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.
When: Wednesday, February 5
Where: Heurich House
“The modern stereotype of a craft brewer as a bearded white man wearing a flannel is the opposite of the historic truth,” says the event descriptor for the upcoming Heurich House panel Alewives, Brewsters, and Gruits: A History of Women in Beer. “For over 5,000 years, [brewing] was the provenance of women and people of color.”
To which I say: preach.
On February 5, this preaching will be led by Kimberly Bender, the museum’s Executive Director and moderator for the evening. She’ll be joined by an all-star panel featuring: Drew McCormick, (Executive Beverage Director at Pizzeris Paradiso); Julie Verratti (Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Denizen Brewing Co.); Therea McCulla (Curator of the Smithsonian’s American Brewing History Initiative); and Bridgette Turner (Lead Brewer at 2 Silos Brewing Co.)
Together, they’ll explore the history of women in beer… and what female beer leadership looks like in 2020. Presumably, this conversation will be complimented by the presence of some Denizens and 2 Silos beer.
Note: Tickets are sold out online, but they’ll be some available at the door.
When: Friday, February 7
Did you know there’s an International Clash Day? That’s right, an entire 24 hours dedicated to the British punk rock icons and freshmen dorm room staples. This year, it falls on February 7. Actually, every year it falls on February 7. International Clash Day is February 7.
This non-federal holiday was founded by fabled Seattle rock station KEXP. And as fate would have it, Bluejacket Director of Operations Erik Bergman and his wife are members of KEXP. So, you can probably see where this is going…
International Clash Day beer!
Last year, Bluejacket debuted that special brew, London’s Drowning. And the KEXP collaboration turned out pretty swell, so they’ve brought it back for 2020.
A 7% IPA, London’s Drowning showcases African Queen, a South African hop with notes of citrus, tropical fruit, and lemongrass. (After an initial lack of access, there are increasingly more local IPAs featuring South African hops, most notably Bluejacket’s Rain Light and Ocelot’s 10,000 Days, both of which pair Southern Passion with a juicy American hop, and Ocelot’s Southern Tropic joint Misunderstood.)
Bluejacket will unveil this year’s London’s Drowning with an International Clash Day party. Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen’s office will be in the house to present the city council resolution declaring February 7, 2020 as International Clash Day in DC, and proceeds from the brew will be donated to the DC Immigration Legal Services fund.
Nice work, Bluejacket. I will drink your delicious charity beer.
When: Saturday, February 8
Where: Rocket Frog Brewing
American Sign Language Day is this Saturday, and Rocket Frog wants everyone to come celebrate with a beer or [palm back; index finger and middle finger raised].
The Virginia brewery will run drink specials, the Simply Juicy Baby! food truck will supply the food, and an interpreter will be on site to facilitate communications.
“Our staff will even have a crash course on how to speak beer in A.S.L. to make ordering beer easy,” says Rocket Frog President David Hartogs.
Hartogs will front a Q&A on “the business of craft beer.” Head Brewer Russell Carpenter will be on site for a guided tour. And flights will include a souvenir glass with a value that cannot be articulated in any language.
When: Wednesday, February 12
Cushwa Brewing is in the upper echelon of the region’s IPA producers. And as co-founding Head Brewer Garrett Chambers shared in BYT’s 2019 Beer in Review, the brewery would not mind at all if you made the trip north to Williamsport for a visit, especially when the brewery opens its new brewing facility and restaurant in March. (For the record, Cushwa’s lagers and British-style ales are top notch, too.)
But if you’re feeling lazy or can’t wait until March, then you’ve lucked out, because ChurchKey has organized a February showcase around Cushwa’s brews.
The spark plug for this event is two Cushwa collaborations, each brewed with a hype Massachusetts breweries. One, There Goes The Neighborhood, is a triple IPA (hopped with Galaxy, Grungeist, and Wai-Iti) brewed at Vitamin Sea. The other, Complete Party House, is a double IPA (hopped with BRU-1, Galaxy, and Vic Secret) brewed at Widowmaker.
