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: March 2-8
Where: Silver Branch Brewing
Has it really only been one year since the opening of Silver Branch?
If it feels longer (which it does), that’s because the Silver Spring brewery wasted no time proving itself a vital contributor to the DC-area beer scene. Glass Castle is arguably the best pilsner you’ll consistently find around town, and the brewery’s Chronicle, a tropical stout rich in flavor at just 6.5%, is the antidote to the industry’s pastry stout excesses. Beyond those particular flagships, Silver Branch has brewed, canned, and sent into distro a seriously impressive range of German, Belgian, British, and (both classic and new school) American styles. (This versatility makes sense considering co-founding Head Brewer Christian Layke brought almost a decade of brewing experience at Gordon Biersch to the job.)
Silver Branch will celebrate a year of productivity with a week of programming. On Monday, they shared the full story of Silver Branch. Today, it’s an epic birthday happy hour with all beers priced at $5… from 7:00 am to 11:30 pm. Friday brings the release of Power Boots, a dry-hopped pilsner “brewed with assistance from the women of Silver Branch” and utilizing Yakima Chief Hops’ 2020 Pink Boots Blend (more on that below). And on Saturday, March 7, Silver Branch will host a birthday “blowout” with live music and the release of Deus Ex Machina, its anniversary hazy IPA.
Also, if all of this March activity isn’t enough for you, the brewery will host its inaugural Stout Fest on March 21.
Stay overachieving, Silver Branch. Stay overachieving.
When: Friday, March 6
Where: Astro Lab Brewing
Since opening in the fall of 2018, Silver Spring’s Astro Lab Brewing has been experimenting with “all whirlpool” pale ales and IPAs. Sometimes known as “no boil” IPAs, such beers are the logical extension of “hop bursted” IPAs. What do all of these phrases mean? Let’s dive into the kettle.
Hop bursting is the practice of adding all hot-side hops in and after the final 20 or so minutes of the boil, thereby reducing the bitterness that accompanies hop additions early in the boil (when most hop flavor and aroma is literally blown away). In the age of juicy IPAs, hop-bursted IPAs are now commonplace. Even a fairly conservative brewery like Port City, which has to take extended shelf stability into consideration, is hop-bursting newer IPAs (like Integral).
“All whirlpool” IPAs take the practice a step further, forgoing boil additions entirely and adding all hop additions during the whirlpool, when wort is circulated and cooled prior to entering a fermentation tank. The wort is still warm at this point, so hops (particularly modern varietals with high alpha acids) still leach some bitterness, but you’re minimizing IBUs, while maximizing a hop’s flavor and aroma contributions. To be clear, most producers of New England IPAs are hop bursting their IPAs and hitting them with heavy whirlpool additions, but “all whirlpool” IPAs (which have a brief boil or none at all) are the next frontier. Maximal hop flavor, minimal bitterness.
We clear on all of that? We better be, because this is Draft Picks and not a serious piece of journalism.
In February, on the heels of producing its first “no boil” double IPA, Astro Lab canned one of its “all whirlpool” IPAs, James Whirl Jones, for the first time. Now, the Maryland brewery is primed to release its next “all whirlpool” IPA: Who Run the Whirl? (Yes, all of the beers in the series contain the word “whirl.”)
Who Run the Whirl? is a collaboration with the DC chapter of the Pink Boots Society, a global nonprofit dedicated to women in the brewing profession The beer was hopped (in the whirlpool and fermenter) with the aforementioned Yakima Chief Hops’ Pink Boots Blend, which is produced annually in partnership with the Pink Boots Society. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the proprietary blend benefit the Pink Boots Society scholarship funds. This year’s blend consists of Azacca, El Dorado, Idaho Gem, and Loral, which Astro Lab says lends the beer “tropical, citrus and piney notes.”
Astro Lab will unveil the beer in its airy, clean, modern tasting room this Friday. $1 from every pint sold will benefit the Pink Boots DC chapter. And on Sunday, Astro Lab will host a market featuring other women-owned businesses.
When: Saturday, March 7
Where: Fair Winds Brewing
Speaking of anniversaries, Fair Winds Brewing is crossing the half-decade mark.
