Hops n Shine, Port City, Aslin, Dogfish Head Falls Church
For the final day of our East Coast adventure, we headed out of DC to Alexandria to visit Mount Vernon, Hamilton soundtrack playing on full volume. Of course, sustenance was required en route, so we stopped in at Hops n Shine craft beer bar for ridiculously calorific but divinely juicy grilled cheese-and-burger sandwiches and of course a flight of beers. Hops n Shine have a good range of regional brews and I took this as an opportunity to try some beers from breweries we weren’t able to visit. I enjoyed the bold, chewy Thought Control IPA from Ocelot Brewing (and what a great name for a brewery!) and tart but gluggable Vape Juice from Crooked Run, although I was a little disappointed with DC Brau’s slightly plain Joint Resolution IPA. We also tried Hops n Shine’s own lager which was pleasantly bright and malty. A good start to the day indeed. https://hopsnshine.com/
After a couple of hours exploring George Washington’s home (a decent guided tour if a little scant on the history and more objects-focussed with the sadly common glossing over of slavery on the plantation), we returned to Alexandria to visit Port City Brewing. Being very familiar with Port City’s excellent Porter which is happily obtainable in the UK, we had pretty high expectations, and their large, bright, busy taproom evidenced their popularity. I particularly enjoyed the Colossal V, a big, boozy sticky-toffee English Old Ale that provided a welcome taste of home. The newly released Oktoberfest also went down nicely, as did the crisp, clean Downright Czech Pilsner. We were a little disappointed not to find more taproom-only specials, and I found their IPAs a little bitter for my taste, but Port City is certainly a local institution and worth including in an Alexandria visit. https://www.portcitybrewing.com/
Our next stop was the ultra-new neon-chrome Aslin Brewing taproom which was less than two months old when we visited. If Port City is Alexandria’s beery old guard, these guys are the slick, swaggering new kids on the block, knocking out experimental DIPAs, rich juicy Sours and massive Imperial Stouts in a Cloudwater-esque manner that is, apparently, equally hyped. Aslin have been without a taproom since 2016, when their Herndon facility closed to the public due to overcrowding, and this much-anticipated space reflects this with 25,000 square footage and a taproom capacity of 350. The contrast of high, cavernous ceilings, clean white walls and bright neon murals, simple wooden tables and glowing arcade games gives Aslin a very space-age feel. The taproom was pretty empty during our visit, which gave us our pick of the hip, stylish seating in their upper gallery.
Although Aslin don’t serve flights yet, all beers are available in half and full pours, and our server was kind enough to let us try samples until we settled on what we liked. The majority of Aslin beers are pretty fruit-sugar-lactose-forward, so if you’re into your juicebombs you will be in beery heaven. I rather fell for the Signature Move Sour IPA, where the combination of dry-hopping and lactose created a kind of tart, juicy, milkshake thing. Sounds a little off the wall, I know, but it really worked. The Dunley Place DIPA was also very tasty, with big, juicy hops n booze but holding back on the sweetness. The Double Scampi DIPA was somewhat intriguing, triple-hopped with Citra as well as Southern Passion and African Queen hops which I’m not sure I’ve come across before. The result was a smooth, hazy beer with a surprisingly dry finish. The Triple Orange Starfish was all about the juice, while the Double Orange variety had a slightly odd fag-ash taste that I didn’t mind but won’t be for everyone. Aslin is so hip it almost hurts, but in a good way. Make time to stop by. https://www.aslinbeer.com/
All of this beering had left us decidedly peckish, and lo and behold, there just happened to be a Dogfish Head Alehouse located in nearby Falls Church. On our last night on the East Coast, how could we resist one last bite of the mighty ‘fish?! We filled up on pizzas and burgers and indulged in a final night of ‘fishing where we tried new batches of the Punkin, Midas Touch, Dragons & Yum-Yums and the Palo Santo Marron – the first two less impressive than last year, the last two more so. The Palo Santo Marron remains one of my favourite DFH beers, like smoking a sweet, boozy cigar but better, and this year’s Dragons & Yum-Yums tasted way more fruit-forward and crisp. https://dogfishalehouse.com/falls-church/
And so our East Coast travels reached their end. We packed up as many beers as we could stuff into our suitcases, drank the rest (of course) and headed home, home to Texas!