From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
In my concerted effort to capture the vitality of our local breweries (a few of which are discussed here, here, and here), I would be altogether remiss if I were not to mention the first brewpub ever in the District, Capitol City Brewing Company. With current locations downtown and in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington, Cap City (as it’s affectionately known) is the bona fide progenitor of craft beer in the District.
Last night I had the wonderful pleasure of attending their media dinner, engendered in part by the presence of a new Director of Brewing Operations, Kristi Mathews Griner. While not claiming a systematic overhaul, Griner is revamping their four core selections while helping to introduce a constantly rotating cast of limited releases, focusing on seasonality and more assertive flavor profiles.
Although I seem to naturally gravitate towards more bombastic, alcoholic and intensely flavored beers, the three best were all under 6% ABV. In no particular order, they are as follows:
Capitol Kolsch – 5% ABV
Kolsch as a style is indigenous to the German city of Cologne. Given its fermented cooler than most ales, Capitol Kolsch exhibits lager-like smoothness atop a bed of bready German malts with just enough hop bitterness to provide adequate balance. Often we you hear someone use the term “quaffable,” it’s most often in reference to a group of lighter-bodied beers which facilitate the consumption of multiple pints in a single setting (which may or may not lead to other mischievous deeds). Capitol Kolsch is a good example of that.
Hefeweizen – 5.2% ABV
Although the specific term is largely an Americanization, Hefeweizen, like Kolsch began its life in Germany, specifically in the southern region of Bavaria. Cap City’s hefeweizen is loaded with a substantial amount of malted wheat which lends a soft yet tangy sourdough undertone while a special Bavarian yeast strain produces a complex combination of esters and phenols (phenol 4-vinyl guaiacol has the tendency to be the most prominent one, for all of you organic chemistry aficionados) creating an array of yeast-driven flavors, most notably banana and clove. Oddly enough, I also got a subtle whiff of vanilla which harmonized quite well with the bread pudding (in other words, try this pairing for yourself and don’t ever let anyone tell you hefeweizens are only for breakfast).
Spring IPA – 4.9% ABV
The latest fashion in craft beer is arguably lower ABV, more “sessionable” IPAs with substantial hop character. Cap City’s Spring IPA is not simply a standard IPA lurking behind the veil of lower alcohol; the tropical hop character (thanks mostly to the Citra hop) leaps out of the glass while remaining well integrated with the remainder of the beer. As a self-proclaimed unapologetic hophead, I do say this is my favorite of the bunch, but it’s not because I simply have a penchant for hops – the beer was just well made.
If the other seasonal selections on hand were any indication (double rye IPA, for example), be on the lookout for an increasing number of hop-forward beers at either of their locations (Downtown – 1100 New York Avenue NW; Shirlington – 4001 Campbell Avenue). Big ups to the fine crew at Cap City for hosting a wonderful event – I have a feeling you’ll be hearing from them a bit more in the near future.