Brookland pint flight // Photos: Chelsea Bailey

Drinking In A Winter Wonderland: The Local Lowdown On Seasonal Beers From On Tap’s Resident Beer Nerds

Two of our favorite local beer enthusiasts joined forces to find five spots around the DMV with diverse tap lists and rotating seasonal pours. Anna Jacoby and Chelsea Bailey found more than just winter warmers on their beer-focused adventure – they found beer menus that satisfied each other’s varying taste profile preferences.

“I like my winter beers like my soul: cold and dark,” Bailey says.

She tends to favor stouts, porters, black lagers and black IPAs. While winter isn’t her favorite beer season, Jacoby loves porters.

“I like stouts, too, but steer clear of winter brews that are too aggressive with spices. I don’t like it when my beer tastes like liquid allspice.”

If there’s one thing they can agree on, it’s that each beer has a time and a place. Whether it’s in front of a firepit or casually drinking with friends at the pub, there is a moment for every kind of beer. Read on to find out what happens when two strangers with a common love of craft beer, but very different taste buds, come together to try seasonal brews at some of the best beer spots in the area.

Brookland Pint

BROOKLAND PINT

716 Monroe St. NE, DC; www.brooklandpint.com

Brookland Pint, along with sister spots Smoke & Barrel and Meridian Pint, is known for its superior tap list curated by legendary beverage director Jace Gonnerman. At this Monroe Street locale, we created our own winter beer flight simply because #InJaceWeTrust. Our flight consisted of every dark beer that was on their list at the time of our visit.

DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter

Chelsea: I love how it has a malt profile but also chocolate notes. It’s super sessionable.

Anna: There are malty chocolate flavors but they’re not overpowering, so it’s not rich or like a milkshake.

Chelsea: Also, the mouthfeel is a lot lighter than what you get with a stout.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

Perennial Artisan Ales Fantastic Voyage Stout

Anna: Wow. That’s complex. It’s thick and the opposite of the Penn Quarter porter and has some coffee notes. Tell me your secrets. What’s in it?

Chelsea: Coconut! It has a lot of chocolate notes and coconut.

Anna: It’s funny that it’s a seasonal winter beer style, but it has that tropical kick at the end.

Chelsea: It’s a well-executed stout. The mouthfeel is phenomenal: very smooth, thick, slightly sweet, but not overly sweet. I could have a whole pint of this.

Chelsea: A // Anna: A

Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout

Chelsea: Now I know I’m going to like this.

Anna: That smells familiar. What is that smell?

Chelsea: College.

Anna takes sip: Well, that’s different.

Chelsea: Good different or bad different?

Anna: It’s a lot. I appreciate the complexity of it. But I couldn’t like, sit and drink it casually.

Chelsea: It’s the perfect beer to have while sitting by a fire with blankets.

Anna: It’s an experience – a time-and-place kind of beer.

Chelsea: B // Anna: C

Quarry House Tavern

QUARRY HOUSE TAVERN

8401 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring, MD; www.fb.com/quarryhouse

Not even a fire, broken water main, or the resulting three-year hiatus could keep people from flocking to this Silver Spring classic. Resurrected in May 2018, Quarry House Tavern is an unpretentious, quintessential basement dive bar with grungy charm. Its list of over 200-plus beers or “beericulum vitae,” as general manager and drink curator Ellen Cox calls it, is extensive and wide-ranging. Cox is a human beer encyclopedia, so we knew we were in good hands. She is more than happy to nerd out with her customers when it comes to trying craft beer. One of the first winter pours we tried was an inaugural holiday bière de garde ale, which Cox explained is a French style of brewing that results in champagne-like carbonation. She tried it for the first time with us. Upon tasting, all-around enthusiasm ensued.

Two Roads Holiday Ale Bière de Garde

Ellen, whispering excitedly: See? Look at the tiny bubbles in this!

Anna: It does look like champagne. I probably wouldn’t have known it was a beer.

Ellen: Oh, that’s nice. It’s very clean for a holiday beer. That’s great!

Anna: I always worry about holiday ones because I feel like they’re going to overdo it.

Chelsea: I feel like people try to fill holiday beers with like, every single clove and allspice they have.

Ellen: Alright. I love this beer – the little bit of tartness, kind of almost like a cranberry in the back. And the bubbles are light on your tongue.

Chelsea: They’re like, “Hello!” It’s a little treat. It’s a very happy beer.

Anna: Nice surprise, this one.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B+

Southern Tier 2XMAS Spiced Double Ale

Anna: It smells festive, gingery.

Chelsea: It smells minty to me. That’s nice. It doesn’t taste like an 8 percent [ABV] beer. That’s dangerous!

Anna: I’m getting a little pepper at the very end.

Ellen: It’s like a white pepper almost.

Chelsea: This would pair really well with soft cheeses, I feel like. Some prosciutto or salami. Grapes.

Ellen: Grapes and some heavy-duty local honey.

Chelsea: Now I know what I’m doing for dinner tonight.

Anna: If a beer inspires you to plan an entire meal around it…

Chelsea: That tells you the beer has made an impression.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Left Hand Chai Milk Stout Nitro

Anna: I’m getting a little bit of a sweet potato vibe.

Ellen: So good over ice cream.

Anna: Oh my god, that’s genius. It’s a milk stout?

Ellen: Yeah. Beer floats! You pick the porter, we provide the ice cream. It’s on our menu.

