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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.

“Divine IPA” Release

When: Friday, March 1

Where: ChurchKey

It’s almost unfathomable nowadays for a brewery operating on the flagship model to open without a core IPA. But seven years ago, when UNION Craft Brewing began churning out delicious beer, it opted instead for a flagship hoppy pale ale (Duckpin, duh) and three seasonal IPAs (Foxy, Rye Baby, and Steadie Eddie).

Last spring, though, Head Brewer Kevin Blodger told me that UNION was brewing an IPA for the Charm City Bluegrass Festival with the hopes of eventually turning it into a flagship IPA. Hopped with Citra and Mosaic, that beer was called (Do You Even) Dobro?; then it was subsequently rechristened Change Order.

Over the course of 2018, UNION would brew Change Order several more times, tightening the recipe each time. (As co-founder Jon Zerivitz shared at the Heurich House’s First Running’s interview series last week, the popularity of the IPA helped fuel the many construction change orders the brewery incurred while building out its current UNION Collection space.)

On March 1, UNION will debut the final iteration of that IPA at ChurchKey. (Cans will hit distribution in April.) Named in honor of Harris Glenn Milstead – the musician, actor, and drag queen who appeared in a number of John Waters movies – Divine is a decidedly new school IPA, bright and juicy with a very restrained bitterness and a soft mouthfeel. Based on the most recent batch of Change Order, it should find an immediate home in many area fridges.

The ChurchKey launch party will also feature a slew of UNION rarities, including white wine barrel-aged Older Pro with black currants, Orange Double Duckpin, Barrel-Aged Chessie 2017, and two entries from the brewery’s draft room pilot series, Rough Draughts.

The Neighborhood Restaurant Group will be hosting similar events for Divine IPA at Owen’s Ordinary (on March 9) and Rustico Ballston (on March 12).

Fair Winds 4th Anniversary Celebration

When: Saturday, March 2

Where: Fair Winds Brewing

To vastly understate things, it’s been a rough winter for Fair Winds Brewing. who lost founder Casey Jones in January. Nevertheless, the Lorton brewery continues on, and this Saturday it will celebrate its fourth birthday.

On tap: All Hands Anniversary Ale, the brewery’s 10.5% American-style barleywine assertively hopped with Chinook, Citra, Amarillo, and Warrior. Also: everything else you see above. That’s an up-to-date draft list. Really, you could just show up, pound Siren’s Lure – the area’s best saison –  and have a blast.

They’ll also have live music (Matty + Kara D),  food (from both Cipolla Rossa and Natural Red Catering), and various raffle prizes. Gotta love raffle prizes.

DC Brewer’s Ball

When: Saturday, March 2

Where: National Building Museum

Entering its fifteenth year, the DC Brewer’s Ball attracts 40 breweries and 30 local restaurants under one very high roof to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. That’s it. No snark here. Good beer, good food, good cause.

Participating breweries include a mix of local favorites (like Port City, Ocelot, DC Brau, Old Ox, and Denizens), and new kids on the block (such as Rocket Frog, Silver Branch, and Streetcar 82), along with some pedigreed regional heavies (such as Allagash, Boulevard, Schlafly, Victory. and Stone). Also, for the second year, they’ve brought back those wild cider kids from ANXO and Graft, which is very thoughtful. Side note: Everyone participating here donates their kegs, so an extra tip of the cap to them.

Meanwhile, the restaurants serving up delectable finger food are looking pretty solid. There’s Hill Country, The Capital Burger, Jack Rose, ANXO (again), Bluejacket, Ambar, and more. Another side note: There will also be spirits and wine, if that is what you’re looking for at the Brewer’s Ball.

Tickets cost $150, which is not cheap, sure, but it’s for charity, and this is a fancy event (cocktail attire requested!), and you will leave with $300 worth of food and drink in your tummy.

“Censored ” Release

When: Friday, March 8

Where: Dacha Beer Garden

Earlier this year, Premium Distributors held its inaugural International Women’s Day Camp at DC Brau, where female employees from across the DMV took part in a series of workshops and networking sessions. Oh, and they also brewed a beer.

That beer is called Censored, and it’s a double IPA hopped with Falconer’s Flight, Mosaic, Simcoe and Michigan-grown Chinook. Quite interestingly, this 7.95% brew was fermented with a blend of two saison strains propagated by Virginia’s Jasper Yeast. According to a press release, one strain “has lineage from upstate New York, while the other was harvested from an old barrel that was unearthed during an archaeology dig in Washington, DC.” Neat stuff!

Pulling from that same copy, Censored “has a hazy appearance with deep golden hues, and an aroma with notes of orange marmalade, pineapple and peach along with subtle notes of jasmine tea. On the palate, this beer is lively with flavors of tropical fruit, tangerine, mild herb and a mid-level bitterness.” Tasty stuff!

