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The Blogger Beat: DCBeer

With the cold weather ramping up, there’s nothing we want more than a pumpkin beer and a warm fire. That’s why we recruited the guys behind DC Beer for a little advice on what to drink this fall, where to get it—and how to stave off a hangover.

Mehan Jayasuriya, Mike Dolan, P.J. Coleman, and Andrew Nations grab beers at the Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan. Photograph by Chris Leaman

DCBeer began as Mike Dolan’s personal blog—he’d post updates every now and then, but he lacked a real focus and regularity. Wanting to start a blog about the local beer scene, Dolan relaunched his site in June as DCBeer, and he and his friends Andrew Nations, Mehan Jayasuriya, and P.J. Coleman began posting about local craft brewers, homebrewing, bartenders, and more. They even started an e-mail newsletter and a homebrewing club, and they’re teaming up with bars to host tasting events; the second one is tonight at the Black Squirrel.

The site is geared toward beer drinkers, brewers, and bartenders, but you don’t have to be a connoisseur to get something out of it. In fact, the writers don’t even consider themselves experts: “I’m a beer enthusiast,” says Dolan. “But I guess I’ve read enough and tasted enough to at least pretend to be an expert.”

We caught up with the self-proclaimed beer nerds to find out what they’re drinking this fall. Read on for where they go for a good beer selection (not Brickskelller!), their favorite beer that comes in a can, and their ordering tips for beer virgins. Sláinte!

Number of beers you’ve consumed in the past week and the last brew you drank:
Mike: “I’d say I have about a beer a day usually—but sometimes that’s a 22-ounce bottle. Last week was a little crazy with the opening of Birch & Barley, and I’d rather not go on record with the absurd amount that was consumed. The last beer I had was a DogZilla Black IPA by Laughing Dog Brewery. Black IPAs are everywhere at the moment, and the new style combines my favorite flavors of stout bitterness with hop bitterness.”
Andrew: “I average about ten beers a week. The last beer I had was a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.”
Mehan: “If I could count or remember, it’d mean that I wasn’t doing my job. I’m having a Bell’s Best Brown Ale as I type this.”
P.J.: “Six. I had Victory Brewing Company Helios Ale, a saison, last night.”

Pick one: lager or ale?
Mike: “Ale almost every time. Ales offer a lot more possibilities because the styles and yeast strains are so diverse. I love India Pale Ales the most followed by stouts and saisons. If I’m going to drink lagers, I go for the hoppier German styles.”
Andrew: “Ales for sure. They have more personality and variation.”
Mehan: “Definitely ale. Far too many lagers seem to confine themselves to a fairly narrow flavor range. Ales are more forgiving, and perhaps for that reason brewers seem to take more risks and aim for more interesting flavors.”
P.J.: “Ale.”

Stout or cider?
Mike: “Both would be appropriate for the season, and although I’m looking forward to trying Greg Engert’s cider list at ChurchKey, I’d go for an imperial chocolate stout like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout or Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout. Amazing stuff.”
Andrew: “Stout. Cider is a bit too sweet for me.”
Mehan: “Stout, for the same reasons listed above.”
P.J.: “Stout.”

Bar with best beer selection:
Mike: “ChurchKey, DC Bread & Brew, and Pizzeria Paradiso are duking it out with Brickskeller and Big Hunt in DC’s Dupont Circle area. The Black Squirrel and Bourbon are challenging the longtime beer bar the Reef in Adams Morgan. H Street has Granville Moore’s. Downtown, you want to hit any of the brewpubs, Brasserie Beck, or RFD for the beer list.”
Andrew: “Rustico in Old Town is my favorite. The draught selection changes every day.”
Mehan: “It feels a little silly saying this just a few days after they opened, but it’s quite obvious that Birch & Barley and ChurchKey now hold that title in DC.”
P.J.: “I think Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont has the best selection between their drafts and bottles. Other places have more bottles, but Paradiso seems to have struck a nice balance between having a large selection and not being too overwhelming.”

Beer-selection tip for beer virgins:
Mike: “Throw out all the Super Bowl commercials you’ve got stored in your brain about bitter beer faces, ‘less-filling’ beers, and beer being really cold. Good beer is often bitter, full-bodied, and served closer to room temperature than you might prefer. Try something on cask, try any lambic or saison, try a chocolate stout, and redefine what beer actually means to you.”
Andrew: “Ask questions. There are many area beer geeks and bartenders who love questions and are full of advice. Forget the labels; focus on styles.”
Mehan: “Start with what you know. If you like lagers, try different types of lagers. If you like Pilsners, try different types of Pilsners. By exploring different beers within a single style, you’ll hone your ability to appreciate what distinguishes different beers from each other. Then, go on from there and explore styles that you’re less familiar with.”
P.J.: “Ask them what kind of flavors they really like, then pick a similar or complementary type of beer. If they like spicy food, I might pick an IPA like Bell’s Two Hearted to enhance the heat or a Brown Ale like Brooklyn Brewery Brown to mellow out the spiciness. If they’re a coffee or chocolate addict, I’d choose something like Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout.”

