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Compiled and edited by Philip Runco

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What beers did you love drinking in 2017?

That’s what I wanted to ask the people who make or sell my own favorite beers. So, I reached out to over 20 brewers, beer directors, and industry folks around D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, and I asked them some questions.

For starters, what were the local beers they tried for the first time in 2017 that impressed them most? “Local” can be defined a lot of ways, so I didn’t really limit them. It could be anywhere from Loudoun County to Baltimore – and if they wanted to include Richmond, sure, go for it. These beers could be brand new or just new to them. We’re not going to split hairs.

Another question: Outside of the DMV (or perhaps just further outside the Beltway), what beers did they fall in love with? These could be beers they tried while visiting other cities, or beers that are distributed locally (but produced elsewhere).

And since a lot of these people brewed their own beers (or collaborated with breweries), it was only fair to ask them what new or improved beers they were most proud of. Who else knows those beers better?

Of course, we all need to drink beer somewhere, so I asked them where their favorite places to drink were this year. It could be a local bar, an out-of-town establishment, a brewery taproom, or even a festival. Or, as I found it, it could be their very own living rooms.

Lastly, I posed three big-picture questions: What were some encouraging beer trends they noticed taking shape this year? What were some less-desirable trends? And what do they hope to do or see in 2018?

What emerges from these answers is a great snapshot of where the DC-area beer scene finds itself at the end of 2017. They also features some fantastic recommendations for beers to seek out, places to visit, and styles to reconsider.

Adrien Widman

Founder of Ocelot Brewing

Best New Local Beer

Crooked Run’s Wayward IPA. I think they were on point with this one. The aroma was fantastic, and the taste matched it. Nice and soft and fruity. I’m a big fan of what Jake and Lee are doing over there at the new location.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Hill Farmstead’s Double Citra. I’ve had plenty of Hill Farmstead beers over the years, but for some reason this batch really blew me away. It actually made me question the things we do here at Ocelot and inspired us to continue evolving.

Favorite Ocelot Beer

Mr. Kite IPA. We pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone a bit and experimented across the board. Mike and Jack really nailed it, and the beer came out fantastic and exceeded my expectations. Of course, it never hurts to have my two favorite hops, Nelson and Citra, in the mix.

Favorite Place to Drink

I feel like I may have answered this question last year in a similar way. I don’t really get out much, so I guess I’m saying right here at the brewery, especially on slow days when I can chat with everyone and relax.

Positive 2017 Trends

I’m honestly quite impressed with the small distributors like Reverie and HopHouse who are bringing in small amounts of incredibly awesome beer to the area. These guys overcome a lot of obstacles to make it legal for all of us to enjoy out-of-market one-offs at festivals and small bottle shops.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

My mama said…

2018 Hopes and Wishes

I really hope more and more brewers can focus on quality control. I’m not saying anyone is doing something bad, but when was the last time you had a mispackaged Budweiser? Quality isn’t an issue with them, new craft drinkers might not give you a second chance if you burn them the first time. Keep experimenting and pushing boundaries but to it properly is all.

Jeff Hancock

Co-Founder & Brewmaster at DC Brau

Best New Local Beer

UNION Craft’s Old Pro Gose in cask with blackberries. One of my favorite new beers in 2017 was a twist on an already amazing beer: Old Pro Gose, in cask, with blackberries added from my good friends up at UNION Craft Brewing. The tartness of the gose married well with the intense blackberry flavor. Think the best blackberry pie filling you’ve ever had, but in liquid form. I had another version of this fine beer at Savor earlier this year. They do many variations on this beer, be a fruit treatment, a wood treatment, or a combination of both

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Bierstadt Lagerhaus’s Slow Pour Pils. Ashleigh Carter and the crew down at Denver’s Bierstadt got it going on when it comes to traditional interpretations of German lagers, and for a pilsner lover like myself, this hits every note. Crisp, beautiful rocky head, light cracker and noble hop aroma. I’ll stop myself now. Got to sample this one this past year at GABF, and it was all I drank for hours. Worth the trip to the outskirts of Denver proper.

Favorite DC Brau Beer

Baroness Kölsch. From mash to glass, this was a real fun one for me and the team. One of the first things I do when gathering inspiration for a new brew is to brush up on the specific history of a beer I’m trying to riff off of or just straight up re-create. Aside from a more traditional mashing regime, this beer was fermented entirely under pressure, which is a very traditional German technique that lends an amazing natural carbonation to the delicate flavor of a kölsch.

We only made 15 barrels worth, and most of that went to a metal festival in Pittsburgh, and the remainder was poured in our taproom. This won’t be the last you see of this beer.

Favorite Place to Drink

Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar. Whiskies has always held a spot in my heart. Owner and renowned beer enthusiast Mark Thorp has an amazing selection of German beers, which is where I always gravitate towards, as well as trendy American sours, IPA’s, and DIPA’s, all the way down to benchmarks for certain styles. Bell’s Two Hearted, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Anderson Valley Amber are but a few that hold down the impressive beer list.

Then there is the decor: A heavy New Orleans grit oozes throughout, making it one of the more unique bars in the city, hands down. Black-light friendly concert posters from Mark’s personal collection adorn the walls while sludgy stoner metal constantly keeps the stereo engaged. And the bar staff is top notch and happy to make a suggestion if you find yourself struggling to make a beverage decision.

Beware “The Awesomeness.”

Positive 2017 Trend

The continuing resurgence in craft lagers.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trend

All these cloudy, cram-every-type-of-hop-product, 300+ IBU double and triple IPA’s. I’m all for pushing boundaries of styles, and I have a reason these beers are so popular.

The theory is that hops are, in my opinion, the most identifiable aroma and taste for new craft enthusiasts. Most people’s “Hey, I Get It” beer tends to be something on the hoppy side. Mine was Sierra Nevada back in 1999. This, in turn, makes people crazy for hops since its a very noticeable characteristic and has a shared commonality amongst craft consumers.

But, you always have to come back to balance, in my opinion, if you want to enjoy more than one or two beers in a session

2018 Hopes and Wishes

I long for the day when we don’t have a racist, bigoted asshole in charge of this country.

Kevin Blodger

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at UNION Craft

Best Local Beers

Brau Pils. Monument City’s Brown Ale. It’s not new, but I still love Ocelot’s Sunnyside Dweller. Right Proper’s Baron Corvo.

Man, there is such fantastic beer being brewed in the area, and I think the DMV beer scene still flies under the radar nationally which is really crazy

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Beyond Duality by Jester King and Forest & Main. A wild ale brewed with tea. Loved it.

Hill Farmstead‘s Mary. A great, clean pils.

Wiseacre’s Boomslang IPA. A great IPA from my boys in Memphis

Favorite UNION Craft Beer

Our Skipjack Pils is a really great beer that I’m so proud of. We took our existing Perfecta Pils and reformulated the recipe, adding Michigan-grown Super Saaz hops that we discovered via a random meeting with the guys from Hophead Farms in Hickory Michigan. I really love the aromatics we get from their hops and what they add to the beer. I can’t drink enough of the stuff

Favorite Place to Drink

My basement in front of the fireplace after my kids have gone to sleep.

Positive 2017 Trend

I think I may have said this last year, but it continued in 2017, and that’s the more craft lagers! As brewers start to have more capacity, it’s great to see them brewing more tasty pils, helles and schwarzbier.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trend

This year, I felt more than ever that there is what I would call, like, class warfare in beer. It’s this shit-talking based upon what people are drinking: core vs the release crowd, or keeping it indie vs people who drink macro-owned craft, like cats drinking Bourbon County. I had to leave so many beer groups on Facebook because I couldn’t stand all the petty bullshit. It’s just beer, y’all

2018 Hopes and Wishes

In 2018, we are launching a pretty ambitious project with the UNION Collective and our new brewery that will anchor the space, so I’m hoping for all that to go smoothly – or, as smoothly as it can.

I’m hoping to continue the trend of seeing more POC at beer events and in the brewing world.

