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: Saturday, October 5
Where: Diamondback Brewing
Lagers are back, baby! But they never went away! But there are more craft lagers than ever before! Why? Everyone has their own theory! Also, lagers are delicious!
That’s the tl:dr version of my 2018 Freshly Tapped profile on DC Beer Week’s Solidarity Pilsner. I’d still encourage you to revisit it.
You know who doesn’t need to read it, though? Diamondback Brewing. The Baltimore operation has been on this lager shit since opening in December 2016. Granted, Diamondback is best known for IPAs, but it’s also one of the local breweries at the forefront of the craft lager renaissance.
I’ve been meaning to write a Diamondback lagers feature, but suffice to say, these guys are super passionate about making some of the best lagers out there, and the proof is in beers like Everything All The Time and Forte.
And to quote a social media post of theirs from earlier this year, the brewery has a “desire to serve Pilsner (and all lagerbier) in the traditionally simple way – easy on the wallet, loaded with foam, and never short of flavor.”
I think we can all get on board with that.
We can also get on board with the brewery’s third annual Stein Day – a celebration of all things lager. On tap for the occasion: Forte (a German-style Pilsner), Cold Taxi (a Zwickelbier), Everything All The Time (a Helles Lager), Atmospheric Changes (a Kölsch), and, the latest addition to the Diamondback lager family, Zlaty (a Czech-style Pilsner). Also on tap: the usual hoppy ales, seasonal offerings, and barrel-aged dark stuff. So, you know, you can mix it up.
In the non-beer department, the outdoor event will feature six hour of live music, a whole hog BBQ, and other treats.
When: October 8 – 11
Where: The Strongholds of the NRG Empire
Over 150 breweries will be pouring beer at Snallygaster on October 12. Some of these breweries are local, many are not. Some of those out-of-town breweries distribute in DC, many do not. So, if those latter breweries are going to send a special delivery of beer to Snallygaster, why not have them throw a few more kegs on the truck?
That’s essentially the logic behind the inaugural Snally Sightings, a collection of events you might otherwise refer to as Snally Week.
“In years past, Snallygaster was more about local brewers saving their best for the event, which meant there wasn’t a lot left over for pre-events,” Snally mastermind Greg Engert explained to me earlier this week. “But now, we’re bringing in so many breweries that don’t typically send beer here, and they want to send more than just a couple of kegs.”
It’s also becoming increasingly harder for Engert and company to limit their sections from each brewery when breweries are releasing more and more one-offs and rotating beers.
“When a brewery sends us a list, it’s easy to pick two well-regarded beers for Snally and still have a half-dozen really attractive beers left over,” Engert says. “Once we had a kernel of people who wanted to send us more beer this year, we started working with some other [out-of-town breweries], in addition to some local ones, and Snally Sightings all came together. It’s a pretty awesome week of events.”
Yes, “pretty awesome” would be an accurate statement. Check out the full list below (and click through for draft lists).
Tuesday, October 8th
AZ Wilderness and The Rare Barrel at The Partisan
Thursday, October 10th
Narrow Gauge, Deciduous, and Charles Towne Fermentory at Rustico Ballston
Burley Oak at Red Apron Union Market
Allagash and Commonwealth at Owen’s Ordinary
Friday, October 11th
Bissell Brothers, The Veil, Tired Hands, and Cloudwater at ChurchKey
Equilibrium at B Side
American Solera and Prairie at The Partisan
Fonta Flora, Scratch, Jester King, and Pen Druid at The Sovereign
When: Saturday, October 12
Where: Penn Quarter
If you’re reading Draft Picks, do I really need to tell you about Snallygaster?
No, you already know what’s up. You know one of the country’s premiere beer festivals is back for the eighth year. You know organizers doubled down on the 2018’s time of year (mid-October) and location (Penn Quarter-ish, under the gaze of the Capitol). You know that Snally Bucks are gone, and the event is now all-you-can-sip. You know the plastic cups are dead. You know that 2019’s line-up is the most impressive yet, featuring additions like Portland’s Bissell Brothers, Pittsburgh’s Dancing Gnome, Chicago’s Mikerphone, New Jersey’s Kane Brewing, Los Angeles’ Highland Park , and Colorado’s Bierstadt Lagerhaus.