Favorite beer that comes in a can:
Mike: “21st Amendment Brewery’s Brew Free! Or Die IPA. It has a perfect citrus hop flavor, but you’ve got to pour it into a glass.”
Andrew: “Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues. They exclusively use cans, and you’ve got to love their stolen slogan: ‘Yes We Can.’ ”
Mehan: “I might be blowing my beer-nerd credibility here, but I have to admit, I’m crazy about 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer. I couldn’t be more excited that they’re canning and finally have distribution on the East Coast.”
P.J.: “Oskar Blues’ Dale’s Pale Ale. I’m pretty excited that some breweries are beginning to put some or all of their brews in cans. I went camping last summer in Pennsylvania, and my buddy and I picked up some Sly Fox beers from Phoenixville—all in cans! It was great to stow some cans in the river before setting up camp then having a few cold ones after dinner. Cru
shing the cans and packing them out is the (green) icing on the cake. Mmmm green icing . . . . ”

Best beer-related date idea:
Mike: “My first date with my girlfriend was at the Saloon on U Street where we split a bottle of Gouden Carolus Triple. It’s a nice quiet place to talk and hang out without distractions like TVs or crowds. Plus they’ve got board games!”
Andrew: “Beer events are always fun. Sampling various styles makes for great conversation. If she’s not a beer drinker, perhaps you shouldn’t be dating.”
Mehan: “It’s always fun to take someone who doesn’t like beer to a place with good beer and show them that there’s more to beer than just Coors Lite. People with a taste for sweeter drinks will almost certainly enjoy a fruit lambic (a trick I learned from Mike and his brother), while folks with a taste for coffee and dark chocolate should be steered toward stouts and brown ales.”
P.J.: “Go on a mini-pub crawl on H Street, Northeast. Pre-dinner drinks at the Pug, moules frites and a Belgium ale at Granville Moore’s, post-dinner drinks at the Red & the Black. If the date goes well, late-night drinks at Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar.”

Favorite food to eat with a beer:
Mike: “I know it’s not going to elevate the state of beer cuisine, but I’m a burger-and-fries-with-a-beer kind of guy. I do enjoy a good Belgian beer with a dish of Belgian beef carbonnade as well as anything my gourmet-chef cousin, Jon, puts in front of me.”
Andrew: “Abita Purple Haze with boiled crawfish. The crispness of the wheat beer and spiciness of the crawfish are a perfect combination. It reminds me of home in Louisiana.”
Mehan: “Edamame. They’re salty, crunchy, and bite-size—the perfect accompaniment to a lighter ale or a lager. A lot of bars in Japan serve them the same way that bars in the United States serve peanuts and pretzels.”
P.J.: “I know this might offend beer elitists, but I find that steamed, spiced shrimp with a cold bucket of Miller High Life is hard to beat. It really puts my mind and body in a happy place.”

Most exotic beer you’ve ever tasted:
Mike: “I get a real kick out of beers with ginger in them. I recently tasted one for a DC homebrewer’s competition—it was my favorite of the bunch.”
Andrew: “I recently had an unfiltered Schlenkerla Rauchbier, which is a German lager that’s prepared by smoking the barley over an open flame. The smoke flavor tastes like bacon and cigar smoke. It’s intense.”
Mehan: “I once brewed a stout with honey, peanut butter, smoked oatmeal, and habanero and jalapeño peppers.”
P.J.: “Dogfish Head Theobroma.”

Favorite fall beer:
Mike: “Fall makes me want to drink more imperial stouts, which have a nice bit of alcohol to create a warming effect.”
Andrew: “One I don’t get too often but is perfect for fall weather is Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale from Alltech Brewing and Distilling Company in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s a traditional ale that’s aged in bourbon barrels from local distilleries. You’ll find hints of vanilla, so it’s a touch sweet.”
Mehan: “Goose Island in Chicago has a Bourbon County stout that comes out in November in limited qualities. It’s an imperial stout that they age for a while in bourbon barrels. The stuff is seriously as thick as molasses and is something like 13 percent ABV. Spend a winter in Chicago and you’ll learn why beers like this exist.”
P.J.: “Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. Makes me want to pull out my fleece and rake some leaves. Okay, maybe just watch someone else rake some leaves, but you get the picture.”

Best hangover cure:

Mike: “A shower, a cup of coffee, and an Alka-Seltzer—hands down. Avoiding mead is the best prevention, but not the most delicious option.”
Andrew: “Greasy food you know you shouldn’t be eating.”
Mehan: “Old-fashioned but effective: Drink plenty of water after a long night of drinking. If you get in the habit of doing this, it’ll become second nature. Most of the symptoms of a hangover are just the results of acute dehydration.”
P.J.: “If I have time to plan ahead, a batch of my grandpa Jesus’s menudo.”

Favorite local food or drink blog besides your own:

Mike: “The Washington City Paper’s Lagerheads and BeerSpotter are doing great work on the beer front. And of course, I can’t leave out the Chesapeake Region Alliance of Beer Bloggers—an aggregator for lots of local beer blogs—and Tom Cizauskas, who prodded me into making DCBeer what it is today.”
Andrew:DC Foodies.”
Mehan:The Internet Food Association. They have some killer recipes.”
P.J.:Metrocurean. She does a great job of mixing features on local food, local drink, and the personalities that make them go.”

Next week, we check in with the Capital Weather Gang about—what else?—the weather in Washington. Come back on Wednesday for their predictions on everything from Thanksgiving Day weather to the number of government snow days.

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