By JEFF MAISEY
What’s old is new again.
That seemingly is the guiding principle of the craft beer revolution exploding across America – and especially Colonial Williamsburg.
The Founding Fathers – everyone from George Washington and Ben Franklin to Samuel Adams and Paul Revere – were famously in need of daily quantities of ale served at the local tavern.
Today, visitors – locals and tourists alike – to Williamsburg’s historic corridor can pop into King’s Arms Tavern and Shield’s Tavern and order a pint of Old Stitch, an authentic 18th century brown ale. The recipe was researched and developed by Frank Clark of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways program. Clark specializes in historic beer and brewing. He is the author of the paper “A Most Wholesome Liquor,” detailing brewing in 18th-century England and her colonies.
Old Stitch has been brewed, kegged and bottled at Alewerks, the craft brewery on the outskirts of town. According to brewmaster Geoff Logan, the recipe is tweaked just slightly for the modern equipment, but remaining authentic in its characteristics.
In addition to Old Stitch, Alewerks is working with Clark to brew Colonial Porter, using burnt sugar, as well as a Bristol-style beer. Details are still being worked out, including label designs, but both will be available on draft in the old town’s taverns and in bottles at the various specialty retailers.
Indirectly related to Colonial Williamsburg, DoG Street Pub general manager Michael Claar approached Alewerks’ Geoff Logan about collaborating on a beer exclusively for the Merchants Square gastropub location and its newly opened Hair of the Dog bottles shop.
“Michael wanted to do an ESB,” explained Logan. “He came in, gave me some parameters of what he wanted. I put together a recipe. He came in. We brewed the beer. We’re pretty proud of it.”
The Extra Special Bitter is named Maizie’s ESB for DoG Street Pub owner’s Chef Everett’s dog. The beer is an exceptional example of a traditional English-style ESB. True to its style, the beer has body and character with a subtle bitterness that is both refreshing and highly sessionable. It is currently on draft but will find its way to cask and bottles.
Alewerks experiments with test batches on its 10-barrel tank system. Popular specialty brands such as Bitter Valentine, Café Royale, and Bourbon Barrel Porter are award-winning results of this process.
Last year, Logan produced his first sour beer – Lover’s Greed. It won a gold medal at the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival in August. He plans to expanded production of the bourbon barrel and sour beer program.
“Those beers are fun and a challenge,” Logan said. “A year and a half in the barrel, you hope for the best, and taste along the way. It requires a lot of patience.”
Alewerks is also developing plans to produce Lambic and geueze style beers.
“We’ll do a lot of that,” said Logan. “I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve been in contact with Matthew Meyer at Williamsburg Winery to bring him in and do some blending with us.”
Meyer is a great choice for the project. He has garnered awards for his red blend Adagio.
Logan said he has a long list of requests for collaborations but hasn’t had time to participate. The brewery’s is hopping, especially now that the tasting room has expanded.
“We’ve had a tremendous turn out during tourist time, but one of the most gratifying things is that locals have decided it’s a good thing to come down here in the afternoon and have a good beer,” said Chuck Haines, who established the brewery in 2006 on the site of the former Williamsburg Brewing Company. “It has exceeded our expectations.”
They now offer a limited menu in the tasting room. The most popular item is the half-pound soft pretzel.
Popular flagship beers include Red Marker Ale, Washington Porter, Chesapeake Pale Ale and Drake’s Tail IPA. Their seasonal beers are sensational: White Ale (spring), Pumpkin Ale (fall), and Coffeehouse Stout (winter).
Alewerks best-selling beer is currently Shorty Time, a low-gravity (4.8%) session IPA.