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What beers did you love drinking in 2018?

That’s what I wanted to ask the people who make (or sell) my own favorite beers. So, I reached 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 2018 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 or beyond, 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 consume 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 it could even be the cooler of a restaurant.

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 2019?

What emerges from these answers is a great snapshot of where the DC-area beer scene finds itself at the end of 2018. They also features some fantastic recommendations for beers to seek out, places to visit, and styles to reconsider.

Jeff Hancock

Co-Founder & Brewmaster at DC Brau

Best New Local Beer

Well, this sounds easy – not.

I’ve had some great beers during the year and some not so great.

One that stood outa in a sea of hazy offerings is Prestige Worldwide IPA by Solace Brewing in Sterling, Virginia. In addition to the killer name, pronounced flavors of pineapple, lemon zest, lime, citrus fruits are delivered from some choice New Zealand hop varieties. The sub-7% ABV also helps if your looking to have more than a couple.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

I’m going with a limited offering from DC Brau’s Baltimore brethren to the north: UNION Craft Brewing’s Rough Draughts: Rauchbier. My good friend for many years, Brewmaster Kevin Blodger delivers again with a very traditional German-style Rauchbier. It has all the elements of the classic. A heavy aroma of beechwood-smoked malts welcomes the pallet with accessible, yet moderate levels of smoke. There’s a solid malt backbone and a small kiss of noble hops. It all adds up to one tasty smoked lager.

Favorite DC Brau Beers

Well, we’ve produced a lot of tasty beers over the course of 2018. I can’ list just one, so I’m going to list two – one new and one improved.

First is a new offering that we specifically brewed for barrel aging called Your Pet Cow. YPC was made in collaboration with Jameson, as DC Brau was a 2018 Caskmates partner. YPC is an Imperial  Breakfast / Milk Stout that was aged in barrels for three months and has an amazing, creamy mouthfeel due to the copious amounts of lactose. That smoothness is further accentuated with the multi-month soak in the Jameson barrels. Combined with the skillful use of roasted malts, this beer drinks like a f***ing champ.

The beer that continues to get dialed in year after year is DC Brau’s Oktoberfest Lager. Like most beers, there is always room for perpetual improvement if the brewmaster (me) has the patience to invest year over year. Continue to refine and adjust, and the results will speak for themselves.

This lager started out with a very complex malt bill and a hopping rate slightly higher than tradition. But the beer has evolved into a much simpler malt bill and more traditional hopping rates. With a little help from technology, we’re able to mimic old word mashing techniques that really showcase the malt and clean yeast character. It’s definitely my favorite seasonal – I’ve toyed with brewing it semi-regularly so I can feed my Oktoberfest fix throughout the year.

Favorite Places to Drink

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this bar last year, but I don’t care, I’m going to mention it again: Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar on H St. NE is where I like to take in a proper session. It has everything from Euro lagers to U.S. hazy IPAs, and everything in between. The decor –crushed, purple velvet, concert posters from past shows, and heavy metal on rotation– holds a sweet spot in my drinking heart.

Runner up would be another watering hole on H St. NE: The Queen Vic. The “ ic,” as its affectionally referred to, is a classic English-inspired pub that only carries beer from the British Isles. Having been formally trained on English brewing techniques, it also holds a special place in my heart, as they carry a lot of tasty – some rare, some not-so-rare – offerings from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Always great company, great beer, and great imported beer.

Positive 2018 Trend

More hazy IPAs and unfiltered lagers.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

Hard seltzer.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

I’d love to see more traditional brewed lagers and a return back to “clear beer” being en vogue. I appreciate the haze craze, but when did filtered and clear beer become a bad thing? Filter your beer, people! There are those of us in the industry that still welcome a properly filtered beer.

Kevin Blodger

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at UNION Craft

Best Local Beer

We did a collab with Oliver’s earlier this year or late last year (it all blends together) – a take on an old world Mild that we creatively named XX Olde World Mild. The original beer was really nice, but Steve [Jones] threw some in bourbon barrels and it became this beautiful, rich beer full of vanilla and wood and chocolate. Just a really pretty beer – I’m really happy with how it turned out.

There is so much great beer in the area, so it’s hard to list a bunch, but if you make good beer in the DMV, you know who you are.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

The night the Caps advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, I popped a bottle of Banish the Ghosts by Virginia Beer Company that one of the owners gave me earlier in the year. It was fantastic and sticks with me because the Caps were advancing for the first time since ‘98.

Also new to me this year was Bibo Pils from Creature Comforts. Love that beer

Favorite UNION Craft Beers

This year, we started the Rough Draughts series, which allowed us to do some small stuff. The two I did were a Brut IPA and a Rauchbier, and I enjoyed them both because I geek out on process, and both the beers really rely on process to keep them true to style.

But what I’m really proud of are the beers my brew team put out in the series. Zandy Zeiser and Dean Hamilton are my guys running the kettles at brewery most days, and they put out some great beers. Dean did a Citra sour that graduated from Rough Drafts to a production run with a can release. Zandy did a Helles lager with Azacca hops that was so beautiful and drinkable with a great hop character. And Lynn Pronobis, who handles operations here, brewed a dark sour ale for this winter that is perfect for a cold night and drinks so great.

I’m really excited to see what the team puts out in 2019

Favorite Place to Drink

I participated in the inaugural Fresh Fest in Pittsburgh – the first beer festival to ever focus on black-owned breweries and brewers. It was amazing. I am so glad I was able to be a part of it, and I’ll be back next year. (It’s on August 10; everyone should come).

It always makes me feel great to drink my beer at Max’s here in Baltimore.

And this year in Denver, I really enjoyed drinking out in the beer garden at Ratio. The sun was out, their Pils was delicious, and I had eaten some edibles, so it was a perfect day

Positive 2018 Trend

I like the Brut IPAS. I like that people are continuing to brew lagers. And I love that independent brewers are raising their voices to fight against big beer and lobbyists trying to keep us down.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

I hope that people stop ticking and start enjoying good beer. Be it super rare or one you pull off the shelf, just enjoy it for what it is… beer.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

I hope for a safe happy 2019 for everyone I love and care about, and an OK year for those I don’t.


Van Carney

Co-Founder & Brewer at Pen Druid Brewing

Best Local Beer

I thought that the Bluejacket Helles lager For The Company was balanced, well made, and delicious.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

We were in Belgium in September and visited Raf at Bokkereyder and tried some wonderful fruited Lambics. We also visited our friends Tom and Wim at Antidoot, helped them harvest pinot noir grapes and drank their wonderful beers, ciders, and natural wine. EVERYONE MUST GO.

Also Summer Friend, which is a can-conditioned Saison from Forest and Main brewery in Ambler, Pennsylvania, was fantastic.

