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, twelve best beer events.
Why twelve? Because I wrote ten and then I found two more. What’s the criteria? Enough with the questions.
When: Thursday, October 4
If you’re like me, you broke into #craft beer with OGs like Bell’s, Anderson Valley, Allagash, and their classic, balanced brews. Ah, the good old days. Clarity for days.
On October 4, ChurchKey gives you the opportunity to celebrate another of those pioneers: Cleveland’s iconic Great Lakes Brewing, makers of Elliot Ness, Dortmunder Gold, and arguably the definitive chrismas ale.
The stars of this particular ChurchKey show will be #rare barrel-aged versions of Blackout Stout, Alberta Clipper, Barleywine, Imperial Smoked Porter and Tripel Dog Dare.
Might want to stick to tasters or the name Blackout Stout will proved prophetic.
When: October 4-7
Where: The Aslin Herndon Lot at 771 Elden St
But did you also know Aslin makes a mean lager? It’s true. The Herndon (and soon-to-be-Alexandria) operation has a German brewhouse, and the brewers have used it crank out some bottom-fermented gems like the rotating-hop pilsner Anthem (which made a massive leap forward at the beginning of the year), an exceptional Helles called Much Ado, and the recently released Vienna Lager Stating the Obvious. (ISO ISO ISO). Aslin has haze bros Googling “triple decoction,” and that’s amazing.
I am assuming that Aslin’s next lager will be a Festbier, because next weekend the brewery will host a four-day Oktoberfest celebration of “traditional German live music, food, and of course beer.” They also promise “multiple lagers that were brewed using time-honored Bavarian techniques in addition to some Aslin fan favorites.” (Alexa, is Bavarian a type of hop?!?)
Unlike the September’s #exclusive Aslin birthday party featuring #rare beer, this “family friendly event” is open to the public. No tickets needed! No teku glasses to covet then bitch about! Sorry not sorry!
When: Saturday, October 6
Where: Rustico Ballston
October is an excellent time for seafood and Allagash. Do you know why? TRICK QUESTION, IT’S ALWAYS A GOOD TIME FOR SEAFOOD AND ALLAGASH.
Rustico Ballston puts this thesis to the test on October 6, when it hosts a “New England-style seafood bash” with the venerable Maine brewery. Guests are encouraged to wear Patriots jerseys and converse in their best Mark Wahlberg impressions.
On the menu: lobster rolls, freshly shucked oysters, stuffed clams, and “15 different beers” from Allagash. Have you ever gone to an Allagash tap takeover and its just 15 lines of Allagash White? Yeah, me too. The worst. Well, again, these 15 beers are all different.
The highlight of the menu is Coolship Red, a beer inspired by the submarines (read: cool ships) in Tony Scott’s classic “Crimson Tide.”
Correction: It is a spontaneously fermented wild ale aged two years in oak barrels with Maine-grown raspberries. It is very #rare. And, for the record, it could have been inspired by “Crimson Tide”.
Honestly, the whole draft list is kinda balling out, too. Tha god Greg Engert has secured the new Pilsner with Brettanomyces (bad name, incredible beer, 5.6% ABV), 2018 Farm To Face, Interlude, Saison Gratis, and several other wonderful Allagash beverages.
The Arlington beer bar will also have Little Brett. Why does Little Brett get its own shoutout? Because I dropped a Freshly Tapped profile on the beer this summer. Check it out here.
When: Sunday, October 7
Where: Old Ox Brewing
I love mothershuckin’ oysters. I love eating them. I love drinking them in stouts. I love making bad puns about them. Speaking of which: Check out this pearl of an event.
On October 7, Old Ox is teaming with Nomini Bay Oyster Ranch for an Oyster Shellebration. They’re whipping ’em raw, steamed, and charbroiled. Steam it real hard. Steam it, steam it, real hard.
The event runs from noon to 5:00. Plenty of time for mollusk mania. Shell yeah.
When: Thursday, October 11
Where: The Heurich House
In brewing nomenclature, “first runnings” refers to the heavy, concentrated wort extracted from the mash, prior to rinsing the grain with more water (or “sparging”) to wash out the residual sugars.
So, the first runnings is the super-rich sugar water. It’s the good stuff. In fact, when a brewery is making a decadent imperial stout, it will sometimes only use the first runnings (at great cost to the brewery). Extra H2O need not apply. See: DC Brau’s The Wise & The Lovely.
