You like beer. Bars and breweries like your money. These mischievous institutions are constantly devising creative ways to convince you to give them your money in exchange for beer. Many people call these things “events.” There are a lot of them. Possibly too many. Which ones are worth your time, hangover, and hard-earned, disposable income? That’s a great question.
Welcome to Draft Picks, the column where BYT picks the month’s ten best beer events.
Why ten? Because it sounds cool. What’s the criteria? Enough with the questions.
When: Monday, April 2
Melvin Brewing makes one of the country’s finest double IPAs in the form a little beer called 2X4. This isn’t just my take: 2X4 has won a boatload of medals, including multiple YCH Alpha King Challenges. It’s a beer that has helped propel the eight-year-old Jackson Hole brewery to fairly sizable success, including a somewhat recent expansion into the Southern California market and the opening of a Washington State brewpub.
Sadly, aside from the occasional SAVOR event (and a few times when Meridian Pint beer director Jace Gonnerman has splurged for a drop), D.C. doesn’t get much Melvin beer. But the one day when we decidedly do is 2X4 Day, the glorious day upon which Melvin sends its beers to select bars across the country (and, now, the world). And the reason we get Melvin on 2X4 Day is because ChurchKey is one of those select bars. (In fact, it’s the only East Coast bar south of New York City to be selected.) (Take that, Philly! Who’s the developed beer market now?)
Normally, 2X4 Day is February 4, but this year it’s April 2 for some reason. Whatever. The set-up remains the same: Wu-Tang Clan on the sound system, Kung Fu films on the projector, and a handful of Melvin beers on draft. Those familiar with the Wyoming hop masters will get to see some familiar friends: 2X4, the world-beating hoppy pale ale Hubert, Citradamus DIPA, Drunken Master DIPA, Hop Shocker DIPA, Asterisk DIPA, and more. Hops on hops on hops. For the seasoned 2X4 Day attendee, the two big additions to the list are Chuck Morris (a new rotating-hop DIPA) and a triple IPA called 4X8.
When: Thursday, April 5
Where: Aslin Beer Garden
No brewery in the area thinks outside the box like Aslin Beer Co.
Fifteen months ago, the Virginia buzz magnet closed its tasting room after a ordinance dispute with the town of Herndon and turned the space into a distribution center for cans and growler fills. No tasting room, no problem. People still showed up and bought beer. And when it unveiled designs for a new (and still forthcoming) tasting room last summer, it included “2500 square feet of interior tasting room space and 2500 square feet of outdoor space, including rooftop deck & bar, bocce ball court, and a covered deck.” That’s not your average tasting room.
More recently, the brewery has tackled a number of ambitious projects, like a pop-up bar and restaurant in Petworth. Then there are Aslin’s beers themselves, many of which, frankly, look bonkers on paper. In recent months alone, the brewery has released Hawaiian Lush (an IPA with vanilla, toasted coconut, pineapple, lime, and lactose), Brunchies (a sour IPA with blueberries, maple, lemon, and coffee) and Man Eating Toaster, an IPA inspired by Cinnamon Toast Crunch. And let’s not forget that the brewery is releasing three to five beers a week, many of which are new or one-offs, and all of which feature original art from Mike Van Hall.
Aslin doesn’t need to do any of this shit. It is the D.C. area’s buzziest brewery. It could just make Orange Starfish, Master of Karate, and A Small Town in Ontario and rake in the money. And yet it continues to push itself.
Here is yet another example: On Thursday, the brewery will open a beer garden at 1st and N SE, a block away from the center field entrance of Nats Park. According to an Instagram post, the beer garden will be open on game days, from two hours before first pitch to two hours after the game ends. It’s the Trillium model meets sports.
For fans of baseball and big, juicy, extravagantly hopped IPAs (as well as those boundary-pushing takes on the style), Christmas in July just came early.
When: Friday, April 6
Where: Port City Brewing
To crib from the esteemed Rich Homie Quan: I will never stop going in for the Port City Lager Series.
