11 years ago, while we were t9 texting on our flip phones, winding our disposable cameras and mourning the cancellation of Arrested Development, a brewery opened in Lafayette Square. Last night, to mark their 11th Anniversary, Square One Brewery offered free appetizers for all in attendance and for $20 you got access to a Special Release Room with 7 beers on tap and unlimited samples of them. Yeah. We were all about that Special Release Room.
The free appetizers? Chicken Wings. Loaded French Fries. Nachos. Fried Eggplant. Housemade Potato Chips. Pretzels. Peach Cobbler. All that and a whole lot more. They even had that stuff my wife eats….I think it’s called “salad” or something? I’m probably allergic so I skipped it, just to be safe.
The fellow guests were a great mix of folks, all eager to try beers, not try to get hammered. That’s my kinda gathering. I shared a cocktail table with Lew and Carol, a couple nearing their 70’s that happened to be some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. They wore matching pins on their shirts that had a quote from George Washington on them. Carol at one point said “If you want to take a picture of your beer next to the 21st amendment, I keep a copy of the constitution in my purse.” She then produced a tattered book, easily older than I am, which in fact was the US constitution. They spoke of their yearly trip to partake in the “Pennsic War,” an annual American medieval camping event in Pennsylvania where you literally wear armor and battle with fellow attendees. Carol recalled watching Kid Paret get beat to death in a boxing match in 1962. Yeah. These are real things these strangers and I conversed about as we enjoyed Square One’s offerings.
Meeting fellow beer hobbyists is half of the reason these festivals are fun to attend! Great beer and great people go hand in hand.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what Square One had on draft. I’ll list all the beers below with my thoughts in italics after them:
Our 11th anniversary beer is an American-style Barley Wine. Tizenegy is Hungarian for 11 and is named in honor of our operation managers’ Hungarian grandmother who was born in 1911 and adopted by an Italian family on “The Hill” when she was 11 years old. Its deep amber with toffee and caramel aromas, layered with aromatics from dry-hopping with several American hop varieties. Amazingly hoppy with citrus on the nose and flavor. Nicely sweet with toffee in flavor, it was a toss-up for my favorite beer of the night.
Our 10th anniversary American-style Doppelbock. “Dez” is Portuguese for 10 and the “-ator” suffix traditionally designates it as a full bodied, dark, rich lager (a doppelbock or double bock). Our twist on this style includes the addition of several American hops for flavor and aroma along with a lingering, pleasant bitterness in the finish. Very clean with a dense, tan head that reminded me of a nitro beer. Plums were a big flavor in this one and it had a slight alcohol bite.
JJ Barrel-Aged Social Devyat
First brewed in England for export to the Russian Imperial Court. It has been reported that Czar Catherine the Great would drink nothing else. We took inspiration from the full bodied, layered with flavor, dark ale and aged it in our used JJ Neukomm Missouri Malt Whiskey barrels. The result is an amazing blend of roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, toffee, vanilla and wood aged character. The nose wasn’t big on the bourbon, but more dark fruits. The body of the beer was nice and smooth with a lot of roasted notes and oak up front with some vanilla on the back of your tongue as it finishes dry.
Bourbon Barrel-Aged Social Devyat
Same as above, however a 53 gallon bourbon cask was filled with our 9th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout and allowed to age in the barrel for over one year. There is full rich sweetness that sets this version apart from the JJ version. There is some nice brown sugary/maple syrup mixed with bourbon on the nose. The aroma reminded me a lot of Bourbon County stout from Goose Island. The bourbon and barrel characteristics were HUGE with a slight alcohol bite but vanilla, caramel, and even some toasted marshmallow notes. This was the other one that was a toss-up for my favorite.
2015 Barley Wine (Standard and JJ Neukomm Barrel Aged)
This ale is one of the original “Imperial” beers, being produced in northern England and Scotland for well over 140 years. As the name suggests, it comes across as the port wine of the beer world, full of ripe fruit flavors of dates and raisins, with toffee and a subtle wine-like finish. This batch was brewed in November 2015 and a portion of it was set aside in our own JJ Neukomm Missouri Malt Whiskey barrels for additional aging. Both of these beers were well balanced but leaning more towards sweet. The bodies were similar in that they were nice and full. Dark fruits were more prominent in the Standard version with the caramel being bigger on the Neukomm version due to its barrel character. Both solid beers and while the Neukomm wasn’t huge on the whiskey aspects of the barrel, I still preferred it slightly more than the regular.
2016 JJ Neukomm Barrel Aged Barley Wine
Our 2016 production, aged in our own used JJ Neukomm Missouri Malt Whiskey barrels. This is a rare opportunity to compare a barrel aged beer in “series.” This one didn’t have the same full body as the 2015 version which was somewhat expected. It had a lot of similar flavors to the 2015 but the plum on this was very bright and pleasant. The whiskey was a bit more pronounced on this one as well in both aroma and flavor.
Belgian-style Gueuze Lambic Blend
Brewed originally in 2014 and then set into 53 gallon used wine barrels with a lambic blend of yeast and bacteria, we created 3 different Lambics; one each with blood orange, kiwi and green apple puree added directly into the cask. The special release version is a blend of these three unique beers and is characterized by a crisp tartness and earthy flavor and aromas. The fruit flavors were definitely present but did not lend any sweetness to the beer. This one was definitely sour and I would not classify it as a beer for people looking to limp into the style. There were some vinegar notes here that were not off-putting and paired PERFECTLY with the salty, housemade potato chips.
Overall, I ate too much, drank just enough, and had a great time. As an awesome gesture, they offered the folks in the Spercial Release Room the option of getting ANY of those limited beers in a 64oz growler for just $15 at the end of the night (I opted for the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Social Devyat). That was a class move that everyone really appreciated and the line for growlers held long until the party was officially over.
I am definitely someone who did not have Square One on my radar for a long time. They’re doing great everyday beers and the ones in the Special Release Room were all top notch as well. If you haven’t been there, go. If you haven’t been for a while, go back. If you’re a regular like Lew and Carol, keep on going. Breweries don’t hang around for 11 years unless they’re doing something right.