Friday, June 1, 2007

O Brother, Here Art Thou---6/1/07

The summer swelter swirls and sworls around us, and we seek piney shadows to protect our sanity in the heat of early DC June. Though we are hot and huddled, the dogs sense our Friday energy and are less lethargic today than previous days this wilting long week. Something about a Monday holiday seems to compress all the work and worry into a tightly bound ball of four-day frantic. Evidence of this work squeeze lay strewn on the grass of Dog Hill. I arrived to find a couple of our Happy Hour stalwarts in mid-swig, the crushed remains of their work lying dented on the grass like old civil war ironside vessels. What had come before me were a Yuengling can, P.A in disarray, smashed as, perhaps, we would be heading if not careful on this night of release! Alongside like a mated shoe lay the remains of a Dale's Pale Ale, one of the finer brews one can find in a can; Oskar Blues's Colorado entrant into the aluminum dispensing business and a fair sight better than the pantheon of cans I consumed in college.
We decided to jazz up the mix, and brought out North Coast Brewing's Brother Theloneous Abbey Ale. This is a fine, balanced abbey rendition, not too heavy on sweet malt; and so much the better for it on a hot day. Brother Monk satisfied all around and was a hearty welcome before infusions of hops to come.
Making a return yet again was Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA. This one, as has been noted, is a pefectly blended IPA. The hops are pronounced in their bitter, but not at all mediciny. Once again, the Double did us right in delight and we drank our way to the next offering.
It was monkey business all around for the final round, a Victory dance from Pennsylvania; more than most of the local sports team have to offer lately. Hops features prominently in this brew, but it lacked the balance of the Double Simcoe. No matter, we decided, as our day had the perfect balanced ending: the stresses of work gave way to a palate of play, and we gave ourselves gladly over to the weekend.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Guardian of our Friday Souls---5/18/07

Summer sunshine simmers late into the day now. We gather tucked behind the shade of "The Big Tree" to pop our caps and fill our cups. The hazy hot days make for lazy dogs and longing humans---longing for a swig of special brew; a panoply of craft-brewed cunningness from coasts east, left and all points in-between.
The spring tide of beer washed over us and quenched a deep desire for good brew and good company. We have recreated happy hour at the local dive, minus the creaky, wobbly barstool and sticky bartop. The friends are the same; the conversation stirring----beer-soaked banter and chatter of all things local and some things global. When is Maxim going to open its doors; when will Martens Volvo shut down; how are the vineyards in Argentina? We are at once rooted in northwest DC like pork-slingers on Capitol Hill, and simultaneously blown to the far reaches of the globe with every Dog Hill Drunkard who has returned from a business or vacation trip and shares news of the world.
On these days, these Fridays of the mind, soul and body, we do imbibe. We quench, drench and drown out the stresses of the week and bask in the present company. Our frequent guardian through this is Stone Brewing. Never has there been a besmirchment of their craftwork. For the second time, Stone's Old Guardian appeared to swoosh us into the weekend. This is a fantastic beer, just hot enough to tingle, smooth enough to refresh, heavy enough to lighen our heads! On this ambassador of booze, we are swept along as if on a Flexible Flyer sled, its runners smooth, worn like river stones, fast as the days that ushered us all out of childhood and, somehow, brought us here to Dog Hill.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

