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.
“Moonlight Drive” Release
When: Thursday, January 3
Where: Ocelot Brewing
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Sauvin.
Yes, craft beer fans can not get enough Nelson Sauvin, the New Zealand hop varietal with a fruitiness evocative of white wine. Unfortunately, brewers literally can’t get enough of it, and when they can, it’s super expensive. This is a tale I’ve heard a dozen times over. It’s why you don’t see too many Nelson Sauvin beers made in the area (outside of Aslin and Bluejacket).
But apparently Ocelot does not have this problem. Ocelot makes it rain Nelson Sauvin on the reg. Founder Adrien Widman must know a guy who knows a guy who knows the guy. Pablo. Noreiga. The real Noriega. He owes him a hundred favors.
Two of Ocelot’s most popular beers – and flat out two of the best IPAs I’ve ever had – showcase the hop (alongside Citra): Home* and Mr. Kite. The Dulles brewery also dropped three double IPAs that featured Nelson Sauvin last year: Uber Home, Big Cat, and Fading Beauty. And lest we forget fall’s hoppy pale ale Quiet Company, where the New Zealand varietal slow danced to The National with Huell Melon.
Of course, none of this would matter if the brewery didn’t know how to use Nelson Suavin. But, lord, do they play it like a Doug Martsch guitar solo.
The latest entry in Ocelot’s Nelson Sauvin discography is Moonlight Drive, a double IPA that pairs the hop with the orangey cultivar Comet. This 8% beauty drops at the brewery… today! Like most of Ocelot’s latest IPA creations, Moonlight Drive was brewed with both flaked and malted oats, so it’ll likely be bringing a smooth mouthfeel and that sweet, sweet haze.
Moonlight Drive is being released alongside cans of a beer that does not bring that sweet, sweet haze: Gorgeous & Alone. I wrote about the mini-Talking Backwards last year, but one notable tidbit about this batch is that it’s first fermented with English Ale yeast rather than Chico. (As I explained in October, head brewer Jack Snyder is phasing out the drier California yeast that once fermented all of Ocelot’s IPAs.) Consider me very curious to see how the tweaked recipe turned out.
On January 16, two more new beers are seeing release in cans: Purple Black Eye (a 12% imperial stout conditioned on coffee and cascara) and the IPA Elsewhere.
When: Saturday, January 5
Last year, I told the (abbreviated) story of Perennial and the runaway success of Abraxas in a feature on Prodigal (which is essentially the base beer for Abraxas). I’d recommend giving it a read, not because of anything I wrote but because some very knowledgeable people talked to me about the legacy of the beer and said very smart things. One of them was Neighborhood Restaurant Group Beer Director Greg Engert (aka Slim Necktie, aka Canibung, aka 2 Live Cru, aka Masta Sorachi Ace, aka Method Mash). And as it just so happens, one of Engert’s bars hosts the area’s marquee Abraxas event. Unsurprisingly, that bar is ChurchKey.
These days, Abraxas is a little easier to find at your favorite local bottleshop, but the same can’t be said for Vanilla Bean Abraxas and Coffee Abraxas – variants of the stout with the titular adjuncts amplified and added (respectively). On Friday, the Logan Circle will showcase those two variants, along with the 2018, 2017, and 2014(!) vintages of regular ol’ Abraxas. If that’s not enough imperial stout for you, ChurchKey will have 2016 and 2017 Sump Coffee Stout. Also, you are addicted to imperial stout.
There are a few other, lighter gems on the menu, as well. Chief amongst them is Carondelet Wilderness Refuge, a white wine barrel-aged Belgian Ale conditioned with Brett. (Fun fact: This beer was lifted from my dreams, “Inception”-style.) Just as stellar: a version of their foedre-aged Funky Wit fruited with Charentais Melon. I won’t front, I could go to this event and drink only these beers and be perfectly happy. No shots at Abraxas – Perennial is just my Brett bae. (Also, Pils and Prism 4 life.)
