The Brewery vs. the Power Outage

My favorite local brewery, Port City, found a clever way to make lemons into lemonade. Or, more precisely, a power outage into a new beer.

When last month’s freak storm, El Deracho, left the brewery and much of Alexandria without power for five days, the owners worried they would lose 13,000 gallons of beer. When the power switched back on, they found that five of the six tanks were fine. However, beer in the sixth had fermented at a higher temperature than intended.

Not ones to let a bad storm ruin good beer, brewery founder Bill Butcher took inspiration from Kiuchi, a Japanese brewery that which had reworked one of its beers into a special edition brew after equipment was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami.  Butcher wrote this in his letter on topic:

Five of our six tanks appear to be just fine. The 6thtank is a 60-barrel batch of lager beer that fermented at a higher temperature than we intended.

There is a beer style that developed in San Francisco called steam beer, or California Common beer. It is a beer made with lager yeast and fermented at higher temperatures like an ale. This is exactly what happened to this 60-barrel tank of our beer. As a result, this storm has given us Derecho Common beer.

The Derecho Common will be out in August. Port City isn’t bottling the beer. Rumor has it that it’s only being sold in kegs to local restaurants and bars affected by the power outage.  So check out Del Ray and Old Town establishments soon for the brew.

What’s up with the Neighbors? Garden in the Hell Strip

herb bushes planted beside the curb in Huntington Virginia

Herbs curbside: Trend or apocalypse prep?

Our neighbors turned their “hell strip,” the grass between the street and the sidewalk, into an herb garden. It is growing hardy bushes of rosemary, basil and thyme — all free for the taking. I shrugged it off.

When the people living across the street copied their peculiar planting, I began to wonder if this is an actual, legitimate “thing”? Or were the neighbors just preparing for some post-apocalyptic scenario where, due the lack of food, we all have to plant communal gardens in our front yards.

Thanks to Google, I discovered that, yes, it is “a thing.” And, even cooler, the thing comes from the West Coast. According an slide show on the subject, strip gardens are popular in Seattle and Portland. Those gardens of course look pretty awesome with rocks, flowers and shrubs. I have to admit that our hell strip gardens, like our yet-to-be-gentrified neighborhood, are on the shabby side. (Photos below.) Hell strip gardens are such old news that they’ve even been covered in the Wall Street Journal — two years ago.

Will I be planting hell strip garden any time soon? In theory, I appreciate the idea. In practice, my hose doesn’t reach that far. I like the idea of extra space for flowers, but there’s no way I’m eating herbs that a bunch of dogs have peed on.

another house plants herbs in the space between the sidewalk and the curb

The copy-cat hell strip across the street


New Openings (and re-openings) in Alexandria


Society Fair in Alexandria Va.

Coming soon to Old Town

Society Fair the bakery/cheese shop/restaurant/wine store/bar owned by the people behind Old Town establishments Restaurant Eve, PX and Eamonn’s is opening very soon. The “real press” over at Huffington Post got an inside scoop a few weeks ago, which you can check out here.  I am of course excited for any addition to my neighborhood restaurant scene, but the article makes the whole endeavor sounds very mining company store-ish. They plan to sell the products (i.e. bread, sauces, marinades) they make in the restaurants and even serve diners of their “test kitchen” dishes made with products from the market.

I can’t decide if it’s going to become my new quirky Old Town hangout or come off as an elaborate, fully-staffed advertisement for the company’s flagship Restaurant Eve.  Well, we are going to find out soon! Their Facebook page announced Society Fair is hiring and appears to be opening in the next week or so.

Evening Star Re-opens

Speaking of quirky hangouts, my Evening Star Cafe is open again on Thursday.  “The Star” as it’s affectionately called around the neighborhood, closed for renovation a few weeks ago, and the staff have been steadily blogging the progress.  Now, it’s re-opening on Thursday evening with a new chef, who promises southern accents in every dish.

The restaurant section of The Star is may be back, but I’m a bit concerned about the bar.  I’m hoping it wasn’t demolished to make room for a bigger dining room. However, this shot of the new beer taps looks promising.

Why I love Trader Joe’s or Mo’ Choices, Mo’ Problems

Trader Joe's in Old Town Alexandria
OId Town Trader Joe’s: Where I am unfortunately on a first name basis with the man who does wine tastings

I’m very, very late to this not-so-scandelous expose on Trader Joe’s, but thank you Forbes (and Huffington Post for your round up with photos) for pointing out that more is not always better. I’m Trader Joe’s crazy, so not much of what the article reveals surprises me. But I love how the writer hit on the main reason I shop there: lack of choice. I love how shopping at Trader Joe’s requires making almost zero decisions!

A sign of the end: Pork Barrel BBQ opens its doors

Was it worth the wait?

It is difficult to believe (read my skepticism here), but Del Ray’s Pork Barrel BBQ is finally opening. Tonight!  But I read it on the Internet, so it must be true. Get the details  (and watch a video) here and here.

After all that wait, it sounds like delicious (if typical) BBQ joint:

Their 500lb-capacity “Southern Pride” smoker’ll be spitting out 12hr brisket, 10hr pulled pork, and 5hr chicken and spare ribs (plus sausages, but their cook time is unimpressive), all of which can be served by the pound, in sandwiches, or plated with sides like smoked mac & cheese.

Well, with Pork Barrel opening, I guess I’m going to have to find a new Alexandria restaurant to obsess over. There’s always the Evening Star Cafe renovation. According the website, that is due to reopen any day now. Famous last words!

Is Pork Barrel BBQ finally opening?

Logo for pork barrelll BBQ

The elusive Pork Barrel pig

As someone who obsessively watches my neighborhood restaurant scene, the maddeningly slow construction of 2342 Mt. Vernon Avenue frustrates me to no end. The building crews broke ground  soon after I moved to my old apartment in Del Ray. Rumors had it that Pork Barrel BBQ was opening at the end of summer, then by Christmas, then by Memorial Day, then by late fall, then by spring…. until I’ve been waiting two years now.  I’ve managed to get married and buy a house in nearby Huntington in the time that crew has installed flooring and light fixtures.

But for Alexandria BBQ fans there is a new, promising development! The restaurant finally appears complete, and a call went out on the Del Ray community association board for staff. They are hiring, say the restaurant owners.

As it turns out that Pork Barrel won’t be the restaurant I was imagining, though. It will be “fast casual”  (think Chipotle, Noodles and Co.) with counter service and self seating.  Reads the email:

Pork Barrel BBQ is a new, upcoming, concept located in the Del Ray Neighborhood of Alexandria. This ” Fast Casual” counter service BBQ Joint also boasts a long neighborhood style bar. We are currently looking for help…

But as everyone who has ever looked for a job knows, the hiring (and training) process can be maddeningly slow.  While I want to imagine myself eating a pulled pork sandwich with a jazzy version of  “Deck the Halls” playing the background, I also don’t want to get my hopes up.  So here’s to, um, “early spring”!