As for a style I’d to see more of in 2018: How ‘bout more rauchbier!

Jace Gonnerman

Beer Director at Meridian Pint, Brookland Pint, and Smoke & Barrel

Best Local Beers

This year saw an influx of new and outstanding local beers. This is going to be lengthy, but it shows how I feel about the evolution of our local beer scene.

  • Goonda’s O.Ji. Double IPA. The haze craze is real, and this is one of the best I had in 2017.
  • Cushwa’s Fog at Daybreak Pale. Again, hazy, and packed with flavor at 5.5%.
  • Any UNION Craft Old/Older Pro variant. I’ve yet to have one of these that hasn’t blown me away
  • Ocelot’s Barrel-Aged Powers of Observation with Cherry and Chocolate. This is decidedly not my style of beer at this point, but in typical Ocelot fashion, the balance was superb.
  • Aslin’s Master of Oranges. An over-the-top, hazy, full-bodied, incredibly aromatic citrus bomb.
  • 3 Stars’ Trouble in Paradise. Reminiscent of J Wakefield’s Miami Madness. Clean tartness and incredible fruit.
  • Port City’s German Pilsner. Shocker: The best true-to-style brewery in the DMV produced a perfect pilsner
  • Hellbender’s Dunkelweisse. Absolutely insane flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel at 4.8%. Rich and flavorful with banana and nutty malt character
  • Right Proper’s The Lightness of Being. A 3.7% Czech Pilsner that is what macro beer should taste like.
  • Triple Crossing’s Interstellar Burst. Triple Crossing’s IPA profile is as good as it gets. Combine that with Citra, Galaxy, and El Dorado hops…
  • Crooked Run’s Dolce Vita. Again, barrel-aged imperial coffee milk stouts on nitro are decidedly not what I drink at this point. But when it’s good, it’s good.
  • Reason Beer’s Black. Black IPA is dead for a reason. This is not that reason. An incredible beer.
  • RAR’s If I Had My Little Way. One of the cleanest kettle sours I’ve had in 2017 with great peach flavor.
  • Ocelot’s Time After Time. Picking just one Ocelot IPA was a challenge, but this one was the most memorable to my palate

Best Out-of-Town Beers

The Treehouse reputation is real and justified. Their Haze double IPA was one of the only hoppy beers that truly left me speechless.

Also…

  • Old Nation’s M-43. More haze. Impeccably done.
  • Equilibrium’s Fractal: Simcoe. All Simcoe, all delicious
  • Civil Society’s DankStar. Again, I’m a sucker for massively flavorful/aromatic pale ales
  • Firestone Walker’s Lil Opal. A perfect saison. Mix of barrel-aged saisons with some bugs added. Impeccable balance. Dry, funky, and earthy
  • Tombstone IPA. Tombstone as a whole was one of my favorite breweries of 2017. Its black lager, amber lager, and double IPA were all great. The IPA is a stunner. Hazy and soft with massive flavor and aroma, but still crisp and drinkable
  • Upland’s Hopsynth. The wild fermentation profile interacting with Citra and El Dorado hops in this beer is truly stunning

Favorite Meridian Pint Collabs

Talking Backwards, our triple IPA collab with Ocelot, is always a favorite and something we look forward to.

Also, our imperial hoppy wheat collab with Atlas Brew Works, Double Dance of Days, turned out so wonderfully. So bright and citrusy, but still insanely drinkable.

Favorite Place to Drink

With two kids and limited time, a majority of my 2017 drinking took place at Meridian, Brookland, and Smoke.

Bluejacket remains an outstanding place to head for a boozy lunch, as well at Right Proper Shaw on Fridays.

Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg does a wonderful job and is a great local watering hole for me.

Positive 2017 Trends

Lager. Lager continues to make a push, and you’re seeing more of them executed well.

Coolships. Lots of places adding them or already have them in place. I think in time you’ll be seeing some super-interesting spontaneously fermented beer in the DMV.

Self distribution. Outstanding local beer, delivered hyper fresh and kept cold throughout its entire lifespan. No one is ever going to care more about the beer in question than the folks who made it.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

I continue to see less and less cask beer and almost no traditional cask beer. The cask beer that is out there is loaded with additions that are the very antithesis of what it’s meant to be. It just doesn’t seem to be something that consumers are interested in, but it’s personally disappointing.

Dessert beer. This may be more personal than anything, but it seems there’s an exceptional number of imperial stouts that are trying to be dessert. Chocolate Cake Beer. Apple Pie Beer. Churro Beer. I’m the minority, but it doesn’t work for me at all.

There are lots of kettle sours teeming with off flavors. Cereal grainy type finishes. DMS. Diacetyl. Baby vomit.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

I continue to be Team Lager (and Team IPA), and I look forward to more great versions of both. I hope more breweries who aspire to make hazy IPA take a look at the process involved and how to make the beer soft/flavorful and not just hazy. It’s easy to tell the difference.

Adam Reza II

Lead Brewer at Port City Brewing

Favorite New Local Beer

Atlas Brew Works’ Blood Orange Gose. For me, it’s as simple as this beer being 4.4% ABV. It’s super easy to drink on any occasion. It has a nice balance of sour to saltiness, and it’s not over the top like some goses on the market.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Crux Pilz out of Bend, Oregon. It’s a clean, balanced lager with lots of complexity that keeps you going back for more than one. I’m really glad to see these guys distributing in our market now.

Favorite Port City Beers

Besides every single beer in our Lager Series, I’m really happy about Integral IPA becoming a flagship. It’s different from the other IPAs we’ve done in the past. It’s aroma focused, brewed with Mosaic and Simcoe extracts, generously dry hopped with Azacca and Pekko. Integral has recently been my go-to six-pack that I grab after work and take home to enjoy.

Favorite Places to Drink

As a Bloomingdale resident, I pretty much exclusively drink at Boundary Stone, but to give someone else a shout out this year, I recently started going to Franklin Hall on Florida Avenue. They have a spacious bar with a laid back vibe and a great tap list.

Positive 2017 Trend

I feel like I saw a lot of lagers on the market, and I was happy about that. There’s a lot of quality pilsners being produced, like Brau Pils, and I like that breweries are focusing on more traditional styles rather than gimmicks.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

I just hope to see everyone keep their quality up and keep making a consistent product so that we can put up a fight against the big guys.

ALSO, MORE LAGERS.

Daniel Vilarrubi

Head Brewer at Atlas Brew Works

Best New Local Beer

Hellbender’s Brett? Present series was great, specifically the peach iteration. I see a lot of breweries go overboard with fruit additions to the point where I may as well drink juice. Brett? Present with peaches was more restrained, allowing the peach to complement the beer, rather than overwhelm it.

Integral IPA from Port City was also a solid release this year. It had great hop character without being overbearing.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

The Slow Pour Pilsner from Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Denver. It’s nothing wild, just a really fantastic German style pils. I’m pretty sure every brewer at Great American Beer Fest stopped by the brewery to try it

Favorite Atlas Beers

That’s a tough question. Atlas got a little ambitious with new releases in 2017. I really loved our new imperial stout, Tomb Essence. The Blood Orange Gose was a huge hit in our taproom, though, and you can expect to see a lot more of it in the market next year. Honorable mentions go to Ugly and Stoned (stone fruit sour made with ugly produce), Double Dance of Days (double IPA), and Solar Farm (farmhouse IPA).

Favorite Place to Drink

Locally, I’ve been going to Roofers Union, Boundary Stone, and The Pug. All of them have great beer selections featuring local breweries. Jack Rose has also been a killer spot for beers and cocktails.

Positive 2017 Trends

I saw a lot of consumers taking an active interest in the local brewing industry. The DC Brewers Guild opened up membership to enthusiasts outside of the industry, and the response was great. We even had a lot of enthusiast members show up to the all-members meeting this year.

Anecdotally, I’ve also gotten into plenty of conversations in bars about everything from the brewing process to legislative happenings in our area (particularly about HB 1283 in Maryland).

