Craft brewing has taken this country by storm over the last 10 years. You don’t have to look far to find a brewery or brewpub close to home, and so many of them make great brews that now it’s hard to narrow the search down. Each brewery will make the same few styles for the masses: an IPA, a warm weather lager, a hearty stout. Every local brewhouse has figured out that they need to diversify, make the classics unique, or create their own seasonal’s or one-off’s.
Having the luxury of living in a major metropolitan area means that we have no shortage of available micro’s. I quickly lose count of how many there are just inside the beltway, let alone the suburbs. Where does one begin? I started by narrowing my spectrum slightly and focus on Prince William County. Believe it or not, there are a lot of breweries and brewpubs in the county. So much so, that I decided to focus my search even further. Today we are going to discuss breweries that are only in Manassas and the surrounding area. The three that I am sharing are, in no particular order, Tin Cannon Brewing Company, BadWolf Brewing Company, and Heritage Brewing Company.
Tin Cannon Brewing, in Gainesville is full of humor and creativity. The name is a play on the near by Manassas Battlefield and classic name for everyone’s favorite beverage container. They consider themselves a nano brewery with a 2 barrel brewhouse, producing 64 gallons per batch. Tin Cannon typically has 6-12 beers on tap and I sampled 8: Rhedeye ryePA, Busted Pipe Black IPA, Pleased to Wheat You, Gilligan’s Island Ginger, Bobby’s Pale Ale, Cavalier Joe Bourbon Porter, Honey We’re on a Date Witbier, Single Cannon IPA. All the beers were solid, however more nuanced than in your face.
Rhedeye ryePA. A Rye IPA, as many of us know, is a traditional india pale ale with an addition of rye malt to the wort. The rye gives the beer a unique spicy quality that balances well with the bittering hops, adding a depth of flavor that many IPA’s lack. Since rye is very aromatic, it is no surprise that this beer’s nose had primary notes of rye, with undertones of citrusy hops. The rye was more subdued on the palate but still well balanced over the hops.
Busted Pipe Black IPA was inspired by Cascadian Dark IPA, and is one of a growing number in this style. The use of dark, heavily roasted malt gives this beer its distinctive dark color, and adds a measure of complexity on the palate, with bitter chocolate and hops dominating. Not overly bitter or heavy, this beer is a wonderful thirst quencher for someone that may be interested in a brew that has wandered off the beaten path.
Pleased to Wheat You is Tin Cannon’s summer session wheat. This beer is crystal clear, light and quite fizzy. It reminded me of a lager in a number of ways. It had the light, slightly bitter flavor of a lager, and handled its cold temperature very well. This is one of the best beers for beach side relaxing I’ve drank in a while.
Gilligan’s Island Ginger, American Pale Ale brewed with fresh ginger. This is an interesting beer. The nose screams ginger, but it moves toward the background on the palate, which is more reminiscent of the pale ale style that it is based off of. The ginger comes flooding back at the end, reminding me of ginger beer, telling me it would make an interesting ingredient in a summer cocktail.
Bobby’s Pale Ale stays very true to style with its nose of pine, citrus, and sweet lightly roasted malt. On the palate it does not under deliver, and remains balanced with plenty of hop flavor.
Cavalier Joe Bourbon Porter is a classic robust English porter, with big chocolate notes all around. The nose is of rich hot chocolate with a hint of smoky bourbon vanilla. The palate is a cacophony of flavor and luxurious creamy texture. Flavors of mocha latte and sweet vanilla abound. Smoky caramel sweetness of the bourbon add to the rich flavors. This was a wonderful beer to taste, and I am excited to drink it again as the hot weather starts to break.
Honey We’re On A Date, Belgian style wheat fermented with spices, honey and dates. This is a solid wheat beer with classic notes of wheat and barley. The honey was soft on the palate, intermingling with the citrus and wheat flavors at the forefront. The secondary flavors are of a bread shop with the rich yeasty flavors of a freshly baked loaf of baguette.
