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.
When: Friday, December 1
Where: Port City Brewing
Is it just me or does it feel like 47 years since the last release from Port City’s lager series? OK, it’s probably just me. It’s actually only been three months. But still: WTF, Port City?!? You can’t get me addicted to receiving a new, delicious lager every six weeks and then cut me off for three months! Daddy needs his new lager.
Thankfully, the sixth entry in the series sounds a total malt banger. It’s a Munich Dunkel, and according to the fine folks at Port City, the “traditional, easy-drinking dark lager is a deep copper with predominant malt notes of biscuits and bread crust kept in check by a moderating hop character.”
Give me that bread crust. Give me all the bread crust.
Port City Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves last tried his hand at Dunkel production in the spring of 2016, when he collaborated with DC Brau for its Zehn von Zehn.
“A lot of the time when people make lagers, they end up tasting like Beck’s Dark or another German mega-brewery lager,” he told me at the time. “We wanted to make one that’s distinct, with some complexity and depth to it. Hopefully, we succeeded.”
He did then, and I’m not doubting he will again. The beer will be released at the brewery on Friday, December 1.
When: Friday, December 1
When Founders Brewing adds flaked oats, imported chocolate, and two types of coffee to a stout, it’s called Breakfast Stout. (I repeat: imported chocolate. Don’t even try me with that weak domestic chocolate.)
When the Michigan brewery takes that stout, boosts the alcohol from 8.3% to 11.8%, then “cave-ages” it bourbon barrels for a year, it becomes Kentucky Breakfast Stout. The kids call it KBS. (So does the label.)
But if Founders is really trying to get crazy, it does all the above but ages the imperial stout in bourbon barrels that previously aged Michigan maple syrup. That’s when it fucks around and makes a CBS. AKA Canadian Breakfast Stout. AKA Young Sappy. AKA Maple Magic. AKA Cave Syrup. AKA Imperial Drizzle.
CBS has been in hibernation for over a half-decade. The last time Founders released the barrel-aged imperial oatmeal stout was 2011, because apparently they hate money up in Michigan. But the wait is over. CBS is back in 2017. Celebrate at ChurchKey on December 1, when they’ll pour the beer along with 19 other Founders offerings, including the bourbon barrel-aged double IPA Doom and multiple vintages of barrel-aged Scotch ale Backwoods Bastard.
When: Sunday, December 3
Where: Right Proper
Right Proper’s Brookland Production House is turning two, and it’s celebrating with… a record fair?
Oh, Right Proper, you are so modest.
It does make sense, though. Of all the DC breweries, Right Proper and Head Brewer Nathan Zeender have the most thoughtful and intricate relationship with music. So, sure, let’s record fair.
On December 3, go cratedigging through vinyl from Songbyrd, Red Onion Records, Joe’s Record Paradise, Joint Custody, and Rasslin’ Records whilst enjoying a Right Proper beer or two. (Unsolicited recommendation: The wonderful Brett IPA Runcible – one of my favorite winter beers – is back.) There will also be music from DJ Cene and food by Project Milanesa and Nomad Dumplings.
Befitting the overall chill-AF vibes, there are no tickets necessary. Festivities run from noon to 5:00.
Also, according to Bobby Bump, the Shaw brewpub will celebrate four years of top-notch beer on December 10 with live music and some special barrel-aged vintage beers from the cellar. Bump is the Lead Brewer at the brewupub, so I’m going to go ahead and take his word for it.
When: Wednesday, December 6
Tulsa, Oklahoma’s claim to fame in the world of craft beer (or maybe the world in general) is Prairie Artisan Ales. (OK, American Solera is great, too.)
For five years, the brewery has been like Phil Spector in 1960s, churning out hit after hit after hit. From the decadent spiced imperial stout BOMB! to the funky golden ale Prairie Gold to the hoppy saison Pairie Hop, Prairie already has several instant classics under its belt.
In the past year, we’ve started to see a lot more Prairie on shelves around DC (because local boutique distributor Pekko Beer is doing the goddamn lord’s work). Still, there’s a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t make it here (because that’s the way the beer world works). Thankfully, for the second year running, ChurchKey is bringing Prairie to us.
On December 6, the Logan Circle beer mecca will be pouring a whopping 42 beers from Prairie, including the DC-area debuts of Cinnamon Pecan BOMB!, Bromance (a whiskey barrel-aged imperial brown ale), Booyeah (a rum and whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout), Holiday Party (a black IPA), A/S/L (an IPA hopped Cascade, Citra, and Falconer’s Flight), Hulk Hands (a dry-hopped gose), and OH to OK (an IPA hopped with Citra and Cascade).
The event also doubles as the release party for a new collaboration between Prairie and our very own Bluejacket. Brewed in November, the collab will be a hazy New England-style IPA, a style that Bluejacket has been executing exceedingly well this year.
