A few weeks ago, I noticed an unfamiliar yellow, black and red can in the beer aisle at a 7-Eleven in Clarendon. Closer inspection revealed it to be Oasis Ale from Tallgrass Brewing Co. in Manhattan.
Manhattan, Kan., that is — a city of 52,000 that dubs itself the “Little Apple.”
Tallgrass founder Jeff Gill said he was approached at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival by a rep from Brown Distributing Co., an Anheuser-Busch house in Richmond. “He said he was impressed with the quality of the beer and the fact our beer was in cans,” recalls Gill. (Not just any cans, either, but 16-ounce tall boys — an unusual size for craft beer.)
Gill, who will turn out all of 10,000 barrels this year, hadn’t planned on shipping this far from home. But he adds, “You have to sell beer where the people are. There are only 2.5 million people in Kansas, and Guiffre [a Springfield, Va., wholesaler] might have that many people in its distribution area.”
Gill calls Oasis Ale a double IPA. The Web site ratebeer.com terms it an ESB (extra special bitter). I would have pegged it an American strong ale. It’s got plenty of citrusy/piney Pacific Northwest hops (Gill uses Columbus and Cascades), but also an equally assertive caramel malt backbone. Fans of big-but-balanced beers will enjoy this one. (Those who prefer being slapped across the face with hops might want to seek out Devil Dancer Triple IPA from Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Mich.)
No matter what you call it, at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume, Oasis is pretty heady stuff for a state that seems to prefer American wheat ales.
Also available in Northern Virginia from the makers of Oasis: Tallgrass Ale, Tallgrass IPA and Buffalo Sweat (a cream stout), all in 16-ounce cans.
While Tallgrass ships to 14 states, DC Brau brews strictly for the homeboys.
Heck, you can’t even find DC Brau’s beer in Northern Virginia anymore. Nor will you see its silver-and-red cans in grocery and liquor store coolers in the District of Columbia, either. Founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock have opted to concentrate on the on-premise market, distributing only to bars and restaurants. They feel it’s better for brand building, that their limited output will reach more customers that way.
If you want to get their beer for takeout, you need to show up at the brewery’s tasting room between 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturdays, when you can buy six-packs and 64-ounce growler jugs. “We’re getting between 200 and 400 per day,” says Skall of his Saturday tours and tastings.
To augment production, Skall and Hancock have hired an assistant, Chris Graham, who used to brew at Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville — and have ordered three more 60-barrel tanks. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get back into Northern Virginia in the fall,” Skall predicts.
DC Brau’s lineup so far includes The Public (an American-style pale ale), The Corruption (an IPA), The Citizen (a Belgian-style pale ale) and Penn Quarter Porter. For the upcoming DC Beer Week, the brewery is planning a collaboration brew, a German-style hefeweizen, with Chris Fraser and John Solomon of Solly’s U Street Tavern.
So sorry, Kansas, that we’re not reciprocating, but if you ever spent a summer in Washington, you’d understand our thirst.
I spoke too soon! On July 26, the New York Times ran an article on 508 GastroBrewery at 508 Greenwich Street in SoHo, whose owner, Anderson Sant’anna De Lima, offers his customers a choice of nine different beers that he brews in his basement.
It really is becoming difficult to keep up with this industry.