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. In the past month, we profiled Baltimore’s UNION Craft and its collaboration with Ocelot Brewing, an imperial black IPA called Lucifer’s Trees. We talked with Herndon’s Aslin Beer Co. (and artist Mike Van Hall) about the brewery’s four upcoming bottle releases. And we asked 25 local brewers, beer directors, and industry folks to tells us their favorite beers and trends of 2016.
When: January 7
It only took a few batches for Manor Hill’s Hidden Hopyard to become one of the area’s most anticipated rotating releases. If you’re unfamiliar with the series: Every two months or so, the Ellicott City brewery releases an IPA or double IPA that showcases a new mix of hops (and a malt bill designed to match it). While each Hidden Hopyard has varied, they all bear the mark of head brewer Ben Little, who has a knack for producing pillowy soft, incredibly fragrant, hop-forward ales. Each Hidden Hopyard is brewed once, and that’s it. Well, Hidden Hopyard Vol. 2 was tweaked slightly and brought back as Taylor’s Row, but you get my point.
On Saturday, Manor Hill releases the sixth iteration in the series at the brewery and sister spot Victoria Gastro Pub. At 8.8% ABV, it marks the biggest Hidden Hopyard to date. According the brewery, the double IPA “focuses on Eureka and Equinox hops followed by Mosaic and Simcoe.” It also features flaked spelt, oats, and torrified wheat, which sounds like something Snuggle would love.
Dark Horse Brewing Kickoff
When: January 10
Where: City Tap House
Wicked Weed. SingleCut. Kent Falls. Captain Lawrence. Modern Times. It seems like every month brings a new buzzy brewery to the DC-area market. Now, Dark Horse Brewing has washed upon our shores like a conquering invader set to pillage my bank account.
According to their website, they make “bad ass beer” and don’t like hyphenating adjectives.
OK, fine, I’ll give you some actual information. Dark Horse is a family brewery based in Marshall, Michigan. They’re best known for their Crooked Tree IPA, though their stouts and coffee dopplebock are highly regarded, too. Most importantly, Michigan beer expert Paul Josuns says their entrance into DC is a “good good thing,” and I’m inclined to trust him.
Next week, you’ll be able to judge for yourself at a series of Dark Horse launch events around town. They’ll be at Iron Horse on Monday, City Tap House on Tuesday, RFD on Wednesday, and Lost & Found on Thursday. (Is it possible that they’re only launching in Chinatown?)
When: January 13
This January, ChurchKey’s tap takeover game runs the gamut between old and new, conservative and adventurous. On the tried and true side, St. Louis stalwart Schlafly celebrates its 25th anniversary in Logan Circle on January 11. Co-founder Tom Schlafly and ambassador brewer Stephen Hale will make the trip to DC for the occasion and make us all feel special. Meanwhile, on the more, um, wild side, Arizona Wilderness visits the bar for their DC debut on January 18. These guys are best known for their use of native yeast and unusual local ingredients, like prickly pear, juniper berries, and butternut squash. (I’ve only tried their collaboration with Stillwater, the imperial milk stout Big Bunny, but that beer is *flames emoji*.)
Our pick of the month lies somewhere in between. On Friday, January 13, ChurchKey hosts Great Raft Brewing, a three-year-old Louisiana brewery co-founded by DCBeer.com OG Andy Nation and his wife Lindsay. My only experience with their beers was at this year’s Savor, where they brought a Brett IPA and a farmhouse saison brewed with rye and Mosaic hops. (These, too, were *flames emoji*.) This time around, they’ll be bringing a slew of offerings that look very tasty on paper, including a Baltic Porter aged in Jamaican rum barrels, an oak-aged Saison conditioned on peaches, and a mixed-fermentation saison dry-hopped with (my favorite hop) Nelson Sauvin. Yum.
When: January 18
Where: Shake Shack (Pentagon City)
Burgers. Brews. They go together. It’s not rocket science. But here’s some proof if you need it: On January 18, Port City and the Pentagon City Shake Shack are teaming up for a night of burgers and brews. And a hot dog. And a vanilla frozen custard beer float made with Port City Porter. For those doing the math at home, that’s a four-course meal… for $35. So, if your New Year’s resolution was to go to cheaper events and drink better beer, you’re luck. If your New Year’s resolution was to cut back on calories, well, that’s lame.
