From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
Just several blocks south and east of Catholic University, Chocolate City Beer is a small yet prominent fixture in the District’s burgeoning craft beer scene which I had the pleasure of visiting this past Saturday. It would be possible to mistake 2801 8th Street NE for a handsome brick building if it wasn’t for the breweries’ insignia draped over its north wall.
Traveling down a short wooden staircase and across a gravel driveway puts you at the entrance of the brewery. The immediacy of the space is quite literal; somehow a boil kettle, bright tank and multiple conical fermenters are nestled into what amounts to no more than an oversized garage. Remarkably enough, the atmosphere remains cozy.
Despite their relative size, the beers coming out of Chocolate City Beer are making unique contributions to our local beer scene. The two specific beers available for sampling, an amber ale and a dark Vienna lager, are not styles brewed by any other local brewery (at least currently or regularly). Most importantly, this is how they fared against the palate of yours truly.
Cornerstone Copper Ale – 5% ABV – Toasty caramel from hefty additions of Munich malt underpin a mild European hop presence, and with good effect. Effervescent carbonation and a medium body drive home the semi-sweet finish. In terms of food pairing, its versatility lies in its relatively mild flavor profile. Its malt sweetness would counteract your hot wings on Super bowl Sunday quite nicely. If you’re a fan of the ubiquitous American “amber” or “red,” I suggest seeking out this alternative.
Cerveza Nacional De La Capital – 6.5% ABV – American craft beer would not be American craft beer without the blurring of style classifications which this beer does in spades. Equal parts Vienna lager, Dunkel and Schwarzbier, it produces an intriguing interplay of biscuity caramel and roasted chocolate without astringency or cloying sweetness. This was easily my favorite beer of the day. If bacon, beef brisket or smoked meat of almost any kind is in your near future, a growler of this will undoubtedly elevate the experience.
Chocolate City Beer is not relegated to only two beers, however. Within the next several weeks, a few others will also make appearances. Continuing the German-inspired trend will be the The Mothership Connection, a heavyweight 8.9% ABV Weizenbock, chock full of estery banana and phenolic clove atop a deeply complex German malt profile, set to be released as early as next week. Nearly one year ago, an Imperial Stout was brewed that has since aged in Copper Fox Whisky barrels for 9 months – look for it in 22-ounce bottles during their Saturday (12:30 to 4:30 p.m.) growler hours as early as next week.
Unfortunately, Chocolate City Beer is more or less a draft-only brewery (for now at least) but that does not stop them from occupying the tap handles of regular Borderstan beer spots such as Pizzeria Paradiso on P St NW, Churchkey on 14th Street or the Big Hunt on Connecticut Avenue. Cheers!