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 is it actually eight events this month? Because it’s the middle of the November.
What took so long? Well, I got married, and I’m currently on my honeymoon, and I still wrote these blurbs. Cut me some slack!
When: Saturday, November 16
Where: Hellbender Brewing
Hellbender is turning five! Huzzah!
And the Riggs Park brewery is going big for the occasion. Like, really big. Like, five new barrel-aged beers big. Like, did I blackout and order $45 in Thai food? big.
They’ll also be tapping an anniversary beer, because you gotta have an anniversary beer. This particular anniversary beer is called Friender Bender. It’s an “imperial honey farmhouse ale” brewed with local wildflower honey (from founder Ben Evans’ father’s bee hives) and made in collaboration with the folks at The Midlands (who are celebrating their own anniversary tonight).
For those looking to not blackout and order $45 in Thai food, Timber Pizza and Smoke and Ember BBQ will be on site, selling food to balance out all those boozy beers. DJ Tokyo Lovehandles will be on the 1s and 2s. And there will be custom T-shirts. You heard me. Custom T-shirts.
When: Sunday, November 17
On November 17, Bluejacket celebrates its sixth birthday. Coincidentally, that Sunday also marks the day that I turn, um, 29. It’s crazy how time does (and sometimes does not) fly!
Anyway, Bluejacket. What a gem. Name another brewery executing upper-tier hype offerings (hazy IPA, pastry stout, fruited sours) alongside a wide range of truly elite traditional German styles (its Helles, Weissbier, and North German Pils alone will go toe-to-toe with anyone’s nationally). You certainly won’t find one around here.
As in years past, the anniversary party doubles as the release party for one of Bluejacket’s hypest offerings: Double Mexican Radio, an imperial stout aged in (mostly) bourbon barrels for six months, and conditioned on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and ancho chili peppers.
The brewery will also be tapping a few rarities from the cellar: Ten Times The Size of Jupiter (another bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout), Escape Momentum (a wine barrel-aged sour red ale with cherries), Everything In Its Right Place (a rum barrel-aged imperial stout with coconut, vanilla, and chocolate), and the s’morestastic Fantasy Camp (a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers).
Festivities kickoff at 11:00 am, and all drafts and casks will be priced at a nifty $5 until 4:00pm. (There are probably worse ways to catch the 1:00 pm slate of NFL games.) If you’re hanging outside, Executive Chef Marcelle Afram will be throwing a slew of meats on the grill, including fire-roasted chicken, bone-in short rib, half-smokes, chicken kebabs, and “boozy burgers.”
When: Thursday, November 21
Where: Heuirch House
In September, I wrote about the Heurich House Museum’s revival of Senate Beer.
It’s a crazy story.
First produced over 130 years ago, the lager was a central brand of The Christian Heurich Brewing Co., this area’s largest brewery in the decades before and immediately after Prohibition. Sadly, Senate Beer would go the way of the brewery, which shuttered in 1956.
Then… cut to early 2014. That’s when historian Pete Jones (one of the minds behind Lost Lagers) found a 26-page laboratory report on the beer in the National Archives. He shared it with the Heurich House, who eventually commissioned Oregon State University’s Fermentation Science Department to analyze the laboratory report and recreate the beer’s recipe as accurately (historically speaking) as possible. Finally, after months of research and several pilot batches, they locked in a recipe that Right Proper produced for the Heurich House in late August.
This the abbreviated version of the crazy story. To be honest, while I’ve informally chatted with all of the parties behind the revival, I only formally interviewed Heurich House Executive Director Kimberly Bender.
That changes on November 21, when I’ll moderate a First Runnings panel on the new Senate Beer with pretty much everyone responsible for its revival: Jones, Bender, Oregon State Fermentation Science Department’s Jeff Clawson and Tom Shelhammer, and artist Mike Van Hall (who modernized the historic label art). (The can above looks #ultrafresh.)
So, this panel has everything. History! Mystery! Science! Brewing! Art!
And, of course, Senate Beer.
When: Thursday, November 21
Where: Ocelot Brewing
To paraphrase early ‘00s Madonna, musaq makes the brewers come together. (Sorry.) (Not sorry.)
In this case, Musaq is collaboration between Ocelot Brewing and San Diego’s Pure Project. It follows their first collaboration, Midnight Hour, a coconut and vanilla imperial porter brewed out on the West Coast in late 2017. This time around, Ocelot did the hosting, and the two hop mavens came up with an 8.0% double IPA. (This shouldn’t come as a big surprise – the Dulles brewery, which generally favors single IPAs, has essentially been reserving double IPA production for collabs and special occasions.)
