Short Pump Weekend: Rock Bottom Short Pump Fire Chief Ale ESB
Date: May 18, 2019
The Story— In 1815 Robert Hyde Saunders built a small tavern on the Three Notched Road between Richmond and Charlottesville. The location of the well apparently required a short handle on the pump; the name stuck. The tavern was very popular through the 19th century, but the automobile seems to have ensured its demise. Thereafter “Short Pump” referred to a large plantation Saunders had established alongside the tavern.
In 2003 a shopping mall began to transform the area and now it’s a sea of stores, shops, hotels, and eateries. The Rock Bottom Brewery is tucked into the middle of this expansive shopping empire across the “street” from a Brazilian Steak House and walking distance to the Hyatt and Hilton hotels.
We’ll have more to say about this Rock Bottom tomorrow, but for now, we’ll just offer a reminder that although it’s a chain, it’s a corporation that has celebrated the individual talents of their skilled brewers for long before the big wave of craft hit the country.
The Beer— Our problem with many red ales is that the Crystal malt used tends to give flavors of burned sugar and wet leather if it’s not handled very very carefully. Here, there are no off flavors to detract. Sweet toasted malt with lots of chocolate rolls into the finish. Herbal and floral shows UK hops and it drinks very well.
Value — At under four bucks a glass this is almost a steal, but certainly a bargain. Our records don’t show if we were there for happy hour, but Rock Bottoms usually have ones with very good value.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
May and early June are some of the best times to take a weekend and go brewery hunting. Most rates haven’t reached their out-of-school peak, and the chances for good weather are … pretty good. So for a few weeks, we’ll give you some Mid Atlantic suggestions for weekend excursions.
We’re including beers and breweries we’ve found in researching our guide to breweries and inns of the Mid Atlantic. We won’t adhere to the “must be walkable” rule here, though. Once again we present our standard caveat: only a few of the beers we describe will be at the brewery if you go there, but they’ll probably have a beer that’s close to the style and if they do one stout well, they’ll probably do others about as well. We hope the “story” will be at least as valuable as the actual beer review.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”