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

I feel like craft beer is losing its subtlety. I see a lot of breweries trying to put out the hoppiest IPA, the sourest sour, barrel-aged beers that taste like straight bourbon, or the most potent chocolate/coffee/coconut/vanilla/caramel/peanut butter stout.

I’m okay with IPAs, sours, and chocolate (or whatever) stouts. There’s certainly a place for those beers, but usually I’m looking for something I can have a couple pints of; something that won’t burn my throat or corrode the enamel off my teeth.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

More drinkable beers. Not necessarily session beers or traditional styles but beers that won’t wreck your palate for days after drinking one pint. It seems like a big ask of today’s craft industry but one can always hope (and wish).

Drew McCormick

Beer Director at Pizzeria Paradiso

Best New Local Beers

Solace Brewing’s Tree Zero. Light, crisp, and dry-hopped with Falconer’s Flight. YUM! In the era of hoppy lagers, this beer gives the style a tropical, floral boost.

I’ve had the pleasure of trying many a beer from RAR but their Country Ride continues to be my favorite. It’s crisp, easy to drink, perfectly hopped, and an amazing accompaniment to just about anything!

We’ve recently started working with Diamondback more, and their Order & Chaos has been a standout for me. This collaboration with Order & Chaos Coffee is a cold brew coffee stout that’s roasty, slightly nutty, and perfect for a cool day.

On the Virginia side of things, the guys at Reason Beer are making some really delicious beers. Each one is perfectly balanced and clean. My personal favorite is their Black, where tropical hop aromas meld perfectly with roasty malts. I’ve always had a soft spot for black IPAs and all things roasty and hoppy. Perhaps someday they’ll find fame commiserate with that of our New England-style IPAs.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

The last beer I drank that left me truly in awe and foot-stompingly demanding another was Upland’s floral, tart, and dry Revive. The pineapple and chamomile left me puzzling what my taste buds were experiencing. I’ve had it a few times since my first palate-awing moment at ANXO during their Craft Brewers’ Conference event, and the chamomile still makes me swoon.

On a recent trip to Connecticut to visit the beautiful and totally awe-inspiring home of the world-famous importers, B. United, I had the pleasure of trying a sample of Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil directly from the tank it was shipped to the U.S. in, and it revived my love for this beer! We’ve since had it on cask at our Dupont location and again, and I’ve fallen in love with the roasty, thick, rich, viscous, and delightful brew!

In the name of 16oz IPA cans, the recently canned Nebuchadnezzar from Omnipollo boasts a gorgeous can with a black, power move cap, and goes to show the delightful treats that can come from the scaling up of a homebrew recipe. Its citrus skin bitterness with a bitter dry finish leaves you wanting another.

On a recent trip back to the best land in all of the lands, Maine, I had the pleasure of trying Maine Beer Co.’s Post Ride Snack. I know it was made with the intention of being consumed after a laborious bicycle ride, but I found myself wanting this beer all the time! Grassy, piney, and tropical fruity: This session IPA truly satisfies.

Favorite Pizzeria Paradiso Collab

Denizens and Pizzeria Paradiso’s The Gruit Made Me Do It! Oh, what a joy to see a gruit come to fruition – and be delicious, to boot! (In my totally unbiased opinion.)

First of all, the collaboration itself was exciting – and a thing we had been talking with Denizens about for quite some time. Secondly, it has been oh-so-satisfying to watch apprehension on a customer’s face at the mention of a gruit transition to a smile and sometimes even a second helping!

Favorite Place to Drink

Our friends at Right Proper always have something delicious to offer, all with a comfortable bar to encourage true relaxation. When I find myself in my home neighborhood, I enjoy popping into Suns Cinema – occasionally for a movie but more often for a post-viewing Bell’s Two Hearted.

And when I’m feeling like a glass of wine – shh, don’t tell – I’ll make my way to Tail Up Goat or the Red Hen. Both boast killer wine menus, killer food, and killer service!

Positive 2017 Trends

Canning! While it still feels strange to me to see Belgian beer in cans, I’m loving the canning of so many other styles. What better way to ensure total light blocking? And as an added bonus: portability!

I’m interested to see where we go with collaborations. From Stone’s Punk in Drublic collaboration with NOFX to Ommegang’s famous “Game of Thrones” beers to Dogfish Head’s Pennsylvania Tuxedo collaboration with Woolrich, I love to see craft beer seeping into other markets, and to see other professions interested in craft beer and associating their name and brand with a particular beer. The more people drinking delicious craft, the better I say! The intellectual merging of brewers and those of other professions is an interesting concept and one I am excited to watch unfold.

I am loving the artwork that we’re seeing on labels more and more these days, from the mice of Off Color Brewing to the extraterrestrial, post-apocalyptic nomads of Graft to the repetitive, mesmerizing patterns of Stillwater and Aslin. I believe beer is meant to be fun and relaxing and enjoyable, and what better way to kick off this experience than with some gorgeous artwork that causes you to smile, think, ponder, or even evokes memories of another time?

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

The constant desire for something new. Sometimes I find myself craving the old stand-bys but the market seems to be calling for something new all the time. While craft beer lends itself to innovation and constantly pushing boundaries, this need for something new can leave the old stand-bys in the dust.

The interesting note here is the revival of old styles such as goses – and yes, even gruits – that have become “new” again. Just like the revival of the choker necklace!

2018 Hopes and Wishes

I’m intrigued to see where the conversation goes surrounding brewery ownership and the idea of independent craft. As you may know, Paradiso recently made the decision to carry only independent craft beer as defined by the Brewer’s Association. While this may be the best fit for us and what I believe to be the right thing to do, I am interested to see where the industry takes us and how individual breweries tackle the obstacles ahead.

A hope for every year, including 2018, is for more women in the industry! As I continue my own education into the history of beer, I find myself drawn to the alewives of times past – and the idea of a revival of women in beer!

Andrew Kelley

Co-Founder of Aslin Beer Co.

Favorite Local Beers

It is a toss-up between Ocelot’s Sunnyside Dweller and Crooked Run’s Cruise Control. At Aslin, we drink a lot of IPA, stout, and kettle sours, so when I go out, I drink a lot of lagers. Ocelot and Crooked Run are two of my favorite breweries in the area, so Cruise Control and Sunnyside are what I choose to drink when I visit. Both of them are clean, well-balanced, and have a nice hop presence.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

This year, I was turned on to FOAM in Vermont, and they have a wide array of beers that I have really enjoyed. Their IPAs and sours have been very good, and I am excited to try more from them in the future.

Favorite Aslin Beer

2017 was a real roller coaster year for Aslin, partly due to some issue we had with our new brewhouse, which affected some of our beers early on. I wouldn’t say there is a single beer that I am most proud of, because we have dialed in all our beers to be the most consistent we have ever been.

But if I had to choose one, I would say Never A Bride was a real stand out for me. Never A Bride is an easy-drinking, yet complex, petite saison that we ferment on our house saison yeast, which is a blend of French and Belgian saison yeast strains.

Favorite Place to Drink

Jimmy’s in Old Town Herndon. We secretly give them some of our beer from time to time, so naturally we go there a lot. They have a great dive-bar food selection, PBR, and sometimes our beer. That is a win-win for all.

Positive 2017 Trend

In my opinion, the best trend of 2017 had to be the increased quality of Virginia beer. Overall, I think Virginia has some of the best beer in the country, and it is only going to get better as we add new breweries and the current breweries start to gain more recognition across the country.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trend

The beer forums have been getting worse each year. My perspective is to enjoy the beers that you enjoy drinking and stop judging or chastising other for liking different beer.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

Continued growth in quality of beer in parallel with consumer education. There are a lot of consumers who have not made the switch to craft beer and collectively we all need to be at our best to convert non-craft beer drinkers.

Nathan Zeender

Head Brewer at Right Proper Brewing

Best Non-Local Beer

Jack’s Abby House Lager in 16oz six-packs. Everything I am looking for and supremely drinkable.

