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 – err, nine best beer events.
Why ten? Because it sounds cool. What’s the criteria? Enough with the questions.
When: Wednesday, June 6
Where: Rustico Ballston
You may not have ever heard of Reverie Distribution, but you know the beer that fill its trucks: The Veil, Ocelot, Commonwealth, Oxbow, Final Gravity, Kent Falls, and so on. Operated by Matt Tarpey and two of his The Veil co-founders, the Richmond-based boutique distributor floods the streets (i.e., much of Virginia) (and the NRG restaurant empire) with straight meltdown.
On June 6, they invade Rustico Ballston with 21 beers from five of their brands: The Veil (duh), Tulsa’s oak-aging maestros American Solera, Maine farmhouse fiends Oxbow, New York’s Equilibrium, and… for the first time in Northern Virginia… make some noise… Jester King!!!
Yes, the Austin farmhouse brewery – who specialize in mixed-culture and spontaneous fermentation ales brewed with Texas well water and other local ingredients – is officially up in the 703. Among the dowry of offerings they’ll be bringing to these nuptials are Cerveza de Mezquite (a mixed-culture saison brewed with mesquite beans), Queen’s Order (another mixed-culture saison, but with honey and lemon), and King Wytchmaker (a mixed culture rye IPA). If you don’t like hanging out with… throws on David Caruso shades… mixed company, toss back some of The Veil’s trademark hop bombs and ludicrously fruited goses, Oxbow’s Belgian imperial stout Infinite Darkness, or a hazy Equilibrium IPA.
And if you feel like spicing up the evening, the restaurant will also be hosting an intimate beer dinner featuring these breweries in its private dining room. For a reasonable $55, you get an apertif, four courses, and a dessert, each of which will be paired with a beer. Note: None of the beers on this menu will be available in the Rustico bar. To quote the other half of Clipse: That’s rare.
When: Saturday, June 9
Where: Crooked Run Brewing
When you’re a wonderful brewery that shares a space with fantastic taqueria, it is your moral obligation to throw an annual Tacolympics.
“Phil, what is a Tacolympics?” you may ask. Good question. The answer: It doesn’t matter. Awesome thing + awesome thing = more awesome thing.
OK, fine. According to the event’s Facebook page, patrons can participate in a Taco Relay, Taco Speed-Eating, and a Corn Nugget Race. (I’ve been speed-eating tacos my whole life; I did not realize this was something I could monetize.) And to quench your thirst, the brewery will have specials on its Mexican lager Carrera Torcida.
When: Sunday, June 10
Where: Hill Center
Mike Stein and Pete Jones are national treasures – and not just because they’re swashbuckling historians like Nicolas Cage in “National Treasure” (and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”). The Lost Lagers dynamic duo are on the frontlines of archival beer research, dusting off local pre-Prohibition brew logs, unearthing recipes, and teaming with brewers to recreate them. That’s a lot of work! All you have to do is show up and drink a pint of liquid history.
Chances are high you’ve already tried their highest profile work, Heurich’s Lager (a collab with DC Brau), but this year they’ve also produced a ~1901 Brilliant Ale with Gordon Biersch and seen the second release of their Pen Druid collab Colonial Panic, a porter brewed with local sorghum and based off a colonial Virginia recipe. But Stein and Jones aren’t just bringing their knowledge to area breweries. Nay, these are men of the people: They host a series of historic homebrewing classes at Hill Center.
The next class is this Sunday, when they’ll be breaking down the recipe for a saison fermented with a yeast cultured from a 19th-century barrel found on the site of the historic Shuter’s Hill Brewery in Alexandria, as well as discussing “brewing season” and the Franco-Belgian style of ale. (That yeast was extracted by local scientist and yeast wrangler extraordinaire Jasper Akerboom.) $75 gets you the class, a tasting, and a usable pitch of the excavated Bright Yeast Labs WBC yeast.
When: Monday, June 11
At this point, pretty much every metropolitan area has its own buzz magnet brewery. It’s the one that drives the internet seekers wild, the one that makes visiting beer nerds say, “Well, I just have to go there and buy three cases of $.” We have Aslin Beer Co. Nashville has Southern Grist. And as is often the case with buzz magnet breweries, these two operations: 1) make primarily hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, and fruited sours, and 2) are friends.
