Starr Hill's Warm Up Winter Ale

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

StarrHill_WarmUpUpon my first whiff of Starr Hill's Warm Up Winter Ale, I'm transported to a cold winter evening, a blanket over my lap and a book in hand, dog snoozing by my side and a fire in the fireplace.

But I shouldn't get ahead of myself.

Though the beer pours with only a moderate head, the mouthfeel – I discover later – offers plenty of smooth bubbly. In the glass, the beer is a rich mahogany color with ruby-red undertones, nicely clear. The nose immediately speaks of winter spices, most strongly of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Upon the first sip, my palate notes the spices right away – again the cinnamon and nutmeg predominate – followed by some toasty malts. The progression continues nicely, as a touch of sweet and vanilla take a bow at the end of each sip.

The Starr Hill beer is made with 2-row, crystal and Munich malts and golden oats, Willamette hops, and special additions of cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg and vanilla. The cocoa seems to be the lightest of the flavors (perhaps because I'm accustomed to beers that celebrate chocolate like a tacky lights tour celebrates the holidays).

This beer appears on the brewery's Heavy Rotation list, a series that rotates four times a year, available in six-packs and on draft. Starr Hill Brewery currently distributes in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington D.C. (use the beer finder for more specifics). Or you can stop by the brewery at 5391 Three Notched Road in Crozet, Virginia. 

For its 6.1% ABV, Starr Hill's Warm Up Winter Ale packs in plenty of flavor. Recommended pairings are malt-glazed roast turkey, gouda cheese and snickerdoodle cookies. But I'm happy just to let the ale warm up by insides all by itself. No need for complications when simplicity will work.


Toast Virginia’s Apples During Cider Week

Tickle the Tastebuds - Wines & Wineries

The multiple personalities of Virginia cidermakers come as no surprise. As producers of the commonwealth’s early alcoholic beverage, they have much history to celebrate, while as participants in the contemporary culinary and local craft movements, they draw inspiration from novelty and innovation.

Virginia provides a natural home for craft cideries, with climate and geography that support healthy orchards. As a major apple-producing state, we rank sixth in the country in apple production. Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office reports that more than 416,750 cases of Virginia cider were sold during fiscal year 2016, up approximately 52 percent from 2015. Some of our cideries grow their own apples, beginning with existing orchards and/or planting new trees, while others have apples or juice shipped to their facilities.

If early experiences with hard cider left a bad taste in your mouth, consider that contemporary craft ciders come in a range of styles to suit almost every palate.

CiderWeek2016_PloughmansFeast_SQYou can read more about Virginia cider in the October-November issue of Boomer Magazine and on the Boomer website. You can also sample the fruits of the state's creative cider makers Nov. 11-20, 2016. Special events throughout Virginia Cider Week 2016 showcase this budding industry in a variety of events – fun, educational and delicious.

Highlights include:

Cider and chef’s specialty pairing dinners

Cider Maker Dinner

Saturday, Nov. 12 at Courthouse Creek Cider. A five course dinner prepared by guest Chef Michael D'Aquanni paired with the creations of this Goochland cidery.

Ploughman’s Feast 

Sunday, Nov. 13, 3-7 p.m. at Blue Bee Cider’s new Summit Stables location in Scotts Addition, featuring a roving menu inspired by classic “working” fare and prepared by top Richmond chefs: Dutch & Co., Stroops, Stock Provisions and Twenty Paces cheeses. Besides ciders from Blue Bee, guests can also enjoy ciders from Albemarle CiderWorks, Potter’s Craft Cider and Foggy Ridge Cider. Also featuring blacksmith and forging demos and product sales (from Blanc Creatives) and products from Paisley & Jade and Gather Home and Garden as well as music by the Mikrowaves. $35 includes food. Cider sold separately.

Buskey Cider dinner at Blue Goat

Monday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m. – Buskey’s first cider dinner pairs five courses created specifically for five Buskey ciders. $55 + tax & gratuity. 

