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: Saturday, January 4
Where: Right Proper Brew Pub
Rejoice, it’s cuffing season, the time of year when we cut loose our summer flings and settle down with one person because it’s too cold to go out consistently and much easier to just watch Netflix. How long does cuffing season last? Professor Fabolous says until June, but that seems a tad conservative. Let’s say mid-April.
Anyway, Right Proper Brewing has teamed up with the folks of the Black Brew Movement and DCBeer.com to brew a beer to mark this wonderful season. It’s called, of course, Cuffing Saison. The 7.8% farmhouse ale was brewed with honey, hopped with a trio of fruity varietals (Azzaca, Idaho 7, and Belma), and then fermented with peaches, peach purée. This all sounds delightful.
Right Proper and Black Brew Movement already celebrated the release last Saturday… and while that event is in the past, Cuffing Saison will continue to flow in Shaw for the foreseeable future. So, get off the couch with your significant other and go drink a few pints. After all, April will be here before you know it.
When: Tuesday, January 7
Where: Astro Lab Brewing
For the past few years, the belt of Best IPA Within 495 has safely gone to Bluejacket’s Citra showcase Lost Weekend. And while I’m not ready to take that honor away from Lost Weekend completely, I will say that Astro Lab’s Fresh As has thrown the imaginary competition into flux. At the least, the Maryland brewery’s flagship-ish IPA gets joint custody of the decorative waist accessory, which is made entirely of Westy VII bottle caps.
Hopped with Nelson Sauvin, Citra, and Mosaic, Fresh As is a smooth, tropical, juicy wonder. And, praise be to the beer gods, Astro Lab is poised to release a fresh batch of beer on January 7, just six weeks after the last. KEEP THE FRESH AS COMING, ASTRO LAB.
The Silver Spring operation will couple the release with another batch of Supergroove, an all-Mosaic IPA that debuted in October. Shockingly, it is also fantastic.
Both beers will be hitting limited distribution, but if Astro Lab isn’t part of your active brewery trip rotation, you’re fucking up.
When: Friday, January 10
Where: 3 Stars Brewing
Last week, our beloved 3 Stars Brewing published an Eventbrite page for an event called… well, the image said “Terp it Up & Wash It Down” but the text said “Terepene Drop Event.” So, I’m not sure what the official name is. We’ll just call it the “Terendipity” Release, OK?
Now, the first sentence of the event descriptor read: “We are releasing a new terpene IPA, Terpendipity, on January 10th and will be throwing a hell of a bash to commemorate the occasion!!!”
When I read this, I had so many questions – namely, what the fuck is terpene? And what is a terpene IPA? And are there so many terpene IPAs that 3 Stars must clarify that this is a new terpene IPA?
I felt as if there was a whole world of IPA that I, a semi-professional beer blurb writer, had been denied access to. Thankfully, I am proficient in Google.
It turns out that terpenes are “compounds in cannabis that give it distinctive aromas and flavors.” Did you know that, fellow kids? According to this rando video, terpenes “could potentially produce… psychological effects like relaxation or focus.” (Emphasis added, because LOL.) Suddenly, the Eventbrite’s promise of “celebrating all the dank out in the world” made a lot more sense.
Still, I had more questions. Like, do people really say terp it up? This led me to the video for the song “terp it up slab it down” by recording artist and weed enthusiast Chris Crayzie, and let me just tell you, my life will never be the same. But, yes, “terp it up and slab it down” is a phrase, and you can buy it on a t-shirt.
Separately, are people really making beer with terpene? Of course, Kate Bernot, the “Simpsons already did it” of beer writers, has an article about brewers (most notably Sweetwater) utilizing terepene. And Wisconsin’s Untitled Art appear to be big on terpene IPAs. They also make CBD water, so it all adds up.
Where does this leave us? 3 Stars made an IPA that is most definitely going to smell like weed. That’s what I have surmised. It’s also a collaboration with Phone Homie, a DC-based weed proponent who smokes things on Instagram, which supports my conclusion.
Goddammit, I still have so many questions, though. Whatever: The release party costs $15 and includes a commemorative glass and your first beer and hopefully all of the answers.
Update: OK, I have received some answers here. Terpendipity was hopped with El Dorado and the strawberry-evoking Belma, then it received a post-fermentation addition of terpene extract (from Maine), lending the beer the flavor and aroma of… weed. It’s only a two-barrel batch, so don’t smoke up and fall asleep, or you may miss out.