Last summer, they collaborated in Herndon on a honey-and-peach double IPA called Summer Water. In May, Southern Grist returned the favor by hosting a brew day in Nashville. Together, they produced a sour IPA brewed with the kitchen sink: oats, lactose, lemon peel, orange peel, lime peel, “massive amounts of dry hops,” vanilla beans, and jasmine tea. Fittingly, it’s called Pushing Buttons.
Pushing Buttons is not available in D.C… but for one night, you and your own best friends can crush it at ChurchKey. The beer will be on tap for a special evening with the two breweries. The draft list at the Logan Circle bar will have ten drafts from each brewery. Other highlights from Souther Grist include the Civil Society collab Inefficient Loop (a double IPA hopped with Mosaic, Summer, and Hallertau Blanc), the Mikerphone collab Shake Ya Tailfeather (a chocolate milkshake double IPA), and the Finback collab Batida (a sour blond ale with lime, orange, passionfruit, coconut, and lactose). All the collabs, man. ALL THE COLLABS.
On the Aslin side, D.C. beer czar Greg Engert has secured the new Crooked Run collab IPA Tenuous Grasp, Flip Flop & Socks (a sour saison with blackcurrant), and the mango version spicy sour ale of El Frutero.
When: Wednesday, June 13
ICYMI: Hellbender is canning its beer! That’s right: Bare Bones Kölsch, Ignite IPA, and a rotating third beer in your fridge whenever you want them! Hell yeah! (Sorry.) (Not sorry.)
But not all of that Hellbender new-new will be headed into cans. Alas, you’ll have to go to the brewery or bars and talk to bartenders and socialize with other humans to consume them.
On June 13, Dacha will make your life a lot easier and round up all the new Hellbender beers for you. On tap: an as-yet-unnamed oat pale double dry-hopped with Galaxy and El Dorado, and Robo Boogie (a farmhouse pale ale fermented 100% with Brett, and double dry-hopped with El Dorado and Hallertau Blanc). Amongst other Hellbender brews, the beer garden will also have Double Chazzwazzer, a #crushable double IPA generously hopped with Galaxy and Citra.
When: Thursday, June 14
If you frequent D.C.’s finer bottle shops, the bright and colorful cans of Decadent Ales may have caught your eye at some point this year. To the delight of area Untappers, the Westchester County brewery has been sending us its beer since late January. (Not coincidentally, Boston’s Dorchester Brewing – who handles gypsy brewing duties for Omnipollo, Stillwater, and Evil Twin, among others – started cranking out founder Paul Pignataro’s recipes around that time.) As its name suggests, the beers of Decadent Ales are indeed… decadent. Think: extravagantly hopped IPAs with several kinds of fruit… or coconut and vanilla beans… or maple syrup and cinnamon. (Seriously.) Think: pastry stouts with more crazy adjuncts. This is the face of new school brewing.
On Thursday, June 14, you can meet the literal face of Decadent Ales at ChurchKey, when Pignataro visits Logan Circle. He’ll be here to discuss his recent conversion to a pescatarian diet. Correction: He’ll be here to talk about his beer, and he’s bringing eight kegs with him. Highlights include Citra Citra Citra (a triple IPA hopped with… wait for it… Citra), the Evil Twin collab Decadent Delight (an imperial stout with coconut, cinnamon, and pistachio), and French Toast (the aforementioned double IPA with Vermont maple syrup, Madagascar vanilla beans, and caramelized sugar).
Fill up on tater tots, then drink your dessert.
When: Saturday, June 16
Where: Old Ox Brewery
Four years ago, the Burns family opened Old Ox Brewery with the mission of making beers “that wouldn’t tire out your palate or knock you on your butt if you had a couple.” (Or so co-founder Chris Burns explained a few summers ago.) And even as the Ashburn brewery has branched out into more and more styles since then – see: the broadening Funky Face sour portfolio, a stellar recent Altbier, the rotating-hop Hoppier Place series – its beers have remained uniformly approachable. (This even goes for the dangerously drinkable Sir Oxcelot, a 14.3% quadrupel brewed with Ocelot.) Beyond beer, though, something similar can be said about the Burns family (and head brewer Alison Lange): In my experiences with them, they’ve been nothing but approachable, considerate, generous people. In fact, another Loudon County brewer once told that me he and his friends had a mantra: “Be more like the Burns.”