Potter’s Cider dinner at Southbound

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m. – five-course dinner with five ciders includes a cask-conditioned pin of Oak Barrel Reserve with cinnamon and vanilla for dessert. $50. Call (804) 918-5431 for reservations $50.

Weeklong opportunities

Potter’s Cider and Ham Flights at Comfort

Three Potter’s Craft ciders paired with three varieties of country ham, hand-selected by chef Jason Alley at Comfort. Monday–Thursday: 5-10; Friday–Saturday: 5-11; Sunday brunch: 11-4. 

Foggy Ridge Cider aperitif pairing at Heritage

A sparkling cider cocktail and a small bite from Chef Joe Sparatta to kick off a phenomenal meal at Heritage.

Other special events include 

Home Cider Making Workshop at Blue Bee

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 6-7:30 p.m. – Blue Bee Cider and Original Gravity Homebrew Supplies host a home cider making workshop, led by Blue Bee’s cellar team. Learn about evaluating juice, making additions before fermentation, monitoring progress during fermentation and options for customizing your cider before bottling. Workshop fee of $30 includes one gallon of juice, carboy with airlock, yeast, yeast nutrient, lab flask, and funnel. 

  • Buskey cocktails at Fat Dragon
  • Sugar Shack gluten-free donuts made with Buskey Cider paired with Buskey ciders. At Buskey Cider.
  • Cider brunch at Lucy’s Restaurant
  • Steal the Glass and Blue Bee cider / dessert pairings at Shyndigz
  • Meet The Cidermaker with Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge at Shagbark
  • Thai Ginger and Honey Cider pin infused with kaffir lime, galangal, lemongrass and Thai chili peppers. Other ciders on tap and a cider cocktail. At Sabai
  • Three-course dinner available by the table with Potter’s Craft ciders and cheese from 20 Paces. At Acadia Midtown 
  • A cask-conditioned pin of Potter’s Craft Cider Blackberry Brett cider, a keg of Farmhouse Saison and pouring bottles of Ryesap. At The Cask Café 
  • Foggy Ridge cider flights at Richmond’s new Shagbark restaurant.

For more information and statewide events, visit the Cider Week website



Scott’s Addition Halloween Booz Crawl

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Scott's Addition Booz CrawlRichmond’s booziest neighborhood may just be the coolest for Halloween weekend 2016. The producers of fermented beverages have teamed up for the Scott’s Addition Halloween Booz Crawl on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. This trick-or-treat bar crawl will allow attendees to try the neighborhood’s variety of alcohol and to be entered to win prizes.

The neighborhood hosts four breweries, two cideries, a meadery and a distillery (with more in the works). 

Starting at 6 p.m., revelers can pick up Booz Crawl cards at any of the participating locations and receive three unique stamps. At the end of the night, trick-or-treaters can turn the card in at any location and be entered to win. Prizes include a $25 gift card from each producer. Seven drawings will take place from all collected and completed cards, and winners will be announced the following day.

All locations will be holding their weekly events: tastings, full pours, food trucks and music. The Veil will also host a costume and dance party, from 6 p.m. to midnight. Ardent releases the Roggenbier, a German style using rye malt. Buskey Cider offers spooky dry ice cocktails. And Reservoir offers extended hours, just for this event (open till 9 p.m.)

Spirited participants in the Booz Crawl include

Ardent Craft Ales, 3200 W. Leigh St.

Blue Bee Cider, 1320 Summit Ave.

Buskey Cider, 2910 W. Leigh St.

Isley Brewing Company, 1715 Summit Ave.

Reservoir Distillery, 1800A Summit Ave.

Three Notch’d RVA Collab House, 2930 W. Broad St.

The Veil Brewing Company, 1301 Roseneath Rd.





Virginia Beer Awards at 2016 GABF

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Great American Beer Festival Winners

GABF_beer_2016Virginia breweries claimed 13 awards at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, Colorado, including two awards for Richmond breweries, plus one award in the Pro-Am Competition. Put on by the Brewers’ Association brewery trade group, the GABF awards are among the most coveted and prestigious by American brewers. 

