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.
(Also, since we’re creeping up on December, this seems like a good place to remind you that Craft Beer Cellar’s Advent Gift Box is back.)
When: Saturday, November 3
Where: Rustico (Alexandria)
OK, so last year I blacked out and wrote that Novemberfest might be better than Snallygaster. And then the God of beer and his only son Jesus Engerto moved Snallygaster to the middle of October… and then they relocated it to Pennsylvania Avenue… and and then they invited Bellwoods… and it felt like Snally woke up in a Bugatti.
But you know what: The take stands! IDGAF! Everything still checks out. It’s still puffy vest season! There are still less agro whalehuntaz! And I can still drink exclusively Virginia beer and feel like a fucking king!
And now a break from exclamatory statements for some facts. On November 3, Novemeberfest returns to Alexandria (behind the Rustico) for the seventh year. The “outdoor block party” (as opposed to indoor block party?) will draw together over 30 Virginia breweries, food from Rustico and Red Apron, and Barboursville wine for the lames. Admission costs $25 in advance (and that includes $20 of drink tickets).
Alright, back to screaming! These breweries are dope! Honestly, it sort of seems silly to single them out (but I will anyway) (because that’s why I get paid the big blog dollars).
The wild yeasty boys of Pen Druid will be in the house, which is a rare pleasure. They’ll be bringing Golden Swan, Mercury, and Hermes, and if you want to know more about these delicious brews, check out my recent (brief) interview with Van Carney.
Novemberfest will also feature a keg of Ocelot’s new “megacollab” double IPA Lean on Me – one of only four to leave the Dulles brewery. I know I’m here to make dumb, semi-informed jokes, but I recently wrote an actually serious article on this beer and the cause behind it, and I would encourage you to read it.
Other hot-shit VA breweries joining these guys will be The Veil, Triple Crossing, and Aslin, Aslin, Aslin, Aslin, Aslin (you already know).
When: Saturday, November 3
Where: The National Museum of American History
Make some noise. It’s Food History Weekend at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History!
What’s that have to do with beer? Beer is food, as I frequently told my parents when begging for money in college.
And this Saturday, the museum’s brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, will host a panel discussion about the importance of region (i.e, place, geography, etc.) to American beer, historically and today. Participating in that discussion is all-star troupe from around the country: Wisconsin’s New Glarus, New Orleans’ Cajun Fire, Illinois’ Scratch Brewing, and Albuquerque’s Bow & Arrow.
Wait. Did I just type New Galrus?
OMG. NEW GLARUS IN THE HOUSE. THANK YOU, BASED UNCLE SAM.
More specifically, New Glarus will be bringing its Spotted Cow and Wisconsin Belgian Red.
GO DRINK NEW GLARUS IN A MUSEUM AND LISTEN TO SMART PEOPLE TALK.
Of course, the other breweries are wonderful, and you should drink their beer too.
An Evening with Commonwealth
When: Thursday, November 8
Where: The Partisan
An Evening with Commwealth. Ooh la la. I’ll bring the scented candles.
What’s the Virginia Beach brewery going to send our way? Oh, just it’s usual fire.
Seriously, Commonwealth has been consistently supplying the DC area with top-notch hop bombs, heavily fruited goses, and barrel-aged sour ales. I’ve bought my fair share of their beer, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. They make a tasty pilsner, too!
#Rarities for The Partisan’s event include Amaranthine (a Belgian Strong Dark Ale aged 18 months in red wine barrels with blackberries and black currants) and Tinta Rosa (a Sangria-inspired sour ale infused with raspberries, plums, oranges and pomegranates).
Also on tap: Bella, a Bellini-inspired gose with peach and raspberry that I could drink forever (if not for liver failure).
Plus, the hoppy stuff.
When: Saturday, November 10
Where: Pizzeria Paradiso (Old Town)
You were sprung on Spring Fest. You sweated Summer Fest. And now the people behind both seasonal beer gatherings brings you: AUTUMN FEST. The word didn’t see it coming.
