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Accidental brew intentionally made on derecho’s 1 year anniversary

Port City Brewing Company is making its Derecho Common beer, one year after D.C.\'s derecho. (Courtesy of Port City Brewing)

Rachel Nania, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – It’s almost the one year anniversary of one of D.C.’s most destructive storms. On June 29, 2012, a derecho swept through the area, leaving behind thousands of dollars in damage and hundreds of thousands of residents without power.

And one local brewing company is hoping to relive that storm — through its beer.

The night before the derecho hit, the brewers at Port City Brewing Company, in Alexandria, Va., brewed a 60-barrel tank of lager beer.

And then the unexpected happened. The power went out for five days.

The brewers worried that the most natural process in making beer, fermentation, would ruin the batch.

“Fermentation gives off heat, naturally, and so it began to warm up the beer,” says Bill Butcher, founder and owner of Port City.

Butcher explains that a lager is traditionally kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit during fermentation, but this batch crept closer to 65 degrees, and the brewers were unable to bring it down without power.

“It changed the character of the beer,” says Butcher, who opened the brewery in February of 2011.

So the brewers decided to turn lemons into lemonade — or beer, rather.

California common beer is a style of beer that developed in San Francisco, according to Butcher. This type of beer is intentionally brewed with lager yeast at a warmer temperature.

“This storm caused us to brew this California common style beer by accident, which is why we call it the ‘accidental brew.'”

The beer may have been an accident, but consumers drank it intentionally. The accidental brew sold out within two weeks.

Butcher attributes the beer’s popularity to both the taste and the experience of the beer.

“Everybody here in the D.C. area, we all went through this storm together and we all sat in the dark for several days and we suffered through the heat wave with no air conditioning, and I think a lot of people were looking for something positive to come out from the storm. This seemed to be something that a lot of people ended up rallying around and really wanted to have something positive to focus on as a result of the storm,” Butcher says.

For those who missed out on last year’s brewing accident, Port City is making another batch of its Derecho Common. It’s being released Saturday, June 29.

“So many people were talking about this beer last year and everybody wanted to taste it, and it kind of became the beer that everybody read about but nobody got to taste,” Butcher says.

Details on where to find the limited edition Derecho Common:

The Derecho Common will be available for taste at two release parties on June 29, including one at Rustico in Alexandria (starting at 2 p.m.) and one at Port City Brewing Company’s tasting room (starting at noon).

After July 1, the Derecho Common will be available for sale (in bottles and kegs) at local beer stores in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

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