Tuesday, July 11, 2023

theCompass Craft Beverage Finder: Visited 100 Craft Beverage Establishments So Far in 2023

During 2022 we visited a little less than 70 craft beverage establishments, a paltry figure which is embarrassing for an entity that professes to publicize the craft beverage industry. And we created theCompass Craft Beverage Finder specifically for individuals to find these establishments anywhere in North America. We initially vowed to get to at least 100 in 2023, which was further increased to 200 after a quick start to this endeavor.  And at the end of June, we visited our 100th craft beverage establishment in 2023: Box Office Brewery.

This was my second visit to this Shenandoah Valley brewery located inside the historic Strand Theatre in Strasburg, Virginia. The theatre was originally built in 1918 and Box Office utilizes several historical items such as a 1930s Lucky Strike bowling lane for the main bar. As they offer a pentagon of tastings in a flight, visitors can obtain a reasonable representation of their beer offerings. For your flight, I would recommend the Old Valley Pike American Pale AleProhibition Pilsner, Signal Knob IPA, Massanutty Brown Ale, and Curtain Call Coconut Porter. And ask your server about the history behind each beer name. 

Six months to visit 100 more establishments. Any suggestions? 

And follow theCompass Craft Beverage App on Instagram to view the first 100 visits and follow our progress in the second half of 2023.

100 Visits in 2023 (so far)

Friday, July 7, 2023

Discovering Sake at North American Sake Brewery

For the 15+ years I've been operating WineCompass I've visited close to 700 craft beverage establishments, but last month for the first time I visited a sake producer, Charlottesville's North American Sake Brewery.  This brewery was founded in 2016 by Jeremy Goldstein and Andrew Centofante who both experienced different paths toward an appreciation of Japanese culture, and more specifically, toward sommelier-approved sake. Eventually after becoming certified Sake Professionals, home-brewing sake, and visiting numerous sake producers in the U.S. and Japan, they opened North American Sake Brewery on August 25th, 2018, at their current location in the IX Art Park

The brewery's sake is made using rice sourced from American farms. This rice is first steamed to soften and gelatinize the grain and then Koji mold is introduced to break down the rice starches into sugars. After a couple of days, the mash is then moved to fermenting tanks and assisted with the freshest water from the Blue Ridge Mountains, cold fermented until an abv between 15-20% is reached.  At this point, the sake is filtered to achieve a "crystal clear sake or cloudy hazy sake".

Both of these styles of sake were available during our visit and among our flight of four. The first sake was the Real Magic Junmai Craft Sake (15%). Junmai translates to "pure rice" and is a standard that signifies that the sake was made from just four ingredients: rice, water, yeast, and koji mold. The rice in the Real Magic was milled to 70% and provides clear pear and apple notes. Very approachable. The second sample was the Serenity Now! Junmai Daiginjo Craft Sake (15%). In order to be classified as daiginjo a minimum of 50% of the outer rice layers must be polished away -- signifying a premium sake. The Serenity Now! is a textured sake, highly aromatic where the rice character shines. The Big Baby Cloudy Style Craft Sake (16%) was the only unfiltered sake in the flight and showed significant textured banana notes as the tasting menu suggested. Finally, the Quiet Giant Extra Dry - Karakuchi Genshu (18.5%) was fermented longer and under colder conditions to completely ferment the sugars producing an extremely dry sake with higher alcohol. The latter is barely noticeable and this sake is very approachable with some earthy character. 

We will definitely make the North American Sake Brewery a regular visit when in Charlottesville, at the very least to continue our foray into this beverage. Cheers. 乾杯