Favorite Pen Druid Craft Beer

Traditional spontaneous beer is our passion and focus. We just bottled our three-year blend of traditional Spontaneous, and we are very excited about it. We look forward to fruiting our Spontaneous next summer with a variety of local fruits.

Favorite Places to Drink

The Royal Oak in London. Cask ale heaven. It’s a Harvey’s pub and you’ll never have a better mild in your life.

Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto. Everything they do is made with love and is delicious. They are lovely human beings, all of them. Attention to technical lager production. This has been going on for a few years, but brewers across the country are continuing to embrace the nuance and skill required to produce mellow, delicious lagers, and the drinking populace will benefit from that.

Positive 2018 Trend

Attention to technical lager production. This has been going on for a few years, but brewers across the country are continuing to embrace the nuance and skill required to produce mellow, delicious lagers and the drinking populace will benefit from that.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

This is hardly a new phenomenon, but using a cell phone to connect with beer. We don’t have Wi-Fi in our brewery tasting room, and we find it genuinely helps people connect with each other and have worthwhile discussions about the beer and whatever else the human imagination might muster. Here’s to Wi-Fi-less tasting rooms becoming a trend.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

Balance, balance, balance. Beer is an amazing thing to consume in its myriad forms. As a general rule to all things gastronomic, too much salt is too much salt, and vinegar is vinegar. Let’s never forget to talk about how good or bad beer tastes in a constructive, positive and critical manner. Self-reflection is required to make sublime beer.

Greg Engert

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

Best New Local Beers

I drank a lot of great new local beers this year, which is a testament to how the scene continues to grow and evolve. I have been impressed with how many brewers c`ontinue to dial in their techniques and processes, constantly striving, and always improving.

Some recent standouts have been Ardent Pilsner, Commonwealth Amaranthine (red wine Barrel-aged dark ale with blackberries and currants), Brookeville Beer Farm Hop Envy (hazy DIPA), and Diamondback DQ’d – Strawberry (milkshake IPA).

Also, while not a new beer, the Mad Fox English Golden Ale I had on cask last week at the brewpub was simply superb.

Best New Out-of-Town Beers

I have found American-brewed spontaneous ales to be hit or miss of late, but the Jester King SPON 4 – Three Year Blend (February 13, 2017) sings.

Speaking of spontaneous, the Cantillon Zwanze release in 2018 – a blend of two-year-old Lambics aged in new Amarone, Chianti and Sangiovese barrels – was simply outstanding (and the most notable Zwanze release in recent memory).

I’m excited to finally be able to serve (and drink) fresh lagers from the Czech revivalist brewery Únětice, with Únetické Pivo 12° – an unfiltered hop-forward and full-bodied brew of 5% ABV –  being a magnificent standout. Brauerei Kraus from the fertile brewing region of Franconia, sent us their singular Hirschentrunk in gravity kegs for Snallygaster, and if there is a more balanced and nuanced Rauchbier available right now, I have not had it.

Favorite Bluejacket Beers

I am extremely happy with how Bluejacket’s beers have continued to evolve and improve over 2018. We have been working hard, tasting and tweaking, and our flavors continue to come further into focus, showing increased vibrancy along the way. Director of Brewing Ops, Ro Guenzel, and the entire team have been killing it.

Our hoppy beers are really getting dialed in, with the last two releases – Challengers (Galaxy IPA) and Near Wild Heaven (Nelson Sauvin DIPA) – probably being my favorite we have done in 2018. Look for more of the same in 2019!

Lagers continue to be a strong suit for Bluejacket, with For the Company (Helles) and Love Cats (Northern German Pils) leading the charge. This year’s version of Hill House, our annual autumn Festbier release, may have been my favorite beer we brewed in all of 2018; it showed the ideal interplay of toasty malt and earthy pinpoint hop bitterness, and a ton of finesse. I am also extremely excited about a new (and yet to be named) Pils lagering right now; it has been brewed exclusively with (a really good lot of) Hallertau Mittelfrüh and is on pace to impress in early 2019.

Last, Pattern Skies, our classic Weissbier is the beer I drank more than any other at Bluejacket in 2018. Open-fermented and naturally carbonated, this has been getting better and better with each brew. Love it.

Positive 2018 Trends

It has been great to see imports coming back to life in 2018. With so many American brewers pushing hazy IPAs, fruited sours, and pastry stouts, there has been an opening in the market for traditional styles. Classic producers have answered the call, and – since American craft beer prices continue to climb – these imported ales and lagers seem far more affordable in 2018 than ever before.

I am also excited to see some American brewers exploring the softer side of native and mixed-culture fermentation. Pen Druid (with delicious offerings like Golden Swan) and Garden Path Fermentation (The Curious Mix Methods is phenomenal) are notable producers that harvest, select, and inoculate naturally-occurring yeast cultures in order to eschew some of the more dominant flavors of funk and acidity (derived from Brett and lacto strains) in favor of saccharomyces-driven subtlety. The floral and fruity nuances of these kinds of brews are a wonderful alternative to the less complex character that overwhelmingly wild beers exhibit.

Garrett Chambers

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Cushwa Brewing

Best Local Beer

One of my favorite beers from this year is Elder Pine’s Pliable Foe. It’s a 3.8% English Mild with coffee added. That style is one of my absolute favorites, and I honestly would never have imagined that adding coffee to it would be a good idea, but they totally pulled it off. It’s delicious!

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Pretty much anything from Pen Druid in Sperryville, Virgnia! Everything the brothers are doing is wild or spontaneous, and their beers are delightful. In addition to the beers, the atmosphere is very unique for the U.S. There’s a very European feel about the brewery itself. It’s just a cool-ass place to hang out in general.

Favorite Cushwa Beer

The beer we did this year that I was most excited about wasn’t flashy at all. It probably went mostly unnoticed. But we brewed a 5.5% Pilsner with “new world” hops that drank so easy and hit all the marks we were looking for. It was subtle but full of flavor, and it really showed our growth as brewers.

Favorite Place to Drink

Snallygaster. Hands down. I was so impressed with the beers offered, the organization of the festival, and the festival participants themselves. We had some of the best conversations with drinkers that we’ve ever had at a festival. They were enthusiastic, appreciative, and asked great questions.

Positive 2018 Trend

Craft lager is a huge thing for me. Anywhere I go, if someone has a lager, that’s the first thing I want to try. More and more breweries are wading into the lager game, and it’s a great thing to see. I hope it continues to gain steam.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

The “what’s new” trend.  This didn’t start in 2018, but it definitely got worse. I think it’s easy to blame the consumer for this, but we (brewers) have also brought it on ourselves. There are only so many variations on a theme, and I think this is driving the “throw every ingredient you can find into a beer and pray” phase we’re in.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

In regards to the last point, I hope that breweries continue to explore older styles or ones that are currently out of favor. There are so many beer styles that don’t get any airtime, and that’s a shame.

