From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
I hope some of you were able to attend at least one beer event during the week of Craft Brewers Conference. Hopefully a few of you got to more than one and, no, I will not disclose the frequency with which I attended these events (insert clever euphemistic phrase to disguise that I can’t drink as much as used to do, etc.).
If I learned anything throughout it all, it was that craft beer and its people lived up to what I conceive of as its reputation: A willingness to betray style classification, a strict focus on artisanship and an overwhelming sense of community and collectivity — all of which were on display Wednesday, March 27, at the venerable Smith Commons on H Street NE.
Upon entry, I whisked myself up a staircase along the left wall to the upstairs bar. After a quick turn right, I’m greeted by a large gorgeous window which occupies the entire second floor façade, allowing wonderful views for several blocks down H Street.
Having heard much fanfare about Smith Commons (I can now say it’s warranted), I was rather excited as it was my first time there. Past the bar to the left was a comfortable patio area fully stocked with a bartender and portable kegerator — if my mind wasn’t at ease before, it certainly was then.
Around 6:15 pm, things weren’t too crowded despite the “gravity” of the event itself. In the house were 3 Stars, Bells Brewing Company, Founders Brewing Company, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Company and Oskar Blues Brewery — just to name a few, easily giving way to inordinate amounts of craft beer depravity. From my unequivocally eidetic memory (yeah, right), these two were the best beers of the night:
- Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout, 9.5% – I battled heroically against conventional wisdom by selecting this as my first beer of the night. The regular iteration of Blackout Stout is not nearly as laden with roast as other imperial stouts which allowed its particular flavor profile to meld seamlessly with the vanilla, caramel and oaky toast of the bourbon barrel treatment. Generally speaking, Great Lakes beers showcase an intensity of flavor while maintaining harmony and balance, and this beer was certainly no exception.
- Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale with Coffee, 8.7% – Although I may or may not have written about this beer previously, Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale continues to beguile and to stretch its versatility. Pleasing aromatic waves of fresh coffee leap from the glass, subduing much of the hop aroma which would otherwise be present. This beer has ample dark roasted character to establish the proper foundation for the inclusion of coffee and it didn’t miss a beat, much like its bitter chocolate and orange brethren discussed here.
Big ups to Smith Commons for putting on such a wonderful event and big ups to the Craft Brewers Conference for coming to our fair city this year; I can only hope we made you proud! Cheers!