When: Thursday, January 16
Where: The Sovereign
The Crooked Run blog is home to some serious introspection and brass tacks industry analysis, straight from the mind of brewery co-founder and head brewer Jake Endres. If you’ve never visited the site, it’s well worth doing so. Few within the beer industry discuss it with such candor.
For the purposes of today’s blurb, though, I’d like to draw your attention Endres’ 2019 in Review post, where (amongst many other things) he highlighted the “jump in quality and complexity of our beer.” Here’s what he had to say about Crooked Run’s sours:
“Oh boy. This is by far the greatest area of improvement. Our kettle sours continue to be reliably good, but it’s the mixed ferm side I am talking about here. Thanks to the continued efforts of our team, we’re putting out some much more polished mixed-ferm beers. I first felt we were onto something when a colleague tried Aronia, our golden sour with chokeberries, and told me, ‘This is one of the best sours produced in the state.’ The development of some house yeast cultures combined with higher hopping rates with aged hops to keep lactobacillus-derived acidity at bay in our coolship beers, has really upped our game with these beers. I really can’t say enough. Arcadia, our coolship saison co-pitched with our house saison strain, reminded me of something from the best saison makers from Belgium. Orange rind, minerality, slight tannins, super faint acidity… hell yes.”
So, is Endres proud of these mixed-fermentation and spontaneous beers? Yes. Should he be? Hell yes. They’re fantastic.
And in an encouraging sign, these beers have performed very well for Crooked Run. In fact, they sell out at the brewery quite swiftly.
Thankfully, the Sterling operation has set aside a handful of these sour beers for a showcase at The Sovereign. (If you want another sign that you’re doing something right in this area, a Sovereign spotlight is certainly it.)
On Thursday, January 16, the Georgetown Belgian beer mecca will tap eight beers from the Crooked Run’s “burgeoning sour program,” which it calls “one of the most exciting facets of the local beer scene.” Those beers include barrel-aged, mixed-ferm beers conditioned with chokeberries, tangerines and cranberries, grapes and currants and raspberries, peaches, and more.
When: January 17 + 18
Definitive Brewing can be found in Portland, Maine, literally in the same small industrial park as the city’s OG Allagash Brewing. It’s just over two years old. And unlike its neighbor, Definitive is known for quite modern styles: hazy IPA, fruited sours, and pastry stouts. (But they also make a Kölsch year round!)
Definitive currently distributes in Maine and a few New England states, but in what’s become a quite welcome trend, you get to fleetingly enjoy this out-of-market brewery courtesy of The Bruery Store at Union Market, who have arranged a can drop (at its shop) and partnered with ChurchKey for a draft event.
The latter comes first, on January 17, when the Logan Circle beer bar presents “no less than” 10 Definitive hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, and fruited sours. (Plus that Kölsch!) (#Kölschlife.)
Then, on January 18, with your interest and palate sufficiently piqued, The Bruery Store at Union Market will sell four-packs of four hoppy Definitive offerings: Definitive Ale (Definitive’s flagship session-ish IPA), Behind the Light (a Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe IPA), Industrial Crossbreeze (a double IPA hopped with Galaxy, Citra and Mosaic hops), and Distant Gardens (another double IPA, but hopped with the Southern Hemisphere varieties Kohatu, Motueka, and Topaz).
It certainly doesn’t sound like Definitive is struggling to source the Gucci hops.
But will the Portland brewery live up to the hype? Only you can decide.
When: Wednesday, January 22
Last month, BYT published the 2019 edition of the Beer in Review. Clocking in at over 11,000 words, it’s definitely a post for sipping – not chugging. In other words, no one is expecting you to digest the opinions, takes, and wisdom of 20+ brewers and beer directors in one sitting. Read a little, come back to it later, read a little more. Or, you know, Control-F your brewery.
But you didn’t have to get far to read the entry of Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer Svengali Greg Engert (aka Slim Necktie, aka Meek Gristmill, aka PRO-Hibit, aka Doug E. Fresh Hop). Given Engert’s big 2019 (opening The Grand Delaney, a banner year for Bluejacket, NRG’s undeterred growth), it only made sense to have him batting leadoff in the Beer in Review.
And that’s where you’ll find Engert’s plug for Petting, Germany’s Private Landbrauerei Schönram.