Single Cannon IPA. This is Tin Cannon’s take on the classic session pale ale. Although this beer tops out at 6.6% ABV., they consider it session because it is derived from the larger Twin Cannons, their double IPA, using the same grain bill and Chinook hops. To me, this was a small beer with nuanced flavors, and a very light palate. The hops, mainly on the palate, were clean and full of pine resin. It is definitely a beer you could drink multiples of and still make your way home.
BadWolf Brewing Company should be one that all of us know. There are two taprooms in town, one being next door to Jay’s. The larger of the two, which opened last summer, is where they do most of their brewing, in a nondescript business park. Walking inside got my inner Whovian juices flowing, with a TARDIS on the wall, BadWolf graffiti on the tables, and a Belgian Tripel called The Time Lord. I tasted Jesse’s Girl, Amber Ale; Clare’s Vanilla Porter; Aces High, American Pale Ale; Monument’s Coffee Stout; Jalapeño IPA; Mother Pucker, Sour Witbier; and Summer’s Melons, session with melon and citrus.
Jesse’s Girl Amber Ale. This beer is a robust dark amber that screams to be drunk. The nose and palate are both of malt and soft hops. It is full bodied, with fine carbonation and a lingering flavor.
Clare’s Vanilla Porter. This is a beautiful beer built for the hearty meals of winter. It is smooth and rich, with bitter chocolate and limestone on the nose. The palate is rich hot cocoa and cream. Vanilla permeates everything in this beer, making it taste like a liquid chocolate cake.
Aces High, American Pale Ale. This beer has a light nose of citrus and malt, while on the palate the hops move forward. The bittering hops are a touch drying with the unique flavors of Sorachi Ace hops, added both in the boil and dry hopped. The hops are balanced with just a hint of sweet malt. A beautiful Pale Ale for any summer day.
Monuments Coffee Stout. Milk Stout. Beautiful deep dark colors from the roasted malts, and a creamy foam head. This milk stout is absolutely beautiful. The nose is robust and warming, smelling of coffee and chocolate. The palate is much the same, rich and luxurious with big handfuls of dark chocolate. Although it is billed as an imperial milk stout and has an ABV of 8.6% you don’t even notice the alcohol. This is a beautiful beer to appreciate and sip all afternoon.
Jalapeño IPA. I am not one for fruit beers or beers with other flavor adjuncts, I like beer to taste like beer. But this was very interesting. The nose was like rubbing your face in a pepper plant, fresh and green. On the palate you tasted the flesh of the fruit. It was sweet and fulfilling. The spice comes after you swallow, and was not overpowering. There was enough Jalapeño to let you know it was there, but not so much that you sweat through your shirt finishing a pint. The addition of the pepper took away most of the traditional flavors of an IPA. The hops were covered by the fresh vegetable flavors and then by the spice aftertastes. This is a good introduction to hot beers.
Mother Pucker, Sour Witbier. This beer is brewed with blueberries which adds amazing balance to the sour. The nose is of fresh blueberries which are even larger on the palate. The sour notes really let the fruit flavors sing, with a lingering flavor of berries and bready yeast.
Summer’s Melons, session with melon and citrus. German Hull melons were used in the creation of this brew. They impart a tart melon rind note, which was somewhat mysterious on the palate. There was an initial note of melon sweetness but that was quickly lost, overwhelmed by the hops of the IPA.
Heritage Brewing Company is also located close to Jay’s, on the opposite side of Center St. They are veteran own and operated, and most of their employees are former service members. This place is americana through and through, from the classic names of their beers to the giant American flag hung behind the fermenters. All of their ingredients are sourced from the U.S., with 92% being locally sourced and/or organic. In an effort to decrease their carbon footprint all beers that are not in keg are canned, not bottled. These beers were all consistent with classic flavor profiles, and contained bold tones on the palate. None of these beers were shy. I tasted American Expedition, American wheat; King’s Mountain, Scotch American ale; Revolution, amber ale; The Teddy, hoppy pale ale; American Expedition Lemon Shandy; Simcoe Ironsides, Session IPA; Habanero Dragonfruit IPA, Steady as she Gose, lime infused Gose.
