Bah Humbug! and Beer Snob: A Christmas Time Collaboration
To continue the tradition of seeing A Christmas Carol in the year 2015, Rizzo and I decided on the lovely City of Alexandria, Virginia. We didn’t want to stray too far from the house since we already had a few longer trips under our belt (vacation in the OBX and long weekend in Santa Barbara, CA). That wasn’t going to stop us from having one night of fun sans Cece so we booked ourselves a hotel room and got tickets to the matinee performance at The Little Theater in Alexandria.
Beer Snob: Port City Brewing Company
The weekend started with our journey to Port City Brewing Company. This was Rizzo’s first time to this popular local watering hole. It was a return trip for me but I’m never one to turn down a good beer in my hand. We got there relatively early so the place wasn’t packed. As we approached the front door I noticed the sign that read “Watch your Step” but Rizzo wasn’t so lucky. I opened the door for her (as a chivalrous man is want to do) and watched her trip over the small step. After laughing and pointing at her so the entire tasting room could see the fool she made of herself we walked up to the barkeep, purchased our flight of six tastings, obtained our first beer, and made our way to our seats.
The Port City tasting room is one to be envied by many, if not most, other breweries. It is spacious and comfortable. On this particular day the brewery had arranged for the food truck DC Slices to be stationed outside to serve the hungry customers. The truck was not yet open upon our arrival so Rizzo and I picked some seats along the window to ensure we could see when the truck was fully operational.
Port City offer's both flights and full pints in the tasting room. The flights consist of any six beers on tap that you choose with a healthy tasting glass of 4oz. They also utilize a ticket system instead of the usual paddle system. Upon the purchase of your flight you are provided with a series of 5 tickets and your first beer. As you finish each round you simply take your ticket to the barkeep and request the next beer. I like this system over the paddle system because it allows you more time to sample each beer without the worry of the others getting to warm. The beer is always fresh from the tap.
Tidings – The first offering I selected was the holiday special of the house. I knew I had sampled this beverage many times in the past but I couldn’t pass up a tasting of the holiday beer while on our A Christmas Carol weekend. I am a big fan of Christmas beers in general so I never pass up a holiday brew. Port City tags this beer as "Not your typical holiday beer" and they are right. Tidings is a Belgian style blond ale brewed with honey (Maryland Wildflower Honey to be precise) and wheat (Virginia wheat to be precise). This combination makes this beer taste more like a higher alcohol wheat beer rather than a Christmas beer. In an attempt to try and "season" up the beer it is brewed with coriander, cardamom, and fresh ginger but I don't think it gave it enough of the "Christmas" spice that I truly love in a Christmas beer.
This isn't a bad brew but it also isn't what I'm looking for in a Christmas beer. This beer would probably make a delicious wheat beer if it was brewed without the extra spices. Instead, according to my taste buds, I find this beer to be an attempt to mix a wheat beer with a Christmas ale but it doesn't quite get either one right. Not bad but not great. I give this 7.8% ABV and 25 IBU beer 3 out of 5. I wouldn't turn it away but it isn't my favorite beer.
Long Black Veil - Long Black Veil is a black IPA with a cool namesake. As described on the Port City website, "The name of the beer was inspired by Alexandria’s famous mystery of the veiled Female Stranger. In 1816, a young woman who had fallen ill was brought ashore from a ship at Alexandria’s port and her husband never removed the thick veil she wore to conceal her identity. They moved into Room 8 at Gadsby’s Tavern and her husband swore the doctor and nurses to secrecy. After two months, she died in his arms on October 14, and he himself prepared and buried her body in a cemetery at the edge of Old Town. The identity of this veiled “Female Stranger” remains a mystery to this day."
I am not a fan of IPAs. Not even a little bit. But the occassional black IPA isn't bad because the brewer will malt the beer up enough for me to enjoy it. This wasn't the case with the Long Black Veil. The beer looks like a nice porter or stout; very dark with a thick, creamy head. When you taste it you can tell that there is a fight between the malt and the hops. It is an epic battle between good (malt) and evil (hops). Malt puts up a hell of a fight but the 65 IBUs provided by the hops shows that sometimes evil does defeat good. I give this 6.5% ABV beer a 2.5 out of 5 because it isn't the worst beer I've ever tasted but I'd prefer to drink something else.
