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What beers did you love drinking in 2019?

That’s what I wanted to ask the people who make (or sell) my 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 2019 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, Charlottesville, 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.

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 2020?

What emerges from these answers is a great snapshot of where the DC-area beer scene finds itself at the end of 2019. They also features some fantastic recommendations for beers to seek out, places to visit, and styles to reconsider.

Greg Engert

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

Best New Local Beers

In the DC area, Dewey Beer Co. is making wonderful beer, and I particularly love the Secret Machine line of fruited sours; each one is juicy, yet bright and soft on the palate, with focused fruit character in the nose.

The early collaborative offerings from Randy Mills and Burnish Beer Company have been outstanding as well, especially the stouts. I am excited to see more from Burnish in 2020.

Port City continues to show focus and impressive consistency, with their Tmavé Pivo being an excellent introduction to the old world Czech dark lager style for our area.

Best New Out-of-Town Beers

I’ve been lucky to spend so much time in NYC this year with the opening of The Grand Delancey. This has allowed me to really get to know Joey Pepper’s creations at Folksbier (each one the epitome of balance) and to have more consistent access to the beautiful beers of Suarez Family Brewery (revelatory lagers) and Hudson Valley Brewing Company (still unparalleled in the sour IPA realm).

The lagers from Eric Toft at Private Landbrauerei Schönram in Bavaria purely showcase the flavors of handpicked German malt and hops like no other, and lean dry and bitter. His are my favorite beers at the moment, and I am excited to say that we will be bringing them into the District with consistency in 2020 (beginning with a kickoff party at ChurchKey on January 22!).

Favorite Bluejacket Beers

Bluejacket Director of Brewing Operations, Ro Guenzel, and his team crafted a bevy of outstanding beers in 2019.

I loved Dreaming, our smoked bock lager collaboration with Bierstadt Lagerhaus because it showed that – even with a grist bill consisting of 73% smoked malt – Rauchbier can be more malt forward than fiery, and eminently drinkable.

They Both Melt was also a favorite, especially as it amped up the hop intensity of the classic Dunkel lager to craft the perfect interplay of nutty, toasty malt and earthy, herbal German hops.

Additionally, we dialed in our classic British-style bitters for the cask program, with both Essex (ESB) and Yardbird (Best Bitter) really singing from the engines.

Favorite Places to Drink

Shelton Brothers’ The Festival was in Buffalo, New York this year and it was perhaps the best iteration of this event to date, with the locals turning out in huge numbers and showing genuine passion for not just the hip US brewers on hand but also for the classic international producers who made the trip. While I certainly enjoyed drinking at the fest, I absolutely loved drinking (and eating) at Cole’s, which is a Buffalo institution. A classic bar and restaurant that’s been in business for 80 years, they showcase a sneaky great craft beer list to pair with some of the best wings you will ever have. I did so with a perfect pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and remembered why I love all of this in the first place.

Speaking of international brewers who made the trip to the US, the crew from Fyne Ales came to DC, where we brewed a delicious dry-hopped English-style blond ale of 4.4% called Graveyard Train at Bluejacket, before heading to Buffalo for the fest. I was then able to visit their brewery in Loch Fyne, Scotland where I had the absolute freshest casks of Jarl – their inimitable Citra-hopped blond ale of 3.8% – while enjoying the views from the 4500 acre converted farm in rural Argyll. It was spectacular and so was seeing so many tap handles and hand pumps for Fyne Ale in western Scotland more generally; they proved the perfect beverage coupling for the single malts of Kilchoman in Islay and Springbank in Campbeltown.

Positive 2019 Trends

It has been great to see beer drinkers continuing to return to classic styles. While hazy IPAs, fruited sours, and pastry stouts remain popular – and delicious – the thirst for a wider range of flavor profiles is growing and our beer scene is once again growing more varied by the day. Sure, lagers have long been on the ascent, but guests are clamoring for West Coast IPAs again, along with pale ales, porters and dry stouts. Bitterness and dryness seem to be coming back a bit as well, and this means a return to drinkability. With increased drinkability comes session drinking, and we are seeing more and more guests committing to multiple pours of the same beer, rather than ticking through a taste of countless styles.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trends

The continued interest in lager has been mostly positive, though a fair number of brewers have tried their hand at lager brewing with less than stellar results. There are some delicious examples out there, both from classic and new producers, but I continue to find under-attenuated (flabby) examples, along with those showing metallic qualities (ferrous sulfate) from oxidation.

The same still goes for kettle sours. There are some outstanding versions in the market, but no amount of fruit can cover up the intense, lingering cereal grain character (from tetrahydropyridines or THP) I am finding in even some of the most heralded fruited sours around. I think that brewers should really consider what they are crafting alongside the finest examples and not be afraid to dump beer. The best brewers in the world dump a lot of beer.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

I hope that beer drinkers continue to call for a diverse range of styles, and I hope that those styles include Schankbier, the lowest-ABV version of German-style lagers (don’t worry, we are working on this at Bluejacket!).

I hope that consumers consider texture and mouthfeel, in addition to aroma and taste, when enjoying the flavors of craft-brewed beer. With this appreciation, drinkers will want to explore real ale more, since there is no better way to deliver malt flavor across the palate than through the hand pump, and they will get excited for Czech-style side pull taps, which create a very special mousse-like, long-lasting foam for lagers.

I also hope that drinkers turn to bone-dry, low-ABV, full-flavored ales and lagers when considering low-calorie and low-carb options. For too long, we have sought out fizzy yellow or fruit-flavored malternatives when beers like De la Senne’s Taras Boulba deliver flavor complexity with only 120 or so calories per bottle.

Adrien Widman + Jack Snyder

Founder + Head Brewer at Ocelot Brewing

Best Local Beer

Widman: Fair Winds’ Ride to Glory IPA. I recently got to try this brew at Fair Winds, and I immediately downed it and got another. Great hop character and finishes with a touch of sweetness.

Snyder: I’ve been fortunate enough visit Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery a handful of times this year, and each time I have a little love affair with their Bauernhof Altbier. Eminently quaffable, and with a deft balance of toasty richness & herbal hoppiness, Bauernhof does ample justice to a style that has become difficult to find in constant rotation.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Snyder: It’s a toss-up between two beers from Charles Towne Fermentory: Yacht Party and Sungazer.

Widman: Anything coming out of The Veil’s barrel house in Richmond. It’s always a treat to get these bottles.

Favorite Ocelot Beers

Snyder: Our Helles-style lager, Helles Awaits, was my favorite Ocelot beer of 2019. We’re always pushing ourselves, in theory and practice, with our approaches to brewing IPAs. And we brew a lot of IPAs throughout each year. But we’ve also committed ourselves over the past year to expanding our lager program, and I think Helles Awaits was the darling of that new group of lagers. It will be back in 2020.

Widman: Jacks and Jokers IPA & Collision IPA. Both for different reasons.

