Barrel Chest, my favorite Roanoke beer store, continues to step up as a favorite local brewery, too. What Barrel Chest seems to be doing well, what they do better than other regional breweries who have to brew bigger batches tailored to mainstream consumers, is brew beers that are closer to the most current trends in the industry and the interests of niche fans. Barrel Chest has brewed some super juicy IPAs, some tasty sours, and a couple of stouts that compare favorably to Hardywood's legendary offerings. But this is a review of something they brewed within a confining standard, and for a very good reason.
Over the past month, ten regional breweries have collaborated on a beer, the profits from which went to the Virginia chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Each brewery was tasked with brewing a Bière de Garde with rosehips (roses being symbolically significant to Cystic Fibrosis patients and the people who love them).
Barrel Chest's own version of this beer added raspberries and apricots and was finished with brettanomyces. Brett usually brings a funky sourness to those beers that feature it, resulting in a particular flavor and aroma that is among the most popular and most interesting trends in craft brewing these days. I enjoyed the Barrel Chest version of this beer, but I found that none of the additional flavors could stand up to the rosehips. Rosehips tend to dominate any beer they are added to, particularly on the aroma. Imagine a vase that has been used to store roses a number of times. Even after the last of the roses is long gone, if you raise that vase to your nose, it's still gonna smell like roses. That was the case with this beer's aroma, although the pugnacious quality of the brettanomyces was a subtle note in the background. I didn't pick up much of the apricot or raspberries on the aroma or on the flavor. This beer tastes like roses smell. And if you like roses, it might be something you'll enjoy. I thought it was interesting, but I mostly enjoyed the knowledge that my glass of beer was a small contribution to a good cause.
The Virginia chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation does good work for CF patients and their families. And I don't mean in an abstract way, I'm not talking about long term research or hypothetical goals. The CF Foundation gets life-prolonging medicine to people who otherwise would not have it. This Foundation gives people more time to fight, to the best of their ability, for their lives. This is an important cause, and one that I care about very much. If you would like to make a contribution, please click here and help patients and families who are struggling to live with a cruel disease. I promise you, by giving even a few dollars, you are making a real difference to real people in the here and now.
Anderson Valley's G&T Gose is another bright, tangy, slightly salty gose that will make a delicious summertime beer. It pours pale yellow with a lot of carbonation and average foam. The aroma is melon, cucumber, a little citrus. The flavor closes with a tangy, slightly salty bit of punch at the end. Really nice.
21st Amendment's Blah Blah Blah IPA is a very big IPA, but it’s well balanced. The malt notes and the hop are played equally big. I like it quite a bit. The beer pours cloudy orange with some quick-fading foam. The smell is really great. Gigantic piney hops and a rich, bready malt swirl together in a big presentation. The malt is on the front of the favor, but the finish is very strong and dank, with resin and oily hops in a clamorous finish. Big beer. Good beer.
Founder's Frootwood is a cherry ale aged in oak. It pours orange/brown with a little bit of foam. The smell is a combination of the cherry and oak, with some vanilla in the background. The flavor is smooth and sweet, honey and cherries dominate the mid-tongue, and then the oak comes through big on the finish. I wish Id bought more of this.
Elysian's Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale is not bad but not really anything special. It pours cloudy orange with only a little foam. The orange on the aroma is there, and its pleasant. The malt isnt entirely obscured, either. The front of the tongue is warm and malty, but the orange and the hops are there on the finish. This is OK.
I expected a sweet dessert-type beer from Terrapin's Chubby Bunny, a S'mores flavored imperial milk stout. Instead, I got a strong, rich, aggressive stout that ain't tryin' to sweet-talk nobody. The sweetness is there but it's subtle. The chocolate is there but it is not overplayed. And, in terms of texture, the mouthfeel is dense and chewy. This stout pours black with a light tan head. The aroma is coffee and some sweet spice and chocolate, maybe a hint of graham cracker. The flavor is strongly roasted and closes with a lot of malt character and only a little sugar. I don’t know if a bunny is the right mascot for this beer. Maybe a mellow but fully capable bear would work better.