Checking my West-Coast beer bias at the proverbial door, I went to Washington, D.C., determined to find some good East-Coast/regional beer. I admit that I didn’t do as much tasting as I wanted to. Darn ASA conference kept me wonderfully occupied for most of the time. But I did manage to sneak away from time to time to sip a lil here, taste a lil there. The hotel I was staying at was around the corner from D.C.’s toursity Chinatown district and happily across the way from Capitol City Brewing Co., which I took as a sign from the beer goddesses.
Although I was sorta limited to what a few blocks’ walking had to offer, I was very happy to come across Fadó Irish Pub (http://www.fadoirishpub.com/), where the Guinness was beatifully poured and where they served Kilkenny Irish Ale! Ordinarily serving an Irish ale in an Irish pub wouldn’t be cause for celebration. I mean, duh, right? However, this particular Irish ale hasn’t been exported to the States, so even Irish pubs here don’t have it. The bartender noticed my salivating excitement when I exclaimed in my best unintended California-valley-girl accent, “Omigod! You have Kilkenney here! I so need a pint of that!” In a bemused smile, she told me that they’re one of only a few pubs in DC and Boston that pour it, and they’ve only had it for a couple weeks. OMG, Fresh Kilkenny! The Irish beer goddesses and gods were smiling upon me. Watching that beatiful pint settle (it’s on nitro, like Guinness) into its lovely creamy amber hue reminded me of being in Ireland, the last place I had a pint of it. Look how purdy it is!
It tastes as good as it looks. Creamy. Soft. Slightly malty with sweet hops subtlety in the Irish style, not unlike a Smithwick’s Ale (which also brews Kilkenny.) Kilkenny is a little sweeter and creamier than a Smithwick’s though, and a little easier to drink because the nitrogen smooths out the finish. If it weren’t for the perfect pints of Guinness also to be had, I would have stuck with this beer all weekend in DC, getting my fill because it can’t be had anywhere in these parts. It looks like you can order cans of it online, but nothing’s like a fresh pour from the keg. If you’re in Boston or DC, it’s worth finding those spots that feature Kilkenny on draught.
Before I found Fadó, though, I drank at two other spots: Matchbox (also in Chinatown) and Capitol City Brewing Company. I was a happy Cali-butcha at Matchbox (http://www.matchboxdc.com/beer-list.shtml) because among their offerings was a “Rotating Rogue” handle, which guaranteed that they would be pouring at least one Oregon beer on a regular basis. Matchbox’s beer list had a nice variety of beer, all stuff that goes very well with their pizzas and burgers. I ordered a pint of Oregon and some sliders. Mmm…but I made two mistakes: 1, not writing down the name of this Rogue beer I had 2 pints of, because it was so good and I want to look for it here, and 2, drinking the Rogue before sampling the local and regional favorites. The kind waiter let me sample the Yuengling (Pottsville, PA) amber lager and the Brooklyn Brown Ale (Brooklyn, NY). Ehh. They were alright. Easy drinking, but not bursting with too much flavor or complexity. Maybe if I’d sampled those two before having the Rogue…
In general, I find east-coast beers to be a little flat and anemic compared to the west-coast heavies. I will continue to sample and appreciate them as beers, but so far, I’ve had a hard time finding an east-coast beer I can get excited about, not even one from Yuengling, “America’s Oldest Brewery” (http://www.yuengling.com/ index.htm). Que sad because I try (and so do they!) But I wasn’t ready to give up on the local brews, so I was very happy that the grad student social hour was across the way at Capitol City Brewing Co. (http://www.capcitybrew.com/) All of their “Signature” house brews sounded good, so I ordered a sampler of the 5: Capitol Kölsch, Pale Rider Ale, Amber Waves Ale, Prohibition Porter, and their Seasonal, this time, and Oktoberfest style lager. I had high hopes for the Amber Waves Ale, but it fell pretty flat to me. The taste was there up front but seemed to lack staying power. I did like the Pale Rider Ale and Oktoberfest, but not enough to go back for more. Ay. I know, I feel bad even writing that. I really wanted to like the local and regional beers that DC had to offer. I had one last chance at a bar in Dulles airport while waiting for my flight back to L.A. I saw a local beer from Old Dominion Brewing Co. (fomerly of VA, now in DE) called Dominion Ale (http://www.olddominion.com/ales.shtml) and quickly ordered a pint. Eureka! Wooo! An exciting east-coast beer! And it’s an English-pub-style ale, to boot! I’m sad I didn’t get to the airport earlier because I only had time for one pint, but it was a fine way to conclude an awesome trip. Cheers to Old Dominion Ale.