We hate to brag, but last week’s chat with Greg Engert, the beer guru behind ChurchKey, Rustico, Evening Star and a handful of other restaurants, might have been one of the most illuminating Got Plans? to date. In the middle of Beer Madness, Engert came through with answers about session beers, how and when to send your “off” beer back and where to find a coconut-laced porter. If you weren’t into beer before, Engert’s thoughful discussion could easily get you hooked.
Missed it? Catch some of the highlights below (or do yourself a favor and read the full chat). And be sure to join us this Thursday at 1 p.m. for this week’s Got Plans? with Paige Hernandez, an actress, performer and all-around awesome b-girl whose credits include “P. Nokio” and the well-reviewed “Paige in Full.”
Maui brewing: Is the Maui Brewing Coconut Porter available locally?
Greg Engert: Yes it is! You will find this brew mostly in 12-ounce cans throughout D.C., Virginia and Maryland (along with Mana Wheat, Bikini Blonde and Big Swell IPA). Occasionally we even get draft at ChurchKey. Coconut Porter is really nice beer...especially when tasted blind. That’s when you stop thinking of it as a one-trick pony that just tastes like coconut (natural to do so due to the name). Blindly tasting showed me that expectations and judgements are very adjusted by names, brewery reputations, etc. I found this porter quite intriguing when blind-tasted. The coconut offered so much nuanced complexity I could not put my finger on the flavor as obviously coconutty. Give this a shot alongside some other dark and roasty brews!
Fritz Hahn: For those wondering what the heck Maui Coconut Porter is, it’s doing quite well in the current Beer Madness competition.
D.C./MD/VA area brewery footprint: Which breweries from the D.C. metro area do you see having the potential to extend their footprint nationally (or at least out of the area) to the size of say Dogfish Head or Flying Dog?
Engert: I think that with the way that craft beer is growing, the sky is the limit. It comes down to what breweries want to do. I have heard that Port City only intends to stay regional (mid-Atlantic and a bit of the south). DC Brau seems content to gently grow. What’s cool is that the locals are so conscious of the local community that they are not going to make the mistake of some other craft brewers by expanding too fast and too soon (at the expense of fulfilling local obligations to the thirsts of our region’s beer geeks).
Another cool movement is happening among smaller producers that are hooking up ours and their local scene, while shipping little bits of their beer to major city centers in the U.S.A. and even further afield. Stillwater Artisanal [in Baltimore] has been doing this for some time, Cabinet Brewing in NoVa intends to follow suit, and even my project, Bluejacket, is enamored with that possibility.
Washington, D.C.: There was a discussion among members of the D.C. beer crowd on Twitter last night about what a customer should do when they receive a beer that tastes “off” from dirty lines or a skunked keg. As a beer professional, what course of action would you recommend, and what would you say if/when the bartender says, “Well, it’s supposed to taste like that”?
Engert: ... If your beer is completely flat, buttery, sour, skunky, cardboardy, smells of gym socks or worse, consider the style and the brewer’s intent. A great resource for all of you smartphone users is to search the beer at the brewery’s Web site, on Ratebeer or BeerAdvocate, and compare what you are tasting to the notes of the brewer or the masses. If the flavors don’t add up, or if the beer has not been deliberately kegged/casked/bottled with mild or even zero carbonation (this can be intended!) and is flat, then there is an issue. (Beers need foam; [It’s] great for aroma). Demand head on your beer! If flat, [it] may be an infection, or the soap has not been rinsed from glass.
Tell the bartender. If they will not comply with your complaint, ask to see a manager or the resident beer guru. You could even show them the smartphone research. If all of this fails to get you the beer refunded, then don’t go back.
Beer: What area beer bars are doing anything special for Session Beer Day on April 7?
Engert: Great question and I hope so! Session beers are gaining momentum as brewers consistently craft low ABV [alcohol by volume] beers (below 4.5 percent; some say percent) brimming with flavor. These are fantastic as you can have more than a few in a social setting, or all alone, and not be hammered. Some recent faves include Elysian Slight Return, 21st Amendment Bitter American, Schlafly House in Session. ... Here at ChurchKey, we will be pouring the Schlafly House in Session on draft. ... This is the fresh, second batch of the beer that I brewed with Paradiso and Meridian Pint last year for the same “holiday.”