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 profiles. So, in case you missed them, be sure to check out: The Art of Stillwater Artisanal, Freshly Tapped: 3 Star’s Two-Headed Unicorn, and Freshly Tapped: Aslin’s The Adventures of Audrey. OK, onto the beer events.
When: Friday, November 4
Where: 3 Stars
In August, we told the tale of 3 Stars’ evolving-hop Double IPA #ultrafresh in a Freshly Tapped profile. The tl;dr version of the story (or part of it) is that 3 Stars only intended to brew the first iteration of #ultrafresh once, but it was so popular that they were compelled to produce it another two times.
But now 3 Stars is back with #ultrafresh, and this time, they’re playing for keeps. Just kidding, this time the hops are different. Galaxy, Topaz, and Columbus are out. Southern Passion (a newer varietal from South Africa), Pacific Jade (from New Zealand), Azacca, and El Dorado are in. Everything else (namely, the malt bill) will remain the same. The brewery is touting the beer’s “awesomely juicy hop character,” and I’m inclined to believe them.
“You’ll notice that we’ve taken a big swing since the end of last year in the IPA category,” 3 Stars president Dave Coleman told me this summer. “Now, we’re coming at it hard. And I think everything we’ve done this year has been a home run. We’ve got better systems in place, better procedures, better access to good ingredients. We’re just getting better at what we do, and I think that we dropped fire on the IPA and Double IPA game in the past twelve months.”
3 Stars releases the new #ultrafresh this Friday at the brewery. There’s a one-case limit per person. Get some.
When: Saturday, November 5
Where: Rustico (Alexandria)
Ain’t no beer fest like a Greg Engert beer fest, cuz a Greg Engert beer fest don’t stop… with the exclusives? And the debuts? And the well-curated beer list? You get the point. Engert and Neighborhood Restaurant Group throw a good beer fest.
On Saturday afternoon, they plan to prove it again with the fifth annual Novemberfest. Held behind Alexandria’s Rustico, the block party will spotlight brews exclusively from Virginia. Most of these breweries should be familiar to discerning DC-area drinkers (Ocelot, Old Ox, Port City, etc.), but there are also some wild real cards here.
The most notable name on the list might be Penn Druid, a Sperryville operation that specializes in wild, barrel-aged (and often barrel-fermented) beers. You basically can’t get Penn Druid’s beer outside of the brewery tasting room, so this is a big deal. Additionally, Novemeberfest will feature the high profile Northern Virginia debuts of Richmond “soft” IPA mavens The Veil, Virginia Beach’s Commonwealth Brewing, and Harrisonburg’s Pale Fire.
Virginia keeps crushing DC and Maryland at the Great American Beer Festival. If you want to figure out why, here’s a good place to start. Also, in case you’re wondering, this party does actually stop… at 5:00 p.m.
When: Saturday, November 5
Where: Mad Fox
As we’ve said before, brewers love cask ale. They’re little, self-contained experiments with unusual ingredients, new hops, and tweaked recipes. Or at least, that’s what they’ve become.
The Mad Fox Brewing website has a wonderfully succinct description of cask ale historically: “[Cask is] a traditional English method of serving beer before refrigeration systems were employed for draft beer service. Unlike draft beer, cask is naturally carbonated at much lower levels and served at ‘cellar’ temperature (45 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit). The less intense carbonation and elevated temperature allows the drinker to discern nuanced flavors and malt notes.”
The More You Know.
Taste a smattering of naturally carbonated beer on November 5, when Mad Fox holds a cask ale festival in the outdoor Market Square of its Falls Church location. 20 regional breweries will be sending casks their way. General admission will run you $30, but there’s a $65 VIP option that will make you lord of the cask.
When: Tuesday, November 8
Ralph Steadman’s art for Flying Dog’s new school Double IPA The Truth features a shady looking Congressman. Or maybe he’s a businessman. Or perhaps there’s no difference. As such, it’s a pretty good beer to tie an election evening event, particularly in 2016. That’s just savvy marketing, folks!
On November 8, Churchkey will pour flights of five different cask variations of The Truth. Attendees can taste all of them (plus the original) for $12, then vote for their favorite. The winner does not get the nuclear codes.
Here’s the participant list (and their gonzo cask additions): ChurchKey’s Greg Engert (gin-infused oak, lime peel, Azacca hops); Jack Rose’s Nahem Simon (bourbon-soaked oak, lemon peel, vanilla bean, Centennial and Amarillo hops); Pizzeria Paradiso’s Josh Fernands (ginger, orange peel, madeira-soaked oak chips); DC Brewers’ Guild’s Kathy Rizzo (raspberry puree, ginger); and DC Beer’s Bill DeBaun (kaffir lime leaves, cardamom, ginger).
Revisit my Tap Takeover profile of Flying Dog for the backstory of The Truth’s creation. (You’ll want to fast-forward to the very end.)
When: Friday, November 11
Where: Port City
There are a lot of Port City events in November. In fact, you could probably plan your entire social calendar around them.
On election day, they’ll let you decide whether the next “suspicious package” (the brewery’s experimental draft line) will be a Dubbel or an ESB. On November 10, comedy series The Power of Positive Drinking returns to the brewery to break down the election results. And on November 22, they’re having a Crowler Stock Up Party, where for one night only, you can purchase crowlers of Colossal One aged in red wine barrels, the GABF award-winning Colossal V, and Willett whiskey barrel-aged porter. Honestly, if you roll up to Thanksgiving dinner with a crowler of red wine barrel-aged Colossal One, you win Thanksgiving. It doesn’t even matter how good the turkey is.