Jacks came out perfect for me, and I think I gained 10 pounds while it was around because I couldn’t get enough of it.

Collision was a collaboration beer with Burgeon Beer out of California, and we were able to use a Conan strain for its characteristics while also drying the beer down to a nice profile.

Favorite Place to Drink

Widman: I rarely get out these days, so I am usually at Ocelot but outside of that,  Snallygaster was probably the best organized and executed beer event I have been to. Quite impressive what the team at NRG did to compile such a fantastic lineup and pull it off so flawlessly.

Snyder: I don’t make it there as often as I’d like, but I always feel at home in Dominion Wine & Beer. The intimate bar and friendly staff pair wonderfully with excellent beer and food selections.

Positive 2019 Trend

Snyder: It’s the continuation of a trend over the last couple of years, but I love seeing more breweries devote substantial energy to making good lager beer – and to making “unsexy” beers in general.

Widman: It’s not a new trend, but I am always impressed with the brewing community as a whole and how friendly, helpful, and supportive most people are. I have met countless friends and made great relationships all across the globe because of this industry, and that’s freakin awesome

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

Widman: Anything that could see our industry scrutinized for the wrong reasons and force unneeded regulations. From marketing to TTB and ABC and anything legal that could come cracking down on all of us because of a few bad apples.

Snyder: This already seems to be less prevalent than it was, but I still don’t see the need for lactose additions to IPAs. There are plenty of ways to control body and fermentability without adding milk sugar.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

Snyder: I’d like to see more appreciation for rauchbier – and more modern interpretations of what smoked beer can be.

Widman: More Clarex! Seriously!

Kevin Blodger

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at UNION Craft

Best Local Beers

Man, I don’t get that often to try different beer, but anything I have from Diamondback, Suspended, Oliver, or Manor Hill is always delicious. The Baltimore scene had grown and expanded and there is some really great beer up here.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

I had Rare Barrel’s Map of the Moon, which was delicious. I also really enjoyed the sours I had from Hi-Wire Brewing.

Favorite UNION Craft Beers

Man, we had killer year with the beers that came out. I really enjoyed the Kev’s Winter Warmer that we brewed recently, but looking back my brew team has been killing it.

Dean Hamilton has become our mixed fermentation master and brewed several great beers, including our Rough Draughts: Tart Saison (which is on tap now and has this amazing brett nose). He also has a bunch of beers sleeping in barrels now, and we all get excited when he pulls some out for us to sample.

Zandy Zeiser, my head brewer, makes these beautiful, simple beers which are always a pleasure to drink. He made a Belgian Golden and an ESB this year that I couldn’t stop drinking in the tap room.

Also, we flipped Old Pro for the winter to Cold Pro and I wasn’t sure it was going to work but it did, that beer is really tasty.

Favorite Place to Drink

I might have said the same thing last year, but Fresh Fest in Pittsburgh is one of my favorite places to drink. Its a beautiful day in a fun city, surrounded by black people who love beer, and that’s so fucking cool.

I also really enjoy pints in our tap room. Our team has really become family, and it’s great to sit and talk shop or anything with them.

Positive 2019 Trend

The fact that the need for diversity in beer is being recognized. The Brewers Association’s Diversity Committee was able to give out $20,000 worth of grants to events that promote minority involvement in beer. I love beer, I love the fact that I’m able to provide for my kids because of beer, and I want everyone to know how great this industry is.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend
Beer social media has become crazy. One only needs to look at Don’t Drink Beer or Worst Beer Blog to see how wild shit is now. I love social media and seeing that the girl that rejected me in high school is still hot and has way more money than me, but it has also amplified our divisions when it comes to not only politics and religion but also beer, which just sucks. From resale culture to glass releases to regional shitposting about who has the better beer, social media has turned us super tribal about something I truly feel should be bringing people together.
2020 Hopes and Wishes

I hope that the gimmicks die down a little bit. Just because you can throw it in the mash tun or the kettle doesn’t mean you need to…

I hope that the scene in our area keeps growing and more of those darned millennials discover how great beer is.

Also, non-beer related, but we have some important elections coming in 2020. I hope people get out and vote in the primaries and the presidential election next November.

Mike Van Hall

Creative Director at Stillwater ArtisanalAslin Beer Co.

Best New Local Beer

Hellbender’s Dynamite Laserbeam, which I had at Northeast Eats, was super good. A Kettle Sour is the only time I want passionfruit in my beer – keep it out of my IPAs. I’m a fan of their Red Line Ale, and this is on the other end of the spectrum. I don’t know if they went big on production with Dynamite Laserbeam, but it shows what they are capable of achieving.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

Pine State Lager from Casita Cerveceria out of North Carolina. Ryan [Witter-Merithew] has been the hand behind more classics than a lot of people appreciate. This one is crackery and easy drinking, to say the least. If I could access it by the case, I would. Everybody would.

Favorite Aslin and Stillwater Beers

I was a lager boy this past year, and Aslin’s The Fragile Kind was my favorite new beer that the guys put out. I didn’t think I’d be able to settle into a “go-to” beer at Aslin – the brewhouse is so prolific, I’d rather try everything. But The Fragile Kind works very well to balance interesting with non-fussy. And it doesn’t get lost in a session of stouts and DIPAs.

2019 was super weird for Stillwater, not that that is unexpected. I actually didn’t get to try too much of what was released in 2019. Of the releases I did try, I think ASMR Frisson 001 was my favorite. I had no idea what to do with that name when I first received it, but I think the whole concept came together nicely. That beer’s flavor and feel matched the idea of the package really well.

Favorite Places to Drink

Room 11, because I always see friends and try new, thoughtful stuff.

(Also, Aslin’s beautifully designed taproom in Alexandria.)

Positive 2019 Trend

None. Feels like we are in the same pattern as 2018. But that continuing trend will probably result in some rough times in 2020, especially in the culture of the beer world.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trends

Lack of attention or care by retail beer stores. There are certainly exceptions, but it is chaos in the majority of retail beer shops I’ve gone to this year. I’m not even saying this as a label designer. I don’t know how anybody with even a decent level of beer knowledge can be confident they are buying something worth the money. Or finding what they want for that matter. There is no curation, far outdated stuff sitting on end caps and disorder in the shelf arrangement. The chaos of the beer world should not make it to the beer shelf unfiltered (ha!). I’ll stick to the places that take effort and help me navigate.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

That good restaurants adding high-end beer on their beverage lists do so thoughtfully. I know the market is forcing you to do it, but maybe don’t just take whatever your distributors tell you is popular (all due respect).

And gimme some low-ABV but still good beer!