The beer will be released at Dacha Beer Garden on Friday, March 8, which is not coincidentally International Women’s Day.

“Bigger Cat” Release

When: Friday, March 8

Where: Ocelot Brewing

It’s winter for another three weeks, which means it’s still Triple IPA SZN. But as we discussed in last month’s Draft Picks, it’s pretty much always Triple IPA SZN these days. Still, if we’re being formal, there are three more weeks of Triple IPA SZN, and arriving just under the wire is Bigger Cat, a collaboration between Ocelot and The Veil, and the hotly anticipated sequel to last year’s collab Big Cat.

As you might have guessed (or perhaps already know), Big Cat was a double IPA. More specifically, it was a 9% double IPA brewed with premium Golden Promise malt and oats, then generously dry-hopped with Citra, Nelson, and Galaxy. Bigger Cat is basically same thing (aside from substituting Pearl malt for Golden Promise), but it’s an 11% Triple IPA remix.

Ocelot will release the beer on Friday, March 8. Based on Big Cat’s 4.29 Untappd rating (and the fact that Ocelot is only local brewery The Veil will collaborate with), I’m going to go ahead and guess it will not last long.

But if you miss out on Bigger Cat, there’s a lot in the Ocelot pipeline to get excited about in the coming months. Today, the brewery releases the latest iteration of its Round & Round We Go IPA series, which spotlights a single, rotating varietal in its dry-hop. This time, um, around, that varietal is the South African hop Southern Passion, which the internet tells me is known for its red berry, guava and grapefruit qualities. Head Brewer Jack Snyder made some other, non-hop adjustments to the recipe as well, converting it to English ale yeast and upping the oat content. (It certainly looks different.)

Another beer getting some cosmetic surgery is Break My Balls, Ocelot’s popular all-Mosaic IPA. While the beer always contained wheat and flaked oats (in addition to a 2-row base), Snyder has cranked that adjunct content to about 40% of the grist. Fans of the beer can expect something a little different when the Dulles brewery drops cans on Wednesday, March 6.

Also, coming on March 14 is Elsewhere, a play on the brewery’s Nelson, Citra, and rye IPA Home. It’s basically Home, but with Galaxy replacing Nelson. Get it? Not Home*, but Elsewhere.

And at the end of the month, rounding out Ocelot’s March hop offerings, is Grand Royale, a double IPA brewed with UNION Craft. Long time readers may remember their previous collaboration, Lucifer’s Trees, a Black IPA produced in Baltimore. Things have lightened up for this one, at least in appearance. You can expect an 8% double IPA hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and the South African experimental hop U1/108.

5th Annual HopFest

When: Saturday, March 9

WhereDC Brau

So… you like the hops? Cool, cool, yeah, me too. I love the hops. Cryo. Pow pow. T-45. T-90. T-1000. It doesn’t even matter. Just get them in my IPA, lager, barleywine, black ale, kettle sour, ice cream, pizza, cheese – whatever, man. All hops everything.

Naturally, the event of the year for this totally not exaggerated version of me is HopFest. It’s my Coachella, my Burning Man, my Comic-Con, but without techno, fake hippies, or Kylo Ren cosplay. Well, I guess I can’t promise it’ll be without those things. But you know what you can definitely expect? Hops. Because HopFest is a beer festival dedicated to hops.

Here’s the skinny: The annual fundraiser for the DC Brewers’ Guild returns for its fifth year on March 9. Like last year, it will be hosted by DC Brau.  (What’s does the Guild do? Good question! Revisit 2017’s Freshly Tapped: Solidarity Brett IPA for some hard-hitting scoop.) (Fast forward to the last section.)

As with previous years, HopFest allows you to play “Supermarket Sweep” with hoppy beers and your mouth for a super reasonable $40. That’s $40 for four hours of unlimited pours. Or you can spend $40 on three beers at Jackpot instead. I don’t know. Tough call.

Participating breweries include literally all of your DC faves, plus (but not limited to) generous (technically) out-of-towners like Aslin, Black Narrows, Ocelot, UNION Craft, Off Shoot, and more. Not to belabor the point, but that’s over 40 breweries for 40 bucks.

To further up the momentousness of the occasion, March 9 is also the day that DC Brau will be debuting its new flagship Joint Resolution, a “Hazy India Pale Ale” showcasing Michigan-grown Copper and Chinook hops. (Color me intrigued at those varietal choices.)

The always astute Jacob Berg recently parsed the addition to DC Brau’s core line-up over on DC Beer, so I will direct you there for more commentary. But suffice to say, inquiring hopheads will come for HopFest and leave with a sixer of Joint Resolution.

St Baldrick’s Day

When: Sunday, March 10

Where: Boundary Stone

If you’ve ever visited a brewery, you know that the people who work in them love two things: beer and hair. And tattoos. Also, heavy metal. But, really, beer and hair.