But the Port City event with the broadest appeal is on November 11. That’s when the brewery will release its winter seasonal Tidings Ale, a boozy Belgian-style blond ale brewed with Maryland wildflower honey, Virginia wheat, and handful of spices (coriander, cardamom, fresh ginger, and grains of paradise). And since that particular Friday is Veteran’s Day (and a federal holiday – whoop whoop), Port City is being generous enough to donate a portion of sales that evening to Operation Homefront. There will also be Tidings glassware for you to snag. It’s a win-win.
When: Saturday, November 12
A lot of breweries throw parties, but hardly any go all-in like Hellbender is primed to on November 12. For its second anniversary, the Riggs Park brewery is offering up a draft list of 22 beers, and here’s the twist: They’re all brewed by Hellbender. Fuck a guest tap.
In addition to its dry, approachable staples (Southern Torrent Saison; Bare Bones Kӧlsch; Ignite IPA; Red Line Ale), the brewery be pouring seasonals (the perennial favorite Grampus Smoked Nut Brown; its oh-so-smooth 100% wheat Dunkelweisse); six wild and sour ales (including a Brett pale ale and a hoppy Berliner Weisse); and a handful of beers brewed especially for the occasion. Personally, I’m gunning for the Copper Fox Oat Pale Ale. And the bourbon barrel-aged Scotch ale. And what up with that Pineapple Radler.
Tickets cost $10 in advance and include a pint glass, plus your first beer. So, the ticket pays for itself. Revisit my Tap Takeover profile of Hellbender from March and wow your friends with in-depth knowledge of the brewery and its co-founder.
When: Sunday, November 13
Where: Atlas Brew Works
Between hoppy wheat ale Dance of Days and imperial-ish dopplebock The Emprosator, Atlas Brew Works has produced two of the year’s very best DC beers. This doesn’t have anything to do with Puppies & Pints. I’m just putting it out there.
OK, Puppies & Pints. On November 13, head to the brewery to drink for a good cause. You guessed it: puppies. And cats, too. $1 of each pint purchased will go to the Humane Rescue Alliance. If you’re feeling extra generous, blankets, towels, and training treats are welcome as donations, as well.
This event is dog friendly, so feel free to bring Mr. Squiggles along.
When: Tuesday, November 15
Where: The Newsueum
As discussed in that aforementioned Tap Takeover profile, Flying Dog has a decades-long history of fighting censorship in craft beer. It started with putting “Good Beer. No Shit” on its labels in the ’90s, and continued through naming the best-selling Belgian IPA “Raging Bitch.” In both instances, the brewery was challenged by state regulatory boards, and to fight them, it went all the way to Colorado Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals, respectively. And in both instances, Flying Dog persevered.
“We don’t like that kind of arbitrary authoritarianism,” CEO Jim Caruso told me in July of last year. “The market should decide. If they don’t like our beer or our names, they can choose not to buy it.”
Caruso will be at the Newseum on November 15 to discuss these legal battles – and vulgarity in advertising, more generally – as part of the 2016’s final installment of Newseum Nights. Of course, there will be Flying Dog beer to sip on, too. A $40 ticket (or $30 if you’re a Newseum member) gets you access to an open beer and wine bar, plus food stations. There’s all kind of entertainment, too, including a performance by Dem’ Raider Boyz, the “#1 all-male step team in the DMV.”
Good deal. No shit.
When: Thursday, November 17
Where: Pizzeria Paradiso (Georgetown)
Amazingly, 25 years have passed since Pizzeria Paradiso opened its original Dupont Circle location. That’s several decades of not just great pizza, but of being a leader in DC’s craft beer scene. Pizzeria Paradiso had a stellar beer program before people were even calling them “beer programs,” and it has since graduated beer directors to both beer (Right Proper’s Thor Cheston) and cider (ANXO’s Sam Fitz) production.
The restaurant group will celebrate this anniversary in two ways. On November 17, its Georgetown location will host a five-course Trappist beer dinner. It’s a throwback Thursday of sorts: Chef Ruth Gresser and Beer Director Josh Fernands will recreate the restaurant’s first-ever beer dinner. Tickets cost $70.
If you’re in the mood for something cheaper, between November 14 and 20, all three Pizzeria Paradiso locations will feature items from the pizzeria’s original menu… and with the original 1991 pricing. Plus, beginning the 15th, those locations will be pouring a 25th anniversary collaboration beer brewed by Fernands and Right Proper head brewer Nathan Zeender. Mum’s the word on what the beer will be.
When: Saturday, November 26
Where: DC Brau
The vast majority of breweries are small businesses, so why not spend part of your Small Business Saturday at one?
On November 26, DC Brau will host its fourth holiday marketplace with the help of Think Local First DC. Joining them will be over 25 local craftspeople, artisans, purveyors, and whatever else you’d like to call them. Check the full list here.
There will obviously be plenty DC Brau beer (and a handful of food trucks) to fuel your shopping. Plus, there’s live music from Mateo Monk. So, plan to throw back a Stone of Arbroath or two, get a nice little buzz going, and buy that Jon Wye belt you’ve always wanted. And some Kelly Towles art. And some Harper Macaw chocolate for your mother-in-law.