The pride of Lorton, Virginia is coming off its strongest year yet, continuing to excel at classic styles (few cold beverages are as refreshing as its Quayside Kölsch, and Siren’s Lure remains one of the few great saisons available locally) while getting a little frisky in its one-offs, like the immensely crushable Citra and Cashmere IPA Clear & Present Danger (a Crooked Run collab), the juicy but not joose-y Ironmaster IPA, the coffee Baltic Porter Brewers in Bars Getting Coffee (an Old Ox collab), and a succession of bright, clean fruited kettle sours.
On a more serious note, to see the brewery not just push ahead but flat-out strive following the loss of founder Casey Jones has been genuinely heartwarming.
They’ll mark the five-year anniversary with a party on March 7. All of your food desires will be satiated with Cipolla Rossa wood-fired pizzas, Natural Red Catering BBQ, and Quarterdeck seafood.
On the chewy-but-not-chewable side, Fair Winds will release its annual barleywine All Hands Anniversary Ale. And they’ll have on draft recent collaborations with Old Ox, Solace, Crooked Run, and Ocelot, who visited Fair Winds in February to brew the forthcoming double IPA Breakers Roar (heavily dry-hopped with Samba and Azacca).
When: Sunday, March 8
Where: 3 Stars Brewing
It’s 2020, and 3 Stars Brewing came here to do two things: release collaboration IPAs and kick ass. And in the wake of Crosstown Traffic (with Astro Lab) and How Did I Get Here? (with Kings County Brewers Collective), they’re all out of collaboration IPAs.
Wait, no, they have another collaboration IPA to release. This one is dubbed Flashy Ways. That hypnotizing name is a shout-out to the great Notorious B.I.G., so logically Solace Brewing is involved, because no two local breweries appreciate a good hip-hop reference like 3 Stars and Solace.
Flashy Ways is an 8% double IPA hopped with “the lay-up.” What’s the lay-up? The lay-up is my nickname for the combination of Citra + Mosaic. Because it’s very hard to fuck up Citra + Mosaic. (For those keeping track at home, Citra + Motueka is “the cheat code,” Citra + Mosaic + Simcoe is “the holy trinity,” and 100% Centennial is “OK boomer.”)
Anyway, 3 Stars will celebrate the release of Flashy Ways with what it’s calling a “local speakeasy.” It’s basically a mini-fest / showcase of some of the DMV’s best, including Solace, Silver Branch, Ocelot, Commonwealth, Union, Manor Hill, and Astro Lab. Tickets are available online and come with a four-pack of Flashy Ways.
In other 3 Stars event news, the Takoma brewery will be hosting the area’s premiere 90s rock cover band White Ford Bronco on Friday, March 13.
When: Thursday, March 12
One of the more entertaining trends of the last few years is seeing the hip “nomadic” breweries (who exclusively contract brewed on other people’s systems to eliminate the overhead of owning and operating a brewery) buying synthesizers and arpeggiators and throwing their computers out the window. Because they want to make something real. They want to make a Yaz record.
Correction: They stopped “gypsy” brewing and opened their own operations.
The New York Times documented this in 2017, in the wake of Grimm, Evil Twin, Stillwater, Notch, Mikkeller, and Almanac opening (or announcing their plans to open) such facilities. (Omnipollo recently began brewing in an old church in suburban Stockholm, as well.)
Evil Twin’s Queens brewery and tasting room officially opened this fall. And while Evil Twin was not foreign to this market (its pastry stouts, hazy IPAs, and fruited sours have been available at select DC bottle shops for close to a decade), the fruit of Evil Twin NYC’s labor had not been distributed here… until now.
On March 12, ChurchKey will host the official DC debut of Evil Twin NYC. You can expect two things: au courant styles (again, pastry stouts, hazy IPA, and fruited sours) and lengthy, bizarre, sorta meta #EvilTwinBeerNames. (The latter has truly gone off the rails since the New York facility opened.)
In other ChurchKey news, the Logan Circle beer bar will also be hosting the DC debut of Dewey Beer Co. on Mach 7, and then (perhaps most excitingly of all these events) it will host the Ultimate Charles Town Fermentory Tap Takeover on March 14. Yes, the ultimate. Bow down, past Charles Town Fermentory takeovers. (Really, all you need is a glass of Sungazer, to be honest.)