When: Saturday, January 5
Where: Bier Baron
For its eighth anniversary, Bier Baron – aka, the House of Fallen Brickskeller – is throwing another cask festival. But this isn’t your grandpappy’s cask festival, however. Oh no, this is a cask competition.
OK, buckle up, here’s how it works: For a very reasonable $20, you get to drink 5oz pours of over 20 casks, then you vote for a winner, and then… yeah, well, then the winner wins. Also, you are drunk at this point. Maybe it’s not so crazy.
There’s also a pricier VIP option that includes food and a reserved table from whence you can stunt on all those standing losers.
No word yet on who is participating, but last year’s list was stellar, and I would assume the same for 2019.
When: Tuesday, January 8
In November, horrific wildfires ravaged large swaths of Northern California. In the days following the Camp Fire, Sierra Nevada (whose Chico brewery is located squarely in the impacted area) announced an unprecedented fundraising effort to help rebuild affected communities: Not only would it brew a Resilience Butte County Proud IPA – and donate 100% of the proceeds – but it invited other breweries to do the same. To help encourage larger participation, Sierra Nevada shared the recipe… and convinced its suppliers to donate the ingredients for the beer.. for everyone. That’s fucking crazy!
Thus far, over 1400 breweries have donated the time, manpower, and tank space to brew their versions of Resilience Butte County Proud IPA. Sierra Nevada hopes to raise $10 million. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Locally, a number of breweries have already blown through their Resilience IPAs, like Hellbender and Right Proper. 3 Stars and Atlas Brew Works are still pouring theirs. And Port City taps its on Friday.
On Tuesday, January 8, ChurchKey will show off Bluejacket’s rendition of the recipe, along with Sierra Nevada’s OG version. Per the Bluejacket, its Resilience IPA “showcases the classic Sierra Nevada combination of bready, caramelized malts [and] piney, citric hops.” To sweeten the pot, Churchkey will also tap two rarities from each brewery: Sierra Nevada’s Dry-Hopped Barleywine-Style Ale (a 2017 collab with Avery) and Bluejacket’s Double Mexican Radio: Bourbon 2018.
100% of Resilience proceeds go to the Camp Fire Relief Fund. So, go drink with purpose.
“Cheat Day IPA” Release
When: Thursday, January 10
Where: Meridian Pint
One of the big takeaways from last month’s Beer in Review is that people really seem to like’a da Solace. A handful of brewers and beer directors showed the Loudoun County brewery love, and for good cause: It does both light-bodied, aromatic IPAs and thicker stouts very well.
Last month, the brewery invited Columbia Heights beer mecca Meridian Pint and East Coast beer tourism empire City Brew Tours to make a beer with them. That beer is called Cheat Day IPA, and it will be unleashed upon the world January 10 at Meridian Pint.
According to beer director Jace Gonnerman, Cheat Day IPA clocks in at 7% ABV, was brewed with “tons of wheat and oats,” and showcases the holy trinity of Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic hops. Based on somewhat recent Meridian Pint collabs (Ocelot’s Talking Backwards, Atlas Brew Works’ Double Dance of Days, Aslin’s The Adventures of Audrey), there is a high probability of this beer being a banger. Trust me, I’ve run the numbers on this.
Presumably, there will be a bevy of other Solace offerings available on the 10th, so if you’ve been sleeping on the brewery (and their hit record Partly Cloudy IPA), go baptize yourself.
When: Saturday, January 12
Remember when Fred went to visit his old college roommate in Charlotte and drove back with a bunch of beer from Wooden Robot Brewery and invited everyone over to his apartment to drink it and then was all like, “This is the official Wooden Robot Brewery DC debut! I’m the king of the world!” Well, Fred’s a liar. He is not the king the world, and that was not the official DC debut of Wooden Robot Brewery.
The actual official DC debut of Wooden Robot Brewery is Saturday, January 12 at ChurchKey. To mark the momentous occasion, the North Carolina brewery will be sending 15 of its offerings, with an emphasis on IPAs and barrel-aged sours.
