Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#VABreweryChallenge #59: A Family Legacy at Portner Brewhouse

In 1867, there were 3,700 breweries operating in America and one of those was Alexandria based The Robert Portner Brewing Company. The brewery had opened that year and later would become one of the largest producers in the southeast. And Its flagship TIVOLI Hofbrau Pilsner (TIVOLI is I LOV IT spelled backwards) would eventually be distributed from Washington D.C. to Florida using refrigerated rail cars and using the city's popular railroad network. Portner was also a successful inventor and he patented a system for chilling lager as well as an ice-making machine; both were utilized to produce lagers year round and to refrigerate the rail cars. In fact these two systems were used to create a cooling system in his house -- perhaps the first air conditioned home in America. In 1879 Portner was honored by being elected the first President of the United States Brewers Association , the precursor to today’s Brewers Association. However, by the time of Federal prohibition in 1919, so many states had enacted their own prohibition regulations that there were only 1,000 breweries affected by the Federal ban. The Robert Portner Brewing Company had closed three years previously when Virginia had enacted their own prohibition ban .

A hundred years later, two of Robert Portner's great-great grandchildren, Catherine & Margaret Portner revived the family legacy by opening Portner Brewhouse -- not too far from its original location. They recreated a few Pre-Prohibition recipes, including the Hofbrau Pilsner, in their ever day series augmenting that with a few more modern and popular styles.  This pilsner is brewed with malted barley, corn, rice, and Cluster hops which is a historical variety grown in New York State when the Empire State was the capital of American hops production. The Tivoli Cream Ale is a beer style that attempts to mimic the pilsner flavor with the speed of ale brewing and this is very similar to the Hofbrau. My two favorites. The Vienna Cabinet Lager is another reconstructed recipe and is not as sweet as most modern Vienna lagers. And the Portner Porter comes across dry with roasted malts and mocha. Both nicely done.

The remaining beers offered during our visit were original recipes from head brewer, Greg Maddrey. The Nor'Wester IPA was a refreshing and balanced alternative to the overly hopped IPA market. The First Bloom Blonde and Saint Asaph's Tripel were solid interpretations on these Belgium beer styles and the Spite House Stout was a very delicious chocolate and roasty English stout. And as always, theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you through your #VABreweryChallenge. Cheers.
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