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The Beer Circle » Bell's Brewery, Blend, Fruit, Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout, IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Rye, Tastings » Beer Dinner: Bell’s Brewery at RFD Washington

Beer Dinner: Bell’s Brewery at RFD Washington

On the evening of January 10th, RFD in Washington offered up a dinner my friends and I could not refuse: a 5 course dinner paired with Bell’s Brewery beers including Black Note. We thought the $60 price tag seemed a bit steep up front, but we went for it anyway.

RFD stands for Regional Food and Drink and is located a block away from the Verizon Center, near Washington DC’s Chinatown. It’s the “sister bar” of the former Brickskeller, now Bier Baron, that helped my leap into craft beer. Claiming to have DC’s biggest tap list, RFD also carries 300 bottles and prides itself on pairing craft beer with food and cooking food with craft beer. According to their website, they’ve served over 5000 different beers, over 25 million total, and presented more than 450 tastings. A true gem in our nation’s capital

Bell’s Brewery is one of the better known breweries in craft beer circles across the nation. Their Hopslam release nearly broke the Internet in 2011, and my experience with this year’s release was that depend was equally as high. Black Note is a true rarity, something they only released at the brewery, but luckily a few kegs made their way to DC, this will be my second shot at it.

The dinner started at 7pm, but the doors opened at 6pm for a nice pre-dinner beer and cheese. I went for one of my go-to brews: Bell’s Two Hearted.

Bell’s Two Hearted
The beer sits in the pint glass an orange hue, hinting towards brown at the center. About two fingers of white head builds up and hangs out for a while, lacing beautifully as it recedes.
The aroma is all citrus and piny hops. A nice balance between the two without much of a malt backbone.
The taste is balanced perfectly for me. Hop forward, citrus and pine all the way. Very slight maltiness does come through here.
Light and crisp, very nicely carbonated and a high drinkability.
One of my favorite IPAs, I was pumped to see it offered in the “pre-game” as it wasn’t on the dinner list.

Beer Stats
Style: American IPA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 16oz
ABV: 7.00%
BA Score: 95
RB Score: 100

At the dinner, we got to meet a direct descendant of Larry Bell, David, who is the current Beer Director and 5th Generation of the Bell Family. He walked us through how the brewery started, getting its roots from Larry in 1983 homebrewing all the way up to the 180,000 barrels they brewed this year, and their expansion plans that could put them as high as 700,000 barrels in the near future.

After our conversation with David, the dinner began. The first pairing of the night was the Oatmeal Stout and a beef and stout stew. I was quite surprised to see a full glass of beer coming out, I was only expecting tasters.

Bell’s Oatmeal Stout
Black pour with a finger or so of light brown head. Lacing and retention are both pretty nice.
Chocolate, grains, oatmeal, pretty sweet overall.
Pairs nicely with the beef stew, which I’m pretty sure was made with this stout. The oats, chocolate, and overall sweetness pair well with the spicy stew.
Medium body for a stout, low carbonation. Very high drinkability when paired with the food. It goes down really easily.
Great pairing. Loved the beer, the food only enhanced it.

Beer Stats
Style: Oatmeal Stout
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 12oz
ABV: 5.70%
BA Score: 91
RB Score: 99

The next beer was a real treat. I had never heard of Bell’s Raspberry Ale before. David Bell informed us that it was made with all Michigan raspberries. I very much enjoyed Founders Blushing Monk, so this one piqued my interests. They paired it with mixed greens with candied walnuts, prosciutto and shaved Romano drizzled with Raspberry Ale vinaigrette.

Bell’s Raspberry Ale
Pink to red pour with a few fingers of white head. Beautiful lacing down the side of the wine glass and decent retention.
Huge raspberry aroma. Very sweet, basically the only thing I can smell is the fruit, which is a good thing.
The taste is a bit more balanced. Raspberries and a slight hoppiness combine to create a fruity, but clean taste.
Light body with a good amount of carbonation. Extremely drinkable and pairs very nicely with this light salad. The calm before the storm I would assume.
Very much liked this. Very wine like, sippable, palatable, delicious. Not sour and definitely the best surprise of the evening.

