If a brewery is going to be successful, it will have a little bit of something for everyone. As such, some strategies carry more inherent risk than others – going all IPAs, Belgians, sours, and so on. The point is that if your preferred style matches that of the Head Brewer, you’re probably going to keep coming back. If the brewer bets everything on one particular trend, and it doesn’t draw volume, then they will be in trouble, quick. For such reasons I thought that breweries betting on sours was a big mistake. That Saison trend worked out, right? And didn’t the focus on high ABV? And OH…EM…goodness, those hazy beers are so hot right now, what are they, NE IPAs? In this case, my fellow writers at VBR love Right Proper Brewing Company. They’ve made a name for themselves in DC and NoVA for lots of crazy yeasts, wild ales, and beers which one would normally think would limit popularity. Not in their case, and not in the slightest. Over a couple of visits I’ve tried to find that ouevre that seems to draw my friends in, with no luck. Finally, at the NoVA Brewfest a few weeks ago, I discovered that one little work of art which demands that I sit down and enjoy simply experiencing it. Here that beer is.
Songlines, Right Proper Brewing Co. (Washington, DC)
Hoppy Farmhouse Ale, 5% ABV
Presentation: Growler pour into tuliped pint glass.
Appearance: It’s certainly cloudy, but it lacks the sort of vibrancy that would remind you of a Hefeweizen or a Witbier. It pours hazy straw at the top and cloudy white at the base. Lots of bubbles even several days into the growler. Moderate head but playful lattice that doesn’t follow a set pattern.
Taste: Tart citrus all over the nose. At one point it reminds you of lemon, at another grapefruit, and even some kiwi for good measure. The kiwi bit matters, because all of the hops here are from New Zealand and Australia. Fine, that was a stretch. The point is that while the aromas point to a tropical beer, the actual body is quite herbal in more of a South Asian sense. My nose was actually hit with bamboo char at one point, which is something that a higher-end Vietnamese restaurant near us serves with roasted duck. Does it add any flavor? No, but it enhances and “crispifies” elements that otherwise wouldn’t play well in that arena. The finish is all hop resins and something else, but that really depends on how much you focus on the beer interacting with your palate. Speaking of…
Mouth Feel: The wild yeasts are incredibly effervescent and bright, but while you get aromas that suggest a beer bordering on sour the only real tongue interactions are central tongue and towards the finish. The Nelson Sauvin hops put a damper on that, providing the sort of lemongrass qualities all throughout the palate that ground this “aboriginal-inspired farmhouse ale.”
Overall: Do I like this beer along the lines that I would slam a few of them? Heck no. There’s too much going on. Was this a good diversion on a hot summer Saturday? Oh yes, it was. Back to the lead-in, I have absolutely no problem returning to breweries to keep trying new beers. It’s fun to hang out, nosh on munchies, talk shop, and dissect the lineup. What makes visits better is that, typically, after a small flight I’ll pick a favorite for a pint or two that lasts me the rest of the visit. Songlines is finally that beer at Right Proper that tells me it’s time to grab a table and complain about how injuries wrecked my fantasy football lineup (too soon?) or reminisce on how we pwned at Titanfall the week prior. Pwn is a word. Deal with it.