So, when brewers part ways with their flowing locks, it’s no trivial matter. But that’s exactly what a handful of folks from the local beer scene will be doing at Boundary Stone on March 10. Why? To raise money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research.

Notable participants include Atlas Brew Works Head Brewer (and Jon Snow lookalike) Daniel Vilarubbi, 3 Stars co-founder Mike McGarvey, Port City accountant Dave Galeota, and (former?) DC Beer overlord Bill DeBaun. Check out the full list of participants.

This is one of the year’s most fun local beer events for industry folks and us normies alike. Show up, drink some discounted beer, and gawk at the rows of brewers losing their hair and cool for a great cause. Or just donate to any of the folks above if you can swing it.

Jackie O’s Showcase

When: Wednesday, March 13

Where: ChurchKey

After sending a small shipment of specialty bottles to DC early last year, Jackie O’s is crossing the Rubicon and officially entering our market. Will it be greeted as a savior or a conqueror? We’ll find out on March 13, when ChurchKey hosts the Ohio brewery for a showcase of its wares.

Founded in 2005, Jackie O’s produces a bevy of styles, including decadent imperial stouts, delicate Belgian ales, and bright sour ales. Naturally, the Logan Circle bar will be spotlighting all of these things. The big ticket rarities are probably Bourbon Barrel Oil of Aphrodite (a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout wth walnuts), Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Coffee Dark Apparition (a bourbon barrel-aged stout wth coffee and vanilla), and Carrots & Sticks (a bourbon barrel-aged Belgian ale with carrots, walnuts, and raisins).

If I’m dishing of recommendations, though, get a bottle pour of Scrip, a white wine barrel-aged grisette. I had a bottle last year, and it was divine.

The Neighborhood Restaurant Group will be hosting similar events for Jackie O’s at Owen’s Ordinary (on April 4) and Rustico Ballston (on March 21).

“Mexican Dark Lager” Release

When: Friday, March 22

Where: Port City Brewing

I recently went (relatively) deep on Port City’s eighth-anniversary Doppelbock Colossal 8, the brewery’s corresponding Lager Series, and the travel that has fueled Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves’ exploration of traditional German lagers. So, you know I was amped to plug that article in discussion of Port City’s latest Lager Series release, which is… um… let me check my notes… OK… hmm… not a German lager. It’s a Mexican Dark Lager. Goddammit.

Whatever, Mexican Dark Lager is back, baby! What can you expect? Cue that sweet press release musac: “Drawing inspiration from the brown and amber, or Oscura (dark), lagers of Mexico, this Mexican-style dark lager is a brilliant tawny chestnut with nutty, toasted malt flavors.” Wow, I feel like i should be ordering this beer out of a Room & Board catalogue. This is liquid luxury.

Mexican Dark Lager will be “dropping” (as the kids say) at Port City on Friday, March 22. It’s draft only, but if we collectively go to Port City and plow through all of it, maybe they’ll bottle it next year.

Orval Day

When: Saturday, March 23

Where: The Sovereign

Brett beers are all rage these days (at least in my apartment), but on March 23, the world pays tribute to one of the style’s OGs: Orval Trappist Ale.

The amber saison is an unequivocal masterpiece. Brewed with liquid candi sugar, fermented with Orval’s house yeast, dry-hopped, then bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces, it’s a bone-dry beer that’s been copied a million times over, and you will not hear me complain about that.

As for Orval Day, the premise is simple enough: Drink a bottle of Orval, and the brewery’s U.S. distributor will donate fifty cents to the Safe Water Network, which provides clean, sustainable water to Ghana & India.

To take part in the festivities, hit up the Sovereign (and probably any of the five Pizzeria Paradiso locations, though they haven’t announced anything yet).


NOVA Pro Wrestling: Well, We All Make Mistakes

When: Saturday, March 30

Where: Old Ox Brewing

In December, Old Ox hosted NOVA Pro Wrestling for a night of Pinot Noir and Christopher Marlowe. Correction: a night of beer and wrestling. And apparently no one died and/or had a bad time, because the wrestling troupe is returning to the Ashburn brewery on the final Saturday of the month. According to the website, the main event is Allie Kat versus Jordynne Grace, but one of the other matches features someone named Coach Gator, so judge for yourself.

March is a big month for the brewery. This Friday, it releases the 2019 edition of FestivALE, a 5% ABV farmhouse ale infused with tart Montmorency cherries and hibiscus petals, and brewed in collaboration with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Last year, Old Ox couldn’t make enough of the popular beer. This year, I imagine it has produced a boatload. Have an insatiable thirst for more info on FestivALE? I dug into the backstory of this high-profile collaboration in a Freshly Tapped profile.

Read Philip Runco’s “serious” beer articles and follow him on the Twitter.