Mark Fulton

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Reason Beer

Best Local Beer

Of all the new beer I tried in 2018, my favorite was Spontaneous by Pen Druid.  Located in Sperryville, Virginia, this brewery is worth the trip. They recently bottled a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year spontaneous, producing their first traditional Gueze-style Lambic.  I am looking forward to the release!

Best Out-of-Town Beer

It was the return of an old friend in 2018. I love the Von Trapp beers from Vermont, and have missed having them around since moving back from Maine. A few months back, they picked up Virginia distribution. For me, the Von Trapp Pilsner is such a fantastic beer, and my favorite pilsner brewed in the States.

Favorite Reason Beer

Of all the new beers we produced in 2018, my absolute favorite was Prismism. This beer was brewed for our one-year anniversary party, and was our inaugural can release. Prismism summarizes our whole approach to brewing hoppy styles: balance, clarity, complexity. At 5.5% ABV, you can also knock back a few in a sitting.

Favorite Places to Drink

It’s definitely Beer Run, in Charlottesville.  While they may not have the largest draft list in town, they typically have the most interesting and well-curated.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

I hope that consumer demand for styles other than IPA increases. As a brewer, I love to experiment with classic styles. This past fall, I had a great time working on a traditional Belgian Dubbel for our tasting room. However, as a brewery owner, I have to tailor my production in favor of what sells. Here’s to more variety in 2019!

Drew McCormick

Beer Director at Pizzeria Paradiso

Best New Local Beers

DC Brau Keller Pils. Soft mouthfeel, beautiful Noble hops – and there is just something about that blue color on the labels I really love. Quaffable, crushable, sessionable. Long live the craft lager.

It’s been amazing to see all the small, passionate distributors popping up, including Liquid Distro who brings us Ardent. I’ve been loving their IPA X- hazy, silky soft, and bursting with tropical fruit. A beautifully balanced hazy, juicy, 16oz can!

The brothers of Pen Druid and their wood-fired weirdness never cease to amaze. Their Penelope (an oak barrel-aged sour) is an entire experience, from the dark chestnut shell color to the aromas of tart fruit and oak and the taste – so bright and yet it lingers on with you in the most wonderful way.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

From our friends at Shelton Brothers, Cambridge La Saisonniere, a farmhouse ale aged in gin barrels. Bright, tart, with a delightful hint of spice. I opened it to share with friends and wanted the entire 750mL to myself. I ended up sharing, don’t worry.

To Øl’s Garden of Eden is packed with almost too many fruits to commit to memory (apricot, guava, mango, passionfruit, and papaya) and bursting with beautiful fruity aromas and flavors, but still delightfully drinkable – all wrapped up in some killer artwork.

We were fortunate enough to get a few goodies from Crooked Stave, including their Surette Reserva Palisade Peach 2017. Oh man, those Colorado peaches! And the Coloradans behind the liquids are a delight to boot.

As the temperatures have begun to cool down, I’m experiencing my annual love affair with smoke beers – recently re-ignited by Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen with its perfect smoky dryness. Fire. Thanks to the fine folks at B. United for supplying us with the many weird and wonderful wonders of the world.

Good things take time – as demonstrated by the delicious concoctions of Bond Brothers including Disenchantment #3 which boasts a blend of four red sour barrels and two black sour barrels; all coming together for a delightful sour, tart, complex experience from start to finish. Awesome people making awesome beer.

Favorite Pizzeria Paradiso Collab

Captain Pizza! A dream that our friends at Captain Lawrence made a reality! Captain Pizza is no longer available but it was a delicious IPL dry-hopped with Mosaic and Ella. We were lucky enough to can some – thanks to the heavy lifting of Captain Lawrence – and seeing cans sitting on the bars of Paradiso and guests enjoying them was a like seeing a dream come full circle.

Favorite Place to Drink

I really love cracking open a can of beer while I’m in the beer cooler – that moment at the end of the night when you need to check that one last thing and then you’re out the door. It’s quiet and the low white noise of the condenser drowns out the hum of the restaurant.

Also, All Souls. Come for the sparkling rose and Makers Mark and stay for the Orval. Seriously, though, a nice place to be – candlelight, a delightful and entertaining mash up of humans, and the best damn barnyard funk you can fit into a glass.

Positive 2018 Trends

Watching the momentum around Independent Craft continue to grow has been amazing. Seeing the independent seal pop up on packaging and the conversations it has sparked with customers and staff has continued to remind me of  the amazing work of the Brewers Association, as well as the larger community’s commitment to innovation and craft beer.

Craft lagers! I’m looking forward to this category continuing to develop with so many tasty, refreshing beers to be had! With a little New England pride coming in here…Oxbow’s Italian-style, dry-hopped, unfiltered, complex, and utterly delicious Luppolo and Night Shift’s crisp, clean, crowd-pleasing Nite Lite, which is doing its part in challenging big beer.

I think I said this last year too, but the artwork in the beer world continues to amaze me – like a moth to the flame. Cans have truly turned into beautiful canvases. I’ve always admired the mesmerizing patterns and eccentric shapes on the cans of Stillwater and Aslin. They manage to convey feelings, a brand, and prepare the palate, thanks to the continually intriguing and amazing Mike Van Hall.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trends

This response ties in more with one of my hopes for next year, but I’d like to see more of a focus on craft beer as a beverage for everyone. Not an arena with a knowledge barrier, but something that is fun and truly a space where flavor experiences can be created no matter the level of knowledge. It’s about truly meeting people where they are and encouraging further education in beer, and drinking beer, no matter your starting point.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

More beer drinkers! This for me is a fine line between playing it safe and pushing the envelope a little with customers’ palates. With breweries continuing to innovate – let’s start the conversion of converting non-craft drinkers or non-beer drinkers to our side! A challenge I’ve decide to take head on with my Mum. We’ve begun the journey with Lindemans Framboise. She says she’ll try anything once. Anything?! I’ll update you all in the 2019 Beer Review.

Also, more women in beer! More women drinking beer, more women making beer, more women selling beer, more women demanding space in beer. After all women were the first brewers.

Drew Wiles

Founder & Head Brewer at Solace Brewing

Best New Local Beers

My good friend Favio Garcia just opened Dynasty Brewing over in Ashburn, and all the liquid is really good. Also, I’d love to give a shout-out to Jason Kneupper at the new House 6 Brewing, who made a great guava sour called Bad Ashley.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

My favorite “out-of-town” beers across the board are consistently from Triple Crossing. Whenever I see them on draft, I order a pint. They have a lot of the same equipment we have, and I think a very similar mindset on styles and packaging.

