By Philip Runco.
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.
We’ll also use this space to remind you of recent beer articles. So, in case you missed it, be sure to check out the Freshly Tapped profile of Right Proper’s Maslow, a dry-hopped farmhouse brewed for Pizzeria Paradiso’s 25th anniversary.
When: Thursday, December 1
At this exact moment in time (late autumn, 2016, anno Domini), few East Coast beer operations can rival the buzz of Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing. When it comes to young, hip breweries, there’s Boston’s Trillium, there’s Portland’s Bissell Brothers, there’s middle-of-Massachusetts’s Tree House, and there’s Other Half. People flip their shit for these guys.
What do they have in common? Well, they all make very juicy, very aromatic, very hazy IPAs, and unsurprisingly, those are their most coveted beers. They also sell their cans and bottles out of their respective tasting rooms, and very few kegs leave their home markets, so you pretty much never find them in DC. So, there’s no shame in not having any clue who these breweries are.
Of all them, though, Other Half has at least flirted with DC. It collaborated with 3 Stars’ on the barrel-fermented sour ale Ricky Rosé earlier this year. Its (excellent) collaboration with Stillwater, Rockstar Farmer (a wild farmhouse IPA), can still occasionally be found around town. It basically set up a mini-tasting room in 3 Stars’ “Urban Farmhouse” during for the brewery’s Hopfunk Fest. And I enjoyed a glass of its Brett IPA, Table Beer, at the Sovereign in October.
But on Thursday, Other Half receivers the proper spotlight treatment when co-founder Matt Monahan visits ChurchKey. Of course, he’s bringing some beer with him, too. Of those 15 brews, at least 9 will be an IPA or Double IPA, so you’ll be able to see what all of the fuss is about. And while the Double Mosaic Dream Double IPA is indeed sublime, don’t sleep on the foeder-aged farmhouse ales. Those light, slightly funky saisons are one of the things setting the brewery apart from the pack right now.
The Grapeness DC Release
When: Friday, December 2
Where: Meridian Pint
Prefer very juicy, very aromatic, very hazy IPAs of the local variety? The two DC-area breweries that have brewed the best New England-style IPAs (Ellicott City’s Manor Hill and Herndon’s Aslin) have teamed up to create a double IPA called The Grapeness. The 9% collaborative brew was hopped with Citra, Mandarina Bavaria, Australian Summer, and Wai-iti, and finished with Viognier grape juice. Yup, I’m into it.
Cans of the limited release went on sale in Maryland last week and, of course, sold out in a few hours. If you live in the District and want to try this beer, though, head to Meridian Pint on Friday. The Columbia Heights beer bar will be pouring The Grapeness, in addition to a slew of other hop-forward Manor Hill beers: Bizarre Universe (a new 8.6% hazy Double IPA loaded with Galaxy hops), Citra Splendor (an 8.3% Double IPA hopped with Citra, Summit, and ATZ) and two versions of Manor Hill’s Mosaic-heavy flagship IPA (one with fresh passionfruit puree, the other double dry-hopped). They’ll also have Manor Hill’s Grisette, which you can generally find around town, but it remains stupid good.
Extra credit: Read all about New England-style IPAs and Aslin Beer in our Freshly Tapped profile of The Adventures of Audrey.
When: Saturday, December 3
Where: Six Virginia breweries
In early November, Ocelot invited five fellow Virginia breweries out to Dulles to brew a special collaborative beer. It’s called Hope, and it’s a 6.6% aromatic IPA that’s light in body and single hopped with Galaxy. That’s not the special part. Here’s the special part: When the beer goes on sale, 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (In a previous life, Ocelot owner and general good dude Adrien Widman worked for NCMEC.)
All six of the breweries involved in the project will pour the beer at their taprooms this Saturday: Ocelot, Belly Love, Old 690, Old Ox, Tin Cannon, and The Veil. Watch a neat video about the making of beer here. And then go drink it, because this is a good cause, and like everything that comes out of Ocelot, it’s probably delicious.
Monday Night Beer Club (Christmas Edition)
When: Monday, December 5
Where: Pizzeria Paradiso (Georgetown)
The December edition of Birreria Paradiso’s Monday Night Beer Club spotlights strong and spiced Christmas ales. In addition to standards from Sierra Nevada and Great Lakes, the basement bar will be pouring St. Bernardus’ Christmas Ale, the Bruery’s 9 Ladies Dancing, Ninkaski’s Sleigh’r, and a handful of other #rare finds. Honestly, no one wants a six-pack of Christmas ale, so this is the ideal way to dance with the style.
