This past weekend, we visited the Washington D.C. area for a wedding. While I highly recommend NOT visiting DC in late July (unless you like finding out how many parts of your body you can sweat from at once), if you do end up there, you'll find some fantastic beer and one of the best beer bars in existence, Churchkey. Luckily, Churchkey was located just a few blocks from our hotel, so we made it over there on Sunday night. I was really blown away by the place. The tap list was extensive and the bottle list was absolutely epic. I've never seen anything like it. After spending about 30 minutes drooling all over the menu, I decided to go with a few new (to me) beers from one of my favorite East coast breweries, Maine Beer Company. I started with one of their pale ales, which happens to make the list at #238, MO.
MO pours a pale golden color with a thin white head. I got a load of clean, peppery hops on the nose with a nice hint of grapefruit. After so many west coast, super tropical pale ales and IPAs, it was kind of nice to find something more along the East Coast style lines.
The beer opens with a crisp, piny hop bite. Pepper and grapefruit rind creep in the middle before a lingering, but not overpowering, pine resin finish. The mouthfeel was perfect, never letting the bitterness of the hops get too out of hand. I finished MO very impressed. It's a very east coast pale ale, which I didn't think I liked before this beer. Turns out I do. Now onto the next beer, which also makes the list at #87- Lunch.
You're probably wondering about the name, so here's the story. Lunch is the name of a Finback whale who frequents the Maine coast and was given the name because she has a chunk missing from her dorsal fin, almost like something decided to eat it for lunch. You can see and read more about her here. I had heard a ton of good things about this beer, so I was pretty stoked to find a bottle of it at Churchkey.
Lunch pours a clean golden color with a nice, two-finger white head. The smell is definitely more "west coast" than MO, with some mango and tropical hop notes being the first thing I smelled. Some peppery citrus and pine were in there as well.
The taste opens on the sweeter side, with a good hit of mango upfront. Then it progresses to a peppery citrus rind-like middle and a finish that's full of some gloriously bitter pine resin. A caramel malt backbone keeps things from drifting off into the "intensely bitter" zone. The balance of this beer is fantastic and it walks the line between West Coast and East Coast IPA really seamlessly. This is a must try if you can get it.
Lastly, I found a bottle of Maine Beer Co.'s pale ale, Peeper Ale. I bought this one in a semi-sketchy bottleshop in Maryland and, for whatever reason, didn't check the bottling date until it was far too late. When I did, I was pretty bummed- December 7, 2012. I wasn't expecting too much from this one. To make matters worse, we finally made it home after a heavily delayed flight and I dropped the beer when I was transferring it to the fridge. It didn't shatter, but the seal on the cap broke and it started angrily spitting foam all over my kitchen. I quickly grabbed a bottle opener and a glass and went to work. I usually don't review warm beer at 3am, but there's a first time for everything...
Peeper Ale pours a turbid-looking and hazed (not surprising at all because I had just dropped the shit out of it) honey color with a foamy and rocky bone-white head. I wasn't expecting much from whatever hops were left after 7 months, but I was surprised to find a good amount of peppery, floral hops with a touch of lemon, grapefruit and caramel malt.
I do think that this beer faded a bit (it tasted more like a pilsner than a pale when I tried it), but I still really enjoyed it. Grassy and peppery hops hit first with some floral and rosewater notes showing up in the middle. Some caramel and bready malt show up as well, but they remained in the background. The finish was incredibly clean for being so warm and brought notes of pine and white pepper.
Overall impressions: Maine Beer Company rocks my world. I can't say enough good things about these guys and what they do. All of these beer are top notch, with Lunch being the best of the group. I really, really, really hope these make it to San Diego soon.
Peeper Ale: B+
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 128