Port City Brewing Hosts a Release Party with a Spooky Theme
By Hope Nelson, special to EdibleDC
At first blush, it seems a bit odd to throw a party to commemorate the anniversary of a stranger’s death. But it gets stranger when you add the fact that this is the 199th anniversary of said death … and that the stranger is in fact the legendary Female Stranger of Alexandria … and a local 21st-century brewery has released a beer in her honor … well, it’s still odd. But it’s incredibly festive!
Such was the scene at Gadsby’s Tavern on Wednesday, Oct. 14, as Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Co. released the second edition of its Long Black Veil Black IPA. Some of the festivity stemmed from the fact that Port City is the recent winner of three awards at the Great American Beer Festival, including Small Brewing Company of the Year. But on a perfect autumn evening, complete with temperatures in the 60s and tree leaves a bright red hue, the mood was also ripe for autumnal ghost stories.
Port City’s black IPA is a bit of an enigma. When you look at it, taking in its night-sky complexion, it looks like it desperately wants to taste like a stout, a la Guinness. But close your eyes and take a taste – “we should have tasted this blindfolded,” one guest remarked – and you’ll find a lighter, hoppier brew than your taste buds may have expected. To be sure, Long Black Veil packs a punch – its 6.8% ABV is certainly alive and well – but its flavor is milder and more citrusy than so many other dark beers. A porter, this is not! Instead, this is a beer that’s ideal for sitting in a courtyard, catching up with friends after work, and watching re-enactors portraying a doctor, President Madison and the Female Stranger saunter by.
A little more than 199 years ago, a woman and her beau arrived into town from an undetermined boat under the cover of darkness, the woman wearing a long black veil. Even by the time she had disembarked from the boat, it was clear she was unwell. The couple took up residence at Gadsby’s Tavern, and shortly thereafter, the woman was freed from this mortal coil. Her companion racked up bills for boarding, doctors, and an elaborate gravestone in her honor (which remains at the St. Paul’s Cemetery to this day), and then promptly skipped town, never to be heard from again. Her gravestone epitaph begins: “To the memory of a Female Stranger.”
Though she’s often been reported to haunt Gadsby’s Tavern, I regret to say that her presence wasn’t made known on this particular evening. Was the courtyard too crowded? The beer flowing too freely? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Or maybe she was there, after all, behind the bar, with the Long Black Veil.
Hope Nelson is a tofu-loving food writer who's happiest in the kitchen (or watching college football). She lives in Alexandria, VA,, with her husband, Mike, and their cat, Lucky Abigail.