And all three breweries will be sending a handful of other beers to ChurchKey. Most are IPAs, but there will also be gems like Cushwa’s Ground Zero (a mixed-ferm ale aged in red wine barrels). Widowmaker’s Kameosa (a pale lager brewed with sake yeast and rice), and Vitamin Sea’s Early Departure (an imperial stout conditioned on Biscoff Cookies, almonds, and coffee).
Start your engines, neckbeards. It’s an extravaganza.
When: Friday, February 14
Where: Silver Spring Civic Center
It was only a matter of time, and in 2020, it finally happened: Love Thy Beer has landed on Valentine’s Day.
For years, the Brewers Association of Maryland, aka [extreme Emeril voice] BAM!, has been organizing this mid-February love letter. But it’s extra special now that the calendar’s most romantic evening falls on a Friday.
So, take that Pliny t-shirt to the dry cleaner. Eat nothing but cucumbers for a day to sufficiently cleanse your palate. Practice your taster handoff technique. It’s a big night.
On tap, as usual: all Maryland everything. Participants include Astro Lab, Crooked Crab, Jailbreak, and Sapwood Cellars, among many others.
The festival – the signature event of Maryland’s, ahem, FeBREWary initiative – bills itself as a “winter warmer showcase.” If you like roasty stouts and other big beers, they’ll be well represented. But if that seems a little overwhelming, I’ve been to Love Thy Beer a few times, and breweries bring the whole spectrum of styles.
Each brewery will also be bringing its take on Cupid’s Curse, a beer brewed especially for FeBREWary annually. (It can be any style – brewer’s choice.) Attendees will get to vote for their favorite.
General admission tickets cost $55, which covers three hours of bottomless Maryland beer and a BAM glass that Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr. will spend years trying to find.
When: Saturday, February 22
Where: Pizzeria Paradiso Game Room
“Seasons change,” Samuel T. Hearing sang back in 2014, “but there’s a Pizzeria Paradiso festival for each one.”
Amazingly, what was true then remains true now. More amazingly, Pizzeria Paradiso didn’t even start its seasonal beer festival series until 2018… but I guess that’s why they’re called Future Islands. (Sorry not sorry.)
Anyway, we are in the midst of winter, and so the time has come for Pizzeria Paradiso to uncap and uncork (like one of those fancy Tired Hands bottles) its Winterfest. Once again, it’ll be held in the basement of the pizza-and-beer empire’s Georgetown location.
Tickets to the socially acceptable organized day drinking cost a mere $15, which covers your first four beers and a souvenir glass that visiting alien species will use as the key to understanding human civilization hundreds of years from now.
Seasonally appropriate beers include Väsen’s Winter Harvest DIPA, Off Color’s Dino S’Mores, Diamondback’s tmavé pivo Bohemian Forest (originally a collab with Guinness), and OEC’s Plumtastic. There will also be pizza (duh), fondue (cheesy), and roasted chestnuts (fire).
Tickets will also be available at the door if you are afraid of commitment.
When: Saturday, February 22
Where: The Sovereign
Every night at the Sovereign features rare and obscure beer. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s ode to Belgium – again and again, the DC destination that out-of-town brewers tell me they’re most excited to visit – is always pouring an array of old world (and domestic-but-Belgian-inspired) saisons, table beers, hoppy brews, and wild ales that 99% of U.S. craft beer bars can only dream of having access to. De Ranke, Thiriez, Blaugies, De La Senne, etc., etc.
But NRG beer overlord Greg Engert (aka Slim Necktie; aka IB-Unit; aka Young Gueuze; aka The Lost Weeknd; aka G-Herbal) has lined up something that’s truly above and beyond on February 22. (A Saturday, no less!) That’s when the Georgetown bar will tap 20 offerings from 3 Fonteinen, Beersel’s 132-year-old Lambic masters.
The main attraction is a dozen beers from from the brewery’s Speling Van Het series. “These special ‘Twist of Fate’ small batch brews experiment with different barrels, fruit macerations, and blends,” The Sovereign shares. “In addition to those wonderful experiments, we’ll feature both Batch #5 and Batch #6 from the Zenne y Frontera series – a line of blended lambics aged in Sherry barrels.”
As usual with an NRG event, it’s all you can drink for all you can pay.