With approximately 40% of the grist adjuncts (a mix of oat malt, flaked oats, and flaked wheat), Musaq is likely to be a hazy boi. It was definitely hopped with Citra and Kohatu on the hot side, dry-hopped with Citra during fermentation, and then hit post-fermentation with Kohatu and Waimea (two New Zealand varietals).
Head Brewer Jack Snyder describes it as a Southern Hemisphere fruit salad, with some Citra flair for good measure. “Because… Citra,” he explained to me.
Meanwhile, the label art is heavy on the shrooms. Because… shrooms.
Side note: Last month, I gave you a totally biased blurb on Palaces of Montezuma, a Citra-Nelson hoppy lager brewed by Ocelot and Right Proper (and served at my wedding). Well, as an update, it turned out incredible. Clean, big aromatics, bright hop flavor. And another (perhaps more important) update… It is currently on draft at Right Proper in Shaw (and they have cans when draft runs out)! So, if you’re a DC resident and too lazy to make the trip to Ocelot, get thee to the Right Proper brewpub ASAP.
When: Sunday, November 23
Where: 3 Stars Brewing
Contrary to popular opinion, Hopfunk is not a musical genre. It is actually a beer festival put on each fall by 3 Stars. And, I would add, it is a consistently great little beer festival.
Now in its fourth year, Hopfunk brings together both the hop (read: various forms of IPA) and the funk (sours and wild ales) from 3 Stars and its oh-so-hip friends (who often reside in New York or South Florida and don’t distribute in DC).
This year’s participating breweries… have yet to be announced. But here’s what we do know: general admission tickets cost $15 (and net you a sick commemorative glass and two drink tickets), while a “VIP experience package” comes in at $50 (and come with everything mentioned in the previous parenthetical, plus an additional four drink tickets and an early entrance to the party).
Extra beer tickets are on you. Laughably absurd beer names are on the house.
When: Friday, November 29
Where: Crooked Run Brewing
Black Friday brewery releases: It’s a thing!
On the day after Thanksgiving, more and more breweries these days are dropping big, boozy limited-release beers. I suppose the calculus is that people really need a stiff drink after spending all that time with their parents and in-laws and weird cousins? And stouts are black?
To wit, on Friday, November 29, Crooked Run will release three special bottles of potent brew. The first, Vain, is an imperial stout aged red wine barrels with coffee and cacao nibs. The next, Wrath of Pecans, is a barleywine with pecans and caramel. And, last but certainly not least, the brewery will release Glare, a barleywine aged in apple brandy barrels for over a year.
A note on that last one: Crooked Run head brewer and co-founder Jake Endres tells me that Glare may be the best beer the brewery has ever made. He had planned to add fruit to the barleywine but the barrel character was so wonderful that he decided to leave it as is. So, go forth and prosper with that recommendation.
In addition to these new brews, Crooked Run will be tapping some vintages of older stouts (like Glory and Virtue) for the occasion.
When: Friday, November 29
Where: Aslin Beer Co.
Oh hey, another Black Friday release.
Aslin is not new to this game, though. And as with almost everything it does, the Alexandria + Herndon brewery goes big for Black Friday.
Last year, it released seven variants of imperial coffee stouts. For 2019, Aslin is dropping six variants of bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts, all inspired by ‘80s childhood sandwiches, because, sure, why not.
Like most Aslin bourbon-barreled imperial stouts, they all sit at 16.5% and will run $30 for a 500 ML bottle. If that’s a little rich for your blood (in terms of ABV or price tag), don’t worry, there is already a line of dudes and dudettes waiting to buy these beers.
Three of the particular adjunct pairings are: peanut butter and strawberries (aka Sticky Yips), Nutella and banana (aka Slippy Yips), raspberry, gingerbread spice, and vanilla (aka Squishy Yips), chocolate and waffles (Droopy Mits), chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, roasted peanuts, and banana (Drippy Mits), and butterscotch and peacan (Dreamy Mits).
What does all of this mean?
It doesn’t mean anything! It’s provocative! It gets the neckbeards going!
When: Saturday, November 30
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 30, DC Brau will host its sixth 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. Once again, the webpage promises “the launch of a special new brew” which is mysterious AF. (And I don’t think it’s Full Transparency, DC Brau’s new hard seltzer line.)
The event starts at 1:00 and is free.
Krampus will also be in the house. If you’re unfamiliar with Krampus, revisit my 2018 story on the European tradition and its home in DC. And in very exciting news, there’s a Krampus beer! DC Brau jas prepared a special keg of its Scotch ale Stone of Arbroath with lemon zest, cinnamon, and some other goodies. All profits from the beer’s sale will go to DC foster kids. Another goodie: DC Brau Krampus T-shirts!
So, plan to throw back a Krampus beer 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.