Ex-Capitol City brewer Bill Madden provided upscale restaurant-brewery, VINTAGE 50, with a humble beer selection nearly as variegated as its exquisite menu, July ‘07. The veteran brewer was replaced by Kristi Mathews Griner (formerly of nearby Alexandria’s Hops Grill) in 2012, after he took head brewing ownership of Falls Church’s Mad Fox.
Formerly known as Thoroughbred’s, Vintage 50 opened November ’06. Located in a pristine professional office building on the outskirts of Leesburg’s historic downtown, its quaint patio with water-resistant couches and outdoor grill greet customers.
Side entrance leads to a redwood sportsbar with couch-backed seating and widescreen TV’s, several rear silver brew tanks, back dining space, and upper deck banquet area. A primo cocktail selection complemented excellent dishes such as crab medusa and California panini (smoked salmon).
On tap, light butter-salted lemony-hopped grapefruit-embittered flatbread-backed Catoctin Kolsch, lemon-wedged banana-cloved cornbread-bottomed Hefeweizen, and smoke-spiced lemondrop-candied caramel-malted fruit-dried ESB were moderate-bodied openers.
Approachable coffee bean-embittered, espresso-soured, molasses-chocolate-walnut-blanched, cherry puree-finishing Porter was equally mild. Headknocker Blonde Barley English Pilsner layered barley-honeyed wheat biscuit nicety above orange-bruised apricot-pear fruiting.
Best bet: floral hop-spiced Hoptail Double IPA, a bold step up with barleywine-doused red-orange fruited cornucopia (apple-grapefruit-tangerine-melon-pear) subduing spruce-sweetened pine comb sapping and tree bark parch.
When my wife and I return to Vintage 50, March ’12, premier brewer Bill Madden has left and gone to start his own brewery-restaurant, Mad Fox, thirteen miles east at Falls Church. Happily, his replacement, Kristi Mathews, learned how to craft a few equally splendid brews to go alongside Madden’s successful fare. After spending four years at Alexandria’s Hops Grill & Brewery, Mathews developed a well-rounded taste for crisp, clean brews that go beyond stylistic conformity.
Packed on a Friday night at 8 PM, we grab a table across the bar and order the copious Catoctin Fish & Chips (Atlantic battered cod with malt vinegar) and hummus with pita. Also worthwhile was the Jumbo Sourdough Pretzel (with a selection of grain mustard, honey mustard and spicy cheese sauce).
As the Eagles’ liberating breakup stomp “Already Gone” plays loudly in the background, I dip into Mathews’ strawberry blonde ale, Ginger Kids, a creamy cinnamon-toasted gingerbread-like honey-malted medium body with mild orange peel and mandarin orange nipping at the white wheat base.
Nearly as good, Irish Style Dry Stout retained a smooth watering to pacify the dark-roasted chocolate malting, hop-charred walnut roast and espresso-bound black coffee bittering.
Then it was time for the strong 9% alcohol elixirs. First up, Meditator Doppelbock brought peppery-hopped briskness to up-front banana-bruised sweetness, surging fig-date affability and honeyed caramel malts. Next, creamy Devil’s Due Belgian-style Pale Ale had a similarly fruit-seasoned profile, delivering a white-peppered banana-clove-vanilla punch to dried cherry tartness and red licorice traces.
Along Route 7 at the Potomac Run Plaza, Sterling, Virginia’s Total Wines & More had a magnificent beer selection. Despite already reviewing over 6,000 bottled or canned beers, I came up with 25 more from local mid-Atlantic brewers such as Devils Backbone, Duck-Rabbit, DuClaw, Flying Dog, Lost Rhino, Starr Hill and Williamsburg Alewerks. Also bought were several previously untried beers by West Coast breweries such as San Jose’s Knee Deep, Everett’s Scuttlebutt, Mukilteo’s Diamond Knot, San Jose’s Ass Kisser and San Diego’s Green Flash. (reviewed in the Beer Index).