Here’s an added incentive: 100% of the tips solicited by A-team bartenders Josh Fernands (Pizzeria Paradiso’s beer director) and Drew McCormick (its assistant beer director) will go local organizations DC Greens. Are you donating any of your salary to charity this holiday season? No? OK, then the least you can do is put on an ugly sweater, go to Birreria Paradiso, and drink holiday beers from 6:00 p.m. to close.
Bone up on the history of Birreria Paradiso with our Freshly Tapped profile of Right Proper’s Maslow. Also, you should totally order a Maslow if it’s still on tap.
Bonus: Order a pizza with dough made from DC Brau’s spent grain (ie, leftovers from the mashing process), and the proceeds will be donated to Bread for the City.
When: Friday, December 9
Where: Atlas Brew Works
Most brewers love listening to heavy metal. And brewing to heavy metal. And naming their beers after heavy metal references. It’s just the way the world works.
But perhaps no one in DC is as impassioned about the nexus of beer and heavy metal as Will Cook. The brewer has carried the title Director of Heavy Metal Operations from Port City to Fair Winds to Atlas Brew Works, where he now holds the more formal position of Brewer Emeritus. He appears on the METALHEADS podcast. You can find him on Twitter using the handle BrewMetalWill. And he helps organize a Metal Night with DC Heavy Metal at Atlas.
So, it’s not exactly a shocker that Atlas would host DC Heavy Metal’s holiday party. The evening will feature performance from Gloom and Genocide Pact, as well as ticket giveaways and various speeds of headbanging.
Extra credit: Read more about Cook and Atlas in our Freshly Tapped profile of Dance of Days.
When: Sunday, December 11
Where: Sehkraft Brewing [UPDATED!]
Nothing sounds more enjoyably cutthroat than a craft beer white elephant gift exchange.
On December 11, the DMV chapter of Girls Pint Out organizes one for you at Sehkraft as part of its third annual holiday party. Attendees are encouraged to bring a 750-mL bottle (or two 12-oz bottles) of something special for the occasion. So, if you’re coming, bring the good stuff. If you come with two bottles of Fat Tire, I will open one and pour it on your head.
The event runs from 1:00 to 3:00, and it’s really just a good excuse to wear a tacky sweater, do a little Sunday afternoon day drinking, and see (or meet!) some friends. Sehkraft also has plenty of TVs, sports fans.
And as Girl Pint out notes on the event page: Boys are welcome, too.
When: Tuesday, December 13
The Brickskeller may be no more, but one tradition of the seminal DC beer bar lives on: the local holiday beer tasting.
For the 29th year (!), the event provides the attendees the opportunity to taste local holiday beers and winter seasonals for a fair price ($35). As in more recent years, the event will be held at RFD in Gallery Place.
At least 12 breweries will participate, including DC Brau, Union, 3 Stars, Atlas Brew Works, District Chophouse, Heavy Seas, and Ocelot (who will be bringing its newest barrel-aged beer, Painless).
That’s a solid line-up, folks. Count me in.
When: Wednesday, December 14
Tulsa’s claim to fame in the world of craft beer (or maybe just in general) is producing Prairie Artisan Ales. For four years, the brewery has been like Phil Spector in ’60s, churning out hit after hit after hit. From the decadent spiced imperial stout BOMB! to the sour golden ale Prairie Gold to the hoppy saison Pairie Hop, there are already several instant classics under these guys’ belts.
But while BOMB! has begun popping up at a few highly regarded bottle shops lately, the rest of Prairie’s beers have otherwise been hard to find in DC (aside from occasionally at ChurchKey or another Neighborhood Restaurant Group joint). Thankfully, beer director Greg Engert has once again decided to affirm that he is indeed the plug with a 33-beer Prairie tap takeover at ChurchKey on December 14.
The highlight of the beer list is arguably a four-part series of Deconstructed BOMB! imperial stouts, each of which showcase one of the beer’s special ingredients (coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and ancho chilies). ChurchKey will also offer bottle pours of several beers that are otherwise unavailable outside of Oklahoma: Pirate Paradise (a Rum barrel-aged Imperial Stout with coconut and vanilla), Sherry Noir (an Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in Sherry barrels), and Barrel-Aged Christmas BOMB! (brewed with winter spices, then aged in American Whiskey barrels).
When: Thursday, December 15
Where: Roofers Union
Approaching its third year, Roofers Union’s ugly sweater party has already become one of the season’s can’t-miss beer events. Especially popular within the industry, the party turns out local brewers and their reps in force. Of course, you’re welcome, too, and you’re free to consume a smattering of beers from the area’s three provinces: DC (3 Stars, Atlas Brew Works, Hellbender, Right Proper), Maryland (Brewer’s Art, Burley Oak, Denizens, Franklins, Jailbreak, Manor Hill, RaR, Union Craft) and Virginia (Hardywood , Lost Rhino, Mad Fox, Port City). There’s not a stray in that bunch. And since breweries know they’ll be serving to their peers, they send their best seasonal offerings.