Jeff Ramirez + Julie Verratti

Head Brewer + Chief Brand Officer at Denizens Brewing

Best Local Beer

Veratti: The answer to this is not even close. Divine IPA by UNION Craft Brewing is an absolutely beautiful beer. I like that it is a meld of old school IPA brewing practices with new school IPA flavors. I like IPAs that have a strong malt backbone, and this beer knocks it out of the park.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Veratti: I really enjoyed the Richmond Lager by Hardywood when I was down there for the HeART and Soul Festival in July this year. It was crisp and clean, with a nice body throughout. It was exactly what I wanted in the heat of the summer.

Favorite Denizens Beer

Veratti: This year, I have really enjoyed our PGC Premium Lager and our Animal IPA.

PGC Premium was the first beer we brewed when we opened our Riverdale Park Production House & Taproom in May of this year, and I think it is a delicious beer. It is named in homage to Prince George’s County, where our second brewery location resides. And at 4.1%, you can have a few of these and still be a decent human being.

Animal IPA is a beer that I think we have really dialed in this year. It is quickly becoming a favorite in our taprooms and we have been trying to play catch up on getting enough of this beer available for distribution. If you haven’t tried either, here is your invitation to come in for a few pints to let us know what you think.

Favorite Places to Drink

Veratti: I have to say that in 2019, it was at Nats Stadium and the MD SoccerPlex.

As a lifelong baseball fan (I still have thousands of baseball cards from my childhood collection), it was an amazing experience to be able to root for the 2019 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS while drinking a Denizens Born Bohemian Pilsner at the stadium.

And, as someone who has played and been a fan of soccer my whole life, it was fun to serve Denizens beer at the Washington Spirit home games in 2019. I loved to work those days because I could catch some soccer while sharing our beers with Washington Spirit fans. I hope to see even more folks supporting the NWSL during the 2020 season!

Positive 2019 Trend

Veratti: 2019 was a banner year for beer regulation reform in Maryland. We were able to reach agreement with our distributor and retail partner tiers to finally enact franchise law reform, and increase production and taproom sales limits. I need to give a shout out to the Brewers Association of Maryland Executive Director Kevin Atticks and the whole team at the Rifkin Weiner Livingston firm for helping us reach these reforms! With new leadership in both the House and Senate this coming year, I think that Maryland is on the right trajectory. Local elected officials have caught up to what the world looks like in 2019/2020 when it comes to beer production, distribution, and sales.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

Ramirez: Current data trends are showing that people are less likely to try something new than years before in regards to beer purchasing. I don’t think that trying something new should be the goal every time, as that would create zero brand loyalty, but I would like to see this trend plateau at some point. With new generations coming into the beer buying market, I see it as a good thing for folks to try new products that they see on the shelves or bar menus. Craft beer will keep growing if we can entice new drinkers to choose craft beer, hold onto our loyal customers, and entice some new people to give craft beer a chance sometimes.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

Ramirez: I hope that people get more excited about style specific variety of beers in their bars and package stores. I personally always like well-crafted options on a menu based on style and ABV. Variety is a good thing!

Jake Endres

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Crooked Run

Best Local Beers

Wheatland Spring’s Festbier was great.  These guys are a super legit farm brewery that recently opened, and they’re putting out some really nice beers.

Also, Dynasty is putting out some good stuff. Their Vision series are solid hazy IPAs.

Best New Out-of-Town Beers

Everything I’ve had from Narrow Gauge has been great.

Also, I finally got a chance to stop by Black Project while I was in Denver. For a sour nerd, it’s so good, and they use fruit from the town where my grandma lives, which has the best fruit!

Favorite Crooked Run Beers

Our Black Friday releases were super well received. It’s hard to make any waves in beer these days, and I was glad to see people were digging these beers and talking about them a little bit. We’ve learned a lot about barrel-aged, high-gravity beers and also mixed-ferm spon stuff over the past couple years… It takes some time to improve since they take so long to finish, but it’s so worth it.

Favorite Place to Drink

I can commonly be found at Ocelot. I love all the people there, and I can bring my dog. (I can’t bring him to ours because of the restaurant).

Our original Leesburg spot will always be my favorite. If you’ve only been to our Sterling spot, you should take a trip out there. Downtown Leesburg is a hoot.

Positive 2019 Trend

OK, so after many years of people calling it, lagers and mixed-ferm sours are getting popular. Our pils is our top-selling beer when the weather is warm. Our light lager collab with Fair Winds actually has, like, a 3.8 on Untappd, which is freaking unreal to see for an adjunct American lager.

Allso, hazy IPAs are getting more dialed in. I’ve had a lot of good ones lately out in the wild.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

Uncreative, sexist labels and the chuds who defend them. A beer will have some dumb name like “Totally Stacked Blonde” and a bunch of guys will insist it’s the pinnacle of humor and must be preserved.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

President Sanders. Oh, beer wise, personally, I’d like to do a collab with a big brewer. It would be cool to learn about brewing on a larger scale.

As a whole, beer being more about the present. Whether it’s your present company, a great event, great food, whatever.

Drew McCormick

Beer Director at Pizzeria Paradiso

Best New Local Beers

Astro Lab’s No Mates – Nelson Sauvin, which I tried for the first time at our Fresh to Death event, featuring a draft line-up of beer that had been kegged within 7 days! The beer has a pillowy mouthfeel and showcases the citrus and white grape notes of the New Zealand hop varietal perfectly.

Right Proper’s Scenicruiser, a Biere de Garde fermented in a French oak with tons of Virginia grape pomace. It’s dry and funky with this delicious, balancing vinous character and hints of wood and vanilla. A complex beer that your wine drinking friend would love!

Diamondback’s Transatlantic, a 3.7% Oak-Fermented Mild! Over the past couple of years the folks at Diamondback have truly been a pleasure to work with, and their belief in their product comes through in every interaction. The beers are all delicious, and I love the fact that their range of products is diverse yet true to brand and quality.

Elder Pine’s Pilsner, brewed with oats and dry-hopped with Loral. The first time I had this beer, I had just been berry picking at a nearby pick your own farm, and I gulped it down in three swallows and then soon went back for a second to savor. Positioned on an overgrown Christmas tree farm, Elder Pine is a fun place to visit if you get the chance.

Best New Out-of-Town Beer

Thanks to our friends at The Bruery Store in Union Market, we were lucky enough to get our hands on some kegs from Pinthouse Pizza in Austin, Texas! My personal favorite of the selections we had was Green Battles, a 6% American Pale Ale, juicy with a perfectly balancing bitterness. Paired with a special pizza collaboration, it was pizza perfection!

Libertine’s Under My Plum, a Triple aged in wine barrels and blended with plums. It’s tart, sweet, complex, and left me wishing the bottle was three times as big. All that flavor and complexity in an eye catching, new art meets old classic script label.

I was so excited at the release of Stillwater’s Preternatural cuvée series, which includes 5 beer-wine hybrids, all produced through a serious, five-year labor of love. Not only are the beers delicious, but they scratch the itch I have to convert wine drinkers (and all self-proclaimed non-beer drinkers) to the ever evolving, complex, vast scope that is beer! And once again the ever amazing Mike Van Hall managed to convey beauty and intrigue with some kick ass labels.