For a year, head brewer Jonathan Reeves and his team have given us hit after hit of lagered goodness, from Schwarzbier to Doppelbock to Franconian Kellerbier. What was your favorite? As the brewery’s marketing guru Chris Van Orden explained in February’s Freshly Tapped: Colossal Seven, that’s a popular question. (Personally, I might give that prize to the elegant German Pilsner, but the Helles Lager would be right behind it.)
Fans of these beers will get a chance to reevaluate their rankings starting this month when Port City returns to the top of the Lager Series order with Helles Lager, the first entry of the magical malt journey. (The make-up of the eight-beer series will remain the same this time around with the exception of a new Baltic Porter, which has replaced the Rauch Märzen. While the latter beer had a cult following, smoked beers still do not sell particularly well.)
In addition to being the first repeat in the series, Helles Lager will also be the first to get a 60-barrel brew. (Previous Lager Series batches have been limited to half that size.) What does that tell you? Probably that Port City knows it has a broadly appealing, complex yet #crushable beer on its hands. (Spoiler: It does.) Here’s what the brewery literally has to tell us about the beer: “A classic German-style blonde lager, our Helles showcases a clean Pilsner malt sweetness supported by a subtle, refined Hersbrucker hop character. Slightly less hoppy than a traditional Pilsner, Helles is balanced and eminently drinkable, making it the perfect drink to welcome back Spring weather!”
Fact check: true. The beer will be released this Friday at the brewery. Go have a few pints and cop some crowlers.
In other Port City news, the fifth installment of the brewery’s Arts & Ales series returns to the brewery on April 18. If you’re looking for a way to class up your next brewery visit, here it is.
When: Friday, April 6
Remember when Sufjan Stevens was going to make an album about every state? I seriously think 3 Stars Brewing is trying to make a collaboration with every brewery in the New York City area. To date, the DC brewery has thrown down with Other Half, LIC Beer Project, and Interboro, and recent Instagram activity reveals forthcoming collabos with Finback and Captain Lawrence. No sleep ’til Brooklyn Brewery. (Or maybe SingleCut.)
On April 6, ChruchKey will shine a light on one of those projects: Prophets of Rage, a 9% imperial stout brewed with rye, wheat, oats and Chinook hops. This beauty was brought into the world by 3 Stars and Interboro up in NYC, so there’s a semi-decent chance you didn’t get to try it. UNTIL NOW. Go order a glass at ChurchKey. In addition to Prophet of Rage, the Logan Circle bar will have a 10-spot of other 3 Stars and Interboro beers. For more on 3 Stars’ relationship with Interboro (and their other collab D is for Diamonds) revisit last year’s The Technicolor Life of 3 Stars Brewing.
But wait, there’s more! The reason (presumably) that Interboro will be in town is to brew another collab with 3 Stars. And on April 28, 3 Stars will release that beer (along with those Finback and Captain Lawrence collabs) at the brewery as part of its Hip-Hop Showcase headlined by the Perceptionists, a duo composed of Mr. Lif and Akrobatik. (Mr. Lif used to be on Def Jux Record, the seminal label operated in the ’00s by El-P and Interboro’s Jesse Ferguson. #synergy.) (If there’s one thing 3 Stars co-founder Dave Coleman loves more than NYC breweries, it’s New York rap.)
When: Saturday, April 7
Where: DC Brau
So you like the hops? Damn, me too. I don’t think we’re alone, either. Hops are hot. But only when they’re added during the boil, amirite? (Sorry.) (Not sorry.)
What was I talking about? That’s right: HopFest. HopFest is back. For the fourth year. Better than ever. Hoppier than ever. Because everything is hoppier than ever. Here’s the deal: On the afternoon of April 7, DC Brau will host the 2018 HopFest, a wildly fun annual fundraiser for the DC Brewers’ Guild. (What’s does the Guild do? Good question! Revisit last year’s Freshly Tapped: Solidarity Brett IPA for some hard-hitting scoop.) (Fast forward to the last section.)
As with previous years, HopFest allows you to play “Supermarket Sweep” with hoppy beers and your mouth for a super reasonable $35. That’s $35 for four hours of unlimited pours. Or you can spend $35 on three beers at Jackpot instead. I don’t know. Tough call.