When: Saturday, March 14
Where: DC Brau Brewing
There are two marquee events on the DC Brewers’ Guild calendar. Early spring brings us HopFest, then late summer heralds the arrival of DC Beer Week. And while DC Beer Week planning has already officially commenced, today we’re going to talk about HopFest.
Now in its sixth year, HopFest has turned into one of the city’s best annual beer events. There are a few reasons for that.
Each iteration brings more breweries into the fold (both within D proper and from the MV), so the offerings have gotten tangibly better and better. This year’s participants include Astro Lab, Bluejacket, Dynasty, Ocelot, Offshoot, UNION Craft, and Vanish (among many others), and I’ll tell you what: Those are some damn fine producers of IPA.
It’s also reasonably priced at $50 for four hours of unlimited hop consumption. (Or, for an extra $25, you get early admission, an extra hour of drinking, and a commemorative DC Brewers’ Guild growler and growler cooler.) (Note: This is a fundraiser for the guild, so you’re basically donating to charity.)
But perhaps most of all, HopFest has locked into the perfect venue with DC Brau. Its production space is roomy, it allows for inside or outside socializing, and the whole event is very well organized. (The brewery will shrewdly be using the occasion to debut its new hazy, rotating-hop IPA Continuing Resolution.)
C’mon get hoppy.
Update: HopFest has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
When: March 14-15
Where: Guinness Open Gate Brewery
If you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, you’re probably drinking Guinness. And if you’re drinking Guinness, you might as well do it at Guinness.
Of course, by “at Guinness,” I mean “at Maryland’s Guinness Open Gate Brewery,” the world’s only Guinness production facility outside of Dublin. (Or maybe big ballin’ is your hobby and you are flying to Ireland next weekend, in which case sláinte.)
As you might expect, the quite large Baltimore County brewery, tasting room, and restaurant will be going big for the high holiday. Its plans include a weekend-long “Irish Village experience” featuring more than 30 booths of Guinness beer, food, music, and entertainment.
On the liquid side, they’ll be tapping three beers brewed for the occasion at the facility’s “experimental brewery:” Crosslands Clover Honey Ale (made with local clover honey from nearby Apex Bee Co.), Black Currant Stout (a nod to the black currant syrup occasionally added to stouts in Irish bars), and Irish Breakfast Amber (a sessionable amber ale brewed with Irish Breakfast Tea).
Of course, they’ll have over dozen other beers, as well. I visited the brewery on Sunday (ARTICLE COMING SOON – AIRHORN AIRHORN AIIIIIIRHORN), and had a number of tasty homegrown beverages, including a wonderful West Coast IPA (Batch 62), a balanced coffee stout, and several cocktail-inspired barrel-aged ales. And for the traditionalists, Guinness Draught, Guinness Foreign Export Stout, and Guinness Extra Stout have been imported from Ireland for your drinking pleasure (as always).
There are a range of ticket options starting at $20, with add-ons like a full Irish breakfast. But the basic $20 package includes a 16oz pour of beer and a commemorative button that will immediately become a family heirloom. Also, $5 of each ticket sold will be donated toward two community organizations: Civic Works Real Food Farm and Sharp Dressed Man.
OK, that’s it, come back next week for a Guinness Open Gate Brewery deep dive.
When: Saturday, March 21
Where: Union Market + Craft Beer Cellar
The Veil DC pop-up: It’s officially a semiannual tradition.
Here’s how it works… Twice a year, the Richmond hype supernova drops a bunch of cans at one bottle shop, and then it opens an all-day pop-up bar in Union Market’s Dock 5.
That’s it. That’s the tradition. If DC customers ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Actually, there will be one notable change this time around: While past can sales were hosted by The Bruery at Union Market, friend of the blog Craft Beer Cellar will have the honor of slinging aluminum receptacles on March 21.
Keep your eyes peeled to the link above for can and draft announcements (although it looks like we’re probably just going to miss the Ocelot collab DIPA, and I am PISSED).
