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 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? OK, enough with the questions.
Avery Turns 23
When: September 6 and 7
We start September with a double shot of Avery. The revered Colorado brewery turns 23 this month, and while turning 23 isn’t typically a trumpet-blaring occasion, we’ll gladly use it as excuse to drink some of their beer.
First up is an Avery beer dinner at Smoke & Barrel on Tuesday, September 6. For the evening, Beer Director Jace Gonnerman and Executive Chef Logan McGear have whipped up a doozy of a menu. The courses: Smoked duck and almond wontons; Flemish beef brisket carbonnade; French-cut pork shank with fig BBQ glaze and mascarpone scalloped potatoes; and chocolate bourbon pecan bread pudding. Bruh. “Mortal Kombat” fatality my diet.
And the beer! We’re not just talking about White Rascal (which is delicious, as you likely know). Gonnerman will be peeling some of those instantly recognizable foil tops from Avery’s A+ barrel aging program. We’re talking Expletus (a tequila barrel-aged sour with cherries), 2012 Odio Equum (a Cabernet Sauvignon barrel-aged sour with raspberries), 2012 Mephistopheles Imperial Stout, PumpKYn (17% barrel-aged Imperial Pumpkin Porter) and Old Perseverance Old Ale (18% barrel-aged Old Ale), among others. Also, founder and brewmaster Adam Avery will be in the house! Tickets cost $75 and are worth every penny. It’s also limited to 18 people, so don’t fence sit.
If that’s not enough Avery for you, head to ChurchKey the following night for an anniversary party. The full-scale Avery invasion will feature 50 Avery beers, including “six tasting room exclusives, a dozen DC debuts, and seven vintage beers personally selected by Adam Avery from his very own cellar.” That’s a lot of barrel-aged beer. We’re gonna need a bigger liver.
When: Saturday, September 10
Where: Atlas Brew Works
2016 has brought a lot of change to Atlas Brew Works. The Ivy City brewery opened a slick new taproom. It promoted Daniel Vilarrubi to head brewer. The production team refined its procedures and purchased new equipment to make beers like Rowdy, Ponzi, and District Common taste even better. And it rolled out three summer beers, one of which – Dance of Days – is one of the best local beers of the year. (Explore all of these developments in greater depth with our Freshly Tapped: Dance of Days profile.) So, if you haven’t been to Atlas in a while, it might be time for a visit.
You won’t find a better excuse for one than the brewery’s third anniversary party on Saturday, September 10. Tickets cost $15, which gets you admission to the party and your first beer, plus a donation to Living Classrooms Foundation. Once inside, you’ll be able to roam the taproom, Atlas’ outside bench area, and the production side of the brewery. So, you know, go crazy and wear sneakers.
And as in years past, Atlas has brewed an anniversary beer to mark the occasion. This year, that beer is Rowdier, an imperial version of its flagship rye pale ale. Bold move, Atlas.
When: Saturday, September 17
Where: The Yards
If you’re a beer nerd, the average beer festival may have a three or four beers that you’re really excited to try. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Beer festivals are a great way for breweries to get their flagship or seasonal offerings in front of new customers. Plus, good beer is a good beer, whether you’re drinking it for the first or seventy-third time. But sometimes it’s hard to justify the price of admission.
Snallygaster is an entirely different story, though. Now in its fifth year, the festival is designed to attract the most discerning craft beer fans. It’s line-up is an insane 350-beers deep, and it is loaded with hard-to-find imports, DC debuts, and just generally delicious beer. Trying to pick highlights is a laughable endeavor. OK, fuck it, here are some that jump out right now: RAR and Aslin’s Walk of Shame (a blonde ale with coffee and cocoa); J. Wakefield’s Miami Madness (a Berliner Weisse with mango, guava, and passion fruit); The Veil’s Sleeping Forever imperial stout and its vaunted Master Master Shredder Shredder Double IPA; Maine Beer’s Lunch IPA; Manor Hill’s Citra Splendor IPA… You get the idea? You get the idea.