As usual, the rest of the month is stacked with other Port City events, too. On January 6, they’ll be tapping some out-of-print greatest hits. Back on election night, they let patrons vote on a special one-off brew. Patrons chose the Electioneering ESB. (Sorry, Deft Dubbel!) On January 20 (aka Inauguration Day), they’ll unleash that ESB. And if there was one takeaway from the Beer in Review, it’s that people want more ESB. And, lastly, not to get ahead of ourselves, but save February 3 for the release of their anniversary beer, Colossal VI. We’ll have a Freshly Tapped profile of the beer to commemorate the occasion.
When: January 19
Where: Smoke & Barrel
No one likes hops and clarity these days, but what about hops and charity? That’s another story. (Ugh, sorry.)
On January 19, Smoke & Barrel hosts the launch party of a new charity called H.O.P.S. That stands for Helping Oppressed Peoples Survive. From the sound of the press release, they’ll be selling IPAs to raise funds for refugees. The particulars of the draft list are said to include “day-fresh IPAs” and a “who’s who of the most sought-after, limited-release DIPAs from large regional and national craft breweries.”
Details are scarce right now, so maybe just watch this space?
When: January 20
Where: Denizens Brewing
Denizens Brewing has never been shy about its politics, and I love them for it. To wit: The Silver Spring brewery will “celebrate” inauguration day with an event called Inaugural Idiocracy. The big selling point? Happy hour prices all damn day. So, if you’re looking to drown your sorrows with cheap quality beer (and to escape DC proper), here’s your spot.
The event will also feature a screening of award-winning documentary “Idiocracy”, evening tunes from DJ Blaqsquerade, and the debut of a spicy Mexican chocolate porter called Woman, You Nasty! (The exclamation point is part of the name, but I also feel passionately about it.)
Plants crave electrolytes. People crave Mexican chocolate porter.
When: January 20
Where: UNION Craft
The fifth edition of Baltimore’s Charm City Bluegrass Festival isn’t until late April, but on January 20, it’ll begin a Battle of the Bands competition for the festival’s opening slot. Like last year, this Dobro dustup will go down at UNION Craft. On the real, this just sounds like a solid excuse to visit Union and drink their across-the-board great beer. We recently did a deep dive on their imperial black IPA Lucifer’s Trees, but they’ll also have the new dark sour Midnight Marauder, winter seasonal IPA Rye Baby (which is incredible this year), and everyone’s favorite (and sneakily boozy) oatmeal stout Snow Pants. Also file under: Inauguration Day Escapes.
When: January 21
Where: RAR Brewing
You’re probably well familiar with RAR Brewing’s excellent canned flagships Nanticoke Nectar and Groove City Hefeweizen, but if you want to get your hands on tallboys of its juiciest IPAs and most decadent stouts, you need to pack up the family and head to Cambridge, Maryland. That’s where the brewery releases its most sought-after beer once a month.
On the morning of January 21, RAR will drop fresh four-packs of Pulp (a 5.2% pale ale hopped with Citra, Motueka, and Falconer’s Flight), 1st Meal (a 7% stout brewed with Vermont maple syrup, cocoa nibs, coffee, and smoked malts), and a new double IPA called Lumbersexual.
It’s also the winter addition of RARtoons, which means cartoons on the TV, cartoon artists sketching drawings, and people dressed up in cartoon character costumes. They promise other entertainment, but who’s gonna need that?
When: January 26
Where: Pizzeria Paradiso (Alexandria)
Like more than a few San Diego breweries, Green Flash is best known for its West Coast IPAs. (Or, in this case, a beer literally called West Coast IPA.) But the California brewery has a separate facility called Cellar 3 that’s “dedicated to the art of craft beer innovation through barrel-aging and wild yeast experimentation with over 2,500 of the space.” You can taste what’s coming out of Cellar 3 on January 26, when Green Flash sends at least six of those beers to Old Town’s Pizzeria Paradiso. These barrel-aged beauties will include Oculus Sauvage (a Belgian-style Imperial IPA fermented with Brett in French oak red wine barrels); Divine Belgique (a bottle-conditioned Trippel); and Blanc Tart (a sour blonde ale brewed with spices and aged in white and red wine barrels).
When: January 26
Where: Mad Fox Taproom (Glover Park)
Here’s a fun tradition: Each year, Mad Fox celebrates the birthday of Scotland’s national poet Robbie Burns with a five-course beer dinner. The food will naturally be Scottish inspired paired with Mad Fox beer, including the 80 Schilling Scottish Ale. Oh shit, I buried the lede: THERE WILL BE A LIVE BAGPIPER. Also, poetry readings.
If you can’t make it to Glover Park on the 26th, they’re doing the same thing at the Falls Church brewery the night before.