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Introduction/Clipper City Brewery

Posted on Apr 15,2008
Filed Under Food And Wine , Local Tastes,


Please use our forum for any questions that you may have for Nick

 Hello, and welcome to my first column for My name is Nick Anderson, and I am the manager of the beer department at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria. I order and maintain a selection of (if I’m lucky and all of my orders come through) 350-400 beers from all over the world.  I conduct tastings in the store every Saturday, generally giving advice and recommendations to people looking to try new things, find the latest and greatest or just want a beer to sip while on the porch running the BBQ. With this column, my aim is to introduce you all to new and different styles of beer, clear up misconceptions and, above all else, advocate good beer. This week, however, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself and let you know a little about who you’re dealing with here.

Over the past year that I’ve been in my current position at Rick’s and the years spent beforehand in “the business”, there are some questions I’ve been asked more than a few times. I thought it might be a good idea to answer a couple of those questions here, and there’s only one I can start with:

Question 1: “What is your favorite beer?”
In many ways I don’t have a favorite beer. At a certain point in this business you find you no longer have a favorite beer or wine. I have a few go-to beers that I’ve always enjoyed. In the same way that as a wine snob (which I am as well, and we may get into that at some point) I have an appreciation for all regions of the world, as a beer geek I have come to love all styles and countries. I think the short form of what I’m trying to say is that one cannot do this job without having a love of all beer.

For the record though, some of my personal favorites and go-to’s are: Arrogant Bastard Ale (the beer that got me into great beer), Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (along with almost anything Dogfish Head makes), Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues (which has quickly become my everyday beer and the brewery one of my favorites in the past year), pretty much everything from Bell’s Brewing but I’ll single out Oberon and Two-Hearted Ale as well as great Belgian beers like Delirium Tremens and the Trappist Rochefort brews.

Question 2: “Why is (craft beer on my shelf A) better than (generic beer B)?”
This one can also be phrased as the sound of a customer picking up a six-pack and indignantly exclaiming the price out loud. All I can say is there’s nothing wrong with beer B, really. I have my share of beer B’s that I enjoy, too. Put it this way: I love my pickup truck. There’s nothing wrong with it, it gets me around beautifully and is as reliable as I can expect it to be. But I know that my truck is one of literally millions like it, pieces stamped out one at a time for the sake of a very large corporation’s bottom line. It’s nothing like the European exotics that I can only dream of driving; hand-built, made-to-order works of art and emotion. No one at the top of the company that made my truck hopped in and took it for a spin; no COO made sure the seat adjusted to the right place for me. I can’t and likely will never be able to afford my dream cars, but for a couple bucks more I can drink hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind beers made by people who wake up in the morning to make amazing beer. If you’re looking for something more than beer B, it’s out there, but those beer A’s cost a little more. These are small businesses run by artisans who brew for the love of their craft. For just a dollar or two more (often these days the price difference isn’t so dramatic) I’d say it’s worth it. In fact, I do say it’s worth it.

Question 3: “How do I get your job?”
I hear some version of that question often. Usually I have some witty comeback involving the questioner taking a dramatic pay-cut or being some kind of masochist. The truth is that I just dig beer and through a series of events came to be in charge of one of the largest (and if I’m doing my job the best) beer departments in the area. I was a (part of the time) working musician who took a job at a wine store and learned a thing-or-two about a thing-or-two and here I am. There are worse jobs to have, I’ll say that much.
Enough about me, though. Let’s get to the point and talk some beer, eh? 

Clipper City Brewing Co.

 I’ve been a fan of Clipper City Brewery for years now. Dedicated to quality local beer production, Clipper City nails it with their Heavy Seas line, which is focused on reaching the highest levels of craft brewing at reasonable prices. You can find more about Clipper City on the web at, which includes founder Hugh Sisson’s blog. 
The Clipper City lineup has something for every kind of beer lover. Balto MarzHon is a smooth Vienna-style Lager, a year-round Octoberfest beer. A personal favorite of mine is the current Heavy Seas seasonal release Red Sky at Night. Red Sky at Night is a Belgian Saison, or ‘Farmhouse’ style ale. These would be brewed in Belgian farms over the winter for drinking in late spring and summer. Traditionally, these are beers lighter in color and in body than other Belgian beers. Red Sky at Night is a stunning American example of the style, and is definitely one to pick up while it’s available.
Small Craft Warning is a unique beer—a Pils Bock, which makes it a stronger, hoppier style of Pilsner than what you may have tried before. Small Craft Warning is also one of those ‘go-to’ beers of mine. Peg Leg is an Imperial Stout in the English style, roasty and malty with enough hop to keep it from being cloying. Maybe the most popular non-seasonal beer of theirs is Loose Cannon. Loose Cannon is described as a “Hop Cubed Ale”. Some breweries brag about a half or a full pound of hops per barrel, but the Loose Cannon has three pounds per barrel! As hoppy as most India Pale Ales but still balanced and so drinkable it may quickly become one of your go-to beers.
Come by Rick’s Wine & Gourmet this Saturday, April 19th from 12-5PM and taste these Clipper City beers with your Friendly Neighborhood Beermonger and Clipper City representative Tom Cizauskas, a great guy with a very cool blog at See you next week!


Nick Anderson, Beermonger

Nick Anderson is the Beer Manager (or Beermonger) at Rick's Wine & Gourmet ( in Alexandria. He also writes a blog at

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