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: January 31 / February 1
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Talking Backwards release day.
If you’re unfamiliar with Talking Backwards, I’m about to change your life like Natalie Portman’s discman.
Every winter, Ocelot Brewing teams up with Meridian Pint to produce one of the area’s finest beers: an 11% triple IPA brewed primarily with the premium British malt Marris Otter, then generously hopped with Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic. It’s Ocelot founder Adrien Widman’s tribute to Russian River’s Pliny the Younger. I wrote all about this beer and Ocelot’s relationship with Meridian Pint last year in Freshly Tapped: Talking Backwards. That is your Talking Backwards bible. Use it wisely.
However, there are a few notable changes for 2018. For one, the beer was brewed entirely with pelletized cryo hops, which to quote Meridian Pint “deliver all of the bright citrusy, tropical goodness with less green character.” (As I discussed in Freshly Tapped: Hope, Ocelot is always tinkering with its recipes.)
The other change: Talking Backwards is going into cans! In fact, it’ll be the first Ocelot beer to receive such aluminum encasement. Going forward, the Dulles brewery will be canning its IPAs. Huzzah.
You can score Talking Backwards cans at the brewery on Thursday at 1:00.
If, like me, you want to get a taste of Talking Backwards tonight, head to Meridian Pint. They’ll also be pouring a new Ocleot IPA called Simple Pleasures, as well as the hoppy pilsner Sunnyside Dweller and the Baltic porter Powers of Observation – both of which have have won awards at GABF. (No big deal.)
When: Thursday, February 1
Where: Pizzeria Paradiso
OK, hear me out, but what if: gruit.
The broadly defined style of unhopped, spiced beers are experiencing a bit of a resurgence lately, and few if any in D.C. are beating the drum harder than Pizzeria Paradiso beer director Drew McCormick. This is a subject we discussed at length last September in a little (OK, not actually little) article called Freshly Tapped: The Gruit Made Me Do It.
On February 1, McCormick will get to celebrate her favorite fake holiday, International Gruit Day, with a range of gruit offerings across all four Pizzeria Paradiso locations. One of those offerings will be a barrel-aged version of the restaurant group’s collaboration with Denizens Brewing, The Gruit Made Me Do It. Here’s where twist comes in: That’s the gruit I wrote about in September. Whoa.
Dubbed “Stop Trying to Make Gruit Happen,” this barrel-aged iteration was steeped on chamomile, rose hips, and vanilla bean.
“Being aged five months in neutral oak barrels has brought to life some new characteristics that we complemented with the addition of three different herbs and spices,” Drew McCormick shares via e-mail. “The brettanomyces developed some soft pineapple aromatics, which we complemented with the addition of chamomile flowers; the lactic acid sourness is enhanced by a cranberry like tartness from the addition of rose hips; and the natural vanilin compounds of the oak barrel are brought back to life with a small addition of Madagascar vanilla beans. All flavors hit you delicately, but with purpose.”
Here’s your game plan: Read that article, go to Pizzeria Paradiso, drop knowledge on unsuspecting patrons. Additional gruits will vary by location but include a mix of Earth Eagle, Gruit Brewing, and Dogfish Head offerings.
Or if you feel like celebrating this holy day in Silver Spring, head to Denizens, where they’ll be tapping Stop Trying to Make Gruit Happen, as well.
When: Saturday, February 3
Where: Port City Brewing
It’s the other most wonderful time of year. Yup, things are getting Future voice colossal.
On Saturday, Port City will throw a party to celebrate its seventh anniversary and the release of Colossal Seven, its seventh anniversary beer (duh).
This year, head brewer Jonathan Reeves and his team have whipped up a traditional Scotch Ale. We’re going to dig into why that’s not such an easy task in an upcoming Freshly Tapped profile on the beer. Come back Friday to read!
Anyway, this sexy beast clocks in at 8% and steams up all the windows with its high-end Scottish malt bill. The brewery promises a beer with “notes of raisin bread and chewy caramels complemented by a subtle roastiness.” And you know what? I believe them.
