It’s my birthday. To celebrate, I’m brewing not one, but two beers (at different breweris). Both originally brewed on my birthday.
On account of the double brew, I need to be up early. I’m due at Bluejacket at 8:30 AM. I rise at 7:30.
The day kicks off with some crisp bread and cheese. Sadly, a totally bacon-free breakfast. When I’ve finished crying, Jamie drives me to Wheaton metro station. There’s a stop just a couple of hundred metres away from Bluejacket, my first destination. Though I do have to change.
Getting to the Navy Yard stop takes quite a while. And when I emerge, I’m initially disorientated. The map I’ve printed having the station entrance marked in the wrong spot doesn’t help. Stupid bloody map.
Bluejacket is at one end of an industrial building which has been split into several units. All quite trendy looking.
Right, I’ve found the place. Now how am I supposed to get in? The pub side isn’t open yet. I look around the back. Maybe there’s an entrance to the brewery there. There is a door. Let’s see if it’s unlocked.
Thankfully, it isn’t locked. I walk in and can only see kitchen staff milling around. They pay me no heed. I head off in search of someone from the brewing side of the business. There’s a lot of peering around corners and walking upstairs. The brewing stuff is spread around the outside of the building, over several floors
I finally bump into Colin Jordan, a brewer here and Mike Stein, a fellow beer historian on the brewing stage. Up about three floors. We introduce ourselves.
Colin tells me the brewing director, Ro Guenzel, isn’t around. He had to pour beer somewhere. Would have liked to meet me, apparently. I’d have liked to have met him, too, as we’d had some email correspondence.
We’re brewing 1858 Whitbread Contract Porter. The contract meaning it was brewed under contract to the East India Company. It’s the Porter equivalent of IPA. A style with a fascinating, but much neglected history.
We’ve time for a quick beer before the boil. Both Colin and Mike recommend the Helles. Who am I to question their judgement? When it arrives, it doesn’t seem that Helles-like. But I’m too English to comment. After a few moments, all becomes clear. (Unlike the Saison.) Someone has connected a keg of Saison to the Helles line. We eventually get the right beer. Which is pretty nice.
When it’s time for me to do my thing, we go back to the brewing stage. Where I bravely throw in the hops. Being careful not to scald myself on the steam coming off the boiling wort. Breweries are dangerous places for clumsy amateurs like me. Dolores would be dead angry with me if I came home disfigured or dead.
We try the wort both before and after the boil. Looks like the beer is going to be a cracker. The unhopped wort is surprisingly balanced between roast bitterness and malty sweetness. Post-boil an intense bitterness has been added to the mix.
“Will I ever get to try it, though?” I whinge suggestively.
“If we can it, we can send you some over.” That doesn’t sound too promising.
Hops chucked in, it’s time for some lunch. The bar/restaurant part of Bluejacket is cavernous. Unsurprisingly, given marine engines used to be built here. The district isn’t called Navy Yard for nothing. It really is where the US Navy used to build ships. And warship engines aren’t small.
I order a fried mumbo chicken sandwich, after it’s explained what it is to me. A strange mixture of fried chicken with a sweetish Chinesey sauce. A cross-cultural thing, a mix of Chines and African-American influences. It’s quite pleasant, if slightly odd.
A young lady from the parent company’s marketing department comes over for a quick chat and a couple of photographs. Not sure what they’ll be used for. But I’ve long since given up trying to keep photos of me off the internet. As a true Stalinist, I abhor personality cults.
It’s time for me and Mike have to head off. To brewery number two, DC Brau. It’s about 5 miles away. Luckily Mike will be driving us.
Jeff is already quite a way along with the brew when we arrive. But not so far that I don’t get a chance to throw in some hops. My speciality. The beer is 1857 Whitbread KXX, a Burton Ale from London. It’s even more crazily hopped than the Contract Porter we brewed this morning. BeerSmith spat out 123 IBUs for the recipe.
DC Brau is more industrial than Bluejacket. A brewery with a taproom rather than a brewpub. They don’t have a kitchen or anything fancy like that. The brewing equipment occupies most of their space. Though some is empty currently as they’re partway through an expansion.
They have two brewhouses. The original one and a second, larger one. Our brew is on the small kit. Plus the usual rows shiny conical soldiers. Modern breweues are mostly very similar. There's only the odd insane one like Storm Brewing of Vancouver. That's made of scrap metal. Totally mental.
When I’m done with my pretend, brewing we adjourn to the taproom to sample some of DC Brau’s beers. I can always be forced to do that. I try their IPA, The Corruption. It’s in the West Coast style, so quite bitter. I avoid the nitro version. Work of the devil, nitro. I don’t understand why it’s so popular over here, especially for beers like IPA.
Other people start turning up after a while. There’s supposed to be a meet and greet type thing going on. It’s all very informal, which is how I like things.
I chat a bit, flog some books, drink beer. Fun stuff and not too demanding. I try to avoid stress as much as I can. Then again, I do post every day on my blog.
There's a pin of cask beer, which is cool. I do love me my cask. Beer the way it was intended. Unlike that nitro crap. Spit.
We don’t stay out late. It’s an early start tomorrow. At least for Paul and Jamie. I can lie in. Sleep swoops in as the lights switch off.
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