimes be to uncover new releases at the many forward-leaning restaurants and bars which increasingly serve regional brews under the popular #drinklocal mantra. A few years ago, we moved our (soon to be growing) family outside the Beltway to secure a bit more house to go alongside our mortgage. Of course, the ‘burbs aren’t quite as replete with the sort of savvy establishments catering to craft beer aficionados which can cause even the mightiest of horns to sag a little. Following our discovery of Old Ox Brewery at a Novemberfest event, though, I happened to take the family unit to a regional pizza chain near our new house and was stamping the ground upon seeing an Old Ox beer on the menu. It was the first of their flagships I’d gotten to taste, and still my favorite.
Golden Ox, Old Ox Brewery (Ashburn, VA)
Golden Ale, ABV 5.9%, IBU 18
Presentation: Draught pour into pint glass. And tulip. And so on.
Appearance: Pale yellow (and dare we say, golden) with bright beads of carbonation. Depending on the batch you may find a surprising degree of haze that still doesn’t fully emasculate the beer’s overall clarity. A moderate head dissipates quickly, as does some lattice webs.
Taste: The nose is playful and radiates freshness and flowery hops. This is where a Golden Ale really departs from a Lager, as you’d expect more grass, dew, or butter in the latter. The body surprises even more, as it’s less malty (Old Ox uses Munich, Pilsner, and Vienna) than…nutty. I tried over the course of an entire sixtel to determine if I weren’t just making that up. But two BBQs and a Game of Thrones watch event confirmed it. There is a cashew butter richness to the backbone that is in no way sweet. If one takes a slow and plodding approach to a drawn-out sip, you can tease out a hop presence in the finish that falls far short of trampling the other flavors. Trying to dig much deeper would be akin to lazily swatting at flies on a muggy day – you can get a quick tease but all the other elements are simply too much in balance.
Mouth Feel: A degree of crispness would almost remind you of a Lager, but here that’s due to some residual Hops that coat the back of your tongue. It brings out the Saaz more than its Chinook or Columbus partners. The ABV feels gentle even if a bit elevated for the style.
Overall: Golden Ales are secretly a fantastic Summer beer if you’re not into yeasty, bready, or Lager-type alternatives. They’re meant to be simple, as in smooth and refreshing without being a yoke on your palate. A beer like this is meant to be your thirst-quenching beast of burden whether it be mowing the lawn, tending the grill, or plowing the fields. If you’re looking for a different kind of Summer beer without wanting to tug a whole cart of bottles home, Golden Ox is a great place to start. I’m also out of bovine puns.