If you liked Port City’s award-winning Colossal Five (or, in other words, if you have functioning taste buds), you’ll probably love this beer, because this type of Scotch Ale is essentially the Scottish rendition of an old ale. And to the delight of PEATA, no smoked malts were used in the making of this beer.
If you head to the brewery on Saturday, there will be live music, food options, and you’ll be able to score a six-pack of the beer. That’s right, kids: Colossal Seven is coming in sixers. Roll-up to a party with a pack of these and watch the place go crazy.
When: Wednesday, February 7
Where: Smoke & Barrel
Remember that gruit event? OK, here is the literal opposite thing.
Next Wednesday, Smoke & Barrel will host the second edition of “IPA Insanity”, aka “HOPS for Refugees 2018″, aka “Fresh Beer Celebration”, aka “Damn, This Thing Has a Lot of Names”.
The concept is simple: Beer director Jace Gonnerman has lined up a stellar selection of hoppy beers, and all proceeds from the sales of said hoppy beers will go to refugees via the International Rescue Committee. That’s it. You get drunk. Refugees get money. Win win.
OK, let’s talk about the beer list thus far. It’s flame emoji. There will be Hopslam and our area’s homegrown Hopslam: Ocelot’s Talking Backwards. Aslin is sending its Southern Hemisphere hop showcase Dunley Place. We get a relatively rare Triple Crossing’s drop of the Richmond brewery’s always wonderful IPA Clever Girl. There’s something called “Monroe Hops Small Batch Brau Pils,” which, holy shit, I don’t know what that is but I want it.
The big ticket item might just be Reason Beer’s New SOP. This is the first batch of the Charlottesville brewery’s new double IPA, and as far as I can tell, it’s only keg of New SOP to leave the brewery. If you’re not already familiar with Reason Beer, the new project of former Maine Beer Company head brewer Mark Fulton, I would humbly suggest reading my recent article The Rule of Reason: Inside Charlottesville’s Reason Beer.
When: Wednesday, February 7
There are few breweries for whom my heart goes aflutter more than Perennial Artisan Ales. From Belgian pale ales to every kind of saison to imperial stouts to Berliners and goses to IPAs, Phil Wymore and his team crush every style they try their hands at. If I see Perennial beer on a menu, I order it. If see a Perennial bottle in a store, I buy it. If I visit the Perennial SAVOR station, shit gets real awkward.
On the 7th, ChurchKey will host the St. Louis brewery. The main attraction, ostensibly, is a boatload of Abraxas and Sump variants. Abraxas is an imperial stout finished with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and ancho chili peppers, while Sump is also an imperial stout but with coffee. If you’re reading Draft Picks, you probably know this, because these stouts are a big deal. There will be five versions of Abraxas and three of Sump. If imperial stouts are your thing, proceed with blacking out.
Honestly, as a matter of personal preference, I’m more jazzed about some of the other “rarities,” namely Static Electricity (a DIPA hopped with Simcoe & Falconer’s Flight), Perennial Pilsner (a pilsner hopped withTettnang & Saphir), and Devil’s Heart of Gold (a bourbon barrel-aged wheatwine). These Perennial beers don’t really leave Missouri, so here’s your chance to try them.
There will obviously be a bunch more Perennial on tap, including the Brett-spiked Belgian pale ale Working Title, which I could drink all damn day. Check the full list at the link above.
When: Friday, February 9
Where: Port City Brewing
If you read Draft Picks on the reg, you know how I feel about the Port City Lager Series. If you read our 2017: The Beer in Review, you know how the local beer industry feels about it, too. We’re fans. We’re all big, big fans.
Next Friday, the Alexandria brewery releases the last entry in the series: Schwarzbier. After this beer, it’s back to the top of the order with Helles (then Mexican Dark, then German Pils, then Franconian Kellerbier, and so on.)
OK, schwarzbier. Let’s talk about it. German for “dark beer,” Port City’s Schwarzbier “deftly marries a bitterness-free, dark coffee roastiness with a light, clean lager body, making it perfect for the change of seasons.” So, it’s the dark beer for people who say they don’t like heavy beers.