Tickets cost $35, though it only covers a handful of drink and food tickets. The VIP option, meanwhile, gets you in an extra 90 minutes early, and affords you the opportunity to snag those whales before the General Admission plebeians.
And as a super extra added bonus: Speed Ortiz is playing. That rules so hard. Revisit Kate Flynn’s interview with the band here.
When: Saturday, September 17
Where: Heurich House
There are a lot of Oktoberfest parties out there. They’re held at breweries. They produce pop-up festivals. The crappy sports bar down the street probably has its own. But if I have to recommend one, best believe it’s at the late 19th-century castle of a former German immigrant turned lager-brewing beer tycoon.
On Saturday, September 17, the Heurich House hosts its annual celebration of German heritage, cuisine, and beer. In a pleasant twist, the museum has partnered with the DC Brewers Guild for the event, so all of the beer will be local. A few you can expect: Hellbender’s Dunkelweisse, Right Proper’s Being There, and DC Brau’s Oktoberfest. The $60 tickets are all-inclusive, so prepare to load up on pretzels, brats, and malty beer goodness.
Also, your Oktoberfesting will be soundtracked by “live German music” from a band called Der Gemutlichkeits, which sounds legit AF.
When: Saturday, September 24
As Meridian Pint Beer Director Jace Gonnerman told me in June: “Right now, Aslin is as hot as hot can be.”
Over the past year, the Herndon brewery has attracted a passionate following in Northern Virginia. And, aside from one night during Savor week, that’s pretty much the only place you can get their beer. While a forthcoming expansion will likely change things, Aslin currently sells crowlers and growler fills out of its tasting room – and the beer goes fast. Like, lines form on Thursday and Saturday release days, and it’s not long before they sell out.
Much of the buzz has to do with their hazy, hop-saturated IPAs brewed in the “NE style.” They’re loaded with aroma, low on bitterness, and quite tasty. You can judge for yourself on September 24, when the brewery throws its first birthday party. Tickets for the event are available for three sessions, each of which will feature different beers from Aslin, new collaborations, and a guest tap or two.
If you’ve been looking for a good reason to get out to Aslin but were scared of the lines – or if you’re just now hearing of them – here’s the perfect reason. Don’t drag your feet on tickets. In case you’re not picking up the theme, this will sell out quickly.
And be on the lookout for our Freshly Tapped profile of Aslin’s collaboration pale ale with Meridian Pint later this month.
When: Saturday, September 24
Where: Old Ebbit Grill
For the past seven years, DC Beer Week has gotten bigger and better with each iteration. There’s no reason to think the 2016 edition will be any different. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the deal: For eight days and nights, DMV breweries descend upon the district for dozens of events spread all over town. Those events include beer dinners, regionally themed or style-centric tastings, tap takeovers, and much more. I literally went to a cookie-beer pairing last year.
The week kicks off with the fourth annual BrewHaha at Old Ebbitt Grill. As the name might suggest, it’s just a good old-fashioned craft beer and tasty food festival. $75 gets you all you can drink (from over ten different breweries) and eat (from an impressive line-up of restaurants that includes Red Apron, Red Hen, Sixth Engine, Smoke and Barrel, and Right Proper). If you need proof that this is a winning combination, check out Logan Holler’s coverage of last year’s throw down.
When: Sunday, September 25
Where: 3 Stars Brewing
Kids these days can’t get enough of those hops or that Lacto. If a brewery is making great IPAs and/or sours ales, it’s probably not having trouble selling beer. In fact, it probably can’t brew fast enough. And on the consumer side of things, it means that beer can be harder to find.
3 Stars will make our lives a little easier on Sunday, September 25, when it brings some of the biggest and buzziest names in craft brewing under its roof for Hopfunk Fest. As you might guess from the name, the festival will focus exclusively on hop-bombs and funky brews. So, you know, take a hike Märzen. Nothing to see here. Keep moving.
The participant list is a Murderers’ Row of highly regarded breweries. On the national level, Brooklyn’s Other Half, Miami’s J. Wakefield, Maine’s Oxbow, and Oregon’s Logsdon Farmhouse will all be in the house. From closer to home, they’ll be pouring DC Brau, Adroit Theory, Ocelot, and Union Craft.
