Evolution Beer and Sushi Pairing at Tsunami

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While people know their food is phenomenal, Tsunami Sushi Bar and Lounge in downtown Annapolis has always been under-appreciated in the local beer scene, in my mind. They’re not swimming in tap lines, to be sure, but what they do carry is thoughtfully curated and diverse enough to be of great complement to their menu. In fact, one of my “night out on the town” traditions is to snag a stool at the corner of the bar on my own before heading home. (They’re one of the few places in town that consistently carries some of my long-standing favorites, like La Fin du Monde and Old Rasputin Imperial Stout.)

So when I heard a few weeks ago, they were going to be hosting a beer and sushi pairing featuring Evolution Brewing Company of Salisbury, Maryland, I was excited.

Unlike other beer dinners I’ve been to in the past, this was not a programmed event with speakers or coordinated serving. Instead guests were invited to go at their own pace, enjoying as much – or as little – as they wanted, in a private dining setting with friends. Normally I love the choreographed nature of standard beer dinners, but this was a nice, much-welcomed departure from the norm. Especially in the middle of a busy work week, when I wanted nothing more than to turn my mind off and completely relax with beer and food I didn’t have to make.

So, how was it? Delicious. I loved the choices of beer. The Exile Red is a beer I think many pass over in the store, but definitely shouldn’t – making it the perfect introduction for the evening. Also, I thought it was a great choice to showcase the Lot No. 3 IPA, rather than its big brother, the Lot No. 6 Double IPA. While I know many prefer the latter, it was nice to have something a little softer in the middle of the Red and the Lucky 7 Porter. Plus, it made me appreciate it a bit more than I probably have in the past.

Then there was the food. From the presentation to the diversity of flavors and textures, I loved how the talent and knowledge of the Tsunami team came through in each dish.  They obviously took a lot of care in crafting dishes that married perfectly with the beer. For example, the smokey Kobe meatballs with the Lucky 7 Porter featured in the last course? Heavenly.

I can’t wait for the next one.

Flying Dog Releases New Double Dead Rise Summer Ale, featuring Old Bay Hot Seasoning

Last year, Patrick and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary at the release party for the much-anticipated Dead Rise Summer Ale from Flying Dog – a beer that sent sexy shivers down the spine of the state of Maryland when it was announced, due to the liberal inclusion of Old Bay in the recipe.

It was a great day for both of us. Patrick, the Annapolis and Eastern Shore, Maryland, native, was in heaven and probably would have done lines of Old Bay off the counter, had that been offered as an option. And I felt we were a little less of a collective failure, because we finally broke out our toasting flutes from the wedding – after forgetting about them completely for the previous three years.

Then this year came around… along with the word that Flying Dog was stepping up their game with a draft-only release of DOUBLE Dead Rise, featuring the hot version of Old Bay. It had the potential to be awesome. It also had the potential to be completely awful. But being the dedicated beer scientists that we are, we made the trip back out to Flying Dog to see what all the hub-ub was about.

How is it? Well, let me put it this way: Currently, we are a house divided.

Patrick is clinging to his purist, original Dead Rise roots. He appreciates the new version, but prefers the original. I, on the other hand,  shocked myself. I am a TOTAL convert to this new Double Dead Rise. In fact, to me, there is no contest, and there is no turning back.

Where the original pairs well with food – especially crabs, duh – this magical Double Dead Rise pairs well with the following:

  • Sunshine
  • Happiness
  • Breathing
  • Sitting
  • Sunbathing
  • Not wearing pants
  • Feelings
  • Friendship
  • Watching Murder She Wrote on Netflix

It has an extra kick, but it’s cleaner than the traditional Dead Rise, and the heat is more of a kiss on the finish, as opposed to an unwanted smack in the face.

The original will always have a special place in my heart, of course – right next to my all-you-can-eat crabs at [REDACTED*] – but let’s get real. I will straight up shove a small child to the ground if it means I could have more. That’s just the way the world works, kids.

The same goes for those crab-filled deviled eggs they were serving at the party. Yum.

*Note: Patrick doesn’t want anyone to know his favorite place to get crabs, because he’s a butthead. “REMOVE THAT LINK TO [RESTAURANT],” he said. “SEND THEM TO MIKE’S INSTEAD.” So yeah. Go to Mike’s.

Libations Hosts Jailbreak & DC Brau Collaboration Beer Dinner

I don’t know what is up with me recently, but I can’t seem to bring myself to sit down at the computer and write. I keep getting distracted by cute puppies, napping and a seemingly unrelenting schedule of fun stuff and work stuff. Thankfully life seems to have settled down somewhat, and I’ve created a lot of great memories in the process. However, as a result of this unexpected writing break, I now have a ridiculous backlog of feelings to share with all of you. Yes, some of them are crabby feelings, but some of them are also really good.

And today I’m going to get back in the saddle with one of those good memories – Libations’ Jailbreak and DC Brau collaboration beer dinner on June 25th.

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I know beer dinners can be a somewhat divisive topic – some people like ’em, while others are perfectly content avoid what they perceive to be gimmicky events that are not worth the money. I, personally, am in the camp of the former. When executed well, beer dinners are an opportunity to tell a unique story – either about a brewery, a chef or a unique point of view – through a thoughtful menu. (Plus, beer paired with food I don’t have to make is always awesome.)

Typically beer dinners are hosted by a restaurant, with maybe one or two representatives from a brewery (or breweries!) on hand as a resource to talk about the different beers being featured. Now, don’t get me wrong – the use of the word “typically” should not imply a negative connotation. I’ve been to – and hosted – these “typical” beer dinners, and they are a total blast.

But aside from all of the delicious beer (On the Wings of Armageddon on nitro, I love you!) and food, Libations served up something a little extra special that night: an evening with brewery owners acting as the masters of ceremony. This is pretty darned rare since the majority of dinners often feature breweries where simple things like geography prevent such a possibility. In this case, Justin Bonner of Jailbreak Brewing Company and Brandon Skall of DC Brau Brewing Company led us through the meal.

Standing Left: Brandon Skall of DC Brau, Standing Right: Justin Bonner of Jailbreak

Over the course of the night, I heard stories behind some of my favorite beers, as well as firsthand accounts of the challenges and realities of opening a craft brewery.

“Everything is a rarity when you first start out. Then you grow up and realize you’ve become known for certain beers. It sucks growing up man,” Justin admitted. “You learn that the flagship brands are how you grow your business. But that’s how you get to make the fun stuff.”

Brandon later shared the origin of my favorite new beers of the evening – their new seasonal, the Brau Pils. They had always wanted to do a pilsner, but had never had the resources to pull it off. Then fate stepped in and pilsners came up as one of the topics for the Certified Cicerone exam they had all been studying for.

“It felt like destiny, you know? We knew we had to do it,” he said.

The night was littered with little anecdotes like that. Like how Jailbreak has gone through “over 100 versions of an IPA,” but they still haven’t settled on a recipe they really like. Or Brandon’s biggest piece of advice for those looking to start their own brewery – “Don’t stress so much. Knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn’t stressed so much,” he said. “I don’t think I slept for like, a year.”

The evening really emphasized why people will often choose local over quality, when it comes to beer. Because the closer you get to the source, the closer you are to the people who make a well-crafted beer such a powerful platform for storytelling. Beer is such a controlled labor of love on the part of the brewers, so when you get up close and personal with them, you want to root for them. You want them to succeed.

Lucky for our area, we have breweries like DC Brau and Jailbreak who don’t force us to choose between local and quality – we get the best of both worlds.