First Runnings is also the name of a new interview series at the Heurich House, hosted by Phil Runco. Wait… that’s me! What a twist!
The concept is pretty simple: First Runnings will consist of conversations with the area’s very best breweries in the intimate, historic space (that was once home to the area’s most distinguished brewer). I’m going to ask deep, hard-hitting questions, and I won’t be satisfied until there are tears. Obviously, we’ll have beers from those breweries, and you’ll have time to tour the castle whilst sipping on one.
The Heurich House will kick off the series on October 11 with (logically) Ocelot Brewing, one of the East Coast’s finest beer operations. We’ll cover the road to Ocelot, discuss the brewery’s unusual business model (and why it worked), unpack the idea of the “Ocelot IPA” (and how their approach to style has changed), and explore Widman’s general thoughts on the beer industry in 2018. Or that’s the plan. I may just ask him Wilco trivia.
Side note: Have you tried the latest batch of Ocelot’s Home*? They’ve made changes to the yeast and water profile in recent months, and to call the Nelson Sauvin and Citra showcase the best IPA ever produced in the DC area does not do it justice.
When: Friday, October 12
Where: DC Brau
Each August and September, North American hop farms bear their (figurative) fruit. The vast majority of these hops are then dried in a kiln and turned into pellets that look like rabbit food. It’s the circle of life. But sometimes a brewery will procure those ripe, fresh-off-the-vine hops and make a beer with them. These are called “wet-hop” or “fresh-hop” ales.
“Fresh-hop ales capture the essence of the green, living vegetable,” Jeff Alworth writes in The Beer Bible. “Their flavor are by turns softer and wetter, more earthy and wild, than beer made using dried hops. They taste their best just days after they’re kegged, while that living essence is still at its freshest.”
Here’s the rub, though: These (literally) wet hops have to be used within 24 hours or so after being plucked from the bine. (Yes, “bine,” not “vine.”) That generally means that breweries are limited to using hops that are available within a short drive. I was in Portland, Oregon this time last year and it was a fucking fresh-hop ale bonanza. Citra fresh-hop pale ales! Mosaic fresh-hops saisons! Simcoe fresh-hop IPAs! Life is good in the shadow of Yakima Valley.
Around here, the pickings are… a little slimmer. We’re limited to what grows well in our soil, which generally translates to sorta old school varietals like Centennial and Cascade. To wit: Bluejacket’s Cascade-hopped Darling Buds and DC Brau’s Deep Cuts Vol. 2 – Centennial Wet Hop. (Both very good beers, for the record.)
This year, however, DC Brau has taken its wet-hop game to the next level. Last month, production manager Chris Graham drove to Michigan’s Hop Head Farms, filled two plastic totes with 300 pounds of freshly harvested Crystal hops, and drove them straight back to DC. (I wrote about Michigan-grown hops and DC Brau last year.)
The beer DC Brau made with those hops, Crystallion, is a “hazy pale-gold IPA clocking in at 5.3% ABV that reveals flavors of fresh cut grass, lemon pith, and honeydew with medium carbonation and a mouthfeel that will have your palate riding off into the sunset.”
Crystallion will be on sale only at the brewery starting on October 12 at 2:00 p.m. Get it fresh, drink it fresh.
When: Friday, October 12
Where: Port City Brewing—
When: October 12-21
Where: Um, Baltimore
Hot take: Baltimore Beer Week is superior to DC Beer Week.
I wish it wasn’t true. But it is. Baltimore breweries just put more effort into it. I mean, last year UNION Craft alone made three collab beers for the occasion.
Peep the full schedule of events above. It’s loaded.
When: Saturday, October 13
Where: Downtown DC
In 2018, DC’s biggest and best craft beer festival gets… bigger and better? Is that even possible. Yes, it would appear so.
For starters, Snallygaster – or “Snally,” as the kids say – is now an October event. Do you know what one downside of the last few Sballygasters was? Trying to enjoy #rare beer whilst your face melted off under the the unforgiving sun. You know what’s better? Mid-October. Mid-October is my time to shine. Puffy vest, not sweaty jeans, cold beer, can’t lose.