Favorite Solace Beer

Partly Cloudy IPA is undoubtedly what I’m most proud of.  We are only a year-and-a-half old, and it has quickly become our most popular beer, and I think with great reason. We’ve continually tweaked and dialed this beer in to have little-to-no bitterness, and two of my favorite hops in Citra and El Dorado. I’m excited every time we brew and can this beast.

Favorite Places to Drink

Dominion Wine & Beer is a must. They just opened their upstairs bar and did a phenomenal job. Also, I have to give an ode to our Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, and two of my favorite Chinatown bars: Iron Horse and Jackpot.

Positive 2018 Trends

Canning.  I’m originally a winemaker and have always bottled some nice, aged liquid, but I am a huge fan of seeing fresh beer packaged in cans. Since a few years ago, I think local breweries across the board are more mindful and doing a better job of controlling dissolved oxygen levels and making flavor for the consumer a priority.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trends

Social media. It’s an easy and great way for people to connect, but I hope it trends in a more positive direction. Until then, let’s let beer bring more people together!

2019 Hopes and Wishes

I need more brewers to dedicate themselves to the game of golf (and call me to play 18).  It’s the greatest skill game and one of the only sports where a little swing oil can improve performance.

Dave Coleman

Co-Founder & President of 3 Stars Brewing

Best Local Beers

I’m really digging the Rock & Roll series that Steve Jones is putting out at Oliver. The interplay with musicians is awesome, and the hop-forward beers have been great.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

The new stuff from Interboro, Civil Society, and Barrier has been awesome, as is the stuff with Commonwealth.

Favorite 3 Stars Beers

The enhancements to Ghost being a DDH IPA have been awesome. I can’t get enough of our DIPAs, though. Nuthin But Dem Lacs has been awesome, and I am looking forward to the next iteration of #ultrafresh. Be on the lookout for new fruited sours and our ongoing releases of DIPAs.

Favorite Places to Drink

I love the variety at Snallygaster and all the out of market beers there.

And the 18 taps in our Urban Farmhouse makes our taproom an always interesting destination.

Positive 2018 Trend

Attention to customer service and hospitality has been a favorite highlight in 2018. Our industry is becoming more inclusive and a more welcoming one than it has been in years. It’s a trend I hope to see continue in 2019.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

A more welcoming culture in craft beer, and an incorporation of multiple cultures and demographics as the industry moves forward, and more diversity.

Jace Gonnerman

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

Best Local Beers

Cushwa Cush. Everything good about New England IPAs, but still incredibly crisp and drinkable.

Solace Partly Cloudy. Full of mango, pineapple, citrusy juiciness. Doesn’t hurt that it’s available year-round and we can serve it at $7/pint

Ocelot Lucky You. Still a sucker for Citra.

Jailbreak Special Lady Friend. Double dry-hopped, 100% Mosaic, New England IPAs are year-round now

Port City Dunkel. Port City continues their run of brewing the best true to style beers anywhere

Aslin Beaumont. Decidedly not the type of beer I normally drink – but when it’s great, it’s great

Triple Crossing The Grid. I could put any of about 40 Triple Crossing IPAs here. They have such an incredible IPA profile

RAR Double Dragonistas. The best Citra/Mosaic expression I’ve ever tasted

Ardent Pilsner. Not much else you can ask for in a Pilsner. A super classic, clean, authentic German Pilsner. #neverstoplagering is also the best beer hashtag

Black Narrows How Bout It. Corn is not an evil ingredient. Entirely too drinkable

DC Brau Unfiltered Space Reaper. A sort of tweak on an existing beer, but this Mosaic DIPA is a winner year after year

3 Stars Desolation. Another beer that’s been around for awhile, but the most recent batch of this Porter with rye BA coffee is straight fire.

Oozlefinch Cherry Love Gun. I was really impressed by this. A tank-fermented Gose with great cherry character

Dynasty Pale Ale. Maybe the best hazy pale ale I had all year. Incredibly lush and flavorful for 5.8%

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Perennial Pils. I was blown away when I tried this. Explosive hop aroma for using Tettnang and Saphir. Remarkably clean with great malt depth

Firestone Walker UnderCurrants. Great balance between barrel acidity and funk and jammy fruit

Allagash Pilsner with Brettanomyces. Everything great about a Pilsner with tropical funk

Central Waters XX. The Central Waters barrel program is magical.

Favorite Meridian Pint Collabs

Talking Backwards Triple IPA, of course. The recipe hasn’t changed much over the years, but minor tweaks here and there keep it tasting fresh and new.

I’m also very excited to see how Cheat Day IPA, our collab with Solace and City Brew Tours, turns out. We just brewed it last Wednesday: a 7% Citra/Simcoe/Mosaic IPA with tons of wheat and oats.

Favorite Place to Drink

Given the proximity to my wife’s office (and Brewer Nassim Sultan’s Czech Pilsner), I really enjoy drinking at Gordon Biersch Rockville. Still, something like 99% of my beer consumption is done at Meridian, Brookland, and Smoke.

Positive 2018 Trends

These are similar to 2017…

Lots more lagers, and more of them done well.

I personally like the direction that IPA is going. Even “West Coast IPAs” are becoming softer, more aromatic offerings rather than beating you over the head with bitterness.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trends

I don’t understand the appeal of hard seltzer, but given how it’s growing, I seem to be the minority.

And as someone who isn’t a big fan of sweets, pastry stouts and pastry sours can go the hell away.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

It’s human nature to want to try the newest, latest, and greatest, but I wish people would stop and appreciate how good our local scene is. For me, there’s no reason to trade for or seek beer outside of this market. There’s too much good beer across the DMV for the available shelf space and tap lines.

Allison Lange

Head Brewer at Old Ox Brewing

Best New Local Beers

I’ve been really excited about all of the new breweries opening up near us. It has led to a lot of great camaraderie built over tasty beer! Standouts have been Dynasty’s Pale Ale, House 6’s Smoke Eater Smoked Porter, and Rocket Frog’s Wallops Island Brown.

Best New Out-of-Town Beers

It’s not exactly new, but I’ve been drinking a ton of Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing, Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench, and Lagunitas’ 12th of Never. It’s great to see some of the old-school folks coming out with new, low-ABV, bright, refreshing beers.

Favorite Improved Old Ox Beer

We completely overhauled the recipe for Kristin’s Passion Mexican Hot Chocolate Porter after doing a series of spice, pepper, and chocolate trials. I think the beer turned out great – it even won a silver at the Virginia Craft Brewers’ Festival. We’re looking forward to brewing it again in 2019 for Valentine’s Day.

Favorite Place to Drink

It’s still B Side for me!

Positive 2018 Trend

Putting bigger beers in smaller packages.  Way easier to pop on a random Wednesday….

2019 Hopes and Wishes

Old Ox is opening up a new tap room and pilot brewery in Middleburg in 2019. My greatest hope is for it to all go smoothly!