Revival Oyster Stout - I hate to eat oysters. I don't blame the oyster itself. It is hard to be liked when you are the smell, texture, and flavor of phlegm. The few times I have had the displeasure of eating an oyster I was convinced I had a cold simply based upon the feel of the snot running down the back of my throat. Even with this hatred it is important to learn that everything on this earth has a use and for the oyster that use is being made brewed into a delicious beer.
As described from the Port City website (no one can ever accuse me of plagiarism because I reference all the content I steal), "Revival Stout is brewed in the British and Irish tradition of oyster stouts. Made with three thousand Chesapeake Bay oysters from War Shore Oyster Company, the oyster shells are steeped in the brewing water to add mineral content and then the oyster meat is added during the boil. The oysters add a subtle whiff of a sea breeze, a slight briny character and a smooth textural element to the beer."
Revival Oyster Stout has a wonderfully full flavor and a very smokey finish that is nice example of a stout. The beer is dark, tasty, and smokey but still light enough at 5.5% that you can drink more than one. Even the 38 IBUs are no match for the powerful oysters in and malt to make this a highly rated beer. A well done stout at 4 out of 5 stars on the Wes-O-Meter.
Colossal One - Every year Port City makes one beer to celebrate the anniversary of the brewery. They are never the same beer. The Colossal One is the beer brewed to celebrate the first anniversary. I know, with a name like Colossal One it is hard to believe that this is the first of a series but there it is. Port City celebrates its anniversary in the dead of winter so to fight off the chill of the winter winds they brewed an imperial stout.
For those uninitiated, the term "imperial" was originally used in the 1800s by British brewers that made beer to be shipped to the imperial court in Russia. The term has evolved to mean the high-end, top of the line beers that a particular brewer happens to produce, or those worthy of the "imperial" court. Usually this includes boosting the level of hops (for an imperial IPA) or malt (for an imperial stout) to kick up the flavor and the alcohol content.
The Colossal One is a perfect example of an imperial stout. The malt is out of this world and can really taste the coffee flavor that I love so much about stouts. Port City posts an IBU rating of 65 for this beer but with the heavier malt content it is hard to tell. This beer also lives up to the imperial name with a 9.5% alcohol content. Port City only brews one batch on one day of its anniversary beers to run down to the brewery and get this one while you can. 4.5 out of 5.
Colossal Three - As I'm sure you guessed from the name and from reading the description of the Colossal One, this beer was brewed to celebrate the appearance of Colossus in the feature film X-Men: The Last Stand which was his third appearance in a movie. That is, of course, the worst and nerdiest joke I've ever made on my blog (but certainly not in real life). This beer is the celebration of the third anniversary of Port City.
Unlike the Colossal One, the Three is a Heller Bock beer with a much lighter color and flavor. A bock is a strong lager of German influence. The Heller bock is the lightest, palest, and most hopped version of a bock. I thought I tasted Brett in the beer but that could just be the influence of the type of hops with which the beer was brewed. After each taste my mouth was left dry. For those wine drinkers out there it is very similar to drinking a powerful red wine like a Merlot or a Malbec. Very dry. Not a bad beer but not something I'd be interested in seeking out over and over again. 3 out of 5 stars.
Ways & Means - As I came to the end of my tasting I had reached a dilemma. The only beers left on tap that I had never tried were IPAs. I wanted to add a unique beer to my list so I took a chance on Ways & Means. Checking on the stats it didn't appear overly hoppy at 55 IBUs and since it was a session IPA I thought I would be able to handle it. Side note, a session beer refers to a beer that has an ABV less than 5% (in this case 4.5%) that is light and crisp allowing the drinker to enjoy more than one beer during any given visit, or session, to the pub.
I was wrong. This is the very definition of an IPA. I can only guess that the lower alcohol content in the beer was gained by raising the citrus flavors that make my lips pucker like an old woman sucking on a lemon. This beer smells like a grapefruit, tastes like a grapefruit, and is awful just like, you guessed it, a grapefruit. That being said, I've come to know when an IPA is a good representation of an IPA. So even though I gave this beer a 1 out of 5 (it got 1 star because it is technically beer) I would bet that my friends who enjoy a nice IPA would find this a great addition to any summer gathering. You might say this is an all-day IPA.