OEC’s Coolship Lager from our friends and cultivators of all things esoteric and delicious, B United. OEC’s Coolship Lager sits in their Coolship for 90 minutes before moving to a cooler. The beer is then open fermented for 5 days and lagered for 7 weeks. The result is a crisp, refreshing lager with floral hints.

Favorite Pizzeria Paradiso Collab

I am still reeling from the excitement of our First Annual Homebrew Competition, which was a collaborative effort between Pizzeria Paradiso, The DC Homebrewers Club, and DC Brau!

For this collaboration, we reached out to our local homebrewers and asked them to submit IPAs and Pale Ales that fit within a few guidelines, such as ABV, hops that could be used, and (of course) beer style. The submissions began rolling in and after a long morning of judging the 40 entries we had a winning beer! The winning beer, Hotel Amarillo, was brewed by a long time Paradiso regular, Tim Ryan who had come out of “homebrewing retirement” when he saw the competition advertised.

Hotel Amarillo was eventually poured across all five Paradiso locations. It was awe inspiring to see the DMV beer community that I love so much all come together around a homebrew recipe, brewed by a commercial brewery and served across five DMV restaurants.

Favorite Places to Drink

Not only is it very easy to get to, as I live close by, but the interesting rotating cocktails of Sean McPherson and Dante Datta always keep me coming back to Elle. When an old standby is in order, I love to order a G’Vine Gin Martini with a dash of orange bitters. G’Vine is a French gin made with vine blossoms and grapes that Sean turned me on to many years ago.

I also love to enjoy a beer on my deck, alone or with friends, and sit and watch my plants grow in the peaceful cocoon that is the deck space sandwiched between two alleys in Mount Pleasant.

Positive 2019 Trends

The continued momentum of the Brewers Association’s independent craft brewer seal and movement is something I hope continues to grow. Seeing the independent seal continue to pop up on packaging truly makes me proud of the commitment to community, innovation, and integrity that small independent breweries demonstrate.

Sessionable beers! The pendulum seems to be swinging back towards lower-alcohol beers that can be consumed over a longer period of time before things become hazy. I love beer, but I also love drinking beer, playing cards, and keeping my strategy sharp. I’m looking forward to this category continuing to develop – from your 5% pale ale to low-alcohol sour ales, to crisp and crushable lagers.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trends

Alcoholic seltzer. Last year, I said I’d like to see craft beer move towards becoming a beverage for everyone and break down some of the preconceived notions about beer… but I wish seltzer hadn’t come as the answer. I am happy to see some of the smaller breweries taking a crack at it and giving the big guys a run for their money, but it’s just not for me.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

More women in beer – drinking it, selling it, making it, demanding a space in the room. Not only were women the first brewers but with 2020 marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage – why shouldn’t we take a moment to reflect on the history of women in beer as we chisel out a future?

Jennings Carney

Co-Founder & Brewer at Pen Druid Brewing

Best Out-of-Town Beers

This spring, my brothers and I were touring Europe with our band Pontiak, and at the end of the tour we took three days and two nights to do some research and development in Franconia, Germany. With the gracious help of Tyler Trotter, who owns the Holy Grale, Gralehaus and Lousiville Beer Store and who accompanied us on the trip, we were able to visit some really incredible breweries, speak to the brewers and try some mind-blowing lagers like Brauerie Zehender’s Mönchsambacher and Klosterbrauerie Weisenohe’s Green Monkey.

It was amazing to drink these cask-conditioned and -poured, wood-fired and coolshipped lagers and to realize how broad the spectrum can be for flavor and nuance. The implications for revisiting those traditions is profound. Personally and professionally, those beers spoke to us because of their brewing methods (as we are wood-fired and coolshipped) and also because the yeast character of many of those beers defied what Americans think of when they hear lager.

Favorite Pen Druid Beers

This year, we released our first 3-year traditional method spontaneous blend. Inspired by the Belgian geuze tradition, we had decided at the beginning of opening the brewery that we wanted that approach to beer to be one of our signatures, and the 2017/2018 blend released this year marked the inaugural release. We are very proud of that beer. It doesn’t taste like a Belgian geuze really, and that is the point! It is recognizable as a similar approach but our microflora and fauna is different and thus will make a differently tasting beer.

In 2019, we also began releasing many more fruited beers which had been aging on traditional method 2-year spontaneous. Both of these approaches are slow and are not guaranteed to produce a beer on time or sometimes even carbonated to the expected level! But we are currently the only brewery in Virginia to be selling these kinds of beers made in this way.

Favorite Place to Drink

The end of the hiking trail.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

This year, we reorganized our federal and state permits to begin making cider, wine and mead. It has always been a dream of ours to incorporate fruit and honey into our take on fermentation and this fall we pressed our first batch of Rappahannock-grown cider apples and Shenandoah Valley-grown Cabernet Franc grapes. Like our beer, the cider and the wine, and eventually the mead, will be either spontaneously fermented or made with our native yeast. However, so far our trials with spontaneously fermented cider and wine have been very promising.

To that end, we will be planting over 300 trees of rare, ancient and heritage varietals of cider apples and over 80 grape vines of hybrids this coming spring 2020 on a parcel of land very close to the brewery. We are very excited about incorporating permaculture growing methods and helping to encourage the native biom to reduce and eliminate the need for spraying pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Garrett Chambers

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Cushwa Brewing

Best Local Beer

I’m going to say Aslin’s The Mind at Large was one of my favorite beers this year. It’s a barrel-fermented, low-ABV Brett lager that was really interesting. It had just enough funk to make it complex without taking away from its clean lager qualities.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

We’re diving into pastry stout land for this one. Coconut Crown is a big stout that Horus Aged Ales brewed with Three Chiefs. It was the most coconut I’ve ever experienced in a beer. It was beyond delicious!

Also, Burnish Beer Company did a collab with Magnify called Banana Phone that was one of my favorite beers at Snallygaster this year. Luckily, Randy [Mills] poured right next to us, so it was easy access!

Favorite Cushwa Beers

We brewed a black lager called Illusory Correlation that we were so proud of that we never wanted it to go away!

We also produced a blended beer that was part Imperial Stout and part Brown Ale that we aged in Rye Whiskey barrels and conditioned on coffee and maple syrup. It was our first time blending anything in our space and it went over very, very well.

Favorite Place to Drink

This one is easy. In Hagerstown, it’s the Broad Axe. We love the food, the drinks, the people, everything!

If we’re outside of our home town, it’s White Rabbit in Frederick. It has all the things we love about Broad Axe, just packaged in a different way.

You seriously can’t go wrong with anything at either of these places!