Tickets run for $15, which covers your first beer and a sweet commemorative glass. Seriously, 3 Stars always has the best commemorative glasses. I pretty much only drink beer out of 3 Stars commemorative glasses.
When: Tuesday, September 27
Where: Heurich House
Port City has always been the Virginia brewery with dual DC citizenship. It’s located inside the Beltway. It’s readily available all over the District. It’s an active participant in most every DC event. But for DC Beer Week, the Alexandria operation is reminding us of its roots with a celebration of Virginia: Commonwealth Classics.
The Tuesday event at the Heurich House will celebrate “all of the best food, drink, and culture from the Old Dominion.” They’re slow-rolling the announcement of participants (check the PCBC Twitter for daily announcements), but right now it includes Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Sugar Shack donuts, Rocklands BBQ, and Route 66 Potato Chips. So, they’re four-for-four on things I want in my stomach at all times.
A ticket costs $40, which gets you entrance to the Heurich House gardens, a tour of the historic mansion, live music, and six smaller tickets for food and drink. So, head to Heurich House to raise a Port City pint to Virginia, and while you’re at it, toast the massive expansion that the brewery announced yesterday.
When: September 29 – October 2
Where: Devils Backbone Basecamp
Feeling a little more ambitious with your beer event planning? Scratch that. Feeling way more ambitious? Devils Backbone’s Hoopla might be up your alley.
At the end of September, the Virginia brewery invites you out to its serene and beatific Nelson County “basecamp” for four days and nights of, well, everything. The programs are organized around “the seven amazing values that make up the Devils Backbone culture: Beer Positive, Passion, Adventure, Family, Humility, Integrity, and Stewardship.” That kind of talk reminds me of the summer camp I hated in fifth grade, but the events themselves look awesome.
Highlights include a dinner with brewmaster Jason Oliver; home brewing and other demos; a ton of music (including a personal favorite, the Old 97s); beer yoga; bike rides and hikes; all kinds of family fun; sports; and more.
If there’s a path to feeling both rejuvenated and hungover, it might just be Hoopla.
When: Friday, September 30
Where: It’s a mystery, dude.
For its DC Beer Week marquee event, DC Brau is up to… something. The brewery is calling it an “Evening of Magical Mystery,” and they’re keeping some of the details purposefully scant.
Here’s what we know: On Friday night, attendees will be picked up at City Center and whisked away to a “truly one-of-a-kind outdoor location,” where a five-course beer dinner awaits. Preparing the food? *Airhorn* *Siren emoji* Red Hen chef and owner Mike Friedman.
A ticket costs $100, but includes tax, gratuity, and “round-trip transportation between City Center and the event site.” That’s right: DC Brau will not “Castaway” you at the mystery location. Guaranteed.
If you’re going to splurge on one DC Beer Week event, this might be the winner: It’s intimate, it sounds delicious, and it will induce nothing but jealousy in your Instagram feed.
When: Saturday, October 1
Where: Denizens Brewing
“Eventually bars will have to advertise when they have beers that aren’t sour and funky,” Handsome Beer co-founder and head brewer Matt Humbard joked on Twitter the other day.
Point being: Sour and wild ales are becoming quite popular in the United States.
Whether you’re a convert to the tart arts or looking to let your palate walk on the wild side (ugh, sorry), Denizens has you covered with its second annual Make It Funky festival. Held both inside the Silver Spring brewery’s tasting room and its outside beer garden, the event showcases the DMV’s best producers of a diverse range of funky styles, as well as national heavies like Avery and Crooked Stave. And for $55, you get to try them all, plus take home a souvenir glass that you will cherish forever and hand down to future generations of offspring until the robot uprising.
There are too many IPA festivals and not enough of these. Support your local sour and wild ale festival.
And, yes, I know this event takes place in October. It’s the last day of DC Beer Week, so it gets a pass. Dealwithit.gif