“The lagers from Eric Toft at Private Landbrauerei Schönram in Bavaria purely showcase the flavors of handpicked German malt and hops like no other, and lean dry and bitter,” wrote the beer director (pictured above in a throwback ChurchKey shot from the BYT archives). “His are my favorite beers at the moment, and I am excited to say that we will be bringing them into the District with consistency in 2020…”
Lo and behold, that importation begins on January 22, when ChurchKey will tap five lagers (and a collaboration!) from the German brewery, including its Pilsner and Helles. According to ChurchKey, “these lagers are exceedingly rare – 90% of their total production is sold within 40 km of the brewery.”
So, go score a word-class, rare German lager… and then drop a 2-star, “meh, Pilsners aren’t my thing” Untappd review on it.
When: Tuesday, January 28
If Good Word’s own name sounds familiar to you that may be because the Georgia brewery teamed up with DC’s 3 Stars for the collab DIPA Off the Clock in September (and sent some beer north to mark the release).
Now it appears it is officially debuting in the DC market. So, this is like its debutante ball, and they’ll celebrate the occasion on January 28 at ChurchKey.
So, what’s the good word on the event? Well, owner Todd DiMatteo will be in the house. And he appears to be bringing a very 2020 roster of beers: hazy IPA, pastry stout, fruited sours (often with lactose), and some lagers (Pilsner, Pale Lager, Schwartzbier).
ChurchKey says the highlights are Wrigley Fields Forever (a sour ale with strawberry and African basil), Hollow Moon (an imperial stout conditioned on toasted coconut, cocoa, and vanilla), and Never Sleep (an IPA hopped with Vic Secret & Citra hops).
When: Friday, January 31
Where: Ocelot Brewing
Back in my grandpappy’s day (i.e., like, five years ago), triple IPAs were released in the late January and early February, a time when we naturally reach for bigger, boozier beers.
Nowadays, though, hype monsters like Aslin, RAR, and The Veil seem to drop a new triple IPA every few weeks. Of course, this is because the combination of higher alcohol + more hops moves like hot cakes in cans, and can sales are a huge part of such breweries’ business models. It makes sense. Don’t knock the hustle.
But if there is one triple IPA that still seeks to honor the tradition of olden triple IPAs like Pliny the Younger and Hopslam, it’s Ocelot’s Talking Backwards. A showcase for Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops (aka the Holy Trinity), the Meridian Pint collab is annually released this time of year. (I went deep on the beer and the Ocelot-Meridian Pint connection three years ago in Freshly Tapped: Talking Backwards.)
Last year, the beer received a slight remix, with Ocelot switching from Chico Ale yeast to London Ale yeast, resulting in a slightly sweeter, slightly hazier beer. This year, the brewery has slightly modified the grist, just slightly turning down the English pale malt Maris Otter and increasing the Pilsner malt (which should result in a lighter beer, at least visually).
“The beer has moved towards current trends without abandoning its roots,” Meridian Pint beer director Jace Gonnerman told me in 2019. “It’s still quite dry for a triple IPA, but it’s bursting with flavors and aromas of melon and citrus, all with and a creamy, lush mouthfeel.”
As Gonnerman noted in last month’s Beer in Review, Talking Backwards “remains about the only triple IPA I enjoy.” The point being: It’s hard to balance the style’s inherent maximalism with relative crushability. Yet, the collab triple IPA manages to do it year after year.
To make the trip to Ocelot triply worth your while, Ocelot will be releasing two more freshies on January 31. One is the return of 10,000 Days, a banger initially released last May that pairs Mosaic with the South African varietal Southern Passion. The other is called Leafers, and it’s a collaboration with New Hampshire’s Deciduous Brewing. More specifically, Leafers is a sour ale fermented with blood orange, peach, and red currant.
When: January 31 + February 1
Where: Port City Brewing
Oh my lord, is that really an IX after Colossal? IX!!! [Extreme Herman Cain voice]: nine, nine, nine!
Sorry, sometimes the passage of time is too much for my feeble little mind to process.
Anyway, Port City turns nine at the end of the month, which means the ninth iteration of Colossal (its anniversary beer series) is on the horizon.
And Colossal IX will be… drumroll please… Weizenbock, a “malt-forward brew that boasts a bouquet of ripe banana, clove, and dark fruit capped off with a beige head,” to quote Port City.
So, sorta in the vein of last year’s Colossal VIII (a German-style Doppelbock)… but brewed with a healthy amount of wheat and fermented with weizen ale yeast (hence that banana and clove).
The brewery will celebrate Colossal IX’s unveiling (and, of course, its anniversary) over two days and nights.
Speaking of unveilings, have you visited the Port City website recently? It looks like some new one-offs are coming our way in 2020, notably Star Sailor white IPA and a Hoppy Brown ale. Let’s do this.