Positive 2019 Trend

The partial reversion back to lagers and low-ABV beers. Call it a correction if you will, but we love beer and we want to be able to drink multiple without falling out on a Tuesday.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

Hard Seltzer. Period. Even though, we have a guy on our team that wants to leave us to open a Seltzeria….

2020 Hopes and Wishes

We desperately hope that people find out we exist and come visit us soon! In all seriousness, we will be moving into our expanded space sometime after 1st quarter and we couldn’t be more excited to have more capacity and a restaurant coming online! We’re fingers crossed that this goes as well as we think it will!

Adam Reza II + Sam Puffenbarger + Jon Harahan

Lead Brewer + Brewer + Brewer at Port City Brewing

Best Local Beers

Reza: The Shape of Funk to Come by Atlas Brew Works. I love this beer for all the reasons I love Duchesse de Bourgogne, only its being produced down the street.

Harahan: My favorite new (at least, new to me) local beer this year is Solace’s Partly Cloudy. This New England IPA is, of course, juicy and delicious, but it’s also supported by solid bitterness, no hop burn, and impressive head retention. I was happy to first stumble upon it at Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle.

Puffenbarger: The Shape of Funk to Come from Atlas.  One, because it is delicious and reminds me of Duchesse de Bourgogne. It also has a crazy story behind it that goes back to some of the first beers brewed at Atlas.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Puffenbarger: Fremont Brewing’s Head Full of Dynomite (version 13, to be specific). This is part of their rotating hazy IPA series.  I head out to Washington state every year to visit my little sister and always try to hunt down something from Fremont. I bought a 4-pack that was days old and it was ridiculously good, and a few months later, it was still great… which says a lot for a beer style that usually does not hold up well over time.

Harahan: My favorite out-of-town beer this year has been Surly Brewing’s Axe Man. This is a great IPA that has the juiciness of New England, the bold bitterness of the West Coast, and is brewed right in the middle, in Minnesota. It’s double dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic, and has a whole lot of Golden Promise malt. (Full disclosure, I was a brewer for Surly from July 2018 to May 2019, so let’s call this my favorite new beer of the last eighteen months.)

Favorite New and Improved Port City Beers

Reza: Hands down, the Tmavé Pivo, a Czech-style dark lager. Smooth hoppiness with a slightly roasty caramel sweetness. Every so often you come across a beer that you can drink all the time. For me, some of these beers are Bells Two Hearted, Negra Modelo, and our Tmavé Pivo. Tmavé was my favorite beer we made this year.

Harahan: For me, everything coming out of our Lager Series has been really special, specifically the Franconian-style Kellerbier with its malty sweetness and clean finish, and the German-style Pilsner with just the right amount of hop bite. Also, I’m proud to say the German-style Pilsner won us a GABF gold medal this year.

Puffenbarger: Definitely Integral. We have tweaked the process and recipe for Integral, and I think we have gotten it to where we want it consistently. If you tried it in the past, you should definitely give it another go.  I mean, Bobby Bump said it was good, and who would be dumb enough to argue with him?

Favorite Places to Drink

Puffenbarger: The Port City taproom, it’s like “Cheers” with a better beer selection.  I also found myself drinking at UNION Craft Brewing a lot this year – shocking, I know.

Harahan: My favorite place to drink is Port City Brewing Company, where the beer is always fresh, and I’m lucky to work (and drink) with such an amazing group of people.

Closer to home, my favorite neighborhood bar is Boundary Stone in DC.

Positive 2019 Trends

Harahan: It may be just wishful thinking, but I believe I’ve been seeing more breweries make more lager beer. I hope that continues! Clean, flavorful, refreshing lager is one of the great joys in life.

Puffenbarger: I think it has been happening for a while, but 2019 seemed like a year where breweries were called out for questionable practices… looking at you, Founders. There is no room for that in the industry and it’s nice to see the market react in a positive way.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trends

Harahan: I’ve been surprised by how many people in the beer industry seem to be pushing back against things like hard seltzers. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel drawn to them, but they are just another beer-alternative trying to stick, like ciders, meads, and the Mike’s hard lemonades of the world.

For me, the less-desirable trend has been the loss of independently owned breweries. New Belgium was most notable and unfortunate for the beer industry, in my own personal opinion.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

Puffenbarger: It’s wishful thinking, but a brown ale revival would be nice. (I miss you, Upslope Brown.)

Other than that, I hope folks keep focusing on quality and consistency. It’s my old man coming out, but I think those two things will get you farther than anything else in this industry.

Harahan: If I told you, it wouldn’t be much of a secret then, would it?

Michael Tonsmeire

Co-Founder & Co-Head Brewer at Sapwood Cellars

Best Local Beer

Elder Pine’s Pliable Foe stands out both because it has a beautiful fresh coffee aroma, and for cramming so much body and malt flavor into a 3.8% ABV package.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Hill Farmstead Riwaka Pale Ale. Just a wonderful hop that I’d only had a couple beers with – great depth of fruity and earthy flavors that usually requires a blend of hops.

There are so many wonderful beers I get to try at festivals and bottle shares, but unless I get to sit down with a couple of bottles/cans/pours I tend to not trust my initial impression.

Favorite Sapwood Cellars Beer

It’s been great to finally launch our barrel-aged mixed-fermentation program. We’d been filling barrels since before the tasting room opened in September 2018, but it wasn’t until a year later that we could release our first bottles.

Opulence is my favorite of what we’ve done so far, with a blend of dried and fresh sour cherries, along with barrel-aging in Pinot Noir and Bourbon barrels. Really fun combination of vanilla-oak, jammy fruit, and acidity.

Favorite Places to Drink

I’m still at the stage where I don’t get out much, 99% of my beer consumption is either at a house or our brewery.

Scott and I did make it to San Diego to brew a collab with Modern Times Beer, and in general I always feel like drinking in Southern California is like looking at the beer scene a few years in the future. Lots of big flavor in stouts/IPAs/sours, but also a resurgence of pale lagers.

Positive 2019 Trends

The continued focus on fresh/local beers. I think more beer drinkers are learning what really fresh IPA tastes like, and that buying bottles on the shelf that were shipped across country is no substitute for IPA brewed/consumed fresh and local.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

I’m not fond of processed flavors (whether “natural” or “artificial”), and both seem to be cropping up more and more in craft beer as consumers demand a greater variety of assertive “fun” flavors. I worry that these isolated and synthesized molecules reduce the differentiation between breweries and between craft and macro. Not to say that these products never have a place, but that on the rare occasion that we use them for novelty/enhancement they aren’t the primary character or our first choice.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

As always I hope that more people appreciate the value of beers that are loaded with flavor without excessive alcohol. That could be a 5% pale ale that drinks more like an IPA, or a 9% stout with all the roast and body of a 14% version. I love drinking beer, and I’d rather be able to consume more without the alcohol getting in the way.

