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.
“Lost Weekend” Release
When: Friday, March 2
Where: Bluejacket Brewing
After almost four-and-a-half years of kegs and 750mL bottles, Bluejacket is finally entering the aluminum can game. Each Friday at noon for the foreseeable future, the brewery will release at least one freshly canned hop-forward ale, lager, or saison exclusively at its Navy Yard location. (Boozier stouts and mixed-fermentation beers will stay in large-format bottles.)
First up: Lost Weekend! The closest thing to a Bluejacket staple, Lost Weekend is a 7% IPA single-hopped with the prized Pacific Northwest varietal Citra. (If someone ever asks you what Citra tastes like, pour them a glass of this citrusy, peachy beer.) The beer’s recipe has taken some twists and turns since it was first introduced in the fall of 2013, and where it stands now is a testament to how good Bluejacket has gotten at brewing (hazy) IPAs. A four-pack will run you $15.
In other Bluejacket news, the brewery recently released Here We Roam, its latest collaboration with Louisiana’s Great Raft Brewing. It’s a very hoppy, slightly sweet, and decidedly not hazy pale ale, and if you’re picking up cans of Lost Weekend, I’d advise grabbing a 750mL of it. And a bottle of the unfuckwithable Helles lager For The Company, which has quickly become one of the area’s tastiest lagers.
When: Saturday, March 3
Where: National Building Museum
Entering its fourteenth year, the DC Brewer’s Ball attracts 40 breweries and 30 local restaurants under one very high roof to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. That’s it. No snark here. Good beer, good food, good cause.
Participating breweries include a mix of local favorites (like Port City, Ocelot, DC Brau, Old Ox, Right Proper, Oliver Brewing, and Crooked Run), along with some pedigreed regional heavies (such as Allagash, Boulevard, Schlafly, Victory. Stone, and Ballast Point). This year, they’ve also added those wild cider kids from ANXO and Graft, which was very thoughtful of them. Side note: Everyone participating here donates their kegs, so an extra tip of the cap to them.
Meanwhile, the restaurants serving up delectable finger food are just as stellar. Glancing through the list, I’d be most excited about Jose Andres’ China Chilcano, but that’s not to slight Daikaya, DBGB, Hank’s Pasta Bar, and B Too. Another side note: There will also be spirits and wine, which, c’mon, laaaaaaame.
Tickets cost $150, which is not cheap, sure, but it’s for charity, and this is a fancy event, and you will leave with $300 worth of food and drink in your tummy.
When: Wednesday, March 7
Where: Roofers Union
One of the big takeaways from BYT’s 2017 Beer in Review was that beer directors and brewers alike love Crooked Run Brewing. This isn’t a big surprise: The Virginia brewery does a number of styles very well, including hazy IPAs, kettle and barrel-aged sours, and wild ales. It also makes a mighty fine pilsner in the form of the Southern Hemisphere-hopped Cruise Control.
Crooked Run’s Leesburg nanobrewery will celebrate its five-year anniversary in July, but it’s been less than a year since founders Jake Endres and Lee Rogan opened a larger production facility in Sterling. Up until that point, scoring Crooked Run usually meant a trip to the burbs. Now, thankfully, it’s showing up occasionally in DC’s primo beer beers and bottle shops.
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with Crooked Run, stop by Roofers Union on March 7 when they host the brewery’s founders and their beer for a beer dinner. $65 (tip and gratuity included!) will score you four courses (like pan-roasted octopus and slow-cooked venison) paired with four beers (like a Belgian single fermented with elderflower yeast, and a double IPA with vanilla and cherry).
Real talk: Roofers Union is my favorite spot in DC for beer dinners. The food is delicious. The pours are generous. The space is intimate. So, I’m strongly recommending this one.
Eavesdrop Brewery Opening
When: Friday, March 9
Where: Eavesdrop Brewery
There’s a new kid on the block: Eavesdrop Brewery. What do you need to know? Let’s work through the essentials.
Eavesdrop is located in an old racing pigeon loft out near Bull Run Regional Park. That’s where they have 20 taps, a rooftop bar, and “plenty of comfortable seating.” (Big if true.) Outside of the brewery, they ‘re cultivating a “hop garden, apple trees, [and] berry bushes” – the fruits of which will likely be going into their beers in some capacity.
