As we’re kicking off our third year here at Virginia Brew Review, we typically have a policy of ALLTHEBEER! on our first visit to a new brewery or brewpub. We tend to make these visits on Fridays for some reason, hence Friday Night Flights. Think of this as a first impression with some raw tasting notes for good measure. With such a wealth of options if you’re a NoVA craft beer aficionado, it felt almost delirious in seeing not one, but two breweries open on the same weekend in April out in Central Fairfax County. Many moons ago that suburban joy was to be found in wingeries and that nifty little alehouse plopped down by Dogfish Head. Then came Beltway, and Caboose, and Ocelot, and Aslin, and the craft brewery boom has continued unabated while finally filling in the gaps between the near-DC and outer NoVA spheres of the region. As it so happens, these “tweener” locations are starting to fall fairly close to my house which makes it easy to drop in for an hour after work or sneak out while the kids are napping on the weekend. That brought us to Mustang Sally two weeks after its grand opening.
Friday Night Flights: Mustang Sally Brewing Co. (Chantilly, VA)
Inaugural Beers: 4 (with a fifth having since debuted)
Food: Yes – paninis and light snacks
While any new brewery is sure to draw VBR’s attention within the first few weeks, Mustang Sally piqued my interest owing to Head Brewer Bret Kimbrough‘s résumé: formerly in the same position for Leesburg’s Vintage 50/The Beer Joint, one of his creations took home top honors for us at an event back in 2014. Through one occurrence or another I never could get out there while they were in peak production, but the beers I secreted every now and then had me in high confidence that Mustang Sally would be in good hands. As it always so happens, I’m quite happy to report that appears to be the case.
Beer 1: Kölsch
Requisite butter and bread on the nose, with surprisingly strong wheat flavors standing out over only mild crispness. The latter is typical to the style, and emblematic of lagering in general, but the real surprise is a heavier than usual body for the style that’s also coupled with some bitterness. It’s actually a fairly good contrast that makes this a deeper beer. Of all the samples I tried it was the one that most asked for a bigger pour to flesh out all the flavors. Raw score: 7.5 of 10
Beer 2: Grapefruit Radler
If you’ve got someone in your midst for whom beer isn’t one of the great loves in their life, a real selling point for this beer is that it doesn’t really taste like beer. Think more of a tart grapefruit juice with a lemony nose and a good dose of carbonation. At 3% ABV fans could enjoy more than a few of this one. Not my style, but makes sense for those that do like Radlers. Raw score: 6.0 of 10
Beer 3: Amber Lager
A subtle nose, solid malts, and not too sweet. For that reason you can’t really compare it to a caramel malt, and it’s really more of a woody, almost toasted maple presence that keeps it all grounded. With a bit more refinement this could almost be pushed towards a Vienna Lager. Raw score: 7.8 of 10
Beer 4: IPA
On first sip I thought this would be the star of the show. Great color is paired with a deep floral and resin nose. You catch a bit of fruit that isn’t quite citrus in the body, and the deep hop bitters start strong before mellowing out. They’ll build on you over time indicating a sipping beer, but this is really well rounded right out of the gates. Raw score: 8.7 of 10
Beer 5: Porter
Mustang Sally has a winner on their hands with this beer. For my follow-up pint I thought I’d be going back for the IPA, but a few reflective sips later I was sold on this Porter. Very mild and smooth. It leans towards coffee, but more lightly roasted as a breakfast blend than a Sumatran monster. Advertised with sweet caramel flavors, I couldn’t quite find those, but maybe with a nitro presentation (which this beer is just begging for) those would come out. Raw score: 8.0 of 10
We typically have a wait a few visits before giving out final scores, so expect some more insight in the coming weeks, but this is a new brewery we’re pretty excited about up here in NoVA!
Get out and try: IPA, Porter