Jace Gonnerman

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

Best Local Beers

Triple Crossing continues to make what I believe to be the best family of hoppy beers in the game. DDH Nectar and Knife, Bright Lights, and Prism are three that stand out from their multitude of offerings.

Two new Silver Spring-based breweries (Astro Lab and Silver Branch) have both come out of the gate incredibly strong. Silver Branch Glass Castle and the keller version, Killer Castle, both make a case for best local Pilsner. Christian [Layke] takes the time to preserve traditions like decoction and first-wort hopping and it really shows. Astro Lab, meanwhile, has been really strong across the board. Outstanding takes on hazy IPA, New Zealand Pilsner, saison, stout, and more.

Ocelot continues to put out impressive beer. Side Effects and Collision are two excellent IPAs from 2019 that immediately come to mind.

Other local beers that come to mind: UNION Craft’s Tart Saison, Aslin’s The Fragile Kind Czech-style Pilsner, Jailbreak’s Barleywine is Beer (a ridiculous maple BA barleywine), True Respite’s Boss DIPA, Elder Pine’s Constellations: Meridian IPA, Sapwood Cellars’ Rings of Light Pale Ale, and a billion more that I’m forgetting.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Fremont’s Sky Kraken is my perfect hazy pale. Incredibly flavorful and aromatic, while never losing drinkability.

Hill Farmstead’s Double Citra never, ever gets old.

Opening Meridian Pint Virginia, it was fun to get to further explore some breweries like Jester King and Bissell Brothers.

Favorite Meridian Pint Collabs

I’m very excited for the Tmave Special Czech Dark Lager we just brewed with City Brew Tours and Silver Branch.

Talking Backwards has evolved with the times (become softer and hazier) but remains about the only Triple IPA I enjoy.

Solace’s Cheat Day, our Citra and Mosaic IPA collaboration, turned out as awesome as you’d expect.

Favorite Places to Drink

Per usual, I didn’t get to as many places or get out as often as I’d have liked. Kids, etc. etc.

Gordon Biersch Rockville remains a favored spot for me. The Ocelot taproom. Silver Branch. Astro Lab.

Dave, Arash, and company continue to absolutely crush it at Downtown Crown Wine & Beer in Gaithersburg, up my direction on 270.

Positive and Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

Beer in 2019 is really interesting and my answers for positive and less-desirable trend sort of play into each other.

There’s a lot of everything. If you’re a discerning customer, there’s never been more good beer available.

There’s also never been more bad beer available. Navigating the waters can be tricky. It’s never been a better time to be a beer consumer, but you have to do your homework. Especially as breweries turn to more and more extreme gimmicks and marketing ploys in an attempt to stand out.

Unfortunately, I think 2020 will be a year with even more closures of restaurants, bars, and breweries than in 2019. We were all bitterly disappointed to see Meridian Pint, Mad Fox, etc. go, and I predict at least a couple more high profile losses. The market is too saturated.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

I’d like hard seltzer to die an abrupt and painful death. People are aware that vodka exists, correct? Along this same idea, I’m trying very hard to work on letting people enjoy things.

I personally still really despite the pastry trend. Beer is getting progressively sweeter when it comes to IPAs, sours, and stouts. I just can’t drink these.

In 2019, a good way to stand out from the crowd was to return to tradition, a la Silver Branch. Hope to see more of this in 2020.

Allison Lange

Head Brewer at Old Ox Brewing

Best New Local Beer

Despite the “session IPA” moniker losing steam, I’m always up for a low-ABV, hoppy beer. DC Brau’s Joint Resolution is a great new example.

Best New Out-of-Town Beers

Look No Further from Suarez Family Brewery was a quite pleasant pale ale.  It was distinctively delicate, though it’s hard to go wrong with any approach when you’re using Nelson Suavin hops.

Favorite Old Ox Beers

Our Cooper’s Cloak series of beers celebrates everything big and boozy. We made a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Quad for the first time this year that hit all of the right notes for me.

We also experimented with a Barrel-Fermented Apricot Blonde for our Middleburg location that was fruity and delicious and definitely didn’t drink like its 8%.

Favorite Places to Drink

No one has dethroned B Side yet for me, but I’ve definitely appreciated having a solid, walkable brewery in my area in Settle Down Easy Brewing Co.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

I’m still lamenting the demise of Allagash’s Hoppy Table Beer!  A beer society that doesn’t have a place for that beer is definitely trending the wrong way for me.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

I love saisons and farmhouse-style beers, but the market doesn’t seem to agree with me (see above).  I can’t wait until appreciation for their versatility really takes off.  I also really like big, dark smoked beers, but I’m not holding my breath for that one!

Bobby Bump

Head Brewer at Right Proper Brewing

Best New Local Beer

I think Silver Branch is definitely making a name for themselves. Glass Castle is one that is new to me and I can’t drink enough of it so to speak.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

I got my hands on some of 2nd Shift’s Katy, a barrel-aged Brett Saison, and it’s just a beautiful beer… and they can it in 12oz packaging!

Favorite New Right Proper Beers

Our production team absolutely rocked it with Here, a new helles lager, that (wait for it) tasted like beer!

At the brewpub in Shaw, I was really happy with how our first foeder-aged saison, Blanc Slate, turned out.  Nice oak, some funk, crisp, with a little bit of Hallertau Blanc hop character to bring it all together.

Favorite Places to Drink

I found myself at Port City a lot this year since moving to Alexandria.  Their team is making some very high quality beers year after year and I’m lucky they’re so close to where I live.

Positive 2019 Trend

I think women are finally starting to get the recognition they’ve always deserved.  We have a long ways to go with inclusion as a whole, but I hope that this continues to trend in a positive manner.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

High sugar content in beer. It’s just not my preference.  Drink and brew what you like, though!

2020 Hopes and Wishes

Obviously, I want to see more saisons being produced.  It’s the best style, period.

Also, speaking on behalf of an industry, I’d like to see brewers have a better work-life balance.  I know it’s not a simple solution, but it’d be nice to see owners try some new approaches to find a good balance for the employee and for the company as a whole.  Happy Brewers = Better Beer.

Drew Wiles

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Solace Brewing

Best New Local Beer

The first one that comes to mind is one I had two nights ago at Crooked Run: Pyramid Scheme. It’s a 100% Mosaic IPA, and it was on-point with my palate. Low bitterness. No caramel or toasted malt, so it had a real light malt flavor, but was full-bodied, probably from some flaked oats and maybe some wheat. It was also at the end of a long day, which always makes it more enjoyable.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

We went out to GABF this year to have some fun and one of my favorite stops was New Terrain Brewing, just outside of Denver with an incredible view of the mountain ridge.  The beers were all really solid and the crew there couldn’t have been nicer to us popping-in and wanting to see their production toys.  Red Rocks Amphitheatre was only a few minutes away, to give you a better idea of the scenery there.