Port City is an outstanding local brewery the offers a wide selection of tasting options that will meet any beer drinkers needs. From the dark and malty to the bitter and hoppy, Port City has a beer for everyone. I highly recommend paying a visit the next time you are in Northern Virginia.
Bah Humbug! - The Little Theatre in Alexandria.
After our trip to the brewery we made our way to Old Town Alexandria and the Little Theatre in Alexandria. The Little Theatre is just a few blocks from the heart of Old Town which makes it an easy walk for anyone that is staying downtown. I loved the look and feel of the theatre. It was small, about 200 seats, which gave every seat in the house a nice view of the stage. We had seats right in the middle to get the best view of the performance.
What the theatre had in ambiance the show lacked in luster. After seeing A Christmas Carol as many times as I have in as many different places I just hope that I'm not getting jaded. The production was a short one, about 70 minutes, run without an intermission. Cutting the run time (1) allows for more families to enjoy so the kids don't get too antsy and (2) means that some of the more subtle, and I think most enjoyable, parts of the show get cut.
All of the scenes and all of the themes were certainly present. The redemption of Scrooge at the journey to get there is present, although truncated, which gives it less of an impact. What gets cut by shortening the production is the fun musical and entertainment. There was little singing and dancing when a young Scrooge is at the party of his former master, Old Fezziwig. The joy of the season is toned down due to the lack of games played by Scrooge's nephew, Fred, and Fred's party guests. The ensemble in the square including the women who peddles her wares that owes money to scrooge is completely cut out so that part of the redemption story is lost. We don't meet Scrooge's house lady until the end when she is pawning the goods she stole from a dead Scrooge. She is typically seen earlier in the play, taking no end of grief from Scrooge. The call back to the her character pawning Scrooge's goods is lost when there is nothing to call back.
I don't want my readers to think I just sat in the crowd thinking of everything that was disappointing about the performance. There were a few moments (okay, one moment) that deserve to be highlighted. In the story, Scrooge arrives at his home on Christmas Eve to see Jacob Marley's face in the door knocker of his home. The effect used by this crew to push Marley's face through the door was ingenious and really made you believe that someone or something was coming out of the door. A stretchy cloth was used as part of the door and an actor pushed his face through the door, giving the impression of a ghoul really pushing through the door.
All in all, I was able to get my fill and I learned my annual lesson that it is better to give than to receive and that family and friends come above work and money. I also learned that this could be a great place to take kids to see A Christmas Carol. If you are looking for the full spectacle that the production can be then I suggest going to Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. If you are looking for a place to take your kids to see the show in a reduced amount of time, then the Little Theatre is a good choice.
After the show we made our way over to the Hotel Monaco in the heart of Old Town Alexandria to check in to our accommodations for the night. This is a lovely boutique hotel that includes a nice complimentary happy hour in the lobby (we enjoyed a few glasses of wine). We were pleasantly surprised to get an upgraded room upon our check-in and the upgrade was far beyond our expectations. I'll let Rizzo tell you about our suite.
After our exploring our room and drinking our lobby wine it was time for a night out on the town. Since Rizzo and I share a similar personality (along with a 90 year-old woman) dinner was at 6:30pm at the Warehouse Bar & Grill. It is a nice steakhouse that isn't overly fancy but still delicious. The most alluring part (to Rizzo) was the oysters on the half-shell she had for an appetizer. I thoroughly enjoyed my steak, as well. If you are looking for crabcakes, the Warehouse has the best crabcakes in town. We know this because our waiter made a point of telling us that they have the best crabcake in town.
After our meal we walked around Old Town to do some shopping and people watching. There are some great little shops up and down the streets of Alexandria which makes it a fun place to walk around at night. The City get the town set up right with the decorations that really put you in the holiday spirit. After our stroll we returned to our hotel for a much needed slumber.
We both had a wonderful time on our little 24-hour respite from the real world. I'm already looking forward to seeing where next year's A Christmas Carol viewing will take us.
P.S. The following morning we went out to breakfast at a local coffee shop. I only bring it up because I was able to order an English breakfast complete with a banger and beans. It was delicious. All that was missing was the blood pudding.