On top of this pop-up, CBC will also be bringing in a drop of Portland, Oregon’s Great Notion on March 11. Now, I don’t always get excited about out-of-town drops, particularly as everyone makes hazies, pastry stouts, and fruited sours these day… but Great Notion does those things very well.
Available for the occasion: Superstar (IPA with Galaxy, Simcoe, and Vic Secret), Peanut Brother (imperial milk stouts conditioned withchocolate and peanut butter), and Jammy Pants (7% sour ale fruited with boysenberries, marionberries, and blueberries) (no vanilla!) (no lactose!) (praise the lord!).
When: Tuesday, March 24
Where: Rustico Ballston
There are a ton of big local beer releases this weekend. On Friday, Right Proper introduces cans of its newest year-round offering Li’l Wit; meanwhile, Port City releases bottles of its first White IPA Star Sailor. On Saturday, Denizens debuts cans of its hazy IPA Animal. Great new beer is everywhere.
But I’d like to look a little further ahead to a beer from a little further away: Allagash Crosspath. Crosspath is the Portland, Maine brewery’s first entirely organic beer. The 5.5% golden ale is brewed with Maine-grown oats, buckwheat, base malt, hops, and GrandyOats Granola.
Because I live a blessed life, I have had a chance to try this beer. Let me just say: Between my wife and me, there will be a whole lot of Crosspath crushed in our household this spring. Light, refreshing, crisp, with a subtle Trappist yeast character that plants crave, none of the cloying sweetness some might reflexively associate with subpar golden ales.
Allagash will celebrate Crosspath’s entrance into the market on March 24 at Ballston’s Rustico. They’ll have five additional Allagash beers on tap, including Helena, an oak barrel-aged Flemish red.
When: Saturday, March 28
Where: Old Ox Brewery
In February, some of the team from Old Ox Brewery (led by head Brewer Allison Lange) headed south for the annual craft Bacchanalia known as WakeFest. And while they were in South Florida, they knocked out a handful of collaborations with local breweries. At Lincoln’s Beard, they brewed a Czech-style pilsner. In Doral, they joined the triple team of Tripping Animals and Ocelot to produce (naturally) a triple IPA hopped with Motueka, Vic Secret, and Nelson Sauvin. Finally, at Unbranded, they made… something with flower petals?
Now, normally when a brewery goes on an out-of-town collab spree, we only get to dream about what those beers taste like. But the kind souls at Old Ox were apparently in the mood for a mitzvah, because they are bringing all three of these beers to Virginia for your sipping pleasure. And to celebrate the occasion, they’re throwing a Florida-style spring break bash on March 28.
What does a spring break bash entail? If you guessed “colorful shots served in test tubes, uncomfortable wet t-shirt contests, and roving hoards of jacked dudes from Michigan State University,” then, like me, you were in Cancun for spring break 2003. Thankfully, Old Ox was not. They have a different idea of what a spring break bash should be… and god bless them for that.
For starters, there will be Florida-themed food from Talk of the Mountain Seafood (including grouper sandwiches, crab cakes, conch fritters, and gator tail) and Old Ox itself (Cuban sandwiches and key lime pie). As someone who partly grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, this menu warms my soul. There will also be “fresh Florida beats” from DJ Nathaniel Davis… which I assume means Jimmy Buffett and 2 Live Crew?
Plus: a Florida costume contest.
Plus: “beach balls and flamingos galore.”
Note: There is no indication of whether or not the aforementioned flamingos are real, live flamingos.
In addition to the collaborations, Old Ox will be bringing in more beer from other out-of-market Florida breweries. And you can drink ALL OF THESE BEERS, 4oz at a time, for the reasonable price of $35. (The price jumps to $45 after March 14.)
Honestly, this is a great concept, and it sounds like the event is going to fucking rock.
Update: Spring Break has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
When: Saturday, March 28
Where: Diamondback Brewing
All. You. Can. Eat. Hog.
Do I really need to write more?
OK, on March 28, the lager enthusiasts at Diamondback beer will welcome the coming of spring with a pig roast, live music, and much beer. Literally everything I’m telling you is in the graphic above.
Graphics are killing the regional beer blogging industry! Enough is enough!!!