Favorite Right Proper Beers

We did a whole series of beers in partnership with local wineries using fresh pressed juice, must, and even pomace that I have been very excited about and that reconnected me with my first love, which is wine with genuine charm and character.

Favorite Place to Drink

Town Center Market in Riverdale, Maryland. Trainspotting, honestly priced beers, the charms of PG County…

I also really enjoyed spending time at Triple Crossing’s production brewery tasting room in Richmond.

Positive 2017 Trend

More support of small distributors.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

Beers with distinction and personalities, and also diversity.

Greg Engert

Beer Director at ChurchKey, Bluejacket, and the rest of NRG

Best Local Beer

Our local scene continues to evolve and impress, with a mix of exciting newcomers and existing brewers that are really hitting their stride.

The hop-forward offerings from Diamondback and Goonda Beersmiths have been consistently excellent, and we’ve loved being able to focus on so many amazing Maryland craft brewers up at Owen’s Ordinary. (Burley Oak and RAR just keep getting better and better, as well.)

The beers Tony Ammendolia has been producing, from classic styles to modern juice bombs, at Final Gravity in Richmond are superb, and as hand-crafted as they come (in 2-barrel batches!).

I’ve been loving the fruited mixed-fermentation beers coming out of Right Proper’s production facility too, and am so glad that they’ve gone in this direction, as their base beers are so well suited to fruits of all kinds.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

I got to travel to Franconia over the summer, and to taste the storied Kellerbiers of the region direct from the source, which was transformative. I’ve long adored the Monchsambacher Lagerbier, from Brauerei Zehendner, and loved serving gravity kegs of this beer at Snallygaster annually, but I was astonished how such a delicious import could become incomparable when served in the courtyard of the brewery itself.  The same could be said for the ungespundetes lagerbier from Löwenbräu Buttenheim.

De Ranke Simplex has been the low-ABV version of XX Bitter I’ve long dreamed about, and we are hoping production amps up so that The Sovereign can add this to their draft offering with consistency. (this would complete the finest one-two session beer punch around when poured alongside De la Senne Taras Boulba.)

In the US, any and all of the lagers produced by Suarez Family Brewery, in the Hudson River Valley, have been outstanding. Dan is a true student of craft beer, and his constant consideration of nuance continues to pay off in his collection of remarkable, little brews.

I’ve also loved the beers from FOAM Brewers (Burlington, VT), as well as from Birds Fly South (Greenville, SC), and far too many more to list.

Favorite Bluejacket Beers

I am very happy with how we were able to really dial in our IPA offerings in 2017 at Bluejacket. We really figured out how to get Mosaic to give us the exact kind of vibrant, fresh citrus complexity we had been after with Turning Road (by also taming the more dank, green qualities for which Mosaic can also be known), and we applied some of these new techniques to our double IPAs, with Full Fathom Five, The Rainbow, and Lazy Jane being standouts for me. I cannot wait to start canning these brews at Bluejacket in the new year.

Our new Director of Brewing Operations, Ro Guenzel, who came on board in 2017, has been instrumental in the work with our hoppy brews. He’s also made an immediate impact on our real ale program, as well as on our lagers. The traditional British cask ales we pour day-in-and-day-out at the brewery have never tasted better, while delicious, standby lagers, like Slingshot, have been joined by newer offerings, like For the Company, our throwback Munich-style Helles that is the picture of beautifully balanced subtlety.

Favorite Place to Drink

The beer gardens of the aforementioned Franconian countryside are pretty unbeatable as far as places to drink beer.

I loved sharing beers with Shaun Hill at Hill Farmstead, and there are few places more perfect to drink some of the finest beers produced stateside than Greensboro, Vermont in the summer.

Positive 2017 Trends

I have loved the move toward craft-brewed lagers over the past couple of years, particularly when some of the more accomplished brewers around have turned full attention to the style.

I continue to love many of the hazy, juicy hop-forward beers from specific brewers, and love that these producers are looking to keep many of their standard hoppy offerings at lower ABVs. Trillium and The Veil, for instance, have continued to include some sub-6% hop bombs in their arsenals, which are far more forgiving during a longer session of beer drinking.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trend

While I understand the need of many of the larger US craft brewers to compete with the global-industrial brewers for market share, in addition to competing with the smaller US craft brewers, I don’t love the trend of creating a lower-priced blond lager in an effort to capture some of the sales afforded to imports like Modelo Especial, and old-school regional American offerings like Narragansett. It seems to shift the scale a bit too far the initial flavor-driven ideals of craft, and is reminiscent of the cider-tea-malternative introductions made by craft brewers to maintain market share in the past. What is most surprising is how many more national and regional brewers seem willing to take this plunge. Or need to take this plunge. Or both.

Julie Verratti & Jeff Ramirez

Business Development & Head Brewer at Denizens Brewing

Best Local Beer

Jeff: About six months ago, I picked up Atlas Brew Works’ Ponzi IPA at the package store after not having had it in a while. I really enjoyed it, and now it’s a staple on my list whenever I’m grabbing beer.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Julie: My all-time favorite out-of-town beer is Little Brett by Allagash. It’s perfect for any activity or any meal, and I especially enjoy the low ABV. It’s fruity, slightly funky, and very well balanced. I hope they start making this beer all the time.

Favorite Denizens Beer

Jeff: I would have to say our Avo Ruby, which is an Old Ale that we released this year. We used ruby port barrels to age it, and pitched it with a small amount of Brett. This combination created a unique and true-to-style flavor profile for an old ale, and I was very happy with the result.

Favorite Place to Drink

Jeff: DC Reynolds is one of my favorite places to drink. It’s relaxing and welcoming atmosphere makes for a great place to settle in for a drinking session. The other thing I like about them is that they support a lot of local craft breweries. Watch out for that BOGO drink deal: It’s a blessing and a curse.

Positive 2017 Trends

Jeff: I like seeing that breweries of all levels are focusing a lot more on quality control and quality assurance for their beer, especially in packaged format. Having these programs helps the industry overall and really pushes craft beer forward.

Julie: I thoroughly enjoyed all the great beer journalism put out this year. From Liz Murphy at Naptown Pint writing about politics and beer in Maryland, to Phil Runco writing fantastic long form pieces on the people behind the breweries in our community, to DC Beer writers keeping us updated about all the local beer focused events, to Good Beer Hunting putting out content on a national/international level. I’ve learned so much from these sources and others, and it has been a joy to read and listen to them. I can’t wait to see what they write about in 2018!

Less-Desirable 2017 Trend

Julie: If we are talking about 2017, then I definitely need to bring up the 2017 Annapolis legislative session. Breweries in Maryland got really screwed this year by some backroom dealing, and it put a stain on the great beer being brewed in our state.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

Julie: I don’t think it’s a secret that I would like to see some legislative changes happen in Maryland this year to improve the state of the beer industry. The laws need to change if we want to grow the economy, support our local small businesses, and allow consumers to win at the end of the day. If you live in Maryland and care about locally produced beer, then you should be engaging with your local state officials on why improving the legal landscape for breweries is important to you.

Mike Van Hall

Creative Director of Stillwater Artisanal

Best New Local Beers

Right Proper’s Cheree, Cheree was my favorite new local beer this year. I’m a sucker for actual fruit zing in beer, and cherry always seems to be the hardest flavor to nail. The NE DC foeder funk brought it all together so nicely.

The late dark horse candidate for favorite is that fine Dunkel that Port City dropped a couple weeks ago. It had all the right roasty smoothness that I want in a giant mug of cold-weather beer. I love how much hype it got, too – the excitement people showed for a dark lager is amazing considering we continue to live in a world of celebritized IPAs.

Also, Old Westminster Pet Nat Grüner Veltliner. It’s a local wine – I don’t care if it’s not beer. Those kids in Maryland are doing surprising stuff with their grapes. And anyway, dirty wine (or orange wine) (or non-intervention wine) (or skin-contact wine) (whatever) is better than beer.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

There are so many great beers right now, it is hard to pick a general new favorite. But the most interesting beer I had all year was from Barreled Souls. It was their Space Gose made with gazpacho. I believe it was called Gosespacho. It really tasted like gazpacho and, not only that, it was very good.