Chelsea: That’s what Left Hand does really, really well is a milk stout.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

Jackpot

JACKPOT

726 7th St. NW, DC; www.jackpotdc.com

Jackpot has a beer-meets-speakeasy vibe. As you climb down the stairs to this basement bar in Chinatown across the street from Capital One Arena, you are not quite sure what to expect. Upon walking in, you are instantly greeted with the scent of warm, fresh popcorn. We reviewed the tap list here and were impressed with their winter offerings. They do not offer flights, but being the intrepid reporters that we are, we didn’t let that stop us. We ordered five pints, and while it was hard to choose, these were our top three.

Red Bear Brewing Polar Bear Wheat Pale Ale

Chelsea: I really like this. I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Is it going to taste like a wheat or like a pale ale? But it tastes like both. I’m still a little confused.

Anna: This is subtly reminiscent of an amber ale.

Chelsea: This might be one of my new favorite winter beers. Good job, Red Bear.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Alewerks Coffeehouse Stout

Anna: I want to put that on ice cream. I really do. When I drink it, I think of vanilla ice cream.

Chelsea: This to me is an example of a well-executed beer. Robust and full of coffee notes, but well-balanced.

Anna: This one keeps flirting with me. I keep wanting to try it and see what new flavors I’m going to get from it.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Clown Shoes Hammer of the Lion

Anna: Do you like it?

Chelsea: I like it! The flavor changes from when you take your initial sip. This is 11 percent [ABV] so I was expecting to be bashed in the face with booze. This one is deceptive.

Anna: It looks like it is going to taste a lot more aggressive than it is.

Chelsea: B // Anna: C

Westover Market

WESTOVER MARKET AND BEER GARDEN

5863 Washington Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.westovermarketbeergarden.com

Westover Market and Beer Garden in Arlington is a whimsical, multifunctional establishment with a little bit of everything: all-in-one deli, beer garden, butcher shop, bar, bottle shop, bodega, grocery store, gift shop and even art gallery with wall-to-wall, booze-themed murals. Commenting on the bar alone would be a disservice to readers who have never been here. Westover’s multipurpose market is just as notable as its tap list. A wide range of craft beers line the walls and even wind up a few of the aisles. Each time we thought we had reached the end of the market’s beer selection, it just kept going. Back at the bar, we tried one winter cider and two beers.

Supreme Core Cider Ginger Beard Man

Chelsea: Going into it, my expectation was sweet. But that’s my general expectation of a cider.

Anna: Agreed. It smells like Martinelli’s apple juice but tastes nothing like it.

Chelsea: It smells the way an apple pie would smell, and then you take a sip of it. It’s very dry, very ginger. As someone who is not the biggest ginger fan, I think that this is all that I would be able to drink of it.

Anna: This is yum. I love the ginger. It’s not what I expected because I’m not the biggest cider fan. I was worried because it smells like it’s going to be so sweet.

Chelsea: C // Anna: A

Rocket Frog Brewing Company Best Buddy Milk Stout

Anna: That’s super smooth.

Chelsea: I love milk stouts, so this will always be what I gravitate toward. It’s coffee-forward but not overwhelmingly so, and lightly sweet but very balanced.

Anna: That’s really tasty. Sometimes, I can’t drink a stout and not think about putting it on ice cream. So, I want to put that on ice cream.

Chelsea: This has been a consistent thing with you.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+ alone, A with dessert

Three Notch’d Brewing Company Oats McGoat’s Oatmeal Stout

Anna: This smells like a solid, straightforward oatmeal stout.

Chelsea: It’s toasty and roasty without it being overly coffee. It’s malty and very lightly sweet, but not overwhelming. The mouthfeel is super light.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B+

Galaxy Hut

GALAXY HUT

2711 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.galaxyhut.com

This staple craft beer bar has so many different beers on tap that sometimes guests get overwhelmed, but the bar staff are happy to guide even the most inexperienced craft beer drinkers toward the right beer for their tastes. They want people to be able to come in, have a good time and enjoy what they are drinking. It’s what makes the Clarendon spot an overall great neighborhood bar. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Galaxy Hut’s Patrick Fish as we sampled their winter offerings.

Anderson Valley Nitro Cerveza Crema

Anna: I don’t smell anything notable with this one, but I like the taste.

Chelsea: It’s sessionable. I’m not getting a lot of flavor, but it’s something I would certainly sip on. I would consider this a casual beer to have during the winter that is not a dark beer.

Chelsea: C // Anna: C

Hardywood Bourbon Barrel GBS

Anna: This is sweet.

Chelsea: I agree. It is sweet. What I like about it, though, is that it doesn’t punch you in the face with the bourbon, which has been my hesitation with barrel-aged beers these days.

Anna: Personally, I don’t think I could drink a lot of it. It is just a little too sweet for me.

Chelsea: The mouthfeel is a lot lighter than I was expecting. I’ve gotten used to a heavier mouthfeel with heavier beers. It also doesn’t taste like ginger, which makes me happy.

Chelsea: A // Anna: C

Ardent Imperial Milk Stout

Patrick: This one’s got that kind of nice sweet-but-not-syrupy, without being overpowering.

Anna: That is a level of sweet that I can tolerate.

Patrick: That is probably my favorite dark beer that we have right now.

Chelsea: This is really good. I would have multiple pints of it. It actually reminds me of Port City’s porter. It has a lot of the same roasty notes: slightly coffee on the back of the tongue, but not overwhelmingly so. This is a milk stout, right? It’s not super lactose-y.

Anna: I wouldn’t say that I would put this one on ice cream.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B