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.
Note: The previously listed Denizens Carnival has been moved to July 15.
When: Friday, May 5
Where: Port City Brewing
Earlier this year, the folks at Port City told us about a lager series they were thinking about launching with the help of an extra fermentation tank they had outgrown. The idea: every six weeks or so, use that tank to produce a new, seasonally appropriate lager, starting with a Helles, and then a Mexican dark lager. (If you hadn’t heard, lagers are back, baby!)
Well, guess what, guys? Those crazy, motivated, detail-oriented, methodical kids at Port City went ahead and did it. They started a lager series. And on May 5 – or Cinco de Mayo, if you prefer – they’ll unleash that dark Mexican lager. It’s called Oscura. And Oscura will flow at Alexandria brewery on the first Friday of May. As per usual, the event will feature light, strummy music from Port City’s patron saint of the acoustic guitar, Taylor Carson.
When: Monday, May 8
Another month, another out-of-town brewery entering the DC market. [T-Pain autotune]: Welcome to the good liiiiiiiife (of being a maturing beer market with a lot of disposable incoooooome).
Actually, May marks two notable entrants to the DC market. The first is Upland Brewing, which premieres at ChurchKey on Monday, May 8. Based in Bloomington, the Indiana brewery has been in the game for a while – 19 years and counting – and is the state’s second biggest brewery. The award-winning operation is best known (in beer nerd circles, at least) for its sour program, which will be on proper display in Logan Circle with eight offerings, including two collabs with Tusla’s renowned Prairie Artisan Ales: Cursed Kettles (a foeder-aged sour red Ale with figs and black cherries and Black Prairie (which is Cursed Kettles…. but matured on fresh black raspberries).
But they make “clean” beer, too! DCBeer.com’s Jacob Berg recommends Champagne Velvet, a pre-Prohibition style German lager brewed from a 1902 recipe of the original Terre Haute Brewing in Southern Indiana. For all you hop fiends, ChurchKey will also have a session IPA (Campfire) and West Coast-style double IPA (Coastbuster).
But you know what, hop fiends? Not every event has to be about you. Pssh.
When: Wednesday, May 10
Where: Port City Brewing
There are two waves of Crafts Brewers Conference collaboration beers. The first are brewed weeks – sometimes months – in advance, and are timed to be released during the annual gathering of industry participants. We wrote about three (well, actually, eight) of those: Hellbender and St Feuillien’s Days Gone By; Right Proper, Penn Druid, Stone, and Sunn O)))’s Soused; and DC Brau’s six-headed “collaboratron.”
The second wave of brewing occurs during CBC. And that makes sense: If every brewery in America is in town, why not invite a few over to brew something special? Most of those beers will start trickling out this month. And here’s a great example: New Mexico’s Marble, Alexandria’s Port City, and Montana’s Überbrew have teamed up to produce a ditty called Trifecta. What do these breweries have in common? They’re the last three winners of Small Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival. Hence Trifecta.
As for the liquid, it’s a Belgian IPA brewed with Alfalfa honey, and hopped with Amarillo, Azacca, and Idaho 7. On Wednesday, May 10, they’ll release this delicately refined and delicious (just guessing – we’re talking about Port City) beer at the Alexandria brewery. It will eventually make its way to select accounts, but if you want to taste this piece of history, head to Port City on the 10th.
When: Thursday, May 11
Where: Roofers Union
Last year, Atlas Brew Works brought us a three-beer Summer Series. One of those brews, the hoppy wheat ale Dance of Days, was such a hit that they’ve made it part of their year-round rotation. (Revisit our Freshly Tapped profile of the beer.) But the other beers were also tasty, so Atlas is running back the tapes on the series. And this time, they’re dropping four summer entries. Who said inflation was a bad thing?
The first up is Should I Stay or Should I Gose. As you might be able to guess from the name, it is a tart, slightly salty, kettle-soured ale. Atlas will release the rebrew of their gose at Roofers Union on May 11. Of course, the bar will be serving your other Atlas favorites, like Ponzi, Home Rule, Rowdy, and… Dance of Days.
Atlas is mum on what the rest of the summer beers will be, but a little birdie tells me that they’re brewing a Double Dance of Days with Meridian Pint next week.
When: Friday, May 12
Where: Union Craft Brewing
Real talk: When it comes to events, Baltimore’s Union Craft does more cool shit than any other brewery around here. It’s never afraid of something unconventional, and we’re all the better for it. Also, the brewery uses “real talk” in its event descriptions, which means automatic Draft Picks inclusions. But, really, it’s about the events themselves.