Favorite Stillwater Beer

We don’t really think of beer as our main product necessarily: We create art projects with a liquid component that is beer. This past year, we pushed ourselves very hard to put out big ideas, some of which are still playing out.

So, in that context, my favorite Stillwater idea in 2017 was Shoegaze. The moment was right for people to accept the underlying concepts and, even though Brian and I were coming at it from way different places, the blend of our thoughts resonated with people. If you put Shoegaze alongside everything else we did in 2017, it was the oddball in a lot of ways, so that makes it even more satisfying.

Favorite Place to Drink

The Salt Line.

Best and Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

I’m combining best and worst trends into one answer. The growth and hype around everything beer, as well as the ridiculousness coming from some breweries, has altered the beer world so much, I don’t see any trends that are solely within beer. It is all simply a reflection of culture at large. With few exceptions, the beer world has become a chase after the traps of late capitalism. It is not unique to beer, it is societal.

I read some snark that breweries can now be considered innovative if they can make five IPAs – which is a pretty accurate snark in my mind – but ultimately that misses the point of what is going on in beer. Beer is flush with cash and getting rid of its crusty old skin on the way to becoming something less exclusive than what it has been during the last 10 years or so. There are still some ugly bits and lots of new parasites, but the results of this current stage of development will make the beer world easier to embrace in a casual way. A five-IPA brewery is the perfect gateway for some people.

The changes also mean everything will be a little less special. Successful breweries realize this and they will find a way to be the right kind of special to their community. That requires more than just being a seller of good beer. Success will come because they are able to provide an experience that is meaningful. That’ll be a good trend.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

I hope people will just embrace hazy IPAs as a legit style and stop all the sass. Then we can all move on to the next hated, overhyped beer style, and I can enjoy watching everyone argue about the downfall of beer while I also enjoy an innovative flavor bonanza.

Ben Little

Beer Curator at White Rabbit Gastropub

Best New Local Beer

UNION Craft and Stillwater’s Dust Rings. Obviously, lupulin powder has been at the forefront of a pretty massive trend this year. I think that a lot of folks looked at it as a “cheat button” of sorts, in that if you add it, the beer will automatically be great. The fact is that Lupulin Powder isn’t that. It’s a different beast than traditional hop pellets, and it requires quite a bit of thought, skill, and finesse to use. The way that the hops (both pellet and powder) were integrated into this kettle sour were a work of art.

Also, the entire Lager Series from Port City.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Maine Beer Company’s Dinner.  Not new, I know, but new to me. I love a good hazy DIPA, but this beer blew me away. It definitely had a level of haze, but it was obviously from an extensive use of hops. As Maine does with most of their beers, this was a focus in simplicity and beauty.  Perfectly balanced and crafted.

Favorite Manor Hill Beer

Manor Hill’s Hidden Hopyard 8. This was a bittersweet beer for me, as it was the last that I had a hand in at Manor Hill. I was there for the brew, but the folks left behind executed the recipe and it turned out great. It’s always a great feeling when your vision ends up in the glass just as dreamt up. It was my first time playing with Comet hops on a large scale, and I just fell in love with them.

Favorite Place to Drink

White Rabbit Gastropub. I know that this is biased, but as I am getting my next brewery running, I was approached by a couple of friends who were opening a true craft beer bar and wanted to know if I was interested in managing their beer list. I hadn’t worked on that side of the industry, so I went and checked it out. After seeing what they had going on and what their vision was, it was a no-brainer to sign on. We’ve been able to curate a list that we are proud of everyday in such a fun and unique environment.

Positive 2017 Trends

I’m starting to see quite a few folks find their way back to well-made styles. Of course, everyone is lining up for haze bombs and “juice,” but I also see a growing stream of sales in just plain good beer. I do think that the NE IPA has sort of opened people eyes that beer that isn’t crystal clear has a place in this market. Folks are making unfiltered lagers, and they’re often beautiful and delicious.

Also, I see the drinking public as a whole getting more educated and showing that with their buying power. Not every brewery makes great beer, and just because it’s local doesn’t mean it’s good. The more support that we give to inferior product, the more the producers of said product see no need to change. I hope that folks keep learning and exploring. And most importantly voicing their opinions with where they spend their money.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

Breweries making hazy beers because it’s the trend. There are so many breweries making really bad beer because they see it selling for someone else. They’re diverting from what they do best for a piece of the market. When you make a beer that isn’t one that you love or believe in, then it will show in the final product. Often, brewing these beers takes you away from the principles that you were taught to make fundamentally good beer.  More often than not, these beers aren’t very shelf stable, so any little factor that is off will be amplified much more than folks realize.  Also, post-fermentation fruit additions scare the crap out of me – especially in packaged beer.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

Bars who are trying to build and grow their craft beer program, invest in it. Clean your lines.  Have the necessary means to produce beer clean glassware. Train your staff. Make your purchasing decisions based on the quality of the beer that you’re pouring, not the price of the keg or relationship with any representative.  Pay attention to the overall picture of what you have on tap, not just loading it up with IPAs because “that’s what sells.” Breweries rely on you to pour beer as the brewery intended.  t’s a true commitment. But if you make it, folks will be exceedingly loyal to you on many levels.

And more Zwickelbier.

Dave Coleman

Co-Founder of 3 Stars Brewing

Best Local Beers

I’m really digging the meads coming out of Charm City Meadworks – super approachable with a good amount of complexity and differentiated product.

I’m also digging on the IPAs coming out of Ocelot. Of course, our rotating and one-off DIPAs are my jam as well – just can’t get enough.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Double IPAs from LIC Beer Project and Interboro. There’s a really creative and fun approach to what they are doing. Both breweries have a unique position and vision within their market and their hop-forward offerings are amongst the best, in my opinion.

Favorite 3 Stars Beer

Technicolor Life. I’m sure you saw that one coming. This beer really captures the spirit of what we are trying to do here, and I really enjoyed explaining the concept and having discussions with colleagues and customers about this philosophy.

Favorite Place to Drink

I love drinking at the brewery. Who doesn’t like having a beer at work? But especially during our parties, where we get to share beers with our friends and guests.

Best 2017 Trend

I really like collaborations, especially when done right where you get multiple perspectives and input on the recipe and execution.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

I’m looking forward to building our expansion space and the additional beer hall space for guests. I’d just like to see our scene continue to grow and develop.

Ben Evans

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Hellbender Brewing

Best Local Beers

I didn’t get out much this year. Sam Puffenbarger over at DC Brau started up a technical brewers meeting earlier in the year where all the brewers in the area get together over beers and pizza to talk about technical aspects that will improve our craft, and I’ve gotten a chance to try some great local stuff that way.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

I do a bottle night with a few friends every month or so and share beers we can’t get around here. I’d say that the majority of the beers we bring to these are sours or aromatic IPAs, but I’ve pulled a lot of inspiration and insight from these.

I took one vacation in 2017, and I visited our hop supplier out in St. Paul, Oregon for part of it. They let me and my wife ride 20 feet up on top of a hop picker while it harvested a massive field of Centennial hops, and the owners guided us through the entire process of stripping, drying and bailing hops for an entire Saturday. While meeting the farmers and other people responsible for getting those sticky hops from the fields of Oregon to our brewery, I also got to visit a lot of great Portland area breweries. Some of my favorites were Ancestry, Cascade, and Culmination. Trips like these are awesome because I get to exchange all kinds of information with other brewers, and I’m able to gain a vast amount of knowledge on special ingredients, hop combinations, and brewing practices that make me a better brewer.

