I'm sure I've remarked on this before, but having globe-trotting friends is an enormous boon to the beer bon viveur.
Derek is a case in point: always on the look-out for oddities from the off licences of planet Earth. He brought a couple of sharers back from a recent trip to Washington DC and we gathered in his place one Saturday afternoon to try them out.
First up, 25 to One, a dark Belgian style ale from Stillwater, a new operation native to Baltimore. There's lots of sweet roast on the nose, akin to a porter, but it becomes rather drier on tasting with just a little bit of high alcohols and phenol. I can't really decide whether it's simple or complex: while there's a lot going on in it, it's very smooth and convivial. At 8.4% ABV it's worth taking time over, yet don't be surprised to look down and find you've emptied your glass sooner than you thought.
Derek had asked if there was anything particular he should bring back. As a picker of random beers I hate being asked this question, as much as I appreciate it. After some hasty research I suggested Loose Cannon as an interesting-looking local beer brand for DC. Hop3 IPA was the Loose Cannon beer he came back with. It's possibly the most English-tasting US IPA I've yet come across: an aroma full of marmalade and tasting of bitter orange pith plus the heady sugary waft of boiling jam. There's not a whole lot else going on, but it's a tasty beer. I'd love for it to be sessionable, but at 7.25% ABV it's going to hit you after only a couple. A price worth paying, I'd say.
Finally over to the west coast and Lagunitas. Wilco Tango Foxtrot is the beer (I guess the more correct "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" would have run afoul of the same US labelling laws that gave us the abhorrent designation "Barleywine Style Ale") and it's pure class. Pouring a gorgeous chestnut amber, it wastes no time pushing out herbal hop aromas mixed with warm toffee. Deceptively light and easy-drinking with lots of busy fizz, despite being close to 8% ABV. It reminds me a lot of American Amber Ale -- one of my favourite US styles -- but bigger and rummier. "Double Amber Ale", maybe? All that matters is it's gorgeous. I'd love to see more from Lagunitas over here if this is any way typical of what they turn out.
Thanks to Derek for transporting and sharing.