5-11-07 Friday Salvation

Once again DC reigned resplendid in its late spring trappings on this perfect Friday evening. The bugs were still at bay; mosquitos just a pesky, itchy memory from last summer, and gnats clustered in their dervish cloud, but only in our minds. Each Friday seems to find just a touch more heat, like dialing the radiator one-sixteenth turn to the right. And we're all fine with this, sloughing off winter's hibRRRRnation and strumming into summer sunsets on Dog Hill.
This evening we found Salvation---right there on the shelves of Chevy Chase Wine and Liquor---and it was bottled up and ready for reaction among the gathered gourmands of fine brew. Avery's Salvation, Belgian golden ale style beer, hails from Colorado and suffers not the least from a trip east over appalachians and blue ridge right here to Ft. Reno. All takers agreed, even the non-belgian drinkers in the crowd, that this one hits the mark---smooth, warm and not overly-sweet. There is definitely some substance to this golden ale, and leaves us glad that something golden and decent can come from Colorado, even if not "frost-brewed".
Green Flash made a second appearance on the hill, going big this time. John Barleycorn must die, some decree, but not this barleywine from Green Flash. This one hits hard but velvety, an excellent specimen and less elusive than Big Foot.
The jumbled mess we are, next appeared Stone's Russian Imperial Stout. Hey, we try to give thought to the order of the night, but new entrants arrive every fifteen minutes, accompanied by their dogs and people. Stone makes fabulous beers we all agreed, nearly in unison. This was no exception, and our resident stout-avoidant even confessed "it was growing on him" as it warmed in his glass.
Colorado represented again, in the form of Breckenridge Brewery's Double-Hopped IPA, batch # 471. This was a quick-hitter 12oz and set the stage for another dark entrant, as we continued our weeble-wobble method of weaving stouts , pale ales and anything else with barley and hops into the mix.
Smuttynose Imperial Stout reigned large and roasty, a dry finish like the day itself, lazing in the glasses like our crowd lolling on the hill, recapturing sanity after the rush of the work week. What a great windup to another well-pitched shindig.

Friday, May 4, 2007

5-5-07 The Insanity of it all!!

The day steadily grew warmer and the sun shone a little brighter this Friday, with the days stretching ever so slightly longer over the din and dusk of DC. While high school students huddled around a guitar picker, Nirvana and post-grunge hard pop syncopations drifting across Ft. Reno, we reigned in a scattered hill gathering for the start of another spectacular Friday happy hour on Dog Hill.
We wanted to get into our cups but soon discovered we had none. So, the first two offerings were straight from the bottle, tipped back bravely and shared 'round like an old memory. Soon after, a dash to Safeway brought plastic relief for ease of sharing.
New-found friends who have moved here from up north contributed the starter bomber, a lightly roasted beer that quenched the last gasps of workaday worry and launched us into weekend welcome. The name of this brew is ancient history, like some of the potholes on Connecticut Ave.
The next toss was Rare Vos, belgian-inspired from Cooperstown's finest Brussels clone, Ommegang Brewing. While there are plenty of busts in Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame, this beer is not one of them. Though light, it is balanced and refreshing, with some depth, too; like the range of Willie Mays roaming center field. With baseball clearly on my mind, I happily fielded the next twenty-five ouncer.
Calamity! Discombobulation! One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest! Ah, Insanity, Weyerbacher's barrell-aged bounty, solid as all their beers. This one is velvet smooth in a bottle with a metal-stud mash of high-octane sewn at the hip. It's madness not to like this one, and we drank deep draughts of delight. Bravo again to Weyerbacher, whose Double Simcoe had us raving last week.
To put a cap on (er, take off one last?) the evening, out came the Ephemere, Unibrou's nod to lambic license, a sprightly splash of "Mon Ray all" moonshine from our Quebecois quaffers. The tinge of black cherries in this one melted into the warm spring evening, a field of flavor for a field of satisfied Dog Hill Drunkards!

Friday, April 27, 2007

4-27-07 Double Simcoe Delight

The rain was held at bay as if the Heavens understood our collective Friday plight, our need to convene in convivial conversation. Only a few rain flecks found their way to us, gathered as we were in repose on the grounds of Dog Hill.
We started with an entry from Maine, a classic east coast IPA: light, not overly hopped, smooth flowing and as refreshing as the light breeze that rustled the tree tips and toussled our hair. Gone in 60 seconds.
Smithwicks followed, a hop across the pond to Ireland. This is an uninspired an unoffensive beer, like that guy in right field on the softball team. You know he's there, but that's about it. Oh well. It's Friday. We killed it. (Next was Bell's Oberon. It's light, good, innocuous; summer in a bottle. Enough said.)
Now, dear friends, a little Masala; a little tandoor, some spice and taste that you can categorize, debate and devour: enter The Maharaja. Clear from the West Coast comes this East inspired beer from Avery. This was pine cones in a bottle. No malt character to speak of, just a coniferous forest squeezed into a bomber. Single of purpose but divided in reviews, we tossed the empty bottle aside like notions of a congressional balanced budget.
We thought we were seeing double next, and we were right: Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA. Now, this is a balanced beer! Citrus hops with just a hint of sweet malt. The flavors meld perfectly in this excellent brew, truly nonpartisan in matters of hops vs malts. This is a beer that will pass all legislative branches with a full majority. Well done Weyerbacher lads!
Then there was the Rogue beer of the bunch---conspicuous in it's familiar Rogue cloak of "etched" art bottles. We drank it. Um. We drank it. Did I say we drank it and finished it?
Next up was a homebrew Weizenboch, as we made the roasted malt leap to a darker beer, befitting the squizzling sun beginning to set softly over Tyson's Corner. 'Twas well received by all around, with aplomb.
As the former neuftet-plus of nimble imbibers dwindled to a truculent trio of dog-park lawbreakers, we capped off the evening with one last dog: Flying Dog Porter. This was a nice, smooth slide into homeplate and the weekend. This one packs no punch but flows like DC parking tickets.
Thus ends another fab Friday at Dog Hill. The beer selection seems to be elevating like the stakes at a poker game: pretty soon that same twenty dollars that got you in the game won't get you five minutes of fun in the back alley! Cheers to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, April 23, 2007