Jake Endres

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Crooked Run

Best Local Beers

I always enjoy lagers from Black Hoof, IPAs from Ocelot, and pastry stuff from Aslin. I’ve also been enjoying some good beers from Dynasty.

Best New Out-of-Town Beers

Some pilsners from up northSuarezFox Farm. I taste these beers and I have no idea how they get them to be so polished.

Favorite Crooked Run Beers

It’s probably our big, barrel-aged stout that we’re releasing at the end of the month, Disenchanted, or the pastry sour Second Helping.

Disenchanted is an 18% stout in bourbon barrels blended with another stout, and it has all the big flavors I like. It’s improved over Glory, and the next one will be better as well.

Second Helping’s adjuncts – peaches, milk sugar, Mexican vanilla, and cinnamon – just came together really well.

Favorite Place to Drink

Snallygaster. I really enjoyed Snally this year. It was cool to see it come into its own, with the Capitol as a backdrop. I love D.C., but it sometimes struggles with its identity. This just felt right: a beer festival that brought the best parts of D.C. together.

Positive 2018 Trend

Hype dying down a bit. There’s plenty of good beer to go around now. Hype will always be a part of the alcohol industry, but it should never be the driving focus.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

Milkshake IPAs with fruit. We tried making them to mixed results at best. I’ve had some good ones. But most just aren’t good; the fruit clashes with the beer.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

More beer from previously hyper-local breweries on tap outside the area. You see it at some bars, but it’s rare. Smaller distributors and advances in logistics are making this possible.

Mike Van Hall

Creative Director at Stillwater Artisanal and Aslin Beer Co.

Best New Local Beer

I really enjoyed the Solidarity Pilsner that the DC Brewer’s Guild put together. That’s not just me being diplomatic: It was a really nice beer that I could – and would – drink regularly. It was a great way to highlight the quality of beer-making in DC.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

The Petite Golden Sour from The Collective Brewing Project in Fort Worth, Texas. It had Thai basil and pineapple in it, and the flavor of those ingredients was incredibly fresh. Like I waded up some Thai basil, put that in my mouth, and then ate a bunch of freshly cut pineapple. It was a killer beer – the kind of fruited sour anyone can enjoy.

I also really liked Lake Beer from Big Lake Brewing in Holland, Michigan. It was classified as a light beer – not the sexiest moniker in the beer store today, but that is why I went for it. This would be my utility beer if I had regular access to it.

Favorite Aslin and Stillwater Beers

Luckily, I get to try a lot of Aslin beer. Not all, but a lot. Beer-wise, my favorite the crew made this year was Predictable Patterns. It had everything I wanted in a hazy IPA, but with a touch of restraint. Like they didn’t want to fully show their hand, leaving you wanting more.

Label design-wise, I am always trying to expand people’s understanding of what Aslin’s visual language is – a reflection of how the brewhouse has shown Aslin is much more than just haze-makers. I think my favorite, though, was Do You Want To Make It Pink?. That beer was a collab with Old Westminster Winery in Maryland (whose pet nats I really enjoy, by the way). The label itself is a culmination of ideas I’ve been exploring with Aslin over the last year, and it just felt satisfying and unique in our visual pantheon.

2018 was a very weird year for Stillwater, both for Brian and I personally and for the overall Stillwater being. We really pushed ourselves, and I think the concepts we released in 2018 brought a lot of new people into our world. The Shelfie Set – and Retail, in particular – is almost a perfect statement of this present form of Stillwater.

On the purely design side, Critical Thinking was my favorite label this year because it is so sculptural; it is unlike anything else we have ever put out. And we will probably never do anything like that can again. For me that can is like a monument in our collection of works and I think it should stand alone as a statement of how, even as we evolve Stillwater, there is always a solid pillar at the core of what we do.

Favorite Places to Drink

The Salt Line. I also eagerly await the return of Cantina Marina. And I hear that new Pizzeria Paradiso in Spring Valley is pretty cool…

Positive 2018 Trend

Beer labels as a canvas for actual art has now been fully embraced. At this point, it seems almost cliché when I hear people say, “Beer labels are the new album covers.” And the great part is that people are still waking up to this fact as the beer world keeps earning interest. Unsuspecting people are being exposed to art and artists are getting exposure with new audiences – that is lovely.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trends

Beer labels being regarded as an artistic canvas is a double-edged sword, of course, in this money’d, attention-craving world. The amount of meaningless decoration in beer branding and label design has only increased alongside the growth of real art on the label. It’s a hot industry so everyone wants to get in, which is inevitable, I guess. But there is a still a distinct “beer culture” that is meaningful to some people, so it isn’t so bad – just “less desirable,” to use your phrase. Look at any “art of the beer” label clickbait article and you can easily discern who cares and who does not. I drink beer made by people that care.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

I’d like to see more of the good breweries expand beyond just being breweries. On the one hand, the leaders of these companies will need to figure out new ways to interact with people (er, customers). On the other hand, people will need to be open to evolving their understanding of what a beer company can be. Where once they were just factories, now they are social gathering spaces. The beer industry probably has more cultural reach than it has ever had before. The amount of effort, skill and creativity in some beer companies could be harnessed to create some really cool cultural phenomena and I hope to see that happen.

Julie Verratti + Jeff Ramirez

Chief Brand Officer + Head Brewer at Denizens Brewing

Best Local Beer

Julie: Amsterdam, 1940 – from Right Proper Brewing, Lost Lagers, and The Bruery Store at Union Market – was a really awesome production last summer. Our staff was raving about this beer after we tasted it at the 1st Annual Lagerfest during DC Beer Week, and the amount of effort they put into recreating this historical style was impressive. We’re going to be producing more lagers when our new facility in Riverdale Park opens in 2019, and we’re constantly inspired by what other breweries are doing with the style locally.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Julie: We hosted our 4th Annual Make It Funky: Sour Beer Festival back in September, and we had a slew of out-of-town beers that were amazing. Black Narrows brought two beers – Rumble & Ramble and Salts – that were both delicious. Josh Chapman and his wonderful family are making fantastic, creative beers. You can actually taste the love he puts into them.

Favorite Denizens Beer

Jeff: I would have to say Call Waiting. This year we took Better Call Collette – our Scottish-style Wee Heavy – and aged it in Republic Restoratives Borough Bourbon barrels for ten months. A lot of our barrel-aging program involves Brettanomyces or mixed-culture yeasts, and it’s been a while since we’ve released just a straight barrel-aged beer. I think the bourbon barrels nicely complement the malt/toffee flavors of the base beer, which created a really balanced result. Call Waiting is approachable for those new to barrel-aged beers, but has enough complexity for folks who are familiar with barrel-aged products.

