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. Why is it actually eleven this month? Because I can’t count. What’s the criteria? Enough with the questions.
When: Saturday, November 4
Where: Rustico (Alexandria)
Hey, feel like a piping hot take? Well, put this in your mash tun: While Snallygaster snags all the press and attracts all ye #whalezhunterz, Novemberfest might secretly be the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s best beer fest – or “outdoor block party,” as it prefers to be known.
For one, it’s held in perfect, crisp fall weather. Two, it attracts less dudes that’ll knock over a baby stroller en route to a sip of Barrel-Aged Abraxas. And, three, the festiblockthrowdown makes the case that you don’t need Brooklyn and Vermont beer when you’ve got Virginia beer right in your backyard.
That’s right, Novemeberfest is all Virginia everything. 80 beers (or so). 30 breweries (and cideries). All made in Virginia. If you’ve made it this far in this blurb, you’re probably familiar with the buzziest names on the list of participants: Ocelot, The Veil, The Answer, Triple Crossing, Aslin, and Pen Druid. That’s basically the area’s five varsity hop jocks and their weird-but-cool arty friend.
Of course, curator and local beer deity Greg Engert isn’t stopping there. There’s Black Narrows (a forthcoming Chincoteague Island brewery who completely blew me away at Denizens’ Make It Funky Fest), Reason Beer (a new Charlottesville joint founded by some Maine Beer vets), Port City (don’t you ever take Port City for granted), and on and on and on.
In addition to beer (wait, what?), Rustico chef Aaron Wright will be cooking up American fare. There will also be wine from Barboursville Vineyards for your lame friends. Tickets cost $25, which includes $20 food and drink tickets, so it’s basically a $5 cover. Don’t be stingy.
When: Friday, November 10
Where: Dacha Loft
DC Brau has always understood the importance (and creative opportunity) of can design. And, as Mike Van Hall explained earlier this year, the brewery has made a practice of empowering artists (like Matt Leunig, Michael Sikes, Dave Waugh, and Van Hall himself) to pretty much do whatever they want.
On November 10, DC Brau and Dacha will pay tribute to these artists and their work with the opening of an exhibition called Liquid Folk Art. The opening event will feature specials on DC Brau cans and, of course, an extra special set from the DJs Brothers Brau.
Also, while we’re talking Brau, the brewery will be dropping the fourth iteration of its annual rotating-hop wild honey double IPA Alpha Domina Mellis at the Midlands on November 4. Go get some at its freshest.
When: Friday, November 10
As I imagine is the case for many, Anderson Valley was a real “gateway” brewery for me. Boont Amber and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout and Hop Ottin’ IPA and the Solstice beers were staples in my fridge when I was fresh out of college and just starting to explore the world of #craft #beer. I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about my walks to Schneider’s. (Side note: How the hell does Schneider’s have website domain Cellar.com, and why have they not sold this already?)
In more recent years, the California brewery has developed and showcased the sour side of its repertoire more. Nowadays, it’s probably best known for its array of goses. Times change. Of course, not everything it produces makes its way to DC. But if will for one night at ChurchKey. And that night is November 10.
On the second Friday in November, the Logan Circle bar will fete the brewery’s thirtieth birthday with a good old tap takeover. All in all, we’re looking at 30 different drafts, including Thribble Peach (a sour blond ale aged in white wine barrels with peaches), Huge Arker (a 13.5% imperial stout aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels), and Framboise Rose Gose ( a raspberry and rose hip-infused gose). If you need a palate cleanser after all these sours and stouts, I recommend the Hobneelch’n Hoppy Saison. Oh, and speaking of saisons, they’ll have Candy Cap, a farmhouse ale brewed with mushrooms (!!!!!), on tap.
Additionally, Birch & Barley will feature Chef Bill Williamson’s 5-course tasting menu paired exclusively with Anderson Valley beers!
