The Halftime Pint: Chocolate City Sakura Washington

20120430-095250.jpgOne of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, are early in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to daydrink. This is part of our series discussing exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith.

The Beer: Chocolate City Sakura Washington, Chocolate City Beer, Washington, DC

The Pub: The Queen Vic, in Northeast DC

What You Need to Know: Another of the trappist styles, Abbey Ale (more frequently known as Dubbel) is a brown, medium-strength (about 6.3-7.6 percent, per the Beer Judge Certification Program, which sets stylistic standards for most national and international competitions) beer. It’s frequently characterized by both spicy and fruity notes, owing to the particular strain of yeast used in its production. Most common flavors in a dubbel are raisin or date, with some allspice or nutmeg accents, again, owing to the yeast and not the actual addition of those elements into the beer.

Chocolate City Beer is the second production brewery to release in DC’s new wave of breweries within city limits. The brewery announced founding in late 2010, and launched two beers: Cerveza Nacional, a dark lager in the mold of Negra Modelo, and Cornerstone Copper Ale, a lightly hopped amber ale, in Summer 2011. The brewery has two beers scheduled to release in 2012, 1814 ESB and Big Chair IPA. The beer reviewed here, Sakura Washington, is an Abbey Ale brewed to celebrate the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival and some of its attendant events in the H Street NE Neighborhood.

So, About This Beer: Pours a deep, dark brown with a thin tan head that dissipates to a thin cap quite quickly. A wet straw aroma is dominant as you raise the glass with some sour cherry notes. High sour notes in the initial taste, which fade to a very nice fleshy cherry flavor. There’s a mild roasty flavor at the back end, but it’s completely subsumed, initially, by the sourness provided by the cherries. As the beer warms, though, some really nice dark chocolate notes take over and balance it out. It’s a beer, quite frankly, that would work much better at cask temperatures as opposed to the normal draft setup.

The Verdict: This is the best offering I’ve had yet from this brewery, though it is a very uneven drink. It’s not what I’d use to introduce someone to an abbey ale, either. However, there are some encouraging notes in this beer, and it was excellent once it had warmed a little. It would also be interesting to see if the brewery reserves a keg or two of this and ages it, to let some of the sour flavors mellow over time, as they did in the glass with temperature.  That said, as it’s a limited release, I’d definitely recommend trying it. And you ever see a cask version, jump all over it.

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