Favorite Places to Drink

Julie: There are so many places in this area where I like to imbibe. If I were to pick a neighborhood I would have to choose Adams Morgan. The beer scene in that neighborhood is great. Roofers Union, Jack Rose, and Smoke & Barrel have some of the best beer lists around, and their menus contain a ton of diversity. On top of that, the staff are well-versed on beer and can give you some great recommendations. Even the coffee shops in Adams Morgan have great beer – don’t miss out on Songbyrd!

Positive 2018 Trend

Jeff: On a local level, we’ve seen a lot of events this year that provided opportunities for brewers and brewery staff to increase their technical skills. DC Brau hosted a Master Brewers Association of the Americas event that was really informative. My team and I were able to take what we learned and immediately improve three of our practices. It’s not always easy or affordable to send everyone on staff to larger events like the annual Craft Brewers Conference, so seeing more of these training opportunities offered locally is a great trend.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trends

Julie: I think diversity in beer still has a lot of room to improve. First, the craft beer consumer predominantly comes from a segment of the population that is overwhelmingly white and male, and we need to expand upon that. I believe our industry should be constantly asking ourselves how we can increase the accessibility of the craft beer community – examining everything from hiring practices to marketing products.

Second, too many tap lists are IPA-dominant. Don’t get me wrong, I love an IPA (our Southside Rye IPA is my favorite), but there are so many styles out there to create and explore. I appreciate beer lists that have a beer for all palates and not just for IPA drinkers.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

Jeff: More technical education opportunities like the one I mentioned above, so brewers can have the tools they need to be constantly improving. Also, we need to put the lunch back in brunch. Who wants eggs at 1:30?

Julie: Most of our 2019 hopes and wishes will be focused around the opening of our second location in Riverdale Park, MD. But I’m also hopeful for places that serve amazing sandwiches and pizza with a great beer list. Gilly’s in Rockville is killing the sandwich and beer game, and Frankly Pizza in Kensington has an awesome pie and has a small, but thoughtfully, curated beer list. Of course, Pizzeria Paradiso has been carrying the pizza and beer flag for decades, and we love that we will be right up the street from their Hyattsville location in 2019.

David Delaplaine

Beer Director at Roofers Union

Best New Local Beers

The barrel-aged options from UNION Craft – especially the different versions of the Chessie – are spectacular!  We are pouring the red wine-barreled Chessie right now, and it is perfect.

In general, I feel like our local scene is really starting to master barrel use. I’ve also been super impressed by Rocket Frog out of Northern Virginia.  You wouldn’t know they are still in their infancy from their beer; they’re super on point.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

The Bruery’s Yount. Holy-every profanity-good! This is a beer I will be able to remember ten years from now. 51% Black Tuesday, 49% really good Cab Sauv. The jaw-dropping complexity! It blew all stouts out of the water: roast with a twang. It outshined every red wine: fruit complexity with an earthy backbone. If I could have one beer that memorable and delicious in 2019, it will be a very good year.

We also had the good fortune to team up with Cascade for a beer event in October. I already knew they were legit, but boy oh boy, did they bring it. Their sours are second to none.  I really appreciated that they varied the level of acidity within their sour program. Some breweries will do all really intense or all really delicate, but Cascade’s produces a true variety that allowed us to have the perfect beer for every guest (even the non-sour-drinking-but-still-open-minded guest).  It is great to see more of their stuff heading this way.

Favorite Place to Drink

ANXO Cidery on Kennedy Street.  We have a 16-month old little guy, and we do not get out as much as we’d like, so to have ANXO just a few blocks from our house is a real blessing.  And, boy, has their food improved. Simple but really really good. Chill vibe, love them.

Positive 2018 Trend

I’ve started seeing more of a style I really enjoy: the dark saison. Pale Fire makes the Rorschach – which we just tapped at Roofers – and it is really on point. It’s nice to have a lighter dark beer to turn folks on to dark beer who think they hate it. It’s like the intro-to-dark style that will get you hooked before you know it.  I’ve seen a couple others over the past year and have been really impressed.  If you have not tried one yet, think of a lighter-bodied beer with a yeast complexity early, finished off by a unobtrusive roast to dry out the finish.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

A lot of our most beloved larger scale craft breweries have brought in large investment from the outside (or in some cases, sold completely). I won’t make this about macro beers buying little guys – because I think everyone already knows how much I hate that – and this is nothing new. What is alarming is that some of the breweries that have fought to maintain a controlling interest in their brewery and commit themselves to remaining “craft focused” eventually start to behave more and more macro/budget-focused.

Take Avery Brewing. It will forever have a very special place in my heart, but it had to make drastic cuts to their sales force. To me, their employees were the living embodiment of Avery Brewing.  I know it could not have been an easy decision for them to make, but it’s a real shame that this is the direction larger craft has to take.

Every time a craft brewery sells part or all of their interest to investors/macro, the line is “we’re not going to change a thing, we are committed to staying the same, yada yada yada…” Well, every time, that proves not true. Whether it’s dismissing the sales team, adding rice and cheaper products to their beer, or simply losing the innovation that inspired a passion in so many of us for their beer, they all eventually make sacrifices.

They are either fooling themselves or fooling us.

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me a hundred times, I’m disgusted.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

Previous rant continued, I really hope that craft beer can figure out a way to be successful on the national and international stage without selling out on the principles that made us fall in love with them. There are a few that have proven it is possible – take Sierra Nevada or New Belgium for instance.

Also, remember that bigger isn’t always better. It’s how you use your beer. If your endgame is to make a ton of money and sell to macro or to a hedge fund, I will not hold that against you on a personal level. I may stop buying your beer, but that is your decision, and I agree it would be very tough to turn down that kind of money.

But if you are selling part of your business to another party that is purely profit-minded, then know what you are setting yourself up for. If you answer to rich investors who only care about getting richer and not about the art that is craft beer, there is only one way it will go. Prove me wrong.

And to rich investors looking to invest in craft beer because you see it flourishing, let breweries do their thing. Plan for some expensive bumps. Sometimes a batch needs to be thrown out, sometimes you are out big, but if you approach this industry with an artistic integrity, your long-term profitability will benefit.  Just talk to Sierra Nevada if you do not believe me.

So, to sum up, what I am most excited to see – and hope we will move closer to in 2019 – is for beer investors to have the same artistic integrity as the brewing teams that made the beer they so much want a piece of.  Otherwise, you might as well invest in fast food chains.

Daniel Vilarrubi + Sean Palmateer

Head Brewer + Quality Assurance Lead at Atlas Brew Works

Best New Local Beers

Daniel: I’ve been into the Port City Lager Series lately. I thought the Helles in particular was fantastic, but they’ve all been good.