Favorite Hellbender Beers

We run the Red Line Ale as an extended six-month seasonal (fall to winter) every year, and we decided to give it a slight makeover before it came back this fall, so we did a good deal of pilot batching in the off-season. The goal was to get a more pronounced hop flavor that would balance out the roasted and crystal malts. To accomplish this, we added a touch more dark crystal malt to the grain bill, and we switched out the hops up for a more balanced and exotic hop profile. We were primarily using Willamette and Centennial, but we wanted more of a balance of earth, citrus and some tropical fruit, so we took out nearly all the early additions and went with heavy whirlpool additions of TNT, Mosaic, and Chinook hops. The late additions kept the bitterness balanced, but added a lot of great hop flavor that fades to the caramel and toffee notes you’d expect in an American red ale. If you haven’t gotten a chance to drink a Red Line since it came back in September, give it a try.

I also think that the balance and aroma in our IPAs is better than ever. Expect to see a lot of highly aromatic DIPAs from us in 2018.

Favorite Places to Drink

Again, I don’t get out much, but luckily I live in a great neighborhood for beer and food options that are walkable. A few of my most frequent stops include the basement of Meridian Pint, Duffy’s, Glen’s Garden Market, The Midlands, The Good Silver, and Timber Pizza

Positive 2017 Trend

Breweries all over are stepping up their dry hopping game to get bigger hop aromas in their beers. I’d much rather see an arms race for the most aromatic beer than for the most bitter beer. 

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

Adding weird stuff to the mash. I could go on forever about this, but at the end of the day, I just don’t like it. 

2018 Hopes and Wishes

After self -distributing for most of 2017, we outgrew what we could do on our own, and we’re really excited to be working with a great new distributor, Madidus. Dealing with a bad distributor can be like dealing with the mafia, and I see a lot of breweries out there with terrible distribution contracts. I hope that increasing competition will force some distributors to become better companies or that they will cease to exist and thereby release good breweries from their stranglehold.
Also, it is possible to make a great IPA that’s not hazy. I hope more people realize that in 2018.

Allison Lange

Head Brewer at Old Ox Brewing

Best New Local Beer

Stillwater’s Shoegaze. Easy drinking, Bretty, hoppy beers are my jam.  This is my bucket list style.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

Allagash’s Hoppy Table Beer.  I want to drink this beer every day, all day.

Favorite Old Ox Beer

Mango Funky Face.  Clean sour with a hint of fruit.

Favorite Place to Drink

B Side. Charcuterie and carefully considered cocktails and beers might just constitute my perfect afternoon…

Nahem Simon

Beer Director at Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Best New Local Beer

I loved 3 Stars’ Trouble in Paradise, which when available I recommend to anyone as much as humanly possible. It’s tart and refreshing with a blast of tropical fruit.

I always look forward to the festive season to enjoy Atlas Brew Works’ Saison Des Fêtes, a dark saison that is just amazing. Also, Port City Tidings which is just a wheaty glass of all the Christmas yum.

Sinistral Brewing – a small brewpub who are putting out some amazing liquid –recently opened in Mannassas. It’s worth the trek out of the city. Hop on the train, and it is right across the station in the heart of the town. Their Porter is exquisite.

Also, any release from DC Brau is always awesome. Like the David Guetta of beer; anything they do is just pure gold.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

Everything being made by ‘Dr.’ Bill Sysak and his newly-opened brewery Wild Barrel in San Marcos is phenomenal, including Hipster Latte (full name: “Sorry, we are out of avocado toast, try our Hipster Latte, man-bun approved”). (That’s something BYT readers I’m sure can relate to). It’s brewed with lactose, palm sugar & a blend Mostra coffee.  All of their sour beers are beyond measure, especially the San Diego Vice with Pink Guava. Just bright and funky with a deep guava flavor.

From Maui Brewing, I fell in love with their Pelialoha Belgian Red Ale brewed with KonaRed® Coffee Fruit that imparts a slight tannic and tobacco-like dryness to a richly malty beer with a fruity roundness that I would drink for days.

And while not beer, the ciders of New York’s Graft Cidery from Kyle and Sara Sherrer are “beer-inspired” and simply phenomenal!

Favorite Jack Rose Collabs

We released our “Ryes of DC” Willett Rye Barrel collaboration with Right Proper, a Willett Rye Barrel-Aged Baron Corvo foeder-aged biere de garde. Nate Zeender affectionately dubbed it Baron Nahem, and it was amazing.

We are releasing our Willett Rye 3 Stars Barrel-Aged Madness on New Year’s Day, which stands to be amazing.  Also, just wait for 2018, we have a collaboration series with J. Wakefield which will stand to break the internet as we know it as it will be awesome times “infinity.”

Favorite Places to Drink

Beer-wise, I enjoy Boundary Stone, because it’s around the corner from home and everyone there is always great.

All the local taprooms are phenomenal: DC Brau, 3 Stars, Right Proper, Atlas Brew Works, Bluejacket… If traveling, I love The Lost Abbey’s tasting room.

Snallygaster is always fun, as is Brew at the Zoo for events, and Boulevardia when I can make it to KC in the summer.

If I’m not drinking beer, Maxwell DC to cleanse myself of malt with their amazing wine selection; also, Le Diplomate where wine accompanies any meal there, no matter what time I go.

Finally, anywhere with a great Old Fashioned, like Maydan or Service Bar.

Positive 2017 Trends

I think the Take Craft Back campaign was a really good wake up call reminding us that big beer is out to conquer the beer world.  While some might see it as futile, the message that it conveys is important. Craft breweries thrive in their independence and are a driving force in supplying jobs and feeding the economy, and that is threatened by the mass acquisitions of breweries, along with minimizing work forces by mechanizing production and producing once-local beers in production facilities that strive to produce mass quantities of beer that undercut the market cost.  The Brewers Association established their independent label for those breweries that are a part of the movement but some, like Flying Dog, who are not a part of the brewer’s Association, still fight the good fight and stand independent and pride themselves of growing as a company without big money coming in and mucking up the production passion and spirit.

Also, the desire for quality to be represented throughout beer festivals. Liquid Integrity developed a portable glass rinser which allows vendors to showcase their beer amongst other breweries by rinsing their glasses at any location; and as someone who has been at tons of festivals, not having to seek out a bottle of water, or having a brewery rinse out someone else’s beer with their own, allows me as a consumer to taste exactly what the brewery is offering.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

I’m not the biggest fan of New England-style IPAs.  Everyone seems to be doing one, and, while popular, I find them to leave a gritty film on the palate, which I can do without.

Also, somehow pumpkin beers are still around.  Let it go, people. Most of them taste like spice water with a hint of pumpkin.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

Breweries will continue to thrive independently from their own success. The breweries that just got into brewing because they had $100,000 and a homebrew kit and don’t try to educate themselves or increase their understanding of the intricacies of brewing will peter out, allowing the ones that do the work and have the passion to thrive and grow.

Barrett Lauer

Head Brewer at The District ChopHouse

Best Beers

The best beer of the year was the first light lager that I had on our long-awaited new draft system. My assistant Erich suggested and named the American Zwickel, a non-filtered and American-hopped lager. I helped a little with the hopping, but really helped with the consuming.

Also, the D.C. Beer Week collaboration Solidarity: Brett IPA was a true highlight this year for numerous reasons. The beer itself was outstanding thanks to the Right Proper team and bottling at 3 Stars.

I really enjoyed this year’s iteration of both the Cheque Please and our 20th Anniversary Edition: Inverted Jenny.

Favorite Place to Drink

Drinking a few lagers after work at Gordon Biersch 9th St. is always is a favorite.

Or a hydroflask of a seasonal on the MARC train home always hits the spot.

I also always love exploring Snallygaster’s amazing beer selection.

Positive 2017 Trends

Lagers becoming more popular, as well as some newer breweries producing classic styles.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

The unrestrained effort to add some weird food item to a beer.

Andrew Geffken

Co-Founder of Charm City Meadworks

Best New Local Beers

Oliver Brewing, Brewer’s Art, and UNION Craft paved the way for all Baltimore breweries, but the young guns are putting out some really unique beers at a pretty fast clip right now. Tim and Raul at Goonda Beersmiths are brewing at Peabody Heights, and now that it’s cold, I’m pretty excited for their imperial stout with maple syrup.

