Learn how to homebrew

Three hours southwest of Washington, D.C. is rural Nelson County, Virginia. With a population of about 15,000 people, this region at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains isn't exactly where I would expect to find three craft breweries and a whiskey distillery.  But I have found that Nelson County is the home of the Blue Mountain Barrel House, a spin-off of the Blue Mountain Brewery, and they consistently deliver amazing beers. Their take on a Belgian Tripel called Mandolin is not exception. The first time I saw it on a shelf I immediately grabbed a bottle. The second time I saw it, I grabbed another. I’ve only recently been able to resist the impulse. The quality is great, though that isn't a huge surprise, as the Barrel House spin-off was purposefully built around a series of high quality, special and big beers.

Blue Mountain Barrel House Mandolin Ale

So what does Mandolin taste like? Well, that is hard to answer. Every time I try this beer I notice a different nuance of flavor. It pours nicely into a glass with a deep golden hue and a moderate head – and immediately gives off a bouquet of spicy Belgian yeast, and wet grass/hay. The carbonation is spot on, with the bubbles providing just the right amount of effervescence to enliven and enhance the numerous flavors, but not so much that the beer feels too thin or fizzy. Actually, on my second taste I thought it was perhaps a bit too sweet or syrupy – but I’ll attribute that to batch variation, as each subsequent try provides a lush, mouth-coating but even-keeled sensation. It feels like I’m drinking something a little upscale, maybe a fancy import from Belgium, and I want to sip it while sitting in a deep, plush leather armchair.

As I work my way though a glass there are flavors of raisins, melon, green apple, honey, coriander and white pepper that commingle on my tongue, and end with a slight note of bitter orange rind. It’s really quite interesting how the flavors come in and out over the course of the bottle.  

I hope you get a chance to try this beer, but be forewarned – if I have been to your favorite craft beer store recently, I may have bought out the stock.