Participating breweries include literally all of your DC faves, plus (but not limited to) generous out-of-towners like Port City, Denizens, Adroit Theory, Mad Fox, The Brewer’s Art, Old Ox, Calvert, Old Bust Head, and Manor Hill. These breweries will focus on new, #rare, and one-off beers. And we know nothing tastes better than #rare beer.
When: Saturday, April 7
Where: The Sovereign
The Sovereign, Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer director Greg Engert’s shrine to Belgian beer (and also home to arguably DC’s best moules frites), is turning two! I feel like it’s been part of my life for twice or thrice as long, which is usually the sign of a great bar or restaurant.
To celebrate the occasion, Engert is doing what he does best: organize an extravagant draft list. The big ticket items will be the three Cantillon kegs – Rosé de Gambrinus, Kriek, and Mamouche – plus De La Senne Wadesa #7, a blend of De La Senne-brewed saison and Cantillon lambic. Stateside contributions include a handful of Hill Farmstead saisons, several barrel-aged jams from The Veil and Oxbow (notably a bourbon barrel-aged Farmhouse Pale Ale!), and a duo of Jester King bottle pours. No big deal.
Last but not least, The Sovereign will be pouring one of D.C.’s first kegs of Jelly King, a citrusy hoppy sour from one of my favorite brewery’s in the world, Bellwoods. I have seriously made trips to Toronto just to drink beer at the Ossington Ave. location, so if this means that Engert is now the Bellwoods plug, I am pissing my pants with excitement.
Anyway, this is a non-ticketed, all-you-can-drink-for-all-you-can-pay affair, so prepare to break into the piggy bank.
When: Saturday, April 14
Where: UNION Craft Brewing
Who doesn’t love a good saison? Haters, that’s who. I’ve got no time for haters. I’ve only got time for saisons. Lots of saisons. Classic saisons. Rye saisons. Dry-hopped saisons. Mixed-fermentation saisons. Give me all of your saisons.
Allagash Brewing has organized a day specifically for me (and also for you, if love farmhouse ales). It’s called Allagash TurntFest. Correction: It is called Allagash Saison Day. Now in its fifth year, Allagash Saison Day is being celebrated at 13 breweries around the country for 2018. These breweries include Rare Barrel, Foam, Beachwood, and Night Shift. So, hot shot breweries, essentially. And, low and behold, we have one of those hot shot breweries right in our backyard: UNION Craft Brewing.
From 12:00 to 5:00, UNION Craft and Allagash will celebrate all things saison. Most notably, the Baltimore brewery will be unveiling a new saison for the event, Parkway. You can also expect farmhouse ale from Allagash, Right Proper (who hosted last year), Bluejacket, Oxbow, Manor Hill, and some upstart called Brasserie Dupont.
If you’re itching for more beers from the celebrated Maine brewery, head to Granville Moore’s for a Maine Meets Belgium Beer Dinner this Wednesday. Also, not to get you too excited, but there may or may not be a Freshly Taped story on Little Brett in the works…
When: Saturday, April 14
Where: Up Top Acres
The other day, my good friend Chris VanDeWeert – a longtime Miami Dolphins fan and the local sales rep for Bell’s Brewery – pointed out that the leading descriptor for the 2018 vintage of Michigan brewery’s Oberon Ale on Untappd was “spring.” Just “spring.” This is followed by “citrus,” “light,” “hoppy,” and “bitter.” But, really, who needs such flim-flam descriptors when you have spring?
Even if this is complete nonsense (like most things on Untappd), you have to admit that few beers herald the retreat of winter like the iconic wheat ale. Another sign of spring? Eggs. You know, those things your kids (or nieces and nephews) were dipping in dye yesterday. So, what happens when Oberon and eggs come together? Springpocalypse.
But actually: Kegs & Eggs, a pop-up beer garden from Bell’s and Up Top Acres. The sequel to last fall’s collaboration, this event invites you to come consume five seasonal Bell’s beers, paired with five small plates (all featuring eggs in some capacity) prepared by Equinox chef de cuisine Colin McClimans. Tickets cost $55, though there is also a $75 VIP option for those trying to live life to the fullest.
