Late in the evening on Friday, June 29, 2012, an extraordinary thunderstorm roared through the DC metro area. This fast-moving storm – which introduced the term derecho to most of us – gave little or no time to prepare. Power was knocked out to most of the region, including my suburban town of Alexandria, Virgina.
My family and I had it easy: we camped out in the basement and lounged around to stay cool, and we were fortunate to have our power restored within 24 hours. The good folks at Port City Brewing, located a few miles away, had a far more serious problem with which to contend: how to keep their fermenting containers cool without electricity?
The brewers weren’t able to solve the problem, which in turn raised another question altogether. What do you get when you ferment lager at a higher than normal temperature?
The answer: A California common-style lager (also known as steam beer). And even though Port City’s inaugural batch was made under less-than-optimal circumstances, it made the best of a bad situation.
To mark the one year anniversary of their accidental brew, Port City planned to re-release a more purposefully-created version of their accidental brew, named Derecho Common. I learned this when I stopped by the brewery last Friday afternoon for a pint (and a six pack) of their seasonal Tartan Ale. In a stroke of hilarious timing, an afternoon thunderstorm (which I unfortunately had to drive through) had just rolled across the area and Port City was again without electricity, this time on the day before the release of their beer created because they had no power.
Mother Nature is not without a sense of humor.
Power was quickly restored – a few hours later, I learned – and Derecho Common was released without further incident the next day. I picked up a six pack of it Sunday and enjoyed one while my kids played in the sprinkler that afternoon. It’s a perfect summer beer: medium-light, sweet, and slightly tart, with only a touch of bitterness. Not as heavy as a hefeweizen or a Belgian double (dubbel), but not so light as to be insubstantial.
Although the circumstances surrounding Derecho Common’s inception were certainly no fun, their beer is a special way to memorialize a notable event in the region’s recent metrological memory. Now if only they’d come up with a beer to mark 2011’s epic earthquake. I suppose we have the Washington Monument construction to remind us of that.
Port City’s staff is not without a sense of humor either. While I enjoyed by pint of ale in the brewery’s tasting room Friday, Bill Butcher, Port City’s owner, gave out commemorative Derecho Common key chains that include a small LED light and a bottle opener. It’s the only tool you’ll need during the next power outage.