When: Saturday, November 11
Where: The Sovereign
Unfamiliar with Trappist beers? They’re a range of estery ales produced in the southern U.S. – most prominently Atlanta – that are typically distinguished by ominous aroma, heavy kick drums, and “cinematic” strings. The loosely defined style was popularized in the early 2000s by brewers like T.I., Young Jeezy, and Gucci Mane.
Wait, hold on. I’m being told that I’ve confused Trappist beer and trap music. Sorry, let’s run this back.
A Trappist beer is anything – though, most commonly a classic Single, Dubbel, or Tripel – produced within a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision. These operations are also basically non-profits. There are currently eleven of them in the whole world, though you’re likely familiar with a few in Belgium: Chimay, Orval, and Westmalle.
But you know what? Who cares what I have to say about Trappist beers? I didn’t write the book on this subject. Caroline Wallace, Sarah Wood and Jessica Deahl did. It’s called “Trappist Beer Travels”, and November 11, they’ll visit The Sovereign to talk all about it.
Of course, because you can not discuss beer whilst not also drinking it, the Georgetown spot will tap into its stash of Trappist beers, offering 4oz pours of twelve monastic wonders, including the coveted Westvleteren 12, Achel Blond Extra, and multiple vintages of Orval Trappist Ale.
As Jeezy would say: Yeahhhhhhh.
When: Thursday, November 16
Where: Mad Fox Taproom
We’ve finally (and sadly) reached the end of Mad Fox Taproom’s Virginia Tap Takeover Series, but the Glover Park watering hole is going out with a bang. On November 16, they’ll welcome Solace Brewing – the latest hot-stuff hop-forward brewery to emerge from Loudoun County.
Founded by three veterans of contract-brewing assassin Beltway Brewing, Solace has generated beaucoup buzz since opening earlier this year. As often happens these days, it’s all about the juicy IPAs, but 2 Legit 2 Wit (a witbier hopped with the Lemondrop varietal) and Beer:30 (a brown ale brewed some classic American “C’ hops) shouldn’t be ignored, either.
Aside from a couple events, Solace hasn’t been sending much beer to DC. Here’s your chance to see what the fuss is about. This is my birthday eve, and I will be there.
When: Thursday, November 16
Who doesn’t love Bell’s Brewery? It makes one of the country’s most cherished IPAs along with pretty much every other style under the sun, all while keeping 100% approachable. No one lets the party down with a six-pack of Bell’s, you know?
But are you familiar with Black Note? Because, real talk: I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THE BLACK NOTE WAS UNTIL TEN MINUTES AGO. Apparently, it’s a blend of Expedition Stout and Special Double Cream Stout, aged several months in oak Bourbon barrels. Um, yes please. According to their website, this 10.8% monster is “one of the most sought-after stouts in Bell’s history.”
WHY AM I JUST FINDING OUT ABOUT BLACK NOTE? DID YOU KNOW? WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME? I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS.
Anyway, you can blackout on Black Note at ChurchKey on November 16. They’ll have a whole ton of other Bell’s offerings, including include The Wild One (a foeder-aged sour brown ale) and Titania (a New England-style wheat ale hopped with Centennial, Mosaic and Citra). As per usual at ChurchKey events, it’s a la carte AF.
In other Bell’s news, on November 18 the brewery will be teaming with Himitsu and Sunday In Saigon for the Saturday Street Food Festival in Alexandria. Per the event page, for $55 you’ll be able to “experience an open air Asian food market complete with hawker carts, unlimited small bites, and delicious beer pairings that are sure to make your mouth water.” Check out more details here.
When: Saturday, November 18
Where: UNION Craft
Contrary to popular opinion, UNION Craft’s annual OyFest is not a mass gathering of people who enjoy expressing exasperation in Yiddish. It’s an oyster and beer festival. Totally different thing.
This Saturday afternoon jam will feature a slew of salt-water bivalve molluscs prepared by some of Baltimore’s most esteemed chefs: Zach Mills of Wit & Wisdom, Bran Voltaggio of AGGIO and many other fine establishments, Lou Sumpter of of Woodberry Kitchen, and Ben Lefenfeld of La Cucaracha. That’s a hell of a line-up.