Forget brunch at some stuffy restaurant. Drink some Bell’s on a roof with fancy food and a view of D.C. in all of its spring glory.
When: Saturday, April 21
Where: Ocelot Brewing
Ocelot Brewing is turning three! That means my belly has been a much, much happier place for 3 years. On the real, if you read Draft Picks semi-regularly, you know that I’m not exactly shy in expressing my affection for the Virginia brewery. No one in the area makes better IPAs. But the hoppy stuff only tells part of the story: It also makes one of the country’s best pilsners (Sunnyside Dweller) and Baltic porters (Powers of Observation), in addition to fantastic renditions of imperial stouts, saisons, and even an ESB. So, you don’t really need an excuse to go out to Dulles and visit. But, OK, if you really do need an excuse, here it is…
Ocelot will celebrate its third birthday on April 21. (So close to four-tweeeeeenty, but so far.) And they’ve come up with a neat little structure for the event: For $35, you get entrance to the party (which will feature DJ’ed music), two drink tickets, a commemorative glass… AND A FOUR-PACK OF THIRD-ANNIVERSARY TRIPLE IPA. I’M KEEPING THIS SHIT ON CAPS LOCK. TURN MY HEADPHONES UP. NEW OCELOT TRIPLE IPA.
This triple IPA is called Stairway, it’s 11%, and it’s hopped with three Southern Hemisphere varietals: Vic Secret, Motueka, and Wai-iti. In addition to that beer, Ocelot will be pouring a number of new beers brewed for the occasion. Stay tuned for further details. Or don’t and just trust they’ll all be delicious.
When: Saturday, April 21
Where: Diamondback Brewing
[Wayne Coyne voice]: Is it getting greener?
Yes, it is indeed getting greener, because it was not as green as could be.
Allow me to explain: Greener Fest, Diamondback Brewing’s biggest event of the year, is back. What does this party entail? Two can releases (Greener Machine and Cold Taxi), three bars (with drafts), two food trucks (El Gringo and Smoke BBQ), outdoor games, a kid’s zone, and live music (The High and Wides and Ampersand Stringband). It’s going down for real at the Baltimore brewery on April 21.
Let’s take a step back and talk about these cans releases. The first, Greener Machine, is the imperial version of Diamondback’s very popular, very juicy house IPA Green Machine. Like the original, it’s hopped with Citra and the Australian varietal Ella; Greener Machine just has, you know, more of them. And it’s boozier. You know how this works. Meanwhile, Cold Taxi is an unfiltered lager, dry-hopped with another PNW-Aussie duo: Mosaic and Vic Secret.
I want to go to there.
When: April 27-28
Where: Druid Hill Park
I know what you’re thinking: Um, a bluegrass festival? What is this, Banjo Picks?!?
First of all, I wish this was Banjo Picks, because that’s a fire emoji pun. Second, each year UNION Craft makes a new official beer for the Charm City Bluegrass Festival, and if UNION Craft made the official beer of the American Academy of Dermatology’s Annual Meeting, you’d find a skincare conference in Draft Picks, too.
OK, let’s deal with the music first. The festival stretches over April 27 and 28 in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. Friday evening kicks things off with headliner The Travelin’ McCourys and a handful of other acts, but Saturday when the bluegrass really gets poppin with (at least) 16 bands (including headliner The Devil Makes Three) stretched over the late April day. I won’t pretend like I know anything about bluegrass but, wow, there are some great names here: Mountain Ride, Lonely Heartstring Band, and Trout Steak Revival, which is somehow not also a surf and turf restaurant. Tickets for Friday cost $30, Saturday is $62, or you can get both for $74, which feels like the play. You can also buy $6 drink tickets in advance, which also feels like the play.
What will you be drinking? The new UNION beer, duh. On the heels of last year’s When I Say Charm, You Saison (one of my favorite beers of 2017), head brewer Kevin Blodger is whipping up a nice little IPA for the occasion. Actually, at over 7% ABV, it’s not that little. But per Blodger, it’ll be low in bitterness, and hopped with Citra and Mosaic. Yes, please.