The beers are judged by the festival’s professional judge panel, identifying three beers that best represent each of the 96 beer-style categories adopted by the Great American Beer Festival. 

Festival attendees can also sip the beer entered in the competition during GABF tasting sessions. The festival, begun in 1982, is held annually in Denver. This year, Charlie Papazian, GABF founder and primary mover in the growth of craft beer, was recognized for his 35 years of leadership. 

  • Ardent Craft Ales, Richmond: Bronze for Brett Saison in Brett Beer 
  • Blue Mountain Barrel House and Organic Brewery, Arrington: Silver for 13.Five Ofest in Vienna-style Lager
  • Devils Backbone Brewing, Roseland and Lexington: Gold for Vienna Lager in Vienna-style Lager; Gold for Danzig in Baltic-style Porter
  • Sweetwater Tavern (Great American Restaurants), Centreville: Silver for Wit’s End Ale in Belgian-style Witbier
  • Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Richmond: Silver for Grosse Teufel in the Historical Beer category
  • Lost Rhino Brewing, Ashburn: Silver for Face Plant in English-style IPA
  • Ocelot Brewing, Sterling: Gold for Sunnyside Dweller in Kellerbier or Zwickelbier
  • Ornery Beer, Woodbridge: Gold for Light of Cologne in German-style Kölsch
  • Port City Brewing, Alexandria: Silver for Colossal Five in Old Ale or Strong Ale
  • South Street Brewery, Charlottesville: Silver for Twisted Gourd in Pumpkin Spice Beer; Bronze for Slippery When Wit in Session Beer
  • Spencer Devon Brewing, Fredericksburg: Bronze for Sunken Road, Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale
  • Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet: Silver for the Vernal Equinox English IPA, teamed up with home brewer Gary Layton, winner of the Starr Hill JAMBEEREE homebrew competition, in the Pro-Am division

(Photo © Brewers Association)


COTU's Updated Taproom

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

A Tasty New Space

COTU_new_taproom_1_smSame tasty beer – redesigned digs – more of everything. At Center of the Universe Brewing in Ashland, Virginia. 

For those who've had the pleasure of experiencing COTU's taproom, picture the original tasting room: knock down the wall between the main room and the hallway, put the service bar in the space where the hallway used to be, and you've got the expanded main area. Remove the drop ceiling and imagine the industrial ceiling in a soft matte black with subtle pendant lighting. Now add a splash of colors, blending turquoise and a rich twilight blue, accented in an astro-inspired mural at one end of the room and in the drop lights over the tables. The horseshoe booths upholstered in red add to the retro touch, while the high tables in the middle invite more communal imbibing. (I challenge you to view the Isoceles trapezoid tables without puzzling over the shapes you could create.)

Another mural will be gracing the long wall above the bar (absent the windows behind the bar, which overlook the canning line), once the new paint cures sufficiently.

Now all of this looks pretty cool, but you should also know that the taps have expanded from eight to twelve.

You might also want to know that – as of Monday, Aug. 1, co-owner Phil Ray tells me – one of the taps will be equipped to pour soda water to be mixed with one of several syrups, accommodating kids, designated drivers, and wise imbibers who know they have had enough. The crafted sodas also accommodate COTU's radlers, like the current Summer Moon imperial wheat beer blended with lemon-lime soda: lower your alcohol intake without sacrificing taste.

Next, recall entering the old taproom – public spaces were to your left, but some nebulous, closed-off area was to the right. Those were offices. Now, the space has been converted to more taproom space, accommodating the pinball machines as well as plenty of seating. COTU also added decorative pocket doors and taps, so the overflow space can easily host private events.

In all, the COTU interior now has seating for 115 total, plus standing room (final official fire marshall number still TBD), including 60 comfortably accommodated in the overflow room. And, of course, the outside beer garden is still open for business.


If you can't make it out to Center of the Universe for the Grand Re-Opening Party on Saturday, July 30, check out the Gose Fest on Aug. 6 or the Bloody Beer Bingo Brunch on Aug. 7 (featuring Texas Beach Bloody Mary mix plus games and brunch-inspired burritos). 

Virtual AWT




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