From the looks of it, Autumn Fest is shaping up to be a rather chill affair. Hosted at Pizzeria Paradiso’s Alexandria location, the event will showcase some A+ Virginia beers, games, mini-pumpkin painting, and all-around good vibes. There’s no entry fee, so just pull up with the homeys (and/or stroller homeys) and crush a few samplers.
Onto the draft list…
I’m most excited to see Reason Beer’s hoppy red ale Band Meeting finally making it to the DC area. I had a few beta versions of the sessionable, New Zealand hop showcase, and they all blew me away. The limey, slightly piney character of Rakau and Motueka each worked super well against the light but flavorful auburn backdrop conjured by brewer Mark Fulton. (We discussed his iterative process around this time last year.) I realize people are sort of ambivalent on hoppy reds these days, but between Reason’s take on it, two Ocelot bangers (Twist of Fate and a revamped Stumbled), and Rocket Frog’s Caps in Five, 2018 has been a very nice year for the style locally.
Anyway, hoppy red soliloquy over.
Other gems handpicked by beer director Drew McCormick include Vanish’s Ghost Fleet IPA, a barrel-aged grapefruit triple from Richmond sour maven Väsen, Solace’s popular pumpkin common, and Old Bust Head’s 10% imperial stout Gold Cup… ON NITRO.
Hellbender 4th Anniversary
When: Saturday, November 10
The lovable dudes at Hellbender Brewing are turning four. And it’s time to celebrate. On November 10, the Riggs Park brewery is throwing a birthday party that doubles as a double can release. That’s what we call a double-double in the biz.
Wait, Hellbender is canning? Yes, it’s canning. I told you about this in May. Keep up!
On this particular Saturday, they’ll be releasing fresh cans of the double IPA Double Chazzwazzer (which I talk with head brewer Ben Evans talks about in tte aforementioned article) and whiskey barrel-aged Groundskeeper Islay Scotch Ale (which is a real treat).
Tickets for the party cost $10, but that covers your first beer, so it’s basically free.
Bluejacket 5th Anniversary
When: Sunday, November 11
Wow, another DC brewery birthday. Investors must really be freaky in February, amirite?
This time, the birthday boy/girl/child is Bluejacket, the production brewing jewel in the Neighborhood Restaurant Group crown. They’ll be marking five years of Lost Weekend, fruited sours, and the city’s best lagers with a little Sunday get together. Sunday? Yes, Sunday. But Monday is federal holiday!
Festivities kick off at 11:00 a.m. with a two-hour (!) broadcast of Foodie & The Beast radio show. Likewise, the Bluejacket bottle shop will open at 11:00 to offer first dibs on two of the brewery’s biggest annual releases: Double Mexican Radio: Bourbon 2018 (a blend of imperial sweet stout aged six months in various Bourbon barrels) and Mad World 2018 (an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels for 9 months and conditioned on Vigilante Coffee’s Tin Lizzie Espresso blendand vanilla beans).
There will also be limited-edition 5th-Anniversary glassware. I know y’all nerds love limited edition glassware.
As your lust for quality radio programming and bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout fades, you may begin to notice the sounds of live music and the olfactory wonder of Chef Marcelle Afram firing up the outdoor grill. That’s your queue to order a glass of For the Company Helles lager and chill. That beer fucking rules.
Mullys 5th Anniversary Party
When: Thursday, November 15
Where: Meridian Pint
Mullys is southern Maryland’s largest and oldest production brewery. I know this because that’s the first thing that shows up when you Google them. Actually, it gets cut off after “largest and oldest…” so I’m just going to assume its “production brewery” that follows. If it’s actually “ritual cat sacrificer,” then there will be egg and the souls of countless felines on my face.
Internet research also tells me that the Prince Frederick brewery celebrated its fifth birthday on October 27. So, unless you own a time machine, you done fucked up.
