Jun 1, 2007

Session #4: Williamsburg AleWerks

The Session Logo

Session #4 targeted local breweries and brewpubs as the focus of our attention this month. The topic forced me to reconsider some purchases and pushed me to try products from local brewers — well, those within a 150 mile range. I was initially super excited about the prospect of spreading the word a good, local product. Unfortunately, after a little bit of searching the closest brewer (besides the Sweet Water Tavern chain) was a good 100 miles from home.

As much as I love beer, I just couldn’t justify finding the time and driving that distance. Luckily, Total Wine has been carrying a few more local brews lately that I haven’t gotten around to trying.

I had heard mixed reviews of Williamsburg AleWerks. Some people loved their products, others didn’t care for it. Figuring those sentiments to be the norm for most beers in general, I decided to pick up a couple of their beers and give them a spin.

Chesapeake Pale Ale

This one was enjoyed on the deck late one evening while the air was still warm. It was chilled nicely so it was the perfect beer for the moment.

The beer pours a nice copper in color with a light head that slowly faded.

The wasn’t much to the aroma with this one. The hops were there, but they were subtle. I couldn’t really pick up on anything else. Perhaps it was too chilled.

It’s not the best pale ale I’ve ever had, but it holds its own fairly well. The hops are still subtle and there is a mild sweetness I didn’t get in the aroma. Since the beer was chilled, the hop bitterness in the finish was minimal and quite refreshing.

Out of the three products that I tried, this was a strong example of the genre it represented, but was in the middle of the road for me. I can see myself enjoying a few of them on a hot day after some yard work, but ‘m not sure that it had enough to sway me from a more favored brew.

Rating: 3.5/5

Colonial Wheat Ale

This one is described as an American Pale Wheat Ale, which I later learned is an American version of a Hefe Weizen. Having been on a Weizen kick lately I was really excited to try this one.

I love the site of a good unfiltered brew. The cloudiness on this one wasn’t as thick as some Weizens, but it still looked damn good. The color was a yellowish orange.

There is an underlying sweetness to the aroma that I guess I wasn’t expecting. It was quite inviting. The wheat aroma is fairly strong as is the hop, but it’s far from overpowering.

Not bad. It’s not as complex as the Penn Weizen that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a well balanced brew. Again, this one was fairly chilled but not as cold as the pale ale. Nice subtle sweetness and nuttiness as well.

I was hoping for more from this one. It was a bit too subtle in all aspects. Now, that can be seen as a positive when described as “well balanced,” but I would like to have had a bit more complexity from this one. It’s enjoyable, but felt like it was holding something back.

Rating: 3/5

Washington’s Porter

You knew there was going to be a stout or porter didn’t you? Of course there would. This was the shining star of the three that I picked up. In every review I do, I try my hardest to keep my dark beer bias from interfering and I can safely say that I’m pretty sure I accomplished that with this batch of reviews. Each beer was sampled on separate nights, as well as enjoyed by my better half as a control. She even liked this porter and she’s a bigger Weizen fan than anything else.

Black and thick in appearance, this one pours beautifully. A nice tan, finger of head topped the glass.

With 7 different malts as the base for this beer, you can imagine that the roasted aroma would dominate the nose. It’s not overpowering in the least though, as it is accompanied with a rich, dark chocolate presence. There is a bit of caramel sweetness in there too.

Now this is one tasty porter. Everything is pretty standard about the taste on this one until the finish. As a fan of cigars, the finish reminded me heavily of a half smoked, dark earthy Maduro. It’s very earthy and smoky with little to no bitterness.

I would probably pick this one up again in a heartbeat just for the finish alone. That’s not a taste I’ve picked up on any other porter before. I’m drooling right now, just thinking about it.

Rating: 4/5

AleWerks Verdict

I think that the next time I’m heading past Williamsburg, VA on the way to the beach I’ll have to hijack the vacation for a couple of hours to make a visit. I’m sure my wife and daughter will get over it (eventually), but their beers, especially the porter, are just too much of a temptation not to make the detour and visit.