Ramble On

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Holiday Weekend Visit to @pendruidbrewing

After writing that post about Farmhouse Ales earlier this week, I got to thinking that it had been a while since I went over to Pen Druid Brewing in Sperryville.  I was at the soft opening in August 2015, post here, and earlier that summer they visited the hop yard, in this post.

So after a few holiday weekend errands I headed over the mountain to check in.  I didn't want to go empty handed and brought along a pound of Cascade hops from Lot 1 of this year's harvest.

I sat at the bar and chose a couple tastes - specifically Space Mothers and Cyclops - while casually talking with Jennings and later Lain (Van was travelling just then) about how things are going.  The clientele was steady, with several pairs and groups at the bar and seated inside and out, so we had some time to chat about their style of craft brewing.

In some of the articles featuring the brewery, and from my own experience working with them on hop yards matters, you can't miss the influence their travels in Europe have had on their approach to craft brewing.  The linkage to Belgian styles is strong, and they've committed a lot of time and effort to developing local ingredients that can be combined in uniquely artisanal brews.  They've even isolated their own yeast strain which categorizes many of the offerings as wild ales.

While I was there I enjoyed three beers:

Space Mothers: this is a biere de miel, or beer with honey, that was created as a joint project with Aslin Brewing.  The ABV comes in at 10.1% for this one, which they called a "hoppy wild."  Nice citrus notes abound.  

Wild Darkstrong:  The malts in this complex dark beer reminded me at first of a brown ale.  The IBUs were much lower, but even though I tried it as my second taste, I could still pick out flavors of chestnut, fig, and raisins.  I could envision sharing a growler of this at a holiday gathering, even though the ABV was still pretty steep at 8.5%.

Venus:  After the first two, I decided to enjoy a third sample and picked this one, a blonde sour at 7.3% ABV.  One of the things Pen Druid is known for so far is their prolific use of wine barrels for aging their beers, and Venus spent 10 months in red wine casks before it was kegged.  There was a slight lambic statement in this beer, which totally rounded out an enjoyable craft beer experience for me.

We talked about the prospects for Hawksbill Hop Yards, and I reported on our results this year: how the Columbus, Chinook, and Fuggles were essentially no shows.  So much so that I've talked with David about plowing them under and expanding to all Cascade (although I really want to see the versatile Fuggles through!).  Jennings insight was that this is how local styles develop - you produce what grows here - and combining that with Virginia grain and Virginia yeast would ultimately result in a good thing.

Reflecting on those thoughts on my drive back to the Valley, I realized that I was pretty lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to our emerging craft beer scene with these hops.  It's worth the investment we're putting in to the hop yard, and the focus we had on processes this year.

The consistency is going to pay off in terms of the character of the beers that will be produced.  The steady hand of craft brewers like Pen Druid will get us there.

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