I have been very, very slow at acquiring a taste for beer. I came of age in the era of wine coolers. While everyone else in college was enjoying their beer on tap, I was tossing back bottles of Bartles & Jaymes and Boone Farms. Later it was box wine and Zima, till eventually my palate developed a taste for good wine and hard liquor. But the taste for beer eluded me, until a few years ago when a friend got me to try a witbier, a Belgian style ale. The beer was richer in taste than the “piss water” that passed for beer in college.
While I am far from being a beer connoisseur, I was very excited to attend a birthday party for my friend Meg at 3 Stars Brewing Company, mostly because Meg is pretty awesome. But I was also curious about a D.C.-based brewery that was merely a hop, a skip and a jump away from where I grew up in Takoma Park, Md. Located in an industrial park on Chillum Place, N.W., the five-year-old brewery is clearly focused on turning out finely crafted beers with a flair for creative flavors. According to 3 Star’s website, the brewery has released over 40 distinctive beers, of which 13 were available in their tasting room the night of the party. Of those 13, I tried three.
I started the evening with the Citra Lemon Saison. A saison, I have come to learn, is a pale ale that was first brewed in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Like witbier, a saison is seasoned with spices such ginger, orange zest and coriander. The Citra in the name of the beer refers to the type of hop used which, along with the lemon zest, gives the beer a clean, citrusy flavor.
The next beer I sampled, the Barrel-aged Madness, aged in a Willet® Rye Whiskey barrel, was a reminiscent of a Guinness® stout, from its dark chocolate color to its thick viscosity. Meg’s friend Chad was so enamored by the Barrel-aged Madness that he went around the party offering folks sips from his glass, insisting that we clear our palate with water. I must admit that the beer was very flavorful. When first tasting the stout, I immediately tasted a sweetness to it, thick like a molasses, only to have the finishing taste come on like mushroom broth, very umami. I found my one sip to be so rich that I could probably consume no more than a juice glass of the beer if I had to.
My final beer of the evening was another saison, the Mike Isabella Concept (MIC) Saison. For those of you not familiar with Isabella, he is a D.C.-based restauranteur who specializes in Mediterranean cuisine—Greek, Italian and Spanish—and has created quite an empire around the Washington, D.C. Beltway. Two spices figured predominantly in the saison, coriander and ossame, also known as grains of paradise, a spice derived from a species of ginger native to West Africa. It reminded me of a slightly heavier, spicier, hard cider. I did not find it as flavorful as the Citra Lemon Saison, my favorite of the three I had tasted.
After my evening celebrating Meg’s birthday and consuming beer, I headed to my sister’s to crash for the night. Samantha lives not far from where we grew up, five minutes from the brewery. Thinking back on my college days, I remember spending a long weekend at the beach with friends, only to return home with a pair of hermit crabs for Samantha, aptly named Bartles and Jaymes. A novelty of a pet named for a novelty of a beverage. I am not sure that I would have much to write about if I still thought Bartles and Jaymes was an appropriate beverage to indulge in. I am so grateful that my palate continues to expand for new tastes.
I first encountered 3 Star Brewing Company when I attended a tiki cocktail competition that Meg’s then boyfriend, now fiance, Walter was participating in. I mentioned 3 Star Brewing Company briefly in my post, “It’s One O’clock Somewhere.” I did not sample any that day since there were other cocktails to keep me entertained, but it was a favorite of my friend’s, Kristin.