Favorite Improved and New Solace Beers

The easy answer is Partly Cloudy IPA, since we are always tweaking it ever-so slightly, whether it’s if we want to be more efficient, better cellar yields, water chemistry, etc.  We’ve gotten that beer so dialed-in, and it has been fun to see it’s growth.

But what I really gravitated to this year It’s Electric, our dry-hopped, fruited kettle-sour series. We fine-tuned a blueberry edition and right now we have a black-razz version on tap. Everything from our souring bugs, to acidity, to fruit puree addition volume have gotten pretty locked-in to where we like the final product more than ever.  You can usually catch me sipping on one of these in our IPA glasses since I’m not a huge fan of the tulip glass…

Favorite Places to Drink

I think about 2019 as a whole and I would say Fair Winds Brewing. For me, quality beer drinking is really about the people you spend time doing it with. Our crew has gotten out there to Fairfax from Loudoun on a few occasions this year and we’ve also had some industry gatherings there. Great people, great beer, big hearts.  We’ve got some amazing folks in our line-of-work. But also quick shout-out to drinking in my office.  It’s been a busy year for Solace and being able to have a beer at my desk is something people in other professions just can’t do.

Positive 2019 Trends

World Series Championships.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trends

Hmmm, I guess one thing I can say is hop prices.  There.s some hops we wish we could use more of or more often but they are just astronomically expensive. We like our IPAs here, so I’m just venting, but I understand the economics of it.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

I’m interested to see where the CBD market continues to go.  I’d be interested in making a CBD beer if TTB would allow it, but I don’t think we’ll see that in 2020.

Dave Coleman

Co-Founder & President of 3 Stars Brewing

Best Local Beers

I’m really digging what Commonwealth is doing these days, plus Ocelot, and I’m excited for what is coming from Burnish when they open. And Hazy For All and The Power Of Love were two of our favorite collabs this year. Also, Desolation with Qualia Coffee is always a cold weather favorite that we just dropped.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Civil Society is crushing it, so is Interboro, LIC and some of the homeys our of NC and MA.

Favorite 3 Stars Beers

Diamonds Are Forever is a beautiful new session Pale that we have added to our main lineup. The new Wet Hop was awesome. The new Low Hanging Fruit series is also awesome. The newest one is Blackberry Sage, and it’s perfect for the holidays.

Favorite Places to Drink

Wakefest is always a blast, and it doesn’t suck to be in Miami in the middle of winter. Beer Advocate threw some great parties this year. MASH in Barcelona and Brewskival in Sweden were also both dope. It’s fun to travel and showcase some dope beers with people outside of our direct distro.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

People working together to grow the scene, whether local or regionally. Collabs, idea sharing, material sharing or just thoughts on how to do certain things.

Mark Fulton

Co-Founder & Head Brewer at Reason Beer

Best Local Beer

My favorite brewery discovery of 2019 was Bingo Beer Company in Richmond, VA.  Located on the edge of Scott’s Addition, Bingo makes a fantastic mix of lagers, saisons, and IPAs. Their Black Lager is the big standout for me. I always make sure to pick some up when I’m driving through.

Best Out-of-Town Beer

Oxbow, one of my very favorite breweries from Maine, have greatly expanded their distribution down here in Virginia, and I have enjoyed getting my hands on releases I didn’t think I would be able to try. Surf Casting, their canned grisette with lime and sea salt, was the beer of the summer for me.  Truly, the perfect beer for warm weather lounging

Favorite Reason Beer

We released several new beers to distribution and numerous beer in the tasting room in 2019, but my very favorite was our 2nd anniversary barrel release, Wood Song Red.  This beer was fermented clean in stainless, and then aged with added wild yeast and bacteria in locally sourced wine barrels for almost a year.  The result is a Flemish-style red ale that achieved the perfect balance of tartness and malt.

Positive 2019 Trend

For me, 2019 seemed to bring about a larger interest in classic lagers and other traditional styles. While IPA (specifically hazy) continues to dominate the market, I have seen more and more breweries taking up these other styles and doing a pretty great job with them.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

The rise of hard seltzer in 2019 took a lot of us by surprise, and only time will tell if the trend will continue.  I can’t help but see these sales as missed opportunities for craft breweries to attract these customers.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

All in all, I hope to see demand for good, well-made craft beer rise above the gimmicks and marketing stunts of the larger beverage conglomerates.

Charlie Buettner

Head Brewer at Fair Winds Brewing

Best New Out-of-Town Beers

My first taste of Wooden Robot’s beers was this year at Snally. Their mixed-ferm Saison with peaches and the bottled Saisons were awesome!! Well made, clean and complex.

Favorite Fair Winds Beers

We ventured in to kettle-souring this year. I wasn’t a big fan of the idea at first, but my team was sooooooo stoked to do one. Our first crack at it was a very clean base beer, and I loved the pairing of mango and guava as the fruit addition. It got me hooked and we’ve done four more since.

I’m also really digging the progress we’ve made in our barrel-aged beers, too.  We don’t get to do too many of those malty big beers, with all the crispy bois we’re producing. Nice change of pace.

Favorite Places to Drink

Festival wise, I absolutely loved Snallygaster this year. Greg Engert, Tim Liu and the NRG crew throw a great party.

For breweries, I’m always having too much fun and getting into trouble at Ocelot. Damn Adrien, Dave and Jack!!!

Positive 2019 Trend

There seems to be a real appreciation for crisp, clean beers again. That’s how I like to brew and drink.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

No comment…

2020 Hopes and Wishes

Not really hoping for anything. I like the surprises this industry offers every day. I’d really like to see Chris Banich shave his head and beard. 2020 hopes and wishes, right?

 

Daniel Vilarrubi + Thomas Vaudin

Head Brewer + Brewer at Atlas Brew Works

Best New Local Beers

Vaudin: I really enjoyed this year’s Solidarity brew, a Kellerbier brewed at Bluejacket. A malty, bready, yet crisp lager. A style I enjoy and well made.,

Vilarrubi: Inverted Constellations from Right Proper was a good one. Those guys do some great work with Brettanomyces and hops.

Also, I’m going to say the Port City Helles. That one isn’t new but they bottled it this year so I got to drink a lot more of it than usual.

Best Out-of-Town Beers

Vilarrubi: I got to try a whole range of Hill Farmstead at their Churchkey tap takeover. Surprise, they were all good. I thought their Helles was fantastic though. I didn’t even know they made one until that day.

Vaudin: Allagash Ganache, a dark fruited sour aged on fresh raspberries. As the name suggests, it’s like drinking a super dank raspberry chocolate cake.

Favorite Atlas Beers

Vaudin: I enjoyed our Batch 666. A “Tmavý” dark Czech lager. Dark in color, but light in body, it’s a dark beer tree that can be enjoyed year round. Also, dark lagers are an underappreciated style, that I’d like to see (and brew!) more of.