So, this was a long wind up to saying that Old Ox is turning four, and we should all raise a pint to them. As in years past, they’ll celebrate with a party and an anniversary beer. The 2018 Year of the Ox is a sessionable Belgian-style table beer hopped with Comet and Citra. That sounds delightful on a mid-June Saturday afternoon. More specifically: June 16, when the party is scheduled to go down with performances by Andy Hawk Band and Mandatory Recess. No ticket required. Just show up ready to crush table beer. And if you feel like boning up on Old Ox for the occasion, revisit my recent Freshly Tapped profile of its FestivALE.
When: Sunday, June 17
Where: Ocelot Brewing
Adrien Widman spent three years in Brazil growing up, and the Ocelot Brewing founder still carries vivid memories of the fallen guava that used to line sidewalks on the way to his family’s house. He and his friends would pick up the soft, rotting fruit and hurl it at each other like snowballs, and in the end, everyone came home stinking of guava.
Perhaps predictably, Widman has mixed feelings about the evocative tropical fruit decades later. Nevertheless, when Graft Cidery co-founder Sara Sherrer suggested brewing a guava gose together and calling it Brazilian Snowball Fight in honor of Widman’s childhood story, it was an opportunity he couldn’t resist. (Widman has long been a fan of Graft: “I’d drink anything that they make,” he tells me.) Brewed with Brazilian salt, their collab gose will be released at Ocelot on Sunday, June 17. (Not a coincidence: Brazil plays its first World Cup game that day.)
In addition to the fruited sour ales, it’s another big month of can drops at the Dulles Brewery. On June 14, the brewery will finally release Olé (its World Cup pilsner, which I wrote about last month), as well as another round of Home*, an essentially flawless IPA hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Citra, and arguably the definitive Ocelot beer. Then, appropriately enough, on June 28, the brewery will debut cans of Uber Home, the imperial big brother to Home*. More Nelson, more Citra, more rye.
And while we’re talking about Ocelot double IPAs, it behooves you to find a pint or four-pack of the brewery’s recently released all-Citra double IPA Lucky You, which somehow exceeds my hyping it up as Ocelot’s Double Citra.
When: Saturday, June 30
Where: Heurich House Museum
Whoa, two Aslin Beer Co. events in Draft Picks this month? LIKE YOU DON’T KNOW THE TOP FIVE BREWERIES OF ALL TIME.
The backend of our double header is a fun one, too. On the last Saturday of the month, the Herndon brewery is teaming up with the Heurich House for a beach party in the landmark’s Castle Garden. (Little known historical tidbit: While Christian Heurich grew up in the landlocked German village of Haina, he spent summers on the Eder River, where he pioneered a form of otter-propelled water skiing.) (Please don’t fact check that.)
For the event, the garden will be decorated with with sprinklers, lawn ornaments, beach balls, and other sand-oriented paraphernalia. (Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and beach towels, though.) Your $20 ticket gets you a commemorative cup and your first beer. You can refill that cup by purchasing beers at the bar… which will be stocked with Aslin beer, naturally. As for more nourishing intake, the Aslin food truck will be on site with chewable offerings.
When: Saturday, June 30
Where: Solace Brewing
This spring, I had the chance to chat with the team at Solace Brewing about a knockout Maibock they produced with Ocelot. (And do I mean the whole team: They were all on the way up to Atlantic City for a brewers conference and put me on speaker phone.) But as they acknowledged on that call, the Loudoun County brewery is best known not for lagers but for its hop-forward ales and barrel-aged stouts. (Its current draft list has five variations of IPAs, including the increasingly popular session IPA Sun’s Out Hops Out, along with a recent double IPA with Eavesdrop called Juice Head, which I thought turned out quite true to its name.)
On the last Saturday of the month, the brewery celebrates one year of IPAs and barrels with an anniversary party at its super slick (and quite spacious) tasting room. Tickets for the event are a modest $25 to $40, and include a varying amount of drink tickets. In addition to Solace’s offerings, beer will flow from the guest taps of Triple Crossing, Strangeways, Ocelot, Manor Hill, Bluejacket, Crooked Run, Aslin, Fair Winds, Old Ox, and Diamondback. The afternoon event will also feature live music and food trucks.