General manager Michael Claar is the beverage program designer behind the extensive and eclectic selection at DoG Street Pub and Hair of the Dog Bottle Shop, an offshoot of the popular pub owned by Chef David Everett. Everett transformed an eighty-year old bank into one of the most iconic attractions in Colonial Williamsburg complete with great food, a rustic layout and an authentic bar atmosphere complete with a cute logo inspired by Everette’s dog, Maizie.
With Oktoberfest in the wings and a lineup of flavorful fall beers lining the shelves, the bottle shop, as it’s called by locals, is a great place to try beer. Lauren Davidson, manager, and Zac Moore, bar manager, offered their insights on all things brew.
Those heavy beer glasses you know and love are steeped in European tradition. Glasses used to come with the names of the beer or the brewery on them for branding purposes. Davidson points out that the best beer experience comes from teku glasses, which look like shorter, fatter wine glasses.
“Honestly, wine drinkers have it right in the fact that they have a very specific glass they drink out of. The reason wine drinkers love their glass so much is that they hold their glass here (she grips the stem). That makes it excellent. You are holding your beverage without changing the temperature of your beverage,” she says. “On a beer glass…your body temperature changes the temperature of the beer. So in a stemmed glass, you’re protecting the beer. Also, the way the glass tapers up, it is going to push all of the aroma into a more condensed space. So when I go to smell it, it’s going to be a stronger aroma and I can pull more from it. When I pour it, it’s going to cause more foam and foam is a good thing. Foam is going to protect the beer from oxygen while making the aroma more distinct,” she explains.
Davidson and Moore offered a few tips for those wanting to host a beer tasting with a small group of friends.
The more the merrier. It’s best to get a group together and try a wide variety. “Bottle shares are great when everyone brings one or two bottles to pop open and try together. Sharing means you can try more,” says Davidson. Adds Moore, “You might notice a certain aspect of the beer that someone else doesn’t. [In] one beer you might taste licorice and someone else might taste clove. Your palate might not be as attune as someone else’s.”
Learn style guidelines. Learn about beer styles, colors, aromas and flavors for a complete experience and to find what best suits your palate. “Beer tasting is completely subjective, especially when you’re getting to know a style. You could pour a beer that says its a pilsner, but it has a grapefruit nose and has an amber color. It might be a great beer, but it’s not a pilsner. It’s veered too far away in its style,” says Davidson.
Clear glassware. Both recommend drinking from a clear glass so that you can see the characteristics and color of your beer.
Exploring Craft Beer
For mainstream beer drinkers who like light beers, like Budweiser, or darker beers, like Guinness, here are two comparable beers to get your taste buds primed.
If you like Budweiser, the pair advises that you should try Bell’s Lager.
“It’s light in the body, very clean finishing, but without the hoppy bitterness that lager drinkers don’t care for,” says Moore.
“We have a lot of local, Virginia-made lagers here, too” adds Davidson.
And you like a heavier beer, like Guinness, Founder’s Oatmeal Stout will give you the density and flavor you’re after.
“Guinness is a light stout, less full-bodied. We have Founders Oatmeal Stout. You can start on a light stout and work your way to a meaty, high AVB stout,” chuckles Davidson.
Like fruits, vegetables and fashion, beer has its seasons. Here are beers that Davidson and Moore recommend that you try in each season.
Fall: Pumpkin Ale by Williamsburg Alewerks
“If you’re going to do pumpkin, do Alewerks Pumpkin Ale. It’s not overly sweet, not overly sugary. It’s an excellent display of what pumpkin beer should be,” says Davidson.
Winter: Gingerbread Stout by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
“There is a lot to choose from locally,” says Moore. “Alewerks has its Bourbon Barrel Porter, Hardywood out of Richmond has its Gingerbread Stout and ah, it is fantastic!”
Spring: Founders All Day IPA
Says Moore, “It’s hard to narrow it down to one since so much comes through, but the more popular styles are the session IPAs and the lighter lagers. Founder’s All day IPA has a really nice floral hop, but not the heavier body.”
Summer: Bell’s Oberon
“As far as wheat beers go, Bells Oberon is definitely one of the most popular beers,” says Moore.
Bottles versus Cans
Years ago, if you drank beer from a can you would have drawn a comparison to the filthy and uncouth Joe Dirt or the paranoid Dale Gribble of King of the Hill fame. Now, cans are the mark of a person who knows and understands how good beer is stored.
“Cans are becoming popular again because they keep the beer so safe. The reason your bottles are darker in color is because you’re protecting the beer from light so the beer doesn’t skunk out. A can is the ultimate protection. Fifteen years ago, beer in cans was thought to be cheap beer,” tells Davidson.
Moore agrees, “The can linings used to not be as good. Now the liners are so good that it won’t affect the flavor of the beer; the beer is safer and fresher longer. They’re also great because they chill faster.”