When: Saturday, December 9
Where: Ocelot Brewing
Adrien Widman used to worked for National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Now, as the founder of Ocelot Brewing, he and head brewer Mike McCarthy make beer. More specifically, they make the best IPAs in the area. Once a year, though, all of these things collide with a beer called Hope.
Hope is an IPA. This year, it was brewed in collaboration with The Veil and Bluejacket, both of whom know a thing or two about IPAs, too. 100% of the proceeds for Hope will be donated to the NCMEC. So, if you see Hope on a menu, order it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’ll probably be amazing. Like last year, the ~6.5% beer is (pretty much) single-hopped with the prized Australian varietal Galaxy. (There’s a dash of Azacca in the mix this year, too.)
Real talk: I have a Freshly Tapped profile on this beer coming next week, so I’m going to cut myself off here. Come back next week and read it.
Also, the big release party is Saturday, December 9, from 1:00 to 10:00. They’ll have bottles of Hope for sale, and all of the Ocelot on draft. If you were looking for an excuse for a Dulles field trip, here it is.
When: Wednesday, December 13
Where: Roofers Union
Roofers Union’s ugly sweater party is one of the season’s can’t-miss beer events. It’s essentially the holiday party for the local beer scene, with brewers and sales reps galore. And like a good holiday party, there are a lot drunk people (in the best possible way).
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, Bluejacket, DC Brau, Hellbender, Right Proper), Maryland (Brewer’s Art, Denizens, Franklins, Manor Hill, RaR, UNION Craft, Flying Dog) and Virginia (Ardent, Crooked Run, Hardywood, Port City). There’s not a stray in that bunch. And if previous years are any example, these breweries send primo offerings. Also, if you’re looking to mix it up, Charm City Meadworks and Graft Cidery are sending their wares.
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, as you can see above, people get really into it.
When: Friday, December 15
Where: UNION Craft
Last week, I went up to UNION Craft’s “pre-Thanksgiving hangout” event, The Cornucopia. I drank a few beers, including its out-of-this-world hoppy sour ale Dust Rings, a collab with Stillwater that I can not recommend highly rnough. I scored a few four-packs of their latest Re-UNION collab, a double dry-hopped IPA with Perennial called Summer Somewhere. (Total banger.) I even bought a mini-keg of its holiday Weizenbock Miracle for the fam.
And I wasn’t alone in any of this: The place was packed. People bought their to-go beers, then stuck around to hang out and socialize. There was live music. The lights were dim. UNION had two bars set up, where they served full-pours of amazing beer, including two new variants of Older Pro. Honestly, it was kind of my dream brewery event: thoughtfully organized but no frills. UNION talks about being a community brewery and that’s what it felt like. I mean, multiple people showed up in shorts and/or flip-flops (despite it being, like, 40 degrees), leading me to believe they had walked down the street or just generally viewed this place as their second home.
Of course, all of this made me insanely jealous of the citizens of Baltimore, because I live in D.C. and do not get to enjoy these kinds of UNION events on the reg. That said, I will be making the trip up to Baltimore more frequently for them. You should do the same.
Speaking of which, the brewery will throw another release party on Friday, December 15. UNION will be unveiling three new beers: Rumpus Room Smoked Porter (to celebrate its 2000th batch), XLII-90 Experimental DIPA , and the 2017 edition of its winter IPA Rye Baby (my personal favorite of its seasonal IPAs). The evening will be headlined by a performance by local Phish tribute band Phoam. Tickets are $15 and available here.
When: Sunday, December 17
Where: 3 Stars Brewing
For the sixth year running, 3 Stars will host a boozy Sunday afternoon market to celebrate the holidays. If it’s anything like previous years, it’ll be a great opportunity of pick up some crafty stocking stuffers while drinking a few of the boutique brewery’s standbys or perhaps some #rarer offerings from the Funkerdome.
The $20 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 17, 2017. (There’s also a $50 VIP option that come with early admission, extra beer tickets, and a special four-pack of sorts.)
Revisit my August profile The Technicolor Life of 3 Stars Brewing to see what’s new at the brewery these days.
When: Wednesday, December 20
Where: The Sovereign
NEW SEASONAL TRADITION ALERT.
For the first of many, many, many years to come, The Sovereign will host a “holiday beer feature” on December 20. On this splendid evening, the classiest bar in Georgetown will be spotlighting over 15 Belgian-inspired holiday ales, including offerings from both the States (Saint Somewhere’s Bon Hiver, Oxbow’s Saison Noel, Allagash’s Hibernal Fluxus) and abroad (Dupont’s Avec Les Bons Voeux, De Ranke’s Pere Noel, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale).
It’s not just about drinking, though, OK? Stop being selfish. It’s the holidays.
For the event, The Sovereign is partnering with the Georgetown Ministry Center to help the less fortunate. But they need your help. Attendees are encouraged to bring hats, gloves, and/or hand warmers to the event for donation. Everyone who contributes will receive a free 4 oz. taster of a holiday beer on draft (priced at $5 or less).