4/23/2007--Monday Happy Hour on the Front Porch

Alton Place, a scant 4 block or so south of Ft. Reno Park, is where we call home. Our block, 3700, is especially close-knit. We have annual neighborhood gatherings, baseball outings, luau parties, and as a beautiful Monday showed, the occasional spontaneous front-porch happy hour.
Stef and I have just recently had work completed on our half, as well as the neighbors half, of our previously shared front stoop. What was a single dreary, decaying slab has now become two separate and stylish porches. Ours became the de facto bar tonight. The not-so-shabby bar tab contained apple martinis, gin-and-tonics, and a couple decent craft brews. First up for sharing was a bomber of Racer 5, imported from California: clearly more than fruits, flakes and nuts (and former actor politicians) hail from California. Bear Republic makes some fine beer. Racer five is a mid-level hop-bomb of U.S West Coast ilk---a dry, sharp middle finger at the staid, smooth pub-fare variety of english pale ales. Americans like their cars, countries and hop beers BIG! Racer 5 is mild next to many a west-coast IPA (India Pale Ale), IIPA (Imperial India) and DIPA (Double), but holds its own, and had our french neighbor inquiring for a mild-mannered lager.
The other entrants tonight were a seasonable, reasonable hefeweizen offering from Vermont's own Magic Hat brewery (of no known affiliation to Vermont's other major exports, clouds and Cherry Garcia ice cream); and Dogfish Head's Midas Touch Ale. DFH is known for outlandish brewing ideas, often proffered by their fans. Midas Touch is kitschy, and, supposedly, taken from a "beer" recipe scrawled inside King Midas' tomb, which described a concoction of beery ingredients as well as muscat grapes and saffron. Bombay meets L.A you say? Well, maybe, but it tastes great. I suppose with a name like Midas, you'd have to call this a golden ale?

Friday, April 20, 2007

4/20/2007 The Ruination of Friday

The dog days of summer are not yet upon us, but the thrill of warmth is in the air. Long dormant, our souls and shadows stretch upon the grass of Ft. Reno. We are brushed by the needling fingers of setting solar solice.
With tales of tails we do regale our gathered friends: canids, manids, womanids, amassed for the Ruination of Friday and the settling in of the weekend. What better way to end the day than an IPA, Stone cold perfect to start the soiree. Dogs and candid banter are interleaven, our slice of heaven on a hill.
We are fed a three-course meal of barley, hops and yeast. Following Stone is a Flash of Green, and IPA we've seldom seen. We are gathered close, but in the open, brazen in our disregard for Park Authority and DC law. How much better does the beer taste for this? This, and the company of friends on a glorious DC day, only the hint of a chill, the wind still, the hill alit with the last rays of the day.
And now, the eponymous Ruination, brought forth to much elation. This one is smooth like the skin on cooked chocolate pudding, and balanced as the budget deficit in democrat years. What a fabulous concoction, and I am loathe to pass up a second round (ah, but for the car I have driven!)
The night steals slowly around us as the last drips and drops of barley and hops are siphoned off their lees. We, dogs, kids, people, shuffle slowly back to our microworlds in the city. In a week's time we will convene again, once more, to drink and pour, and share ourselves in splendid company.