Pumpkin CapsAs we mentioned yesterday, one of our favorite signs that fall has arrived is the appearance of pumpkin beers.  We love the rich, spicy flavors of pumpkin ales (and in some cases stouts).  It’s like a crisp autumn breeze, a smooth beer and a slice of pie come together in every sip.  And their seasonal nature makes us appreciate them while they last; when they’re out, that’s it until next year.

But which one to drink?  With such a brief window of opportunity, can you afford to waste your time on a six-pack of bad pumpkin ale?  We think not.  So in the name of science (and better drinking), we called up the Bacon Terrorist and Boozy Betty and invited them over for a night of taste-testing.  They had proven their palates with us in last year’s cupcake showdown, and Boozy Betty’s knowledge of beers has come in handy on numerous nights out.

ContendersTo pick the contenders, we turned to BeerAdvocate’s list of pumpkin ales.  We decided to seek out as many of the beers on the list as we were able.  To keep costs in check, we limited our sample to those beers we could find available for single purchase (again: who wants to waste their time and money on a six-pack of bad pumpkin ale?).  A trio of trips to Total Wine in western Alexandria, Calvert-Woodley Liquors in Van Ness, and Trader Joe’s in Old Town yielded thirteen choices in all.

We rated each beer on Presentation, Flavor and Overall, using a scale of 1-5 for each.  Once all of our scores were tallied, we averaged our four ratings and added the three categories together to give each contender a score between 1 and 15.  At the suggestion of the Bacon Terrorist, we also rated each beer’s label art  and averaged those scores independently.

Once we were done, we had a whole lot of numbers, a dump bucket full of also-rans, and a decent nutmeg-spiced buzz.  Check out our assessment of each contender (in order from lowest total score to highest) after the jump. (more…)

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beer week<<UPDATE 3: 8/9/09 8:00 AM – Just checked out the Facebook group again and saw that there are two more events listed – a tasting at the Black Squirrel hosted by DC Beer and a DC Beer Week Happy Hour at RFD.  I’ve updated the list below and the map accordingly.>>

<<UPDATE 2: 8/6/09 4:15 PM – New details on the Beer Week special pricing for the 8/21 Nats-Brewers game: 
Mezzanine seats for only $23 (regularly $30) and LF/RF Reserved for only $16 (regularly $24).
Call Mike Benko at 202-640-7648 and mention “Beer Week” to purchase your discounted tickets.>>

<<UPDATE: 8/6/09 1:15 PM – Just got back from Teddy Folkman’s first lunch service at Capitol Lounge, and I had a chance to chat with him about Beer Week.  To register for any of the ticketed or reserved events – like the beer dinners – contact the respective restaurants directly.  He also encouraged me to direct people to the DC Beer Week Facebook group, which they are regularly updating with events as they get them locked in.  I’ve updated our map and our list below so they are current through right now.>>

You missed out on Savor and the unofficial Beer Week events that surrounded it back in May.  You passed on the opportunity to taste your way along the “Virginia Ale Trail” with the folks at the Brickskeller last month.  By now you’re probably thinking that you’ll have to wait until 2010 to get all hopped up on hops…or else you’ve just continued drinking beer at your favorite bars around town (why can’t every week be Beer Week?).

Fear not!  The organizers of DC Beer Week ’09 are here to help.  Beer Guy Jeff Wells (aka “Hoppy”) and chef Teddy Folkman have collaborated to bring us five days of events at restaurants and bars all across town from Sunday, August 16th through Friday, August 21st.  Ranging from the truly beer-focused (like dinners featuring pairing specials) to the merely beer-friendly (like the Friday evening Nationals-Brewers game) this is another great opportunity for Washingtonians to celebrate suds.

If you’re like us, you find it helpful to see all your options for the week in one convenient place.  While other folks like Orr Stuhl at the City Paper and Tom Cizauskas at Yours for Good Fermentables have published the events in list form, we have yet to see a map that will help you plan out your Beer Crawl.

After the jump, we’ve got the current list of Beer Week events to go with this map.

Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates all of the participants in DC Beer Week 2009 with event details.

Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates all of the participants in DC Beer Week 2009 with event details.

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thirsty-bernie-exterior<<EDIT, 12/8 @ 3:30 PM:  On Friday, several sources reported that Chef Jamie Stachowski’s with Thirsty Bernie was not renewed when it expired on November 30th.  Even more disturbing, Washingtonian’s Best Bites blog quotes Stachowski as saying that owner Steve Sadeghian is planning to focus on “convenience cooking” and will be buying much of his food pre-made. 

