Beer Snob: Caboose Brewing Company
If you are a novice to visiting craft breweries you may be tempted to turn around and leave before you make it inside of Caboose Brewing Company in Vienna, VA. You may even think you took a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ended up in the warehouse district in some bad horror movie. Either that or you will think that you were hired by the Town of Vienna to work construction in the public works department (which is right next door). Please, power through the appearances and make your way to the tasting room and restaurant. You be glad you did.
Caboose Brewing offers a wide variety of tasty beers as well as a tapas style menu that is sure to please. The food ranges from macaroni and cheese to bourbon french toast to roasted Virginian beet roots. The menu is delicious and the ingredients are as local as they can get. Don't believe me? Then just check out the board right inside the brewhouse that lists the sources of all the ingredients.
Make sure to bring the kids along to the kid-friendly atmosphere. Kids are more than welcome. We brought Cece along and she enjoyed every bite. There is also a great porch that looks out onto the Washington and Old Dominion Trail for those cycling enthusiast. The porch is a great place for kids to burn off some energy and the grown-ups to bask in the sun while consuming the fourth of fifth beer of the day.
But you don't care about any of that information. Sure, the place has great food. Yes, it is kid friendly so you don't have to worry about those side-glances that some people will give when you bring a 2-year-old into a brewhouse. Of course you can enjoy a pleasant bike ride on the W&OD Trail to get in some exercise before and after a lovely tapas-style meal. None of that matters to you because you came here for the beer. Well, let's get to it.
Boxcar Brown - It should come as no surprise to anyone that the first beer I decided to try off the big board of beer was the brewery's brown ale offering. In my opinion there is no better style of beer than a brown ale. When done right, the style is light enough to allow the drinker to have more than one but still heavy enough that you aren't drinking water. Sometimes a brown ale may have the slightest bitterness from hops but typically they are nutty and malty. I hate hops and I love malt which makes a brown ale the best type of beer.
That being said, there seem to be less and less brown ales that are produced by craft brewers and it is even harder to find a brown ale that is locally produced. In my opinion, brown ales have developed a reputation of being "boring" and as a result they are often overlooked for production. Craft brewers want to go crazy, shove as much hops into the beer as possible, and drive the IBUs up over 100. So when I can find a brown ale in a local brewery I get excited. When I find a good one I get even more excited.
The Boxcar Brown is the best locally brewed brown ale I've consumed. The beer is dark brown but not to the extent that we are in porter territory. It is full flavored with very distinct nut flavors. There is a slight hoppiness but just enough to complement the deep malt flavors. There is a smoky finish that would make this beer pair with foods that have smoky flavors; think barbecue of any kind or even some smoky steak fajitas. This is definitely a beer that is worth going back for and I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Zoo Berliner Weisse - Do you like SweetTarts? They are a delicious candy that is both sweet, sour, and I'm pretty sure consist primarily of unused chalk from elementary schools covered in chemicals to give them flavor. Even so, they are a delicious candy that combines the best of the two flavors. If that combination of sweet and sour could be made into a beer you would have a Berliner Weisse like Caboose's offering of Zoo Berliner Weisse.
This beer is almost like a soda in that it is refreshing, sweet and sour. Be warned that the sour is very potent in this and most Berliner Weisse beers but if you are into that kind of thing then you will love this beer. I can imagine that this beer is a top seller at Caboose for all of those bikers coming right off the W&OD trail. The low alcohol content (3.4%) allows for the cyclist to have a beer or two and still climb back on the bike and hit the trail for the return trip.
I'm not a cyclist but I would still recommend getting this beer for any summer party or just a relaxing evening on the back porch. It is a delicious way to fight the heat or to end a long day at the office. This beer earns 4 out of 5 stars.
Half-Wit - The Half-Wit is Caboose Brewing's witbier offering that is crisp and refreshing. What is a witbier? This is a style of beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat compared to the malted barley. The name is somewhat interchangeable with a wheat beer but witbier is a more Belgian style brew. Not quite as sour as a Berliner Weisse but offering the same crisp and refreshing flavors. Caboose really plays to the audience of cyclist coming off the W&OD trail by offering more than one lower alcohol content beer that is clean and refreshing after a long ride.
For those non-beer snobs out there let me give you a comparison. Do you like Blue Moon? Do you enjoy that fruity flavor profile in your beer and your glass to come garnished with an orange? That's cool and perfectly fine way to consume your beer. But now you find yourself in a craft beer establishment that refuses to serve anything from MillerCoors (yes, MillerCoors owns Blue Moon Brewing Company). What do you drink? Ask for a witbier like this tasty offering and you won't be disappointed. 3.75 out of 5 stars.
The bottom line is that Caboose Brewing Company offers great beer and great food in a family friendly environment. There are lots of great places in Northern Virginia to get food. There are a few (more and more everyday) great places to get outstanding beer in Northern Virginia. There are even some kid-friendly places to dine out with the family. It is a rare gem to find all of these places combined in one location. That is what Caboose Brewing Company has offered and it is well worth the trip. Cheers!