Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Visit To The Dogfish Head Alehouse Of Gaithersburg, Maryland




Last weekend, I assisted my younger brother and his fiancee in the process of moving their belongings into their brand new, Silver Spring, Maryland townhouse. In doing so, I spent time driving through 5 states, and engaged in something I generally find abhorrent and morally repugnant - manual labor. However, there was a prize waiting at the end of the trip for me; as a thank-you for my work, I would be taken to the Dogfish Head Alehouse in nearby Gaithersburg.

I've been a fan of Dogfish Head beers for some time - their 60 Minute IPA and 90 Minute IPA may be my favorites of that particular variety, and I've also enjoyed their seasonal beers (the Festina Peche and Punkin Ales especially) as well as other varietals, including their Raison D'Etre. So, I will freely admit that I was excited to visit this because of the beer alone; the fact that I was hungry and thirsty at the time was, as the coach from "Teen Wolf" is wont to say, "cream cheese."

Even though the Alehouse is located in what looks to be a strip mall, the place looked really nice. The inside was rustic in design, with a good amount of nautical-themed decorations (including a large plaster whale that hung over the stairwell, reminiscent of a combination of a smaller-scale version of New York's Museum of Natural History and a large seaside getaway).

We ran into a couple of difficulties, though. We got a late start to Gaithersburg from Silver Spring, which meant that by the time we got to the Alehouse, it was in full swing and we were told that it would be about an hour to wait before we could sit down and eat. This almost led to a quick ending to this visit; however, it was soon decided that we would wait it out. The second difficulty was in finding out that the Alehouse did not offer growlers to go; this was an utter disappointment, as I'd hoped that I could cap off the evening with a growler of something exotic back at the homestead in Silver Spring. I'm not sure whether this particular snafu can be ascribed to the draconian state of Maryland and their odd liquor and beer laws, or whether Dogfish Head had not secured the proper permits. In any case, it was a bit of a disappointment. The third and final disappointment was my younger brother, a light-beer-quaffing heathen who ordered a Miller Lite - the horror! However, we're used to my brother being a disappointment (although, to be honest, my dad will tell me that I'm the real disappointment to him and my mother).

The food here was decent. The bulk of the menu could be described as a combination between Chesapeake and Louisiana cuisine - lots of crab-based dishes, and a good amount of Cajun-style dishes. Their cream-of-clam soup was excellent, and reasonably priced. I also enjoyed a crab-meat and sausage pizza that was quite good. My dining companions had jambalaya ("too spicy" was the report) and a chicken and ribs platter ("not bad").

The beer, though, was phenomenal. I sampled two drafts. First, I enjoyed a 10-ounce sipping glass of Midas Touch. Nominally a barley wine because of its high alcohol content (9%), this was an extremely light, refreshing drink. The consistency of this beverage was thick - this was a drink made for small sips, not gulping. This is an extremely sweet beer, with hints of grapes and honey on every sip. One hardly tastes the alcohol in this potent drink (until it warms up). This was reminiscent of a wine more than a beer (especially given the presence of the grapes in this brew), and when I thought of this drink in those terms I liked it even more. It's a daring brew, really and truly, and quite enjoyable. The second draft was a restaurant-only brew called "Alehouse 75," which our waitress described as being an equal blend of Dogfish Head's famed 60-Minute and 90-Minute IPAs (for you non math wizards out there, 75 is the average of 60 and 90). This meant that the Alehouse 75 was a cross in style between a traditional IPA and a double IPA. People, let me tell you - this was as close to a perfect IPA as I've come. I like the hoppiness of an IPA very much, but realistically, there's a saturation point where this becomes overwhelming . This beer straddled that line perfectly - a crisp hop bite, but not so overwhelming that it felt like a challenge to drink. If they'd served this in growlers, I would have wanted to take some home. (Alas, that was not an option.)

I think that my only letdowns in coming to the Alehouse were in terms of my expectations - I was hoping for more of an on-site brewery, and that wasn't the case. This was a bar that served pre-kegged Dogfish Head beers - which isn't a bad thing, not at all - and had a decent selection of food. If you're looking for a restaurant with really good food and decent food, this is your place. However, it was not a Dogfish Head brewpub, and that's basically what I was hoping for when we decided to go and visit. I would return if I was in town, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to go here - the experience could almost be replicated with a reputable beer seller, a fresh supply of bottled Dogfish Head, and a half-decent recipe at home. Which, ultimately, made the Dogfish Head Alehouse a bit of a disappointment for me.

5 comments:

Samurr said...
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Tenos said...
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Zulkijora said...
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Willie Moe said...

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