Sean: I don’t really keep up with beer releases, but UNION Craft’s Hasselbrau is one of my favorites this year. I love a fresh, well-made weissbier, so I’ve been really excited to see it on tap every time I’ve been to UNION Collective.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Sean: Holy Mountain’s Vesper is my favorite beer this year – maybe my favorite beer altogether. I’m a big fan of versatile beers that can work equally well as the center of attention or as a compliment to food. Vesper is a simple, 3.8% ABV Belgian Table Beer, bottled-conditioned with Brettanomyces. The rustic grains (wheat, rye) provide a soft, herbal base for subtle stone fruit aromas from the Brett. It’s a beer that punches above its weight, without being so aggressive that it runs over a pairing or destroys your palate.

I also had the opportunity to try Suarez Family Brewery’s Palantine Pils for the first time this year. I stopped at the brewery on the way up to the Adirondacks this summer, and I was really impressed by Palantine. Brewers always say that pils is the hardest style to master because it doesn’t leave any room for flaws; Suarez’ pils is super clean and pleasantly malty.

Favorite Atlas Beers

Daniel: We made a pumped up version of our Ponzi IPA – a double IPA called the Madoff. I’m not usually huge into IPAs, but I was really happy with the way that one came out.

Sean: We made some tweaks to Silent Neighbor stout this year that seem like definite improvements to me. Removing the spice character may have changed the direction of the beer (it was originally called Pumpernickel Stout), but it’s now more drinkeable and approachable.

Favorite Place to Drink

Sean: My favorite bar is Wet City in Baltimore. They have a really fun beer list (lots of NEIPAs and nice sours), and they added a small brewhouse a few months ago. It’s a really nice, unpretentious beer environment.

Daniel: I still frequent Boundary Stone. There’s always a solid lineup of local beers and familiar faces. I’ve started going to Brookland Pint a lot more, as well. It’s only a few blocks from my place, and I love seeing what Allagash and Firestone Walker beers Jace gets his hands on.

Positive 2018 Trend

Sean: I’m looking forward to seeing how Norwegian Farmhouse-style beers evolve. A lot of brewers have tried out kveik, but I’m not sure that many have nailed the style yet. It should be interesting to see if these yeasts take a foothold in American brewing.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

Sean: Quality is my biggest concern. A lot of us are monitoring our beer quality, working to recognize faults and make improvements. On the other hand, it seems like many breweries are churning through brands without focusing on quality. I had too many yeast-bomb IPAs in 2018.

Daniel: I second what Sean said. I think there’s a lot of great breweries doing great work these days, but there seems to be a minority of breweries paying little attention to quality and improving, and I think that drags down the public’s view of all of us as a whole.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

Sean: Mixed-culture beers are the coolest trend in beer right now. I hope that 2019 has a trend toward longer-aged sours and interesting Brett beers. Quality is key here, but it’s exciting to consider the number of breweries who are working on barrel programs.

Sam Puffenbarger + Ben Peebles

Brewers at Port City Brewing

Best Local Beers

Sam: I’m really been digging the beer that Solace has been putting out.  For good reason, their hoppy stuff probably get the most attention, but I enjoyed all of their offerings while visiting their spot. Bridgette [Turner] is doing some great stuff out there.

I will also add just about everything I have had from Baltimore’s UNION Craft Brewing. It’s become an inside joke that the first thing that comes out of my mouth after tasting one of their beers is, “Fuck that place.”  Meant in the best possible way, of course.

And a quick third would be the Oktoberfest cask dry-hopped with Sunbeam hops that Barrett [Lauer] and ChopHouse had on this year. I’m not an authority – and Barrett can give you more details – but the reason you may have never heard of Sunbeam hops is because you’re probably not old enough to remember them. (I don’t, and I’m 38.) They are no longer commercially available. Barrett, however, had the wherewithal to personally grow and then use them at his establishment. Needless to say, if you see him using them in anything it’s worth the stop to give it a try.

Ben: It’s not a new one, but Mad Fox’s Orange Whip always hits the spot. Citrusy and delicious.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Ben: While attending GABF, I had the opportunity to visit Purpose in Ft. Collins and really enjoyed everything I sampled there. It was really cool to see their setup and to hear how passionate they are about their art.

Sam: The one beer that really blew me away this year was Cherry by Bloomington, Indiana’s Upland Brewing. I have yet to have a bad beer from those folks. Cherry was just that – cherry.  I have had cherry beers (from Sam Adams, Founders, etc.), but they often come off tasting artificial. Somehow, Upland figured out how to not only make the fruit the star, but to actually taste like you are eating fresh cherries. If only it did not cost so damn much…

And I would add any IPA I could get my hands on from Georgetown Brewing out in Seattle.

Favorite Port City Beers

Sam: I’m fairly new to Port City, so I can’t respond for the whole year, but I thought that our Oktoberfest was pretty awesome. It’s a great example of a Vienna-style lager. Oktoberfest is a pretty general category that encompasses many styles, but I think Port City brewed a world class version this year.

And as a general note about Port City, recipes are constantly being tweaked… except Optimal Wit. No one touches the Optimal Wit recipe, which is very appreciated from a brewer standpoint.

My favorite shift beer has been Ways and Means – pretty stoked that it’s being bottled again in 2019.

Ben: This is a very difficult question, so I’ll have to break it down into three parts. Metro Red is my favorite seasonal and paired extremely well with the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup. From the Lager Series, German Pils was the perfect thirst quencher after a hot summer day. And as far as our flagships go, right now is the perfect time to enjoy a Porter.

Favorite Places to Drink

Ben: The Celtic House on Columbia Pike in Arlington is where I always seem to end up. Very hospitable staff and great place for a pint. Also I can walk there, which is awesome!

Sam: Dew Drop Inn is two blocks from my house, and it has a Genny and a shot special.

There is also local liquor store up in Riverdale that has a solid draft list, plus Keno that a few local brewers meet up at from time to time. I’m not naming it, because the locals would be angry if word got out.

Positive 2018 Trends

Sam: While this is a divisive topic, I am glad that hazy beers have been added as an official beer style. I mostly say this because a bunch of really cool research is coming about the style that shows that it is indeed a unique style.

That being said, not every style is intended to be hazy. Does hazy = lazy? Well, there might be some truth to that depending on the style. I think there is a certain amount of responsibility brewers have as far as educating consumers about what “true to style” means.  I know I sound like an old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but I’m old and cranky! That’s the end of my rant… unless you want to ask me about it in person.

Ben: It’s been amazing to see so many breweries jump on board with Sierra Nevada to provide help to those affected by the Camp fire. It really shows what we can all do as small independent breweries when we all work together.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trends

Sam: The 4oz-and-done epidemic. Order a pint like an adult.  I feel like so many folks are doing online reviews based on a 4oz-pour that it doesn’t really give the beer a fighting chance… especially when doing 15 4oz samples in one outing.