For the release, Port City will stay open until 11:00, giving you some extra time to fill your tummy with lager. Derek Evry will be playing an acoustic set of all Crazy Town covers. (Half of that information is accurate.) And Borinquen Lunch Box will be providing food options.
Savor the lager while it lasts, kids. This is the last Port City Lager Series release before April. (You can always drink a Downright Pilsner, of course.)
When: Friday, February 16
Where: Silver Spring Civic Center
Maryland governor Larry Hogan has once again proclaimed the second month of the year “FeBREWary.” Dilly dilly!
FeBREWary is a celebration of the state’s beer, and its marquee event is Love Thy Beer. They’re calling it a “winter warmer showcase,” but they do not mean this literally. (A festival of entirely winter warmers is my personal nightmare.) Instead, you can expect “stouts, porters, winter seasonal, sours, and anything out of the barrel.” I also distinctly remember having a milkshake IPA from Monocacy Brewing last year. So, you know, you can expect beer. Maryland beer. Just shut up and drink it.
The list of participating breweries is swell and includes some heavies (like Hysteria, Denizens, and Evolution), along with a handful of lesser-known farm breweries (like Milkhouse and Red Shedman). Perhaps the most exciting inclusion is Sapwood Cellars, the forthcoming project from beer writer Scott Janish and superstar homebrew guru (and Modern Times sour whisperer) Mike Tonsmeire. For most of us normies, this will be the first chance to try the soon-to-be Howard County brewery, which will specialize in barrel-aged sours and hoppy ales.
Each brewery will have a few beers on tap, including its own special “Cupid’s Curse” brewed especially for FeBREWary. Last year, these beers ran the gamut from a Brett porter to a pale ale to a tart saison with rose hips. Attendees will vote on their favorite. Losers will be sent to the Pit of Misery.
Tickets cost $55 or you can splurge for the $75 VIP.
When: Sunday, February 18
Where: UNION Craft
When you were a kid, you dreamed about building race cars and going fast. Now, you dream about Citra hops and low-flocculating yeast. What the hell happened to you?
Well, for one day, you can reconnect with the younger, cooler version of yourself at UNION Craft.
On February 18, the Baltimore beer operation will again host an old-fashioned pinewood derby on the brewery’s own 40-foot track. The grand prize is one can of every 2018 special-release UNION beer, a t-shirt, and $100 in UNION Craft skrillaz. That’s a hell of a haul, folks!
For lazy people like me, you can also pay $5 to watch more motivated people race and “try.”
When:Saturday, February 24
Where: Denizens Brewing
The NHL’s Winter Classic has come and gone, but now it’s time for the real one: Denizens Brewing’s Winter Cask Classic.
As the name implies, there will be casks. Casks on casks on casks. Casks from Denizens. Casks from Atlas Brewing, Bluejacket, Brewer’s Art, DC Brau, District Chophouse, Manor Hill, Oliver Brewing, Pub Dog, and UNION Craft. The line-up of specific beers has not yet been disclosed, but I don’t envision a scenario where that list of breweries doesn’t send delicious beer.
Tickets are $35 and include: 1) a souvenir glass you will cherish forever; and 2) unlimited pours for five whole hours. There will also be a “friendly” hockey shoot-out competition outside. (It will not be “friendly” if I am involved.)
When: Saturday, February 24
Where: Mad Fox Brewing
“Barleywine Festival.” That is a combination of words that puts the fear of god into livers across the world. Who is crazy enough to organize such a thing?
Mad Fox Brewing.
On a related note: Now I know why they have “mad” in the name.
On February 24, the Falls Church brewery will host “hands down, the largest barleywine festival in the Mid-Atlantic.” (OF COURSE IT IS. WHO ELSE HAS THE HUTZPAH TO DO THIS?)
Here’s what you can expect: Over 30 barleywines, more toffee notes than your palate can handle, and a crushing hangover.
Admission is free, but the barleywine is one you.