What else about the beer? Well, the venture is calling itself a “collaboration-focused brewery,” and it says it will place an emphasis on farmhouse styles, IPAs, and barrel aging. Looking at their initial offerings, this all checks out. There’s Cher Ami (a farmhouse ale hopped with sexy German varietal Hallertau Blanc) and Mocker (an “Americanized” Belgian pale ale), plus two collaborations: Morning Breath, a coffee and hazelnut porter brewed with Old Ox, and a collab IPA with Vanish (brewed with wheat and oats, and dry-hopped with Mosaic and Amarillo). Word on the street is that the latter beer is a test batch for Eavesdrop’s house IPA.
Brewery operations are being overseen by Joe Rivera – a veteran of Old Ox and 3 Stars. Right now, he’ll be overseeing a three-barrel system, so batches won’t be huge, but he says the brewery is “already planning the first expansion into an adjacent building.” (Notably, Vanish owner Jonathan Staples is part of the ownership team.)
Go see for yourself on March 9, when Eavesdrop opens to the public.
When: Sunday, March 11
Where: Boundary Stone
If you’ve ever visited a brewery, you know that the people who work in them love two things: beer and hair. And tattoos, I guess. Also, heavy metal. But, really, beer and hair.
So, when brewers part ways with their flowing locks, it’s no trivial matter. But that’s exactly what a handful of folks from the local beer scene will be doing at Boundary Stone on March 11. Why? To raise money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research.
Notable participants include Atlas Brew Works founder Justin Cox, 3 Stars brewer Meth Gunasinghe, DC Beer overlord Bill DeBaun, and Right Proper founder (and baldee) Thor Cheston, who will shave his beard, which is a big deal because Cheston hasn’t been seen without a beard since the 5th grade.
This is one of the year’s most fun local beer events for industry folks and us normies alike. Show up, drink some discounted beer, and gawk at the rows of brewers losing their hair and cool for a great cause.
“Break My Balls” Release
When: Wednesday, March 14
Where: Ocelot Brewing
Since Ocelot Brewing opened in the spring of 2015, the Dulles brewery has more or less produced beers without much strategic consideration. “The model has always been to brew what we want to drink,” founder Adrien Widman told me last fall. That’s meant a lot of experimentation and a lot of “one-and-done” beers. To wit: In two-and-a-half years, Ocelot produced a staggering 102 unique IPAs (and, I would argue, the best IPAs in the region). A few of these IPAs – the best ones, like Thought Control, Buddhist Prodigy, and Two Lost Souls – would maybe reappear once more down the road, but there were no promises.
This all changed at the start of the 2018, when Ocelot jumped into the canning its beer for the first time. Now, for the first time, Widman has planned out an entire year of production. More specifically, he’s picked 12 of his favorite Ocelot IPAs, and the brewery will produce each of them three times over the course of the 2018. (It will also can the occasional one-off – like a recent collab with The Veil called Big Cat and a forthcoming anniversary triple IPA – and its award-winning hoppy pilsner Sunnyside Dweller.) (It will also continue to produce “experimental” IPAs, albeit less frequently, and they won’t go into cans.)
The first month of can releases was a murder’s row of IPAs: Big Cat, the pineapple bomb Thought Control, Alpine Nelson tribute Home*, the clean and citrusy Profits of Pride, and cult triple IPA (and Meridian Pint collab) Talking Backwards. And March is looking just as good. First up, on March 14, is Break My Balls, a soft and fruity IPA that’s one of the purest distillations of the Mosaic hop that I’ve ever had. In December, I wrote about Ocelot’s changing approach to IPAs with regard to yeast strains and water chemistry, and this beer puts that on display. Paired with Break My Balls will be Round & Round We Go, the brewery’s rotating-hop IPA. On the heels of Citra and Simcoe editions, this iteration will showcase Ekuanot cryo hops. The week after that comes Wandering Soul, another IPA showcasing the pineapple flavors of Azacca and Wai-iti hops. (Sunnyside Dweller may also make its first can appearance this month, too.) What a time to be alive.
In other Ocelot news, immensely talented head brewer Mike McCarthy will be leaving the brewery at the end of June to start his own venture, Vibrissa Beer, out in Winchester. The brewery has a new brewhouse currently being built in Germany and hopes to be up and running by the end of 2018. Back at Ocelot, current brewer Jack Snyder will take the reins.
When: Wednesday, March 14
Where: Union Stage
Here’s a novel twist on the ol’ beer dinner.
On March 14, Herndon buzz rod Aslin Beer Co. is heading to the Wharf for a night of food, music, and brews at Union Stage.