Another change: Once the lonely child of Navy Yard, Snallygaster is now being held downtown, on Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 6th NW. So, it’s basically across from the Newseum, which makes it easier to Uber/Lyft/Metro to for everyone who doesn’t live in Navy Yard. Per a press release, the new location will allow for “far more seating, shaded areas, and restrooms.” I DON’T NEED SHADED AREAS, IT’S MID-OCTOBER, LET ME PRAISE RA IN ALL OF HIS AUTUMNAL GLORY. (Here for the extra bathrooms, though.)
As for the beer part of the equation? Well, you’re likely familiar with the drill: 350+ beers personally selected by Neighborhood Restaurant Group #influencer, made man, and beer commander Greg Engert. They’re good beers, Brent.
Last year, I had the distinct pleasure of helping to rank all 399 offerings with my friends at DC Beer. This year brings us the additions of [extreme nasally James Murphy “Losing My Edge” voice]: Monkish, Bellwoods, Omnipollo, Red Dragon. The Alchemist and Magnify. Black Narrows Brewing. The! Rare! Barrel! (And so on.)
$40 gets you in at 1:30 (plus some drink tickets). $65 get you at noon (plus more tickets) (plus the sight of grown men sprinting for barrel-aged stout).
When: Saturday, October 20
Where: Red Dragon Brewery
When it comes to #craft beer these days, it’s hard to keep track of all the cools kids on the block. That’s because “the block” is an ever-expanding artificial construct. Cool breweries can open literally anywhere. In fact, they seem to only open in places that are inconvenient to me personally. (And, really, it’s all about me.)
Case in point: Red Dragon Brewery. It is located in Fredericksburg, a place I had previously associated mostly with a college friend we all called Skinny Pete. (Shouts to Skinny Pete.)
All the buzz on Red Dragon brewery is that they make IPAs, sours, and some traditional styles (ESB, hefe, saison, an Irish red, among others) very well. They were tapped for Aslin’s #exclusive birthday party in September. Now, they are tapping back for their birthday party on October 20.
Joining Aslin and Red Dragon are bunch of other cool kids: Precarious Beer Project, Redbeard, Cushwa, Triple Crossing, The Virginia Beer Company, Imprint Beer, The Answer, Commonwealth, Benchtop, Rotunda, Väsen, Final Gravity, Strangeways, Highmark Maltese, and 1781.
That’s a whole lot of Untappd cred in one place. $20 gets you entrance and your first four 6oz pours.
When: Saturday, October 20
Where: Old Bust Head Brewing
A few months ago, I wrote a Freshly Tapped profile on Old Bust Head Brewing (and its fruited witbier Table Talk). As I hope came through in the piece, any history of the brewery and co-founders Ike and Julie Broaddus has to include their daughter Finley, an environmental advocate who tragically passed away from Cholangiocarcinoma at 18-years-old. To say the least, Finley’s passion is embedded in Old Bust Head and its myriad green initiatives: geothermal cooling, water conservation, steam capturing, and so forth. It also lives on in Finley’s Green Leap Forward, the fund Finley started to assist forest restoration and tree-planting efforts. (It has incredibly raised over $500,000 over the past five years.)
Old Bust Head’s marquee event to promote Finley’s Green Leap Forward is an annual 5K at the brewery. Now in its fifth year, the race (or fun run!) (or walk!) will be held on October 20 in Vint Hill. It starts and ends at the brewery, where finishers can treat themselves to a complimentary beer (generously included as part of your $30 registration). Needless to say, all proceeds from the race go to Finley’s Green Leap Forward.
Get some exercise, take in beautiful Vint Hill, support a great cause, and have a pint of Vixen Irish Red on a brisk fall day. The race starts at 11:00, so you have plenty of time to make the drive out to Virginia.
When: Saturday, October 27
Man… succulents. They are the best. I just can’t get enough of them. The other day, my buddy was like, “What do you want to do this weekend?” And I was like, “Succulents. Straight up.” And he was like, “Definitely. I just love the way succulents taste and smell.” And I was like, “Stop being such a succulent.”
[Googles “what is a succulent.”]
Ooooooh, they’re little plants that survive well in arid conditions. I knew that.
So, I’m obviously excited about Succulents & Suds, a beer-drinking and terrarium-making event from Pizzeria Paradiso. For $30, you get two beers and everything you need to make a terrarium, including your succulents (which I have always known a lot about) and a glass structure to put them in. There will also be an expert on hand to offer pointers on building and maintaining your succulent terrarium.
Want to study up on terrariums before then? Oh, we gots terrarium #content. Check out this 2013 feature Hands-On with Holley: DIY Terrarium.