Thankfully, Meridian Pint beer director Jace Gonnerman has our back. On November 15, he will host the brewery for its DC anniversary party.
The big ticket items will be a pair of juicy NE-style IPAs: Hazy Not Lazy and Hazy Too, both of which are currently sitting north of 4.15 on Untappd, if that sort of thing gets you jazzed.
Also of note in the Meridian Pint world: The Columbia Heights beer bar will be hosting a Bourbon County extravaganza on Wednesday, November 21 (Thanksgiving eve) (aka BLACK WEDNESDAY). Expect no less than nine versions of the popular Goose Island turbo stout.
Home/Brewed Opening Party
When: Friday, November 16
Where: The Heurich House
This one is a big deal.
On November 16, the Heurich House Museum will unveil an exhibit called HOME/BREWED: How the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. Witnessed DC History. On display: a collection of over 1,000 items – bottles, cans, signs, and every other kind of branded object – from the Heurich Brewing Co.’s existence between 1872 and 1956.
Why is this a big deal? Because while the Heurich House Museum feels like a portal to turn-of-the-century DC, it previously hasn’t been in possession of very many brewery artifacts. (The majority were either destroyed by a 1938 archives fire or snatched up by private collectors before the museum opened.)
Now, the museum has landed this massive haul from a personal collector… but it’s only on loan. However, the Heurich House is raising money to bring it into the fold permanently. This exhibit is part of that fundraising effort.
The kickoff party will feature German beer and wine, and themed snacks. You can also score a limited-edition, signed Senate Beer poster by artist Mike Van Hall, the busiest man in craft beer.
Historic Homebrewing Class: Porter from George Washington to Near Extinction
When: Sunday November 18
Where: Hill Center
Wow, this is the When the Pawn… of beer event names. The Lost Lagers guys are really trying to monopolize valuable Draft Picks space. And you know what? I’ll allow it.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: 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 dynamic duo are on the front lines of archival beer research, dusting off local pre-Prohibition brew logs, unearthing recipes, and teaming with brewers to recreate them.
Their latest production is all about Porter. As with its previous Hill Center class (which covered a historic saison recipe), the event is part history lesson, part beer tasting, part homebrew seminar. It’s everything you could basically want, OK?
To quote from the syllabus: “Heated debate rages in the beer community as to whether Porter should be classified solely as a style of ale, a style of ale and/or lager, or a style of beer in and of itself. Can it be all three? Come and see as Mike Stein and Pete Jones trace the origins of Porter from colonial era brewing and London Porter, to pre-prohibition Porter (American) and Polish Porter (Baltic Porter). A range of different porters will be displayed for compare and contrast exercises in this unique cold-weather class. Learn how a beer more popular than any style ever before it nearly became extinct in the United States. Each class member will go home with 19th-century style porterine syrup, and a deep knowledge of the dark arts.”
Your $75 ticket covers everything above – the knowledge, the syrup, the beer, THE MEMORIES.
DC Brau Holiday Market
When: Saturday, November 24
Where: DC Brau
The vast majority of breweries are small businesses, so why not spend part of your Small Business Saturday at one?
On November 24, DC Brau will host its fifth holiday marketplace with the help of Think Local First DC. Joining them will be over 40 local craftspeople, artisans, purveyors, and whatever else you’d like to call them.
There will obviously be plenty DC Brau beer (and a handful of food trucks) to fuel your shopping. The webpage also promises “the launch of a special new brew” which is mysterious AF. (It might be a barrel-aged imperial stout.)
The event starts at 2:00 and is free… but if you want to get in at 1:00 and score a DC Brau tote bag, there’s a $10 VIP option. That’s the cheapest being a VIP ever comes.
So, plan to throw back an Alpha Domina Mellis or two, get a nice little buzz going, and buy that Jon Wye belt you’ve always wanted. And some Kelly Towles art. And some Harper Macaw chocolate for your mother-in-law.
Read Philip Runco’s “serious” beer articles and follow him on the Twitter.