There will also be an oyster eating contest, which sounds terrifying. And live music from Skribe. And, duh, all of the UNION Craft beer.
Side note: Did you know the brewery’s slightly hoppy pilsner Skipjack is now in cans? Because it’s fucking amazing. Go buy a six-pack of Skipjack and thank me later.
Programming note: UNION Craft is also presenting a performance of Talking Heads tribute band Psycho Killers at Baltimore Soundstage on November 24.
When: Saturday, November 18
Where: 3 Stars Brewing
It’s time to get hoppy. It’s time to get funky. It’s time to get Hopfunky. That’s right, 3 Stars’ celebration of IPAs, sours, and wild ales is back for a second round. And this time Roman numerals are involved, so you know it’s gonna be epic.
Like last year, the DC brewery has invited its oh-so-hip friends, both old (J. Wakefield, Oliver Ales, RAR, Graft Cider, Charm City Meadworks) and new (Interboro, LIC Beer Project, 18th Street Brewing, Ocelot Brewing), to pour at the event. Plus, you know, there will be plenty of 3 Stars beer. That’s not too shabby, folks! Revisit our profile The Technicolor Life of 3 Stars Brewing to read what they’ve been up to recently.
A general admission ticket runs $20, which nets you a sick custom glass and your first 2 drink tickets. Or maybe your only 2 drink tickets. Maybe you drink a J. Wakefield Miami Madness and die of happiness. I’m just keeping an open mind. (Side: I seriously use my 2016 Hopfunk glass more than anything else in my cabinet.)
Anyway, there’s are also a VIP option, which includes entrance to the event an hour early, a special giftbag, 4 additional drink tickets, and… an “exclusive surprise component.” Ooh, mysterious. (My money is on a personal Dave Coleman lap dance.)
When: Saturday, November 18
Where: Hellbender Brewing
The lovable nerds at Hellbender Brewing are turning three. And it’s time to celebrate.
On November 18, the Riggs Park brewery is throwing a party that doubles as a triple beer release. (Get it?) (Because they’re turning three.) (And it’s three new beers.)
The spotlight will be on the Fugazi-referencing Birthday Pony, a “big, dank, tropical DIPA brewed” copiously hopped with Mosaic, Citra, Idaho 7, and Citra. They’ll also have the raspberry spin on their wild ale Brett? Present. And, lastly, this wonderful Saturday will mark the seasonal return of Grampus Smoked Nut Brown Ale, a sorta porter, sorta brown ale brewed with Copper Fox Distillery’s house-smoked apple and cherry wood malted barley. It’s one of my favorite beers these guys make.
Tickets cost $10, which includes your first beer and a free commemorative glass, so they’re basically paying you to go. Longtime Hellbender buddies Timber Pizza will be on site, slinging pizza from their mobile hearth.
When: Saturday, November 18
Where: Charm City Meadworks
Oh boy, I am pumped for this one.
Charm City Meadworks is opening a taproom in downtown Baltimore. Like, a stone’s throw from Penn Station and around the corner from Brewer’s Art. What can you expect? I’ll quote their Facebook page: “21 taps, bar stools that are the correct height for the bar, USB outlets, menu with nice handwriting.”
The grand opening meadravaganza is Saturday, November 18 from 1:00 to 7:00. Per the event page, they’ll have several “limited, one-off, and collaboration kegs” on tap, and we all know that #rare mead is the best mead. But seriously, how can you not want to get down with some Gin Barrel-Aged Basil Lemongrass and Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pumpkin?
And because I plug it every time I talk about Charm City Meadworks, revisit my Freshly Tapped: Two-Headed Unicorn to learn all about the honey wine purveyors. (Also, come back the week of the party for a first look / preview / whatever.)
When: Saturday, November 25
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 25, DC Brau will host its fifth 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.
There will obviously be plenty DC Brau beer (and a handful of food trucks) to fuel your shopping. 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.