There are so many variables go into beer tasting. I think folks should not be afraid to try the same beer on different occasions and situations before passing judgement. I have definitely had experiences where a beer I know I loved tasted way less desirable because of what I ate or drank before it.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

Ben: I’d like to see more collaborations with other breweries and working together for good causes in our community.

Sam: As a brewer, the obvious answer is: more lagers!  I think Port City is doing our part with our rotating Lager Series. The styles are pretty varied, if you have not been paying attention. If you’re not a lager drinker (for shame), maybe we’ll put something out that will change your mind. You should probably start with the Rauchbier being released soon. I mean, it’s widely known as being an accessible entryway to lagers.

I also hope that line standing goes away, though that is definitely wishful thinking.  There are a lot of great beer available that are just as good as those people wait hours in line for. Maybe spend that time checking out new breweries and beers. It’s just beer, and that’s coming from a guy who has made it his career. Get off my lawn!

Nahem Simon

Beer Director at Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Best Local Beers

I have loved the whole array from Hellbender this year, from Panda Strike Force to Hoppyoatiedopalicious to Zestify!

Right Proper, as always, did Berliner Weisses wonderfully. Corn Rigs And Barley Rigs was a new one for me, and I am obsessed with it.

Port City released a bunch of new lagers in their Lager Series that were all superb.

DC Brau killed it with their Jameson Caskmates collabs.

Denizens’ Mexican/Vienna lager hybrid Buena Onda was great.

It was just a great local beer all year round. Other highlights were 3 Stars’ Whisker Assassins and some of the new Charm City flavors.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

Maui Brewing Co.’s Coconut Wireless is amazing. Where cream ales are usually shrugged off as not that interesting, brewmaster Kim Lutz takes a very old-world style and infuses it with fresh toasted coconut, and then he douses it with lactose, so you get this creamy, nutty, almost-nougat flavor that is beyond compare.

Favorite Jack Rose Collabs

I am most proud of our Double Dragon collaboration with J. Wakefield. Using a Four Roses barrel for Dragon and a Joseph A. Magnus for Double, each beer is beyond complex and so perfect. I get messages asking for it on a weekly basis. I can’t wait to unveil the master collab next year – it has been in the works for two years. We were able to acquire some of the rarest barrels from our distillery friends for it. Joseph A. Magnus and One Eight participated on the local front, and Willett emptied four of their 27-year-old bourbon barrels (that only yielded a total of 77 bottles). They ensured this collab would be for the record books.  To give a hint, one “snap” and you’ll be fading away into an oblivion of delicious! We will be doing the launch soon, so keep your peepers peeled.

Another soon-to-be-released collab is with Maui Brewing Co. They aged some of their Night Diver Imperial Stout in two of our proprietary barrels hand selected by Bill Thomas: W.L. Weller 107 proof (around 9 years old) and a Knob Creek 25th Anniversary 13-year-old bourbon. Those will be tough to beat in rarity as the barrels traveled from Kentucky to DC to Maui.

And on the local front, DC Brau has a Penn Quarter Porter that they aged in a Peerless Rye barrel selected by Bill and the D.C. whiskey community, so there is even a further tie-in with local community collaboration on all fronts.

Favorite Places to Drink

I love anytime I find myself at a local tasting room: Atlas Brew Works, 3 Stars, Right Proper, yadda yadda. All the locals spots are awesome!

Positive 2018 Trends

In this tumultuous day and age, when “bully” beer companies like AB Inbev and Craft Beer Alliance acquire once-craft brands to slither their way into the fridges of consumers, it’s great to see the rise of collectives getting funding from third party financial partners. These collectives aid in the breweries’ growth, rather than cripple their individuality, providing the breathing room independent brewers need in order to expand in their local and national markets.

Sadly, in recent years, we have seen independent craft beer darlings get absorbed by big beer companies that on one side celebrates their “craft beer” acquisition, and then on an international front berates those acquisitions with their macro-beer constituents by stating that craft is too trendy and too expensive, and arguing that everyone should drink their machine-produced, soulless beer.

But with collectives like Canarchy, independent brewers are still able to grow within their own talents and drive without having to compromise quality and control over their day-to-day operations. As the craft beer bubble continues to grow and pop on occasion, collectives like these keep big beer from reaching the beers you know and love. It allows for the prosperity of brands to continue, rather than suffocating them with their agenda.

Yes, brewers build a business to make money, but there is a huge difference in brewing for the sake of raking in the dough versus brewing to further that passion that went into the product in the first place. I always say, “Brewers brew not to make eleventy-billion dollars (though that would be nice from anyone’s point of view) but to cultivate their brand and share their talents with the world.”  Yes, money is a factor, but it shouldn’t steal the identity of the work that they do to then establish them as a factory instead of a business. The minute that they become part of the giant machine; automation comes in, positions become expendable, dollar output outweighs the employment potential, ingredient quality suffers and you lose the human element that drove you to support that brand to begin with.

Most folks don’t realize that there is a war for the soul of beer, and it’s waged every day by thousands of brewers and the Brewer’s Association.

I hope that the next time someone goes to buy a six-pack and sees a deal of buy two six-packs get the third for a penny, they take a second to ask themselves, “Do I really want to drink a beer that probably cost a penny to make and has no real ‘craft’ behind it, or do I want to drink something that I know will be worth the money I pay for it?”

That is all.  Rant over.

On a style side, milkshake and dessert IPAs are my new obsession. Where I dig a good IPA, these new ones that are brewed with lactose and vanilla and taste like marshmallows and cream pops are so good! Hops were used as a preserving agent, as well as a flavor component to balance out the sweetness of the wort, but this new generation of IPAs is almost using sweetness to balance out the bitterness of the hops.  Anything new from Decadent Ales is probably going to go into me and be enjoyed thoroughly.

Less-Desirable 2018 Trend

Everyone seems to be playing with the Brut IPA style, which involves using an enzyme that breaks down sugars that wouldn’t normally ferment ,allowing the yeast to consume them and leave no residual sugars. Yes, they are refreshing, but they all taste similar to each other. I find nothing really striking about them.  Maybe its just me, but I want my palate to be challenged a little bit. Even with Kellerbiers and Pilsners, they have more of a complexity that I dig. Brut IPAs bum me out.

2019 Hopes and Wishes

I am hoping folks focus more on ensuring draft lines are maintained.  Too many places open up, bring on craft beer, and bank on the fact the supplier will clean their lines every few weeks. In the meantime, the establishment cycles through styles and often doesn’t clean the lines in between, causing a crossing of flavors that don’t do justice to the breweries. Even worse, the consumers don’t taste a beer as they should.  It doesn’t matter the quantity of lines you have as long as they are tended to properly.

Compiled, edited, and hyperlinked by Philip Runco.

Most photography courtesy of Clarissa Villondo.