For a bunch of guys who I still don’t think are old enough to legally drink beer, Diamondback executed one of the more impressive transitions from contract brewing to their own facility. While their IPAs deservedly get the attention, they’re brewed a challenging array of other styles from goses to kellerbiers, and they seem to be settling into their zone down in Locust Point.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

All the fruit or vegetable sours from Benchtop Brewing in Norfolk. From peaches to sweet potatoes, Benchtop is putting it all into sours, but in an incredibly flavorful and balanced way that really works. My favorite from a late summer trip was Quick Pickle, a carrot cucumber gose that came across as full-flavored pickle juice and tasted great at the end of a long hot day.

Favorite Charm City Meads

Hive Mind – a sour cyser Graft Cidery collaboration with matcha, lemongrass and a bunch of other buzz-worthy ingredients – is my favorite this year. The Graft crew bring a really creative approach to their flavors and have a deep understanding of yeast that we were excited to explore with the intersection of mead and cider.

The general trend this year with our own products was making them more flavorful and balanced. I don’t have an individual favorite – I’m most excited about how much better they’ve all gotten over the course of the year. I look forward to experimenting more and continuing to turn up the flavor in our new taproom in Baltimore.

Favorite Place to Drink

Locally, Pizzeria Paradiso in Hyattsville. It’s walking distance from my house, and Drew McCormick is not holding back on this list. I’m confident it has the first full-page Shelton Brothers menu ever in Prince George’s county, in addition to a constantly rotating, fresh draft list. Anybody had a gruit recently?

More broadly speaking, everyone should spend a couple days in and around Portland Maine. The diversity of Portland’s beer, cider and mead industries, coupled with the food scene in a walkable sea-side city, is well worth the short days and cold weather. Watching the sunset in the Bissell Brothers taproom after an afternoon walking around lighthouses was just great.

Positive 2017 Trends

Not sweet cider. We now have European ciders, dry ciders like Shacksbury, the new funky Graft ciders, and will even have a second DC cidery when Supreme Core opens later this winter by the Arboretum.

On the retail side, ANXO illustrated the depth and breath of the cider industry by bringing in offerings from around the globe and helping change the one-dimensional perception of cider. Even if you don’t like cider, it’s worth a trip just to learn about the potential for cider, and if not, the beers are pretty good, too!

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

The same old events: Tap takeovers and dinners. They’re boring and dreaded by reps, and no amount of free swag can. Charm City Meadworks falls victim to this trend, but I don’t know the solution, and I’m hoping for an answer in the comments. Whether it’s partnering with local organizations (adopt this unbelievably cute dog, right now!) or paper airplane competitions, I’m looking for all of us to be as creative with events as we are with the products.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

More pilsners and lagers. I’d love to see more products like UNION craft’s Skipjack out there and to see how our great local scene starts to tackle some different styles.

David Delaplaine

Beer Director at Roofers Union

Best New Local Beers

Crooked Run Brewing. They’ve been around for a few years now, but Crooked Run began as a nano-brewery and were hard to keep around. However, since they’ve expanded to their larger facility in Sterling, I’ve once again become super enamored with them. The Raspberry Empress (a sour IPA) is a true stand out. The hops add a floral component and the raspberry a well-integrated tartness. I’m a very big fan!

Also, we just tapped it on Wednesday, but the Denizens Ill Cru (a sour quad with blackberry) is ridiculous. Many layers of complex godliness, strongly recommend!

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Well, I’ve always been a fan, but a few more distant breweries that I am super excited to see around DC include Almanac and Cascade. They make sours as well as anyone in the world.  When we hooked up the Almanac’s Lavender Honey Brett Saison, I had an out-of-body experience. I’m trying to resist the temptation to tap a collaboration between Cascade and Bruery that I hear amazing things about. (Check back in January).

Favorite Place to Drink

ANXO Cidery and Production Facility on Kennedy Street. Aside from being two blocks from my house, they have fantastic ciders (and guest beers) and fun snacks.  Unassuming (access is through the alley) and delicious!

Positive 2017 Trends

We have a ton of younger breweries around us that are starting to outgrow their core line-ups and expand into making some really interesting beers. When we opened a few years ago, I was super excited to suddenly have access to so many great local breweries, but at the time, you were seeing core styles for the most part, with a limited rarity here and there. It was less adventure over all, too.  I’m not saying this was a bad thing – I think this devotion to consistency was vital to their initial success.  But now that they are comfortable in their own skin, we see more and more risk taking (and all of it seems to turn out successfully somehow).

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

Beloved craft breweries selling to big conglomerate parent companies that are only bottom-line focused. Big conglomerates are fighting tooth and nail to make it harder and harder for the small up-and-coming breweries to succeed. It is absurd when you learn that Big Beer is purchasing hop contracts they have no use for just so they can make it hard on craft breweries to succeed or keep their product consistent.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

1. Can’t we all just get along? Big Beer, stop picking on the little guys! Work on making better beer if you are having trouble competing with small craft breweries. Don’t just try to strangle them out of the market. Take some of the “bigly” $$$ you’ll be getting from the Trump tax cuts for the rich (that sure won’t be helping the rest of us) and ease up on the little breweries that are actually making art in their facilities rather than the riced-down swill you come up with.

2. I would love to see beer written about by critics with the same emphasis they give to wine and cocktails. I find it disgusting when a new highly acclaimed restaurant makes zero effort on the beer list and its only selections are from macro breweries. If you take the time to divine a 20-page wine list, you should be able to put together a list of ten good craft beers that pair just as well with food (and often better). Critics, please do not let them skate by with paltry beer lists. Beer today has earned the right to be written about with the same sanctity as cocktails and wine.

Ben Clark

Brewmaster at Flying Dog Brewing

Best New Local Beers

Solace Brewing in Dulles, Virginia just opened this summer and is already cranking out some impressive IPAs.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Bale Breaker’s Topcutter IPA is the only beer I drink when I’m out at hop selection in Yakima every year. You have to have respect for fourth-generation hop farmers who converted one of their fields into a brewery.

Favorite Flying Dog Beer

2017 marked the 20th consecutive year we’ve brewed Snake Dog IPA. In that time, we’ve seen a shift from earthy hop profiles to more citrus-forward, so the decision to change up the hops in Snake Dog was unanimous across the brewery. We added Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe to tone down the upfront bitterness and add a layer of complex fruitiness. In my opinion, we preserved the soul of the beer and amplified the best parts.

Positive 2017 Trends

The tart/sour trend continues to grow, which I love because goses are a particularly great blank canvas for experimentation. In 2018, we’ll be playing with a variety of goses with ingredients like Meyer lemon, black currant, strawberry rhubarb, cucumber chili, dill pickle, and sourdough.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

There still seems to be a ton of consumer confusion with date codes, which is really frustrating. Freshness in the market is huge for us, and consumers should be just as empowered as brewers to know when their beer was made.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

Building off of the above, it would be great if all brewers could be more transparent with the way they date their beers.

That aside, I’m looking forward to continued experimentation with hops in 2018. We’re expanding our Single Hop series to include new processes, like a continuous dry hop, and new variations on products, like powders and extracts, to continue to push the IPA category.

Leon Harris

Head Brewer of Heroic Aleworks

Favorite New Local Beer

I would say my favorite local beer that I’ve had recently is Ornery’s Blackberry Gose. I’ve always enjoyed their goses, especially last year’s batch. Ferdinand McAdoo really put a new and interesting spin on an already fantastic beer.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

My favorite non-local beer – which I can’t seem to find anywhere but Colorado – is Luminoso by Funkwerks. It’s a nice, easy drinking sour ale that comes in around 5.5%. As you can tell, I really like sour beers.

However, I would have to give a very close second to Space Station Middle Finger by 3 Floyds. I’ve always liked their beers, but this one was really fantastic.