When: Wednesday, February 26
Where: Ocelot Brewing
Last June, Ocelot reintroduced IPAs fermented with Chico ale yeast – the clean and efficient strain associated with classic American IPAs for decades. It’s a yeast that many breweries (particularly smaller operations renowned for their IPAs) have essentially abandoned for London ale yeast or Conan variants, which leave behind more residual sugar, contribute to a hazier appearance, and throw off peachier, fruiter esters. Yet, despite that trend, and despite producing IPAs exclusively with those two types of yeast for almost a year, the Dulles brewery decided it missed having drier, brighter, lighter IPAs in its rotation.
So, first Ocelot resurrected an old favorite, Seamless, and then, over the remainder of 2019, it rolled out a handful of Chico IPAs both old (Jacks & Jokers, Penny Arcade) and new (Kings & Queens, Alibi).
Does this mean anything? Are consumers’ tastes tiring of the New England IPA’s maximal flavors? Is Ocelot ducking back the behind curve here… or is the brewery ahead of it?
Fuck if I know, but hey, here comes a new Ocelot IPA with sugars converted to alcohol by Chico yeast. It’s called Face to Face, and it’ll be released at the brewery on February 26. The 6.6% IPA will feature a new school grist of Pilsen, oat malt, and flaked wheat, and a hopping regime of three Gucci varietals: Citra, Mosaic, and Amarillo.
When: Friday, February 28
Where: Crooked Run Brewing
There’s a well-established love affair between Maine and the DC area. Pizzeria Paradiso has pretty much turned into a farm system for Newcastle’s Oxbow Brewing, sending not one but two former beer directors into the brewery’s management ranks. ChurchKey recently collaborated on an anniversary blend with Allagash… where Right Proper’s Bobby Bump once brewed. Then there are the brewery-to-brewery collaborations. Aslin and Foundation. Ocelot and Barreled Souls. Oxbow and Bluejacket. The list goes on…
And it’s about to get a little longer, because on February 28 Crooked Run will release a pair of collaborations with Maine breweries.
The first, Pretzel Logic, was brewed in tandem with Camden’s Blaze Brewing. True to its name, it’s a barleywine brewed with pretzels (and cacao nibs).
“You get a touch of salt and sweetness balanced by a baker’s chocolate flavor,” says Crooked Run co-founder Jake Endres. “The result is a dessert barleywine in the same vein as Wrath of Pecans, one of our most popular beers.”
The other collab is called Down East, and it was brewed with Barreled Souls of Saco (just south of Portland). Down East sounds like another doozy: a coolship quad fermented and aged in peach brandy barrels.
“We used a more restrained rate of peaches [in comparison to] our peach bomb mixed-ferm Persica to allow more of the base beer and barrel to shine through,” Says Endres. “Balanced acidity keeps the entire beer very drinkable. This is actually the second of three sour beer collabs. The guys up there wanted to start brewing some mixed-ferm stuff, so we’re headed up there with one of our cultures to kick things off.”
Need more Crooked Run in your life? On February 27, Rustico (in Alexandria) will celebrate the release of the brewery’s collaboration with Graft Cider, Monkey Business, a “playful take on cider, conditioned on cocoa powder, lemon zest, vanilla, and milk sugar.”
When: Saturday, February 29
Where: Denizens Brewing (Barrel House & Beer Garden)
In the fall, Denizens Brewing makes it funky. In the winter, they organize a cask classic. These are Maryland brewery’s properties on the DC-Area Beer Event Monopoly board, and as far as such things go, they’re two of my favorites.
The latter gathering occurs on the month’s final day, February 29. That’s when a slew of DC and Maryland’s best breweries will send naturally carbonated real ale to Silver Spring. Among the participants: Astro Lab Brewing, Bluejacket, DC Brau, Silver Branch, and cask OGs District ChopHouse.
“It wouldn’t be a Winter Classic without some hockey,” Denizens says, “so there will also be a (friendly) shoot-out competition outside.”
Spoiler: It will not be friendly if I am involved. It will be unduly intense and passive aggressive. You’ve been warned. Just let me win, OK? Be cool about this.
Oh, one small detail: $40 gets attendees unlimited pours and a souvenir glass that you’ll treasure forever and entomb with your mummified body. But seriously: $40 is a steal for this.