Deacon Don once said to me, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I know he wasn’t the first person to say that, but it was the first time I’d heard it. And, of course, it came immediately after I apologized to him for failing to do something I’d promised. Nice guy, that Deacon Don.
Well, the brewery crawl in Washington, D. C. last Saturday was also paved with good intentions. Instead of making it to five breweries that afternoon we made it to … one. Well, one and a half. And we finished the day at a pub that had about 150 craft beers on tap and another 300 in bottles. So that counts, right?
At least the extremely unofficial brewery crawl started the way it was planned – with a trip on the train to Bluejacket brewery in Southeast D.C. near the once again prematurely quite Nationals Park. And if there was one place to go (no, not National Park) it was Bluejacket.
First of all, the brewery had 20-something of its own beers on tap. Now, often a brewery that has a high quantity in variety is trying to make up for a low quality of the beer. To demonstrate how it works the other way, consider Franconia Brewing Co. in McKinney, Texas. It has only has three beers on its rotation – a lager, a dunkel and a hefeweizen. But if you want the best true Bavarian-style beer west of Texarkana, then Franconia is your brewery.
But Bluejacket didn’t follow the typical quality-quantity mold. Of the beers our little group of three then six beer pros sampled that afternoon, none were poorly made. Oh sure, there were some that might not have been in our flavor palate such as the sour beer for me or the rum-aged something for Matt. But even those we could tell were like every piece of cooked meat in Oklahoma – well done.
We arrived right after the 2 p.m. Tasting Tour had begun, so we had no choice but to sign up for the 3 p.m. Tour, find a seat at the bar, and prepare for the next tour by enjoying some of the brewery’s finest offerings.
For me, it was the beer called Mexican Radio – a superb tasting stout that Bluejacket describes as spiced and sweet. I could definitely taste the sweet milk chocolate and a hint of vanilla in this well-balanced imperial stout. I did not taste the Ancho chilies that the descriptor claimed it has, which was fine by me. I’ve never cared for smoked or spicy beer.
My IPA-chugging companion chose to begin with the Spectre – an American IPA that had just a hint of citrus and white wine to counterbalance the relatively mild hoppyness (46.5 IBUs) of its IPA foundation. While my friend usually prefers her hoppyness about twice that much, she was highly complementary of the Spectre.
By the time 3 p.m. rolled around, we were joined by friend Matt and three others on the Tasting Tour. Our host, tour guide, and all-around good guy, Ryan, provided the perfect combination of beer knowledge, good humor, and plenty of tastes of their beer. In total, we got to try five different concoctions from the brewery – an IPA, a Porter, a Sour, a Lager and a rum-aged Brown Ale (at least, that’s what I think it was, but after five generous tastes, who can really tell … but I know it had rum).
As previously mentioned, each beer was extremely well made. The lager was one of the best I’ve had, with a full, rounded mouth feel that reminded me of the excellent Vienna Lager from Community Beer Co. in Dallas. The porter was so good, every single person on the tour liked it – even the IPA chuckers in the crowd. The sour was a huge hit with everyone in our group who preferred that style of beer – which was one person.
An hour later, we’d seen every fermenter, cask, mash tun, barley bag, yeast lab, storage locker, and refrigerated room of this multi-level warehouse-turned-brewery. We really couldn’t have asked for any more. But Ryan was kind enough to raise the bar (get it?), and handed us a large format bottle of their Darling Buds Mosaic – a wet hop pale ale. And if you want to know what “wet hop” means, just ask. I know because I’ve been on the Bluejacket Tasting Tour.
— Eric Van Steenburg