Beer & Cocktails: both of you are delicious

28 May 2011 #beer #booze #churchkey #cocktails #columbia room #drinks #food #google

On Thursday I went to a neat event called “

The Art & Science of Beer” hosted by Google’s DC office. They had Greg Engert, the beer impressario from Churchkey, gave a ~90 minute talk with samples of 7 beers. Most of the talk was on the mechanics of beer making throughout history, and how what we think of as mainstream beer is really quite new, to the tune of 100-200 years. Beer like products have been brewed for thousands of years, but it would have been darker, smokier, funkier, sourer, chunkier and less “pure” than what we normally drink now.

The tasting menu he arranged was (in a sort of historical order, with his descriptions in italics):

  1. *Oud Beersel Oud Kriek. Brouwerij Oud Beersel. Traditional Fruit Lambic. Blegium. Tart & Funky. * I thought this one was fantastic, giving it ★★★. It was elegantly pink to look at, smell and taste. Definitely had a sour, funky taste but in a good way.
  2. *Aecht Schlenkerla Märzen. Brauerei Heller-Trum. Bamberg Rauchbier Märzen. Germany. Smoke. *★ This was the most interesting beer, but probably the one I would least like to have a whole glass of again. Rauchbier means “smoke beer,” and this is very smokey. It’s a bit like drinking your beer while standing in front of a smoking BBQ. Before kilns the fire smoking would have been employed frequently in beer making, but apparently this is somewhat unique because they use modern lager (?) techniques to remove most of the other flavors, which would normally yield a very smooth clear flavor, but in this case just overwhelmingly highlights the smoke flavor.
  3. *Orchard White. The bruery. Witbier. California. Fruit & Spice. *★★ Pretty good. It was wine-like to me, in appearance and flavor. A bit fruity, with spices like coriander, lavender and orange peel.
  4. Porterhouse Oyster Stout. Porterhouse Brewing Co. Dry Stout. Ireland. Roast.★★.5 This was a nice stouty flavor. I didn’t write much about it. Apparently the name comes from a long, convoluted process that basically means this beer was made for the poor (such as porters) and they also ate oysters.
  5. Aventinus. Brauerei Schneider. Weizenbock. Germany. Fruit & Spice.★★★★ This was probably my favorite. It was a brown, tasty beer that didn’t seemed fairly light tasting. Could imagine drinking a bit of it.
  6. *Insanity. Weyerbacher Brewing. Barrel-Aged Barleywine. Pennsylvania. Malt. *★★ I was kinda meh on this one. It was fine, but nothing I would particularly want to return to. A bit bitter, perhaps, but he said it wasn’t.
  7. *Unearthly. Southern Tier Brewing. Imperial IPA. New York. Hop. *★★★ A good, hoppy beer, if that’s what your into.

He recommended gravitating toward Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Anything by Victory Brewing, and Saisons in the beer aisle. Afterwards there were some tasty hors d’œuvre and glasses of whichever beer you wished for. Overall a fantastic event, and very informative.


Marian took me to the lovely Columbia Room **on Friday. We arrived at ~5:05 and left ~7:30, and for about half of it were the only patrons in the bar. They do a **tasting menu of cocktails, with 2 prescribed and one up to each patron & their bartender. The staff was very warm and friendly, and while I can see how at its worst (particularly if it was “crowded,” which they seemingly strive to avoid) it could come off as a bit pretentious, we had an excellent time.

Derek, JP and Katie all made us feel well tended to and seemed genuinely excited about drinks & sharing drink with the world. We spent most of the time chatting with them about various ingredients behind the bar, getting free sniffs & sips of a few different things. (Oh, and they do have awesomely large ice blocks they cut down to size. Apparently the come from a local ice company that mostly makes them for ice sculpture).

The first drink we had was Chatham Artillery Punch. Classic southern punch w/ lots of booze, kinda sweet. Definitely packs more of a punch than you expect, given the small serving size. My recollection + googling says this has bourbon, cognac and Jamaican rum plus sugar, lemon juice and sparkling wine.

Second was a whiskey and coke, but it was a light whiskey (3-6 months aged), kinda like moonshine he claims, from Texas (True Blue). JP/they made their own hickory smoked cola and carbonated it there. Some lime juice as well, plus some other random stuff. This tasted like a mix between the most delicious whiskey & coke ever and BBQ sauce. Surprising, and tasty. They served that with bourbon vanilla gelato (from Dulcezza), boiled peanuts (hard to eat with a spoon…) and a seasame sugar wafer thing.

Third I had a gin basil smash, because they had fresh basil sitting in front of us on the bar and it kept smelling delicious. It had a strong basil aroma, but wasn’t overpowering in the drink.

Marian’s Third was a passionfruit gin fizz (but it had egg white & sparkling wine, which wikipedia suggests is like a passionfruit silver diamond gin fizz or something) that was delicious. Fruity, but not too sweet. I only got a few sips of this one, so you know it must be good.

The last drinks were served with salty truffle oil marcona almonds & these really fresh, not salty, olives.

We had a fantastic time, and would strongly encourage you to go if you’re ready for an evening of over engineered, tasty cocktails. We were nervous about going so early, but in the end I think it was more pleasant having an even smaller scale experience.

Now it’s time to detox my poor, poor liver.