“Essential.” That about describes this one correctly. As Port City steamrolls towards its 4th anniversary celebration (and don’t worry, we’ll have you covered for that next week!) I wanted to take the occasion to knock out the first of the kegs in my new kegerator. Anything for an excuse to throw a few back, right? Here’s the thing, though: without beers like this, many of us wouldn’t have developed an appreciation for American-style microbrews (read: hop-forward). So let’s take a few sips and see where this adventure takes us…
Essential Pale Ale, Port City Brewing Company (Alexandria, VA) – @PortCityBrew
American Pale Ale, ABV 5.5%, IBU 35
Presentation: Draught pour into pint glass.
Appearance: A pleasing yellow with tinges of goldenrod. The medium head can linger a little while with a fair amount of lattice.
Taste: This is very hop forward as I hinted at in the intro. Whereas an IPA will bring some floral/piney notes (with some sweet honey-like elements in your biggest imperials), this APA is crisp in a much lighter fashion. The nose is a bit more earthy – think of a meadow of long grass after a thin sheen of dew sets on it overnight. Port City describes the acidic elements which dominate the body as peach and apricot but I’m not sure it’s either as sweet or tart as some of your mild fruits. At the risk of an embarrassing pun, you will get some essence of fruits but to me it’s the difference between the aroma of fresh cucumber and the effect that a brining solution has on pickles (here as with the meadow analogy, the keyword is fresh). The finish is all hops, crisp but not cloying.
ABV/IBU: It’s a little smoother than those 35 IBU suggest.
Overall: As with some of its in-state competitors (DB Striped Bass comes to mind), the Essential is more of an execution beer in focusing on the basic elements of the style more so than experimenting in bold flavors or ingredients. It becomes an everyday beer as a result which is something I definitely look for (especially if I’m getting a sixtel of it!) What keeps it from an elite score is that it’s a little too reliant on hops for the flavor, but that’s just nitpicking. This is a solid second among Port City’s flagship beers.
Oh, and if you’re in the area do be sure to check out Port City’s anniversary week celebrations. They’re releasing a new Belgian Quad, lots of new swag, and will be tearing up DC in a number of events.