Saturday was hot, and it was hot too. I had a busy day lined up, moving my cellar from our flat to the new house and then picking up some friends for the 40 mile trip to the newest venture of the guys from Blue Mountain Brewery. Shifting all my beer was heavy work, and included moving 2 carboys of fermented beer which involved much car based contortion, but it all got there safely and set up with the minimum of fuss. We went to the house yesterday and I am immensely happy with the room I chose to be the new cellar as it was 64°F, that after a couple of days of 100° temperatures and the AC being set to 78°.
The highlight of the day though was to be a trip to the newly opened, as of yesterday, Blue Mountain Barrel House. I won the trip because they had some problems with naming their beers, basically the TTB thought "Chocolate Orange Bourbon Porter" was misleading in some way and Blue Mountain decided to run a competition on Facebook to have the beer named by their followers. A quick Google search later and I had discovered that Brazil is one of the leading producers of both cocoa and oranges. I knew, in the far reaches of my memory, that Brazil had once had a royal family, so after some digging on Wikipedia I came across the page of Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, whose mother, Teresa Cristina of the Two Sicilies, was a member of the House of Bourbon. Thus Isabel was born.
As I said, it was hot on Saturday, something like 101° and in the aftermath of the derecho that swept through Virginia on Friday night I was half expecting the tour to be cancelled due to lack of power. As far as I know, large parts of the Commonwealth are still within electricity and thus air conditioning, and we have a week of high 90s temperature ahead of us. Thankfully the brewery was open, had power and was wonderfully cool inside. There were four of in our group, myself, local RateBeer guru Dan, Mark the photographer and my mate Ed, a local school teacher.
The tour was taken by Taylor, owner, brewer, odd job man and gentleman. We learnt that at the brewery they are doing parti-gyle brewing, blending runnings into two 15 barrel kettles to make 2 beers with every run. We saw stacks of whiskey barrels in various stages of preparation for receiving the beer that will sit and age in them. In the barrel cold room there is a wonderful smell of beer and whiskey which reminded me of many a public bar in hotels across the west coast of Scotland, I loved it. Having walked around the brewery, geeked out at the equipment, probed Taylor about his setup, learnt that they have a fascinating effluent treatment system (well, I thought it was fascinating) and discovered that it is possible to get relief from extreme heat by entering a boiler room, we took our places at the bar for a tasting.
Virginia has a law, which came into effect yesterday, allowing breweries to sell full pints in their tasting rooms, and at Blue Mountain Barrel House you can do just that, order full glasses of the beers they are producing there, including Local Species, a "Belgian-inspired, American-hopped, barrel-aged pale ale" which is delicious. You can also get, at the moment, Über Pils, a strong pale lager with 40IBUs of noble hop delight. Taylor mentioned that the bottled stuff would benefit from a bit of aging, so in my fridge is my birthday beer, to sit until the middle of November.
When the time came to leave, Taylor told us that he was on his way from the main Blue Mountain Brewery and that if we went over he would let us try some of the latest Über Pils current sitting in the lager tanks. He didn't need to offer twice, and we jumped in the car to head up winding Virginia roads to Afton. We sat at the bar had a pint and some pretzels and were then invited into the brewery part of the pub to try the lager. It was divine. Simply magnficent, and if I may allow myself a smug moment, as I breathed in the aroma of the beer, I asked Taylor if he had used my old friend Saaz in the hopping, and sure enough it was the aroma hop, an orange blossom and faint hay delight.
A fantastic afternoon and evening was had, and everyone got home safe and sound. I want to thank Taylor and the Blue Mountain guys for being so welcoming and I would encourage everyone who is in the area to swing by for a tour and tasting. If you can't get down to Colleen, but see the beer in the store, buy it and enjoy.