On tap: a happy hour with appetizers, many food courses, many beers, and a custom glass especially for the occasion. Live music will come courtesy of Two Ton Twig, a group of Alexandria hyphen haters whose music has “evolved from its punk roots to incorporate traditional influences from Appalachia, Red Dirt, Eastern European folk, Bluegrass, and other forms of American Roots.”
Other details are forthcoming, but I’d guess the beer options will include some exorbitantly hopped New England-style IPAs, maybe a refreshing fruited sour (one of my favorite things Aslin does), and a very boozy adjunct stout. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years and are unfamiliar with the Virginia brewery, revisit my 2016 and 2017 profiles on the guys.
Separately, Aslin will be opening a pop-up restaurant to test out a concept (their own!) called Hoof & Claw at District Space this weekend. All of this activity is presumably part of the drumroll towards the opening of Aslin’s new tasting room in Herndon this spring.
When: Thursday, March 22
Where: Paradiso Game Room
In January, I wrote two beer features: One on the wonderful Charlottesville brewery Reason Beer, and the other about the spunky new Paradiso Game Room. Little did I know that the subjects of these articles would soon get together and have an event baby. But here we are: Reason Beer is taking over the taps at Paradiso Game Room on March 22. The world didn’t see it coming.
Actually, the world could probably see it coming. After all, the brewery’s Northern Virginia launch was last summer at Pizzeria Paradiso’s Alexandria location, where co-founderJeff Raileanu is a regular.
For some reason, this Paradiso Game Room event is being touted as Reason Beer’s DC release, even though the brewery’s Saison, Black, and Pale have all been available with some regularity at Meridian Pint for months. (Update: It’s because Reason Beer has linked up with boutique distributor Madidus, who also handles Triple Crossing, Ardent, and Hellbender.) Whatever. It doesn’t really matter. Here’s a great chance to try the full line-up of balanced, flavorful, and #crushable beers in one place, and that is reason enough to celebrate.
The draft list is TBA, but hopefully Reason will bring some Pattern Recognition, the first IPA to leave the tasting room. It’s hopped entirely with Citra, Ekuanot, and Cascade cryo hops – the pelletized version of lupulin powder (aka, “next-level shit”). The good money is on it being delicious. (Update #2: I had a pint in Charlottesville this weekend, and it is fucking flames emoji.)
When: Saturday, March 24
Brett beers are all rage these days (at least in my fridge), but on March 24, the world pays tribute to one of the style’s OGs: Orval Trappist Ale. The amber saison is essentially a masterpiece. Brewed with liquid candi sugar, fermented with Orval’s house yeast, dry-hopped, then bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces, it’s a bone-dry beer that’s been copied a million times over, and you will not hear me complain about that.
The premise of Orval Day is simple enough: Drink a bottle of Orval, and the brewery’s U.S. distributor will donate fifty cents to MAP International, providing lifesaving medicines to people in need around the world. It’s a classic win-win.
To take part in the festivities, hit up the Sovereign or any of the four Pizzeria Paradiso locations.
When: Saturday, March 31
Where: Port City Brewing
Port City loves its malt. And we love that Port City loves its malt, because no one inside the Beltway does a better job making smooth AF, malty beers like Jonathan Reeves and his team. As fate would have it, this was a big topic of discussion in my recent article about the Alexandria brewery’s seventh-anniversary Scotch Ale Freshly Tapped: Colossal Seven. Give it a read. I’ll wait.
OK, moving on. As in the past years, March brings us the little brother of Colossal Seven: Tartan Ale, a slightly caramel-y, copper-hued, sessionable 80-shilling Scotch Ale. That delicious little spring seasonal will be released at the brewery on March 22. But we’re not here to talk about March 22. We’re here to talk about March 31, when Port City showcases Tartan, Colossal Seven, and its Lager Series Doppelbock (amongst other malt-forward beers) with an event called Malt Madness.
And if you like getting competitive whilst consuming malty beer, holy shit, you are in luck: The event features a cornhole tournament and a “giant yard pong” tournament. It costs $25 to enter a team of two (that fee cover two beers and two “limited edition team bandanas”), while additional team members may be added for $5 each. To kick up the competitive spirit a notch, the winners of the cornhole and yard pong tournaments will face off in basketball shoot off for a grand prize. (This whole thing will play out three separate times over the course of the day.) Team sign-up begins March 1 at noon, so don’t drag your feet.