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Shannon and the secret sisterhood

ShannonFancying a beer one day, Shannon McKissack (right) called into the tasting room at the Shenandoah brewery in Alexandria, Virginia. While there, she discovered that the brewery needed help on the bottling line. Shannon started to work at Shenandoah, part time, and still does - but now she has graduated to brewing.

"I had always believed that the brotherhood of brew - or the sisterhood - was a secret club," she told me, when I visited Shenandoah recently. "I thought I would love to join the club, and now I have done." She still has her day job as an accountant.

It was my second visit to the brewery. I called in 1996, just after it opened, as a brew-on-premise, a service it still offers. It founders were Anning Smith and his wife Laura. He formerly worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and Laura, an economist, was in business management. At the brewery, their daughter's play-space (occupied by Anning in my picture, below) is walled-off with sacks of malt.

AnningOn my recent visit, I tasted Winterfest, a strong (6.0 per cent abv) tawny ale, with a good malt background and very hefty hop flavors. I also enjoyed Old Rag (7.5 abv), a mahogany ale in a broadly Scottish style, slightly syrupy, fruity and whiskeyish. It was aged for a week or so in a Virginia Gentleman whiskey cask. A special treat was a Millennium Ale (10.5 abv), the flavors of which reminded me of maple syrup. It turned out to have been brewed with a percentage of rye, and dried juniper berries had been steeped at the end of the boil. Sound familiar? Laura has Finnish blood. She wanted to pay tribute to that country's rustic brew sahti, which contains the same ingredients.

The Shenandoah Brewing Company, 652 S Pickett St, Alexandria (703) 823-9508.

Published: FEB 19, 2001
In: Beer Hunter Online

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