Highlights of the latter include GABF gold medal winner Rèserve Dorèe De Pêche (a sour ale aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels for three years, then re-fermented on North Carolina peaches), Coalescence (a mixed-fermentation saison brewed in collaboration with Burial Beer Company), and Réserve Blanc (a sour blond ale aged one year in Sauvignon Blanc barrels).
If you like (or dislike) what you’re drinking, there will be no need to write a positive (or negative) Untappd review: Co-founders Dan Wade and Josh Patton will be in attendance. Say it to their faces! I dare you!
As with pretty much all ChurchKey events, it’s all-you-can-drink for all-you-can-pay.
When: Friday, January 18
Where: Port City Brewing
Have you spent some time scrolling around the Port City website recently?
Oh, you had more important things to be doing with your life?
Cool, cool, yeah, me too. I don’t randomly check out brewery websites. Wow, no, that would be super lame. Eek!
Anyway, my friend, um, Bill recently told me to check out the Port City website (because I wasn’t doing it already) (because I am cool and have many important plans with attractive people). So, I did, and whoa, spoilers abound! Listed among the brewery’s 2019 offerings: Rivershed Ale (a new dry-hopped pale ale coming this summer), bottles of the Lager Series hit Helles, and Colossal Eight (a German-style Doppelbock with a sliiiiiiick label design). Truly, we are #blessed.
But before we get unwrap any of those presents, Port City is bestowing another new beer on us: Golden Export Lager, the latest entry in its Lager Series. Unlike the three previous beers, though, this baby is draft only, and it’ll be tapped at the brewery on Friday, January 18. (Keep your eyes peeled for a Meridian Pint release party later in the month, too.)
What is a German Export Lager? First brewed in late-1800s Germany, the style is often referred to as a Dortmunder. “Balance and smoothness are the hallmarks of this style,” the BJCP guidelines note. “It has the malt profile of a Helles, the hop character of a Pils, and is slightly stronger than both.”
Succinctly put, fellow nerds. Here’s what Port City has to say: “[O]ur Golden Export Lager balances a subtly sweet, toasty malt character with spicy, floral hops. Slightly stronger than the related Helles and Pilsner styles, Golden Export still aims to refresh.”
When: Saturday, January 19
Where: Crooked Run Brewing
You ever played “Super Smash Bros”?
You ever played “Super Smash Bros”… on beer?
Well, here is your chance to play “Super Smash Bros”… on beer… with strangers.
On January 19, Crooked Run Brewing is hosting NoVa Nerdfest, and includes a “Super Smash Bros” tournament. And a “Magic: The Gathering” tournament. And a “Street Fighter II” tournament. And retro gaming vendors, “Sonic the Hedgehog” speed run challenges, and a “comic book focused lounge.” Look, it’s a nerdfest, OK? It’s everything comic books and video games and table games, plus beer.
Honestly, I don’t know if combining this many different types of nerds in one area is permissible under the fire code, but I’m not going to narc on Crooked Run.
When: Saturday, January 26
Where: Cushwa Brewing
I was going to say that Cushwa is one of the area’s best young breweries, but that’s probably selling them short: It’s just one of the area’s best breweries. Head brewer Garrett Chambers executes haze – soft, juicy IPAs that don’t forsake bitterness – alongside anyone else, but he also does total justice to less trendy styles (like Pilsners and Berliners) and trend-negative styles (like English Milds and Scotch Ales). I don’t know what else to say. The beer is good.
Williamsport is a bit of a trek – about 90 minutes from DC – so if you’re looking for an excuse to pile in ol’ Zip Car, the brewery’s second anniversary party seems like a good one. I know from conversations with Chambers that he sets aside beers (particularly its barrel-aged stouts) for special occasions like this.
Also, if you’re a Draftee (a regular Draft Picks reader) (we said we were gonna make this stick, remember?), you know I’ve been teasing a Cushwa feature since I was in seventh grade. It’s coming soon, I swear!