Vilarrubi: The Shape of Funk to Come was our take on a Flanders-style red. I love the style, and I’m just really proud of the way it came out. The nose smells like it’s going to be this sour bomb, but there’s a great malty, cherry sweetness to it that balances everything out when you drink it. It was a long time in the making, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

And I was also really into Batch 666. I probably drank more 666 than anything else this past year. It was actually batch number 666 too, so that tickles me.

Favorite Place to Drink

Vilarrubi: Dew Drop Inn. It has a big patio and a solid, unpretentious draft list. Also, it’s close to home so that helps.

Positive 2019 Trend

Vaudin: This is more than just in 2019, but I like the growing popularity of sour beers. The versatility is virtually unlimited and it allows for a huge amount of creativity from brewers, which means the options are almost unlimited. It’s also a great way to get traditionally non-beer drinkers into beer, because most sours have very little hops, which is typically why non-beer drinkers don’t drink beer. But someone who prefers wine may enjoy a lighter, fruity sour.

Vilarrubi: Lagers. Every year people say it’s going to be ‘the year of the lager’. I’m never that optimistic but I have definitely seen more around. Breweries are making more lagers and it seems like craft beer bars are making more room on their draft lines for lagers. Even 3 Stars makes a lager now! It’s not easy to make a clean lager but as long as breweries keep earnestly working at it, the beer will get better and I think the market share for craft lagers will grow.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

Vilarrubi: Lactose and vanilla don’t belong in every beer. I don’t mind the hazies so much but IPAs shouldn’t be sickly sweet. I’m not going to rant on this because I think everyone reading this probably has an old man in their life that has given them the whole spiel before.

Thomas: I’m not a fan of the hazy trend. To me, they all reek of dead yeast, which overpowers most of the hop aroma (the whole point of the style). It’s unfortunate that the industry has become so captive to a market that is basically determined by a flawed product. In my experience, anyone who is a fan of the hazy trend seems to have already decided if they like a beer before then even taste it, based solely on how it looks.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

Vilarrubi: I hope to see lagers continue to pick up steam. I don’t think 2020 is the year of the lager we’ve been promised, but as long as bars keep tapping them, I’ll keep buying them.

Also, I hope lactose IPAs go away.

David Delaplaine

Beer Director at Roofers Union

Best New Local Beers

The beers coming out of Väsen are consistently blowing me away.

Every opportunity to try Pen Druid is a special occasion.

For our (6th!) ugly sweater/toy drive party this year, we poured an epic list including a DC Brau Legislator Coquito (still pouring currently!), a barrel-aged doppelbock with coconut. This may be the best local dark offering I’ve had yet!

Best Out-of-Town Beers

The Bruery and Green Cheek collaboration Stream Crossing wild saison.  delicate tart funk, unending complexity yet clean and crisp. I thought it held up to any of the awesome juice I’ve had from Hill Farmstead who I think is the cream of the crop for that style.

Also (and I have to give a shout out here to Jared at Hop, Cask & Barrel who introduced me), this year I was super impressed by quite a few excellent offerings from Hermit Thrush in Vermont.

Favorite Roofers Union Collab

Well, it was our first and only, but I was damned proud of a beer we got to work on with Atlas this year. We work hard every year to help make Adams Morgan Day a great success for our community. This year, a good friend (and regular) had the brilliant idea we should make a beer for the event. We ultimately worked with Atlas to create a new take on the session IPA. The evolved version was about 5.5% ABV – so, a bit sturdier than some session IPAs I’ve taken issue with in the past. Atlas threw in 8% acidulated malt, not to create a sour, but to give it a slight tang on the finish. This, of course, required a new name for the style and what could be more apt than to call it a Festival IPA: a beer you could enjoy more than one of on a hot end-of-summer day but with a twang that keeps your interest piqued.

Favorite Place to Drink

FUCKING GAME 5 OF THE WORLD SERIES.  OK, if games 6 and 7 hadn’t turned out the way they had, I might have a different answer.  Growing up on the Orioles and eventually fully embracing the Nationals, I never thought I’d actually see a team I was rooting for make it to a World Series. That was special.  And, I drank a lot of good craft beer at Nats Stadium.  Damn, I love that they serve real beer there. I wish Capital One Arena was better in that regard (and in that regard, I’d even settle for “not garbage” out of them).

Positive 2019 Trend

Sour consumption has arrived! I’ve long pushed sours, never pouring fewer than 3-4 on our draft list since we opened almost six years ago, but now I can run 5 to 8 at a time and still crush through them. I swear there have been weeks this year where we have moved as much sour beer as we have ipas.  And it’s been gradual, I probably could have said something similar last year, but it’s increased even more this year.  Let’s go ahead and start calling 2020: “the year of the sour.”

Also, see the Festival IPA section above.

Less-Desirable 2019 Trend

Lagers.

Okay, here is where I upset a lot of people on this list, so let me start by saying to them: It isn’t you… it’s me.

I know good lagers are a lot harder to make. I want to appreciate the finesse of the style.  I know that the geekiest of beer geeks everywhere get super excited when there is a new lager out there and it’s, like, the holy grail.  But for me, I’m still bored by it.  When I come across a great one, I appreciate it, and can say that it doesn’t suck, but that’s about the best I can give it.  It’s probably just that my palate hasn’t evolved yet to the level it needs to reach to truly appreciate lagers, but in the meantime, I’ll come out and admit that the style bores me.  Give me unending complexity, a burst of acidity, or sometimes even a bitter explosion and I’ll be a much happier drinker.

2020 Hopes and Wishes

Capital One Arena will start serving good beer.  Seriously, I don’t mind if I have to hunt for it. One or two craft towers per floor in that arena and it will be a good year for all. They made a big deal about adding the electronic station that fills your beer at the press of a button… great.  Maybe, go less gimmicky, and just put a good beer offering in instead. You’ll be surprised.  Am I the only one that would pay extra to walk up to a gruff bearded man selling a good IPA or sour (can or draft, I’ll take either) over a pretty young beer slinger offering macro-crap?  Like, picture Dave Coleman (of 3 Stars) behind a beer tower selling cans of Two to the Dome or Trouble in Paradise… #iwant!

Ballast Point makes a comeback under new ownership as they return to their craft ways. Nobody faults former Ballast Point ownership for taking the pay day from Constellation. You’d be dumb to turn that $$$ down. But how sweet would it be if the new ownership team that recently purchased Ballast Point back from macro at a fraction of the price is now able to turn the trajectory around and help Ballast Point flourish as a craft brand?  I know nothing about the new ownership team other than two paragraphs I read when the story first came out, so this may all just be wishful thinking. With that said, I’m down to embrace them with open arms once they’ve had a few months to undo any damage dealt.  If good juice flowed before, it can flow again. I cannot think of a better feel-good-story for craft beer than that.

Compiled, edited, and hyperlinked by Philip Runco.

Most photography courtesy of Clarissa Villondo.

 

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