American Expedition, American Wheat. This is a no-nonsense, lawn mower type of beer. What I mean by that is that it is straight forward, light to medium bodied, and would feel wonderful ice cold after finishing the lawn on a hot day. You don’t need to sit back and ponder this beer to enjoy it whether it is your first or third for the day.
American Expedition Lemon Shandy. This is the American Expedition wheat beer mixed with lemonade. The shandy has a somewhat subdued nose of lemon, but on the palate there is no hiding it. This is summertime in a bottle (or glass) with big sweet lemonade notes. The lemonade is well balanced and not too sweet. Another very good summer thirst quencher.
King’s Mountain, Scotch Ale. This is a Scotch American ale, meaning it is in the Scotch Ale style but uses some American ingredients (usually hops), and tends to have a higher ABV, and more robust hops notes. This beer, however, is incredibly balanced. Is it for the summer? No, however it was still very enjoyable. It is powerful, with even bigger malty sweetness. You can taste and feel the alcohol here, but it is well balanced against the sweetness, and dark roasted character.
Revolution, Amber Ale. This beer is brewed with organic oranges, which balance very well with the citrus of the hops. I have to be honest, I was not expecting the orange when I first put the glass to my lips, but it was a big tasty surprise! This is another solid, fun summer beer that has the power to still be enjoyed year round.
Simcoe Ironsides, Session India Pale Ale. When I see a session beer I expect a decent beer that maybe doesn’t have the same big qualities as its full fledged big brothers. Less flavor, less alcohol, less interesting. This beer surprised me. Had I not been told this was a session beer I would have expected that this was a big boy IPA. When I smelled the Simcoe Ironsides I got a huge nose of pine and citrus. This continued on the palate, with lots of cascade hops flavor, but not a huge bitter note. It is very tastefully made and could be a great addition for those that wouldn’t consider themselves “hopheads”.
The Teddy, East Coast Pale Ale. The big difference between a Pale Ale and an IPA are the hops. IPA’s classically have big notes of hops and often times can be quite bitter. Pale ales tend to be more conservative. This is not to say that they lack hops, but instead tend to utilize flavoring over bittering hops. The Teddy has great hops volatiles, giving it a beautiful pine forest nose. On the palate you taste much more of the beer. The sweet malt comes through strong, and the yeastiness lingers long after you swallow, the hops sitting comfortably in the rumble seat.
Habanero Dragonfruit IPA. This beer is not for the faint of heart. The nose is pretty, smelling of fresh pepper flesh. But don’t let that fool you. It is big, bold and spicy, knocking you over if you aren’t expecting it. The habanero heat doesn’t seem too scary at first, but once you swallow, it catches up with you. The spice will linger on the palate and head down your throat. If you enjoy hot wings, or spicy chili this is the beer for you.
Steady as She Gose. Lime infused Gose. This beer blew my socks off. I had only recently discovered this style with its salty, sour goodness and was eager to try this example. Steady as She Gose did not disappoint. It came to the table and drew everyone’s attention immediately. Its cloudy hew and strong strong salty citrus rind nose made it clear what beer this was. When it reached my lips my entire mouth puckered and I started salivating. Steady as She Gose screams summer to me, and I suggest sipping it after a long day on the job or on a long hot afternoon in the hammock.
The D.C. Metro Area is full of fantastic breweries. Some of these breweries are on the cusp of national stardom. Some of them are local gems just for us to enjoy. The larger breweries all make wonderful beer that is great to share with relatives who have come to visit and would love to find back home, be it an hour away or thousands of miles. The small local breweries make beer that make those relatives continue to come back. They are hidden treasures that we get to enjoy without the busy tourist-trap taprooms, or the crazy interstate drivers. These nano-breweries are fun places to go with friends, or even the family to have a brew, play some games and get to know a new neighbor.