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Starr Hill’s Monticello Reserve Ale

starr hill brewing monticello reserved ale
Jason Behler

Starr Hill’s Monticello Reserve Ale – 27 IBU, 5.5% ABV

My wife, Sarah, and I began our geeked-out Spring Break en route to Washington D.C. with a trip to the home of our third President, Thomas Jefferson. Monticello is a vast rollercoaster of hills and hollers nestled in the northern outskirts of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Jefferson, a vegetarian for all intents and purposes (“using meat merely as a condiment,” as our tour guide informed us), fancied himself a farmer, as evidenced by acres of flowers, orchards, groves, gardens, and vineyards. The Monticello Reserve Ale from Charlottesville’s own Starr Hill Brewing is an homage to the type of beer that would have been consumed regularly in the Jefferson household, using two ingredients that were readily available on the Monticello grounds, wheat and corn.

Now I must set the stage for my consumption process a bit: left Lexington, KY at 8:30am, drove six and a half hours to Charlottesville, VA (where Monticello is), got two of the last ten spots on the final tour of the day (which started nearly three hours after we got there), toured gardens, took pics, learned about TJ (know affectionately known to me as “The Jeff”), took the last tour, caught the last bus down the mountain (a hill really, but they call it a mountain). Dinner inĀ IMG_1086Charlottesville was a amazing, but alas a two hour drive to Washington DC awaited us. Bombing our hybrid torpedo into the night with only the occasional reflective specks of paint to light the path through the Virginia wilderness, the only solace was the 750ml bottle of beer I had purchased at the Monticello gift shop as we bided time until the last tour of the day. We checked into the hotel, and here is your review…

The Reserve Ale is a fairly straightforward Amercan-style wheat beer, an easy drinker with few flavors to offend or excite. Like most wheat beers, the citrus makes it easy to identify, while the mixture of corn in the barley threw me a bit. This one has a sweet musty smell that had me guessing at first whiff. Perhaps drinking this beer out of a plastic hotel room cup stifled its flavor? Perhaps my expectations eclipsed any possible chance this beer had to make a splash on my tongue or in my mind, or perhaps it is just an okay beer? Perhaps anything would pale in comparison to the genius of Thomas Jefferson? I can see how some beer drinkers, especially those that like a sweeter beer, would enjoy this ale. For me, the corn is where it missed. I know that some craft brewers use the adjunct grain successfully, but (as a Kentuckian) if I am going to drink a fermented corn product…give me bourbon or give me death! (OK that is Patrick Henry, but cut me some slack. I am on vacation.)

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