I’d like to start out this post by thanking Hamilton. This is a toast to all the insomnia-filled debates, screams of “I KNOW!!!” and peer pressure. Yes, peer pressure. You see, Hamilton as the founder of this little site keeps a legion of monkeys attempting to write Shakespeare. I first introduced the Friday Night Flights concept as a side project to allow me to revisit some familiar (and new) haunts under a different premise – no reviews, just “hey, here’s what’s new and worth checking out.” Sometimes it could lead to a follow-up review or feature, but it’s also a good excuse for happy hour. Little did I know that my good drinking/UVa buddy would turn into Ser Hamilton Greyjoy. Rather than the Drowned God, I discovered he worships the Hopped God. (Either you fully got those references or didn’t. No apology.) Anyways, he did have a point that I needed to do another of these, and luckily I had a good excuse in finishing up grad school and heading out with some co-workers to celebrate.
Friday Night Flight: Port City Brewing Company, Alexandria, VA (@PortCityBrewing)
Total Beers: 5
Featured Style: Lesser Known Brews
Interestingly, while waiting for my team to show up I ran into my old officemates from one assignment previous. Apparently people in my building make a habit of Port City on Friday nights for happy hour which would explain why I barely got a seat not even five minutes after they opened. For my own visit, however, I decided that I couldn’t include any beer which I’ve already reviewed, so with apologies to the Optimal Wit and Colossal Two, I had to immediately chip the 9-deep tasting menu down to seven. The Downright Pilsner being the cousin of the Derecho Common meant it also was omitted. Finally, since the point of this exercise is to check out lesser known, new, or seasonal entries, I also wrote off the Monumental IPA (a GABF Bronze winner several years back). That left me with five beers but six tasting tickets, so I pocketed the extra and we all went to work.
Flight: Tidings (Seasonal/Spiced Belgian Blonde Ale), Essential Pale Ale, Northwest Ale, Ways and Means Rye IPA, Porter
Tidings Ale – This is Port City’s Winter seasonal, and it’s quite the departure from other styles you’ll find right now. The two dominant trends I notice are the Winter Warmers and Winter Whites, but one thing that’s true pretty much anywhere you look when it gets cold is flavor. And yeah, Tidings is a sledgehammer of flavor. With most blondes you’ll get a nice wallop of fruitiness, but Tidings tries to undercut that with honey as a main flavor ingredient. Once you get further you see some similarities with the Winter Whites, as wheat and coriander are also present. Like with most blondes, though, I’m not completely enamored, but then again that’s why I married a brunette. 5 of 10.
Essential Pale Ale – This is a wonderfully solid American Pale Ale that’s among my favorites for this style. I’ve had it many times, and recommend it whenever I get a chance. It’s not as hop forward which lets you home in on different aromas, including some fruits which are distinct yet unpretentious. The reason why you probably won’t find it except in bottles is that the hops really aren’t the star here. If you compare this profile to something like COTU’s Ray Ray’s Pale Ale you can easily see that whereas that beer wants you to notice the beer’s nose, the Essential Pale Ale wants you to notice how it finishes instead. 8 of 10.
Northwest Ale – This interesting concoction is a collaboration between Port City and local restaurant chain Chef Geoff’s. Alas, they introduced it shortly after I took my wife to one of their locations for her 30th birthday, so I haven’t gotten to this one as much. The one other time I’ve tried it I marveled at how remarkably cloudy it is, but this time it resembled a sort of fruity ale…which it actually is. I’ve waffled on this one a bit, having at first particularly enjoyed it but less so over time. While it’s trending down for me, that it’s stuck around their lineup may mean that this is simply more of a Spring beer which isn’t suited to match up with all the more heavily spiced Winter offerings. 5 of 10.
Ways and Means – Here’s another recent offering where I’m still puzzled how it fits into Port City’s overall lineup. Back in April they announced it as their “second” Spring seasonal, and a Session IPA does make sense for that time of year. But as with the NW Ale, here we are in November and I have this little beauty in front of me. Not complaining at all, but if you know more than I do, I’d love to know if a) this is sticking around, and b) will we get to see it distributed? One of the original press releases I found spoke of a limited 90 barrel batch, and it’s hard to imagine this wasn’t popular enough that it’s somehow stuck around this long. Speaking of Ben’s review, I was astonished to see it listed as the 10th or so entry if one searches for “port city ways and means” on Google. 8 of 10.
Porter – Another staple from Port City’s original lineup, the Porter instantly found itself in draught lineups throughout the DC area. It’s definitely a nice, crisp take on the genre with a heck of a lot of body – check out how the lattice clings to the glass as you sip it down. I had to laugh at one of my co-workers as he started out his flight with the Porter and soon learned his mistake. Did I mention the body in this beer? Savor the chocolate notes for dessert, as odds are you’re not going to feel up for much else after a glass (two at the most) of this brew. Is there such a thing as a beer float? I’d imagine some twisted soul has made one somewhere, and this is a good candidate for one. 7 of 10.
My two suggestions end up being ones you’d see a lot if you looked at Ben’s Untappd feed. Since he and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of beers, that means if you think I’m off my rocker these are probably for you. For what it’s worth, my co-workers enjoyed the hell out of them both…but took home the almighty Optimal Wit.
Get out and try: Essential Pale Ale, Ways and Means