The event benefits Mary’s Center annual toy drive, so please bring one toy donation (or make a small cash donation at the door). There’s also an award for the best worst outfit, and, yes, people get really into it.
When: Sunday, December 18
Where: 3 Stars Brewing
For the fifth year running, 3 Stars will host a boozy Sunday afternoon market to celebrate the holidays. If it’s anything like last year, it’ll be a great opportunity of pick up some crafty stocking stuffers while drinking a few of the boutique brewery’s standbys (including my two favorite 3 Stars mainliners: the rye berliner Raspberry Dissonance, and farmhouse pale ale Above the Clouds), its seasonals (the cranberry saison Nectar of the Bogs, and double chocolate milk stout Starsky &Dutch), and harder-to-find offerings (a double dry-hopped version of Two to the Dome, and a new foeder-aged sour ale called Funkyard Dog).
There will be a handful of purveyors on site, offerings wares either digestible (including but not limited to Greenhat Gin, Jerkface Jerky, Ivy City Smokehouse, and Qualia Coffee) or otherwise (District of Clothing, Cielo Productions). The $15 price of admission gets you your first beer and a fancy commemorative glass that will let future house guests know you were doing something cooler than they were on December 18, 2016.
The event runs from 1:00 to 6:00, but I’d recommend getting there on the earlier side to score the Funkyard Dog. There tends to be a rush on the more limited Funkerdome offerings at 3 Stars events (and understabdably so). Read more about how the brewery started its sour program in our Freshly Tapped profile of Two-Headed Unicorn. Or if you’re more of a hophead, read about how 3 Stars revamped Two to the Dome in the Freshly Tapped profile of #ultrafresh.
Redbeard Brewing at Meridian Pint
When: Tuesday, December 20
Where: Meridian Pint
“Small batches of big beers” is how Redbeard Brewing describes its approach.
This checks out.
First, not much beer leaves the Staunton, Virginia nanobrewery’s taproom. Second, head brewer Jonathan Wright packs big flavors into his offerings, whether a boozy imperial stout or a sessionable hop-forward grissette.
On very rare occasions, though, Wright will send some of his beer to Meridian Pint beer director Jace Gonnerman. We’re talking maybe a couple times per year. And it’s usually for something like Savor week.
One such glorious night arrives on December 20, when Meridian Pint hosts a Redbeard Brewing night. The focus of the evening will be several variations on the brewery’s imperial stout Moriarty: one aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, another in Buffalo Trace barrels with coffee beans, and a last one in EH Taylor Rye barrels. Gonnerman says a few other Redbeard offerings are likely to be on tap as well. Let’ hope for that grissette.
When: Saturday, December 31
Where: The Sovereign
If you’re looking for a New Year’s Eve open bar with a head-spinning amount of good beer, Neighborhood Restaurant Group has you covered. The three crown jewels of its DC empire – The Sovereign, ChurchKey, and Bluejacket – are all throwing their own parties, and, oh my, will the beer flow.
Each ticket runs $115, and includes unlimited pours of 50+ drafts (at The Sovereign and ChurchKey) or 25 house-made brews (at Bluejacket). Real talk: Most New Year’s Eve open bar deals are a scam, but I could probably go to any of these places on a random Tuesday night and spend $115, so this is a great deal. It also includes a steady stream of hors d’oeuvres so you don’t pass out at 10:30.
Of the three, I’d probably recommend The Sovereign’s party, just because there’s something appropriately swanky about sipping Belgium’s finest on New Year’s Eve. Also, the event features live jazz.
Looking for something different? Here are some other New Year’s Ever options:
- Roofers Union is teaming up with Port City and DC Brau for a double tap takeover. The extravaganza includes ten beers from those two fine brewing establishments, plus other kinds of booze and a late night eats buffet. There will also be music from (friend of the site) Jonny Grave & the Tombstones. Tickets are available here.
- Hellbender is throwing a “chill” party with least 10 beers on tap, including a new Double IPA, a secret one-off, and a cask of coffee stout. Mixmaster LT will be on the 1s and 2s.
- Is Hellbender not far enough north for you? Well, consider Denizens’ New Beer’s Eve. $50 gets you an open bar of beer, mead, cider, and “wine” from 9 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. (Side note: Any know what this “wine” stuff is? Hit me up.) Those same 50 bucks also gets you late night nibbles, party favors, and a midnight toast of something called “Champagne.” (I’m pretty sure this is a type of IPA.)