Beer Stats
Style: Fruit Beer
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 12oz
ABV: 6.00%
BA Score: 80
RB Score: 78

Next up was another beer I was pretty unfamiliar with: Bell’s Kalamazoo Hopsolution Ale. This beer was brewed especially for Illinois, due to distribution laws, the brewery was having issues with Hopslam. To combat this, they came up with a (hop)solution: create a new beer! This was paired with Machengo macaroni and cheese with carrots, cauliflower and peas topped with brioche crumbs.

Bell’s Kalamazoo Hopsolution Ale
Insanely clear amber pour with a small white head. Decent retention and lacing.
Ton of bitter hops without a malty backbone. All about the hops with some tropical fruits like citrus and mango.
Follows the aroma perfectly. Citrus and orange for the fruits. Bitter hops. A small malt backbone and some alcohol add a nice balance. Very enjoyable.
Really bitter and drinkable. Alcohol on the backend.
While Hopslam was the reason behind the creation of this beer, they are pretty different. I do like what's going on here, but Hopslam on-tap was better. The big IPA pairs nicely with the mac and cheese. They’ve done a great job pairing the beers and the food so far.

Beer Stats
Style: Imperial IPA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 16oz
ABV: 9.00%
BA Score: 88
RB Score: 97

My handwriting started to get pretty atrocious as my liver continued to work overtime. I had no idea we would be served such large portions of the beer. In past beer pairings, we were served measly 4oz drinks, just to taste the beer, not the case at all here. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had a few pre-dinner beers…

Moving right along to the main course, and another Bell’s rarity: Golden Rye paired with grilled medallions of pork tenderloin with a Golden Rye jus, served with brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes. I was quite happy to have a big plate of pork here, my stomach needed to process some meat!

Bell’s Golden Rye
Hazy golden brown pour with one finger of white head that sticks around well into my meal.
The aroma has hints of rye, citrus hops, and a nice malt backbone.
More rye on the taste than on the aroma certainly. The hoppiness is also there, but doesn’t take over. Fruity, and bitter at the end.
Light and crisp. Very drinkable.
This was a good beer, but it really wasn’t anything special. Paired very well with the Pork Tenderloin, but on its own, I don’t think it would have been all that great.

Beer Stats
Style: Rye Beer
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 16oz
ABV: 6.50%
BA Score: 85
RB Score: 69

And now the coup de grace: Bell’s Black Note Stout paired with a Black Note Brownie with ice cream and caramel.

Bell’s Black Note Stout
Motor oil black pour without much head at all. What was there was light brown.
Bourbon mainly with a ton of chocolate, some roasted malts and vanilla are coming out underneath. The aroma is rich and balanced nicely. Just on a different level.
My God this is good. And with this decedent brownie and ice’s a good thing I was sitting down. So much chocolate is in front of me. The integration of the bourbon and the stout is what really makes this great.
Very heavy body, low carbonation. Just a perfect pairing with the brownie. Wish I could do this more often.
Extremely enjoyable. The perfect way to finish the dinner off. Rich and boozy.

Beer Stats
Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 12oz
ABV: 11.50%
BA Score: 99
RB Score: 100

Overall this dinner gets all 5s. I learned so much about Bell’s Brewery and it really propelled them to one of my favorites. I was most surprised with how much of each beer we got because in previous beer dinners, we only received tasters of each. Pairing that with great food, I was in heaven. Love everything that they’re doing. We also unilaterally decided that the price was not only worth it, but that we would have paid more for what we got. RFD Washington…you’re doing it right. I can’t wait for their next Beer Dinner.

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Written by Russ Beck

Russ can trace his beginnings in craft beer to sitting in Zeno’s Pub in State College drinking various craft beer options from across Pennsylvania. Since then, he has never faltered in finding new brews, whether they’re rare, delicious, or hopefully both. Russ will be writing on a large variety of subjects, including but not limited to: reviews, homebrewing, and how to take labels off of beer bottles. He’ll drink just about anything, but prefers a nice Stout, IPA, or Weizenbock. Find Russ Beck on Google Plus

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