Here’s a great example: On Friday, May 12, the brewery will host the pop-up collaboration of biscuit savants Blacksauce Kitchen and Asian fusion joint Ekiben. Details of the menu are forthcoming, but does it even matter? There’s no way this isn’t delicious. Oh, and there will be Union beer, which also happens to be delicious.
When: Saturday, May 13
Where: Loudoun Station
To say that Loudoun County has experienced the most rapid growth in beer production locally over the past three years would not be… *puts on aviators*… loco. *guitar solo* *car explodes* *doves fly everywhere*
Need proof? Look no further than LoCo Brewfest, where 18 – I repeat, EIGHTEEN – Loudoun County brewers will be pouring their beers on May 13. And not just your standard flagships. No, no, no. Each brewery has been instructed to bring something brand new or special. And all 18 breweries came together to brew a collaboration milk stout. Old Ox went so far as to call this “the biggest release party of the year.” That’s some savvy-ass branding, Old Ox. Salute.
In addition to Old Ox’s beer, attendees can enjoy the fermented liquids of Ocelot, Adroit Theory, Belly Love, Lost Rhino, and… look, I’m not going to name all 18 breweries. Clink the link. Standard tickets cost $25 and include five pours of beer and commemorative glass that you will cherish more than your first born. There will be food, but that’s on you. The live tunes? That’s part of the deal. *second guitar solo* *more doves*
When: Tuesday, May 16
And now, our second out-of-town brewery launch at ChutchKey. This time, it’s Two Roads, the pride of Stratford, Connecticut. This brewery launched with an interesting model, contract brewing for other craft breweries – often “gypsy” operations like Evil Twin and Stillwater – while slowly building up their own line-up of beers from esteemed brewmaster Phil Markowski.
Now, five years later, they’re still contract brewing, but they’re producing a lot more of their own beer, too. To wit, checkout the line-up of 16 beers they’re bringing to ChurchKey: imperial stouts, saisons, gose, blond barleywine, pilsner, hefeweizen, NE-style IPA, tripel – the list of styles goes on. They even won gold at GABF last year for their Lambic-style sour ale. And they’ve broken ground on a separate, $12 million facility for sour and wild production.
So, yeah, things are looking up for these guys. It will be exciting to see what distribution brings us. And if you’re in Maryland or Virginia, don’t worry: They’ll be launching at Owen’s Ordinary and the Arlington Rustico that same night.
Spirits Rejoice Release
When: Thursday, May 18
Where: Boundary Stone
Remember that unequivocally dope CBC event that Right Proper hosted with Fonta Flora, Jester King, and Scratch? Well, it turns out those out-of-town, critically acclaimed breweries secretly made a beer with Right Proper the day of that party. Those tricky devils.
Like the event, the beer is called Spirits Rejoice. I am told it is a gin-inspired mixed-culture saison brewed with juniper berries and a mix of dried blood oranges and tangerines. That sounds like a lovely beer to consume in the middle of May. The release party will be held on the 18th at Boundary Stone, which is great news because that is an enjoyable place to consume beverages.
While you’re there, order up a glass of Songlines, the latest in the production brewery’s series of hoppy farmhouse ales. (Previous entries include Maslow and Runcible, which are two of my favorite Right Proper beers ever.) Songlines was brewed with all Southern Hemisphere hops: Galaxy from Australia, and Motueka and Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand. Per the brewery, these fancy varietals “combine for a highly aromatic saison with bright citrus, lemongrass, and tropical flavors.” Into it.
When: Saturday, May 20
Where: Ocelot Brewing
We’re not exactly shy of our affection for Ocelot Brewing around here. In the last year, we’ve written features about three of their beers: Talking Backwards, Lucifer’s Tress, and Raised on Promises. Personally, I’d say the Virginia brewery is one of the area’s three best, and on the right day, I’ll tell you they’re on top of the whole damn heap. So, you don’t really need an excuse to go out to Dulles and visit. As someone who hunts Ocelot across the few DC accounts that gets their beer, a trip to their tasting room is already a trip to Disneyland.
But, OK, if you really do need an excuse, Ocelot will celebrate its second birthday on May 20 with what is basically a festival. There will be live music (including a Phish cover band, because of course). There will be food. And there will be beer. Oh my god, there will be beer. Ocelot founder Adrien Widman is keeping the list under wraps until the day of the party, but speaking with some modicum of authority here, I will tell you this: It is the most impressive line-up of breweries assembled at one DC-area brewery… ever? Yes, ever. And it is not even close. Trust me. You want to be at this event. $35 gets you in the door along with six drink tickets.