More than the swimming or the tanning or the surfing, we go to the beach to dip our toes in the water.
There’s no sand where you don’t want it, no salty liquid in your eyes, no sharks – just the cool reassurance that you have indeed made it to the ocean’s edge.
It’s all most people at the National Building Museum wanted to do on Tuesday night, when Port City Brewing Company hosted a beach party in conjunction with DC Beer Week. Yes, everyone jumped into the exhibit’s pit of white spheres for an obligatory photo or five, but this was really more about letting your feet hang over the installation’s ledge and sipping a witbier.
After all, you couldn’t bring your beverage into the “water.”
For eight days, there are enough events to make a craft beer aficionado’s head explode – industry panels, barrel-aged brew competitions, stout and sour tap takeovers – but if you’re someone who doesn’t know what the hell a double mash or bottom fermentation is, this was probably an evening for you. It makes sense that the party would sell out about a week in advance. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the National Building Museum’s beach installation has been a hot ticket since the day it opened.
There’s also the fact that Port City is the inside-the-beltway brewery most focused on bringing everyone under the craft beer tent. Its five flagships are bulletproof – sophisticated enough for beer snobs, but approachable to everyone. You don’t win the Washington City Paper’s popularity contest by accident.
As discussed in our Tap Takeover profile, head brewer Jonathan Reeves has made an effort to empower Port City’s younger brewers in recipe development, resulting in more niche beers like the black IPA Long Black Veil and a smokey Oyster Revival Stout. (Sadly, the latter beer has been dormant for a while.)
Tuesday provided a prime example of this with the unveiling of Metro Red, a hop-forward red ale that Port City is billing as “double red.”
Metro Red is the brainchild of Port City’s Adam Reza. The brewer had previously been responsible for developing the Long Black Veil recipe with colleague Josh Center, but this was his first solo flight from start to finish. (As with all of the brewery’s beers, the seasoned Reeves was of assistance, obviously.)
According to Port City’s Robert Henry, Metro Red went through just one smaller pilot batch before jumping to a full-scale 30-barell production. “It’s kind of intimidating thing to do, because the pilot batch is only half a barrel, and all of a sudden, you’re making sixty times that amount,” the brewer shared on Tuesday. “You have to hope whatever tweaks and changes you make actually taste good, but I think this beer turned out phenomenal.”
It was an ambitious project to boot: Reza used just one hop variety in crafting the beer – Amarillo. While a mix of different hops are usually used at three points of a brew – the bittering, flavoring, and dry hop stages – a single-hop beer requires manipulating one variety to showcase the range of its flavor and aroma. And at 60 IBUs, Metro Red is certainly a spotlight for the tropical-tinged input.
“We’re calling it a ‘double red’ or a ‘strong red,’ but I’ve been explaining to people more as a hoppy red,” says Henry. “When people hear ‘red,’ they think of an amber red with a malty flavor, but this beer is showcasing the Amarillo hops. It’s giving off nice bitter flavors, but it’s not too bitter or too strong.”
Metro Red’s ruby complexion, meanwhile, comes from its blend of CaraRed and RedX malts, the latter of which was a special order just for the beer.
Fittingly, Reza has a red mane of hair growing from his face to match. “We tossed around a lot of names for the beer using his last name – Red Beard and stuff like that – but our boss picked Metro Red,” says Henry, who arrived at Port City ten months ago after a stint at Sydney, Australia’s Young Henrys.
Much like the beach installation, Metro Red is a limited engagement: The beer was brewed especially for DC Beer Week and is currently available around town, but once the 50 kegs are kicked, there are no immediate plans to brew it again.
“For now, it’s just for this week, but if everyone loves it, maybe it comes back in the future,” the brewer shares. “I will say that everyone has been loving it tonight.”
It’s hard not to love a beer when you’re at the beach.