Sounds like the things that made Thirsty Bernie stand out among sports bars is now gone, so please do not consider this review reflective of the current restaurant when deciding whether or not to visit.>>

Sports bar.  Strip mall.  Northern Virginia.  Sounds awesome, right?  Generally speaking, this is not a combination that screams “destination dining.”  But if you haven’t heard by now, Thirsty Bernie is no run-of-the-mill sports bar.  It’s a showcase for a chef who made a name for himself downtown and who now has carte blanche to indulge his creativity in an unlikely venue.

I never did make it to Restaurant Kolumbia, so I can’t wax rhapsodic about the way Chef Jamie Stachowski used to impress upscale diners with his charcuterie and his novel takes on classics.  Having experienced Thirsty Bernie with my father recently, however, I can definitely see what everyone is talking about. 

This is a place that takes meat, beer and sports seriously.  And since there are very few places that simultaneously do all three well, it warrants a visit from even the most NoVAphobic Washingtonian.

So what the heck is a ‘weck?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

Image by Aude, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image by Aude, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

<<EDIT #2:  Not sure exactly what’s going on, but the listing is still active at www.costar.com as of 11 AM today (9/30).  To find it yourself, click on the link above and do a search for properties in ZIP code 20037.>>

<<EDIT:  As you can see from today’s (9/27) comments below, the owner has withdrawn Brickskeller from the market.  Thanks to John Nemeyer with Randall Hagner for the update.>>

You’ve been there – several rounds into an evening of “Around the World” at DC’s most famous beer bar – when someone in the group has a brilliant idea.  “We could totally do this,” is usually how it starts, before listing all the reasons that you and your friends are ideally suited to run a place just like the Brickskeller.

Well here’s your chance.

Though you won’t see a “For Sale” sign out front or a listing for an open house this Sunday, the Brickskeller is officially on the market.  Randall Hagner Ltd. Showcase lists 1523 22nd Street – the “Brickskeller Dining House and Inn” – as being available immediately for the low, low price of only $12.5 million (down from $15 million a week ago).  The best way to find it from the home page is to do a search for properties in ZIP Code 20037.  The entire five-floor building is for sale, including 40-plus guest rooms on four floors and the two-floor restaurant/bar.  The alcohol license will convey to the new owners, but you won’t be able to keep the memorabilia or even the Brickskeller name – the current owners will be holding onto those.

I can’t speak from personal experience, having never drunk enough downstairs to necessitate an overnight stay, but the general consensus is that the rooming house-style Inn has seen better days.  Guest rooms share common bathrooms in the hallways and are accessed via stairs or a hand-operated elevator.

Though the new owner will have to build a name for the new place from scratch, it’s hard to believe that the Brickskeller’s cache won’t carry over and help them start strong.  Assuming the place remains a beer bar (and why would you mess with success?), they would do well to focus on delivering what they promise; these days, the Brickskeller’s reputation isn’t entirely positive on that front.  As the manager of another popular bar joked, the $12 million dollar price tag is “about a million for every beer they have in stock.”

Check out the flyer, a .pdf found on the sale listing page, for more details.  And if you’re already drunk when you read this, do yourself a favor and sleep on it before making an offer right away.

Yesterday was officially the first day of autumn, but here at Capital Spice we’ve been celebrating the season for more than a week already.  For us, the true harbinger of fall can’t be found on a calendar – we watch the shelves of our local grocery stores for it.  And once it arrives, we do our best to get our fill before it disappears for another year.

That magical fall-mark?  Pumpkin beer.  If you’ve never tasted one, try to call up memories of pumpkin pie with its thick, sweet taste and its rich, spicy aroma.  Now take that memory and pour it into a 12 oz. beer bottle, and you’ve got this delicious fall beverage.  Think of it as drinking seasonally – Barbara Kingsolver would be proud!

Recommendations and details after the jump.

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A quick hit round up of food in the news…

Wine Spectator Gets Punked: Wine Spectator gave their award of excellence to a non-existent Italian restaurant. Wine critic Robin Goldstein decided to expose the lack of scrutiny associated with wine awards and set up a web site, copy of the restaurant’s menu, wine list (loaded with a handful of well-known wine flops) and – most importantly, according to Goldstein – submitted the $250 entry fee to include the restaurant for consideration. 

Would you like interactive marketing with your coffee?: Dunkin Donuts is testing interactive advertisements in stores that will display messages based on what you have already purchased. 

Hip hop honey bees and Jessica Simpson, beer shill, after the jump. (more…)