Favorite Heroic Aleworks Beer

This is kind of a hard question to answer because over the course of me being at Heroic Aleworks, I feel that I’ve improved the beers after every batch. The one I’m most proud of is a Maibock that I named Murdock the Merciless. This one I named after my son Murdock, and it turned out amazing. It was a little sweet, but also had a little spice to it. Very easy drinking and people loved it. I think that one is my favorite beer I’ve ever made.

Favorite Place to Drink

My favorite place to drink beer is anywhere where there are people who are having a good time – mainly, another brewery. There’s no one place I’d rather be more than another brewery. Like-minded people having a beer together? How could that be a bad thing?

Positive 2017 Trend

The top trend I saw this year was a breakout of really good gose beers at places like Ornery and UNION Craft. Shout-out to my brother Kevin Blodger – he’s got that down to a T. Same thing with Adrien Widman and Mike McCarthy over at Ocelot. Mike makes one hell of a beer, and their sours are always on point.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trend

I think the most annoying trend I saw this year was all of these NE IPA’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good IPA, hazy or not, but this trend just started to annoy me. Maybe I’m outside the loop, but I just wasn’t into it.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

My hopes and wishes are that this industry continues to grow. Beer is the life blood of the world, and it brings people together. I’m hoping to see a lot more breweries open up here soon. I also hope that Big Brother (AB InBev) doesn’t buy out another big time brewery. I hope the newer breweries have a good selection of beers on hand and that they taste great.

Overall, though, I hope that the people in the industry today, tomorrow, whenever, continue to push the envelope. Continue to push their boundaries and really start a trend that shakes up this industry!

Zachary Michel

Marketing Director at Hysteria Brewing

Best New Local Beers

Honestly, Peabody Heights and Goonda Beersmiths have been blowing me away as of late. I always knew they had the technical know-how to make a killer pils and other classic styles, but the releases these past few months have been knocking me out. Post, their imperial stout, is incredible. I could eat it with a fork. What I mean is it’s pretty big and rich. I love it. I also like that I can go there and get a six-pack of crushers or a big chewy stout or a juicy double IPA. I’m glad I can walk home from there.

Waverly Brewing has been a lot of fun to watch. It doesn’t hurt that my former homebrew sensei Tom works there. I went there while visiting accounts with our Sales Director and we nearly went sideways. Their Pils and Nitro Stout are out of this world and they continue to do a lot of fun one-offs too.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Some people might say I have “old man taste,” but those people would be wrong. Have you had Sierra’s Oktoberfest this year? It’s phenomenal.

I also had these couple of amazing ESBs, one by No-Li and the other by Conshohocken Row. I love the way well-done British- and German-style beers get so much character out of simple ingredients and great technique. I could drink beers like this all night and drive home too, which is a nice perk.

Favorite Hysteria Beers

All of them. Jordan’s been working nonstop to improve our recipes each time we brew.

The standout that he, our Sales Director Ty, and I have been enjoying most is our Darkest Hour Stout. Jordan really knocked this one out of the park. It’s really outstanding. 5.6% ABV with tons of chocolate character and a balanced roast. It drinks above it’s grade and is far and away one of my favorite stouts.

Mad Sun, our core IPA, has been taken up a notch each time it’s brewed. It’s a clear-ish, deep golden, unfiltered IPA with loads of citrus and floral hops balanced by a honeyed malt character. We’ve had a lot of this one.

Favorite Place to Drink

I love swinging by Nepenthe Homebrew and having a few with the guys there. Having been a homebrewer for years, I love talking shop and seeing what they’ve come up with lately. Plus, I’m excited to hear about the progress of their own brewery that’s under construction up in Hampden.

I’ve also enjoyed stopping by and watching the progress of Suspended Brewing in Pigtown. Going through this hell that is opening a brewery ourselves, it’s great to have friends to have a pint with and commiserate over the whole process. Josey’s been a friend for a long time, and they’re putting something really special together that everyone should be excited to see.

Positive 2017 Trends

There’s a lot to be thankful for in 2017. HB1283 saw the union of Maryland’s craft brewers and enthusiasts alike under a common cause. It was inspiring to see and a sign of growing strength in Maryland’s craft scene. I’ve also seen more and more local farmers growing crops for beer. We’ve used barley, hops, and fruit from across Maryland, and are looking forward to continuing to source more ingredients locally in 2018. It’s a lot of fun and really creates a true sense of place. I love seeing women and POC continuing to be more widely involved and accepted in the brewing community. There’s still a lot of room to grow on all these fronts, but the steps have to start somewhere.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

Turbid, hazy beers. Not that they can’t be delicious, many of them are. But I see so many being made it’s at the expense of other styles and even other types of IPA. It kind of pigeonholes craft beer into this place where all non-craft devotees see us as one-dimensional, when in reality there’s so much to enjoy.

Buyouts, particularly those that are less well known like that of Midwest Supplies and Northern Brewer. AB and the others are getting creative with how they get your money. Now, even homebrewers may be padding the pockets of big beer if they’re buying online.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

More lagers. Bring on the pils!

Curtis Gray

Beverage Director at City Tap House

Best New Local Beer

Originally founded in Leesburg in 2013, Crooked Run Brewing opened a new larger location in Sterling in 2017, and they are now able to send out a great selection of IPAs, sours, and esoteric offerings to a wider audience. Their New England-style IPAs are some of the tastiest I’ve found in the area for a style that can very often be hit or miss. I like that their small batch offerings are unique, bold and made consistently well, as well as having eye-catching packaging that sticks out on shelves.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

My favorite new-to-me out-of-market brewery has to be Night Shift Brewing in Everett, Massachusetts. During a trip to Boston this year, I spent considerable time and effort seeking out well-known beers from Treehouse, Trillium and others. However, day-to-day, my favorite beers inevitably came from Night Shift. From single-hop IPAs to fruited sours to basic everyday styles like a porter, across the board these were some of the most delicious beers of the trip.

Favorite Place to Drink

A brewery.  Any brewery.  At any brewery, you have the advantage of having staff that are knowledgeable and passionate about the product they serve.  You can get far more detailed answers to every one of your questions than is possible at a bar or restaurant with a constantly rotating selection. You also have the added advantage of being able to sample pilot brews, brewery exclusives, and more that you otherwise will never be able to try outside of the brewery. And breweries smell awesome.

Positive 2017 Trends

Sours. I am a relatively recent convert to sours, and over the past year I have sampled many that I may have turned my nose up to in years past.  Now, I feel as though this style can hit a variety of different palates and when they are done well, are some of the most nuanced and flavorful beers out there.  I thoroughly enjoy tasting everyone’s attempts at making sours, even if they don’t quite hit the mark because I know that they put a great deal of thought, time and effort into producing them.  From kettle-soured beers, to long barrel-aged fermentations with wild and funky yeasts, I could drink these every day.

Less-Desirable 2017 Trends

Corporate buy-outs. One of the weirdest and most unexpected beer things this year was the AB-InBev purchase of Wicked Weed. On one day, these beers were held in extremely high regard, with people relentlessly seeking out and paying tons of money per bottle.  The next day, they announced that they had been acquired by AB-InBev and social media was flooded with videos of fans pouring their beers down the drain. While I understand the belief that independent craft beer is a great thing, the flip side is this buyout gives Wicked Weed access to better ingredients and logistics, which should result in the same and new high quality beers hitting more markets and consumers. It’s a conundrum without an easy answer for anyone involved.

2018 Hopes and Wishes

With well over 5,000 breweries operating in the US now, I hope to see those that are truly making great and delicious beers with love and care and passion, continue to be successful.  And I similarly hope that those that are not either strive to improve their product, or eventually stop taking up space on shelves and draft lines.  Many brewers think that because they home-brewed, or worked as a shift brewer at one point, or hated their job as tech executive, that they can brew a batch of beer and be successful.  I hope that those people realize that making that batch of beer delicious, and then repeating the process consistently over and over is the path to success.

Most photography courtesy of Clarissa Villondo.

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