You know all of these things because you read June’s interview with Greg Engert, wherein I answered every FAQ you might ask.
But you also know I couldn’t have an October Draft Picks without mentioning Snallygaster. It’s the biggest event on DC’s fall beer calendar (at the least).
Go forth and Snally.
When: Sunday, October 13
Where: The Salt Line
The Oyster Wars are upon us. Again. Our attempts to quell the Great Mollusk Uprising have proven unsuccessful. Now, we must resort to full-scale mouth combat once more.
As usual, this battle will occur at the southeast riverfront’s The Salt Line. That’s where mastermind Kyle Bailey has queued up a murder’s row of talented chefs from All-Purpose, Toro, St. Anselm, Daikaya, Row 34, and more. This dream team will preparing bites from oyster farms up and down the East Coast.
Speaking of dream teams, ZOMG the breweries involved in this event. For the third year, the Salt Line is partnering with Other Half Brewing, and the Brooklyn hype monster has recruited some very prestigious friends TRILLIUM. THE VEIL. PARISH. MONKISH. BISSELL BROS. WHAT IS HAPPENING? IS THIS REAL LIFE?
As if that wasn’t enough, J. Wakefield, Allagash, Commonwealth, Oxbow, Jester King, and our very own DC Brau and 3 Stars are also sending beer. Cool, kewl, kool.
For $60, you get to feast on all of these things. And by “all of these things,” I mean TRILLIUM AND THE VEIL AND MONKISH AND PARISH. And, yeah, sure, some oysters, too. (Note: tickets come with unlimited oysters, but the beers are on you.)
When: Thursday, October 17
ChurchKey crosses into its second decade this year, and Beer Director Greg Engert (aka Skim Necktie, aka Foxy Brown Ale, aka Krayzie Bone Dry, aka The Bière de Coupage, aka Dem Framboise Boyz, aka Black Milk Stout) has been celebrating the milestone with a series of flexes rivaled only by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition.
First came a hype lord showcase in May, then July’s evening with The Bruery, which was followed by a Hill Farmstead extravaganza last month. Now the Logan Circle beer bar presents the fourth entry in the anniversary series, and it’s a doozy.
On October 17, ChurchKey will showcase Allagash Brewing, the Cadillac of American craft beer, with a 32-draft tap takeover. It’ll also have an additional eight bottle pours. Oh, and founder Rob Tod (a recent James Beard Award winner) and Brewmaster Jason Perkins will be here for the festivities. Minor footnote.
Of those 40 Maine beers, the main attraction will be one called The Cloister – a blend of fresh and wild beer devised for the occasion by Engert and Perkins. Composed of 65% Allagash White, 25% Coolship beer (aged roughly 33 months), and 10% Saison Gratis (a foudre-fermented wild saison), The Cloister is meant to evoke the “wild” witbiers that would have been brewed in Hoegaarden, Belgium in the 1950s and then when Peter Celis revived the style in the mid-1960s. (The “clean” witbiers we know today would come later.)
Earlier this week, I chatted with Perkins about The Cloister, so be on the lookout for an article soon. Another topic in our discussion: Allagash launching cans in the DC market. If you’d like to celebrate that occasion, head to Bar Deco on October 4. And the day after that, Allagash will be teaming up with another NRG property (Rustico Ballston) for their second annual Seafood Social.
When: Friday, October 18
Where: Corner Office
Last Thursday, I paid an inaugural visit to Corner Office, the new beer-and-pizza joint under the W Hotel. (It’s taken over the space formerly inhabited by whiskey basement Root Cellar and outdoor bocce bar Pinea.) (The courts are still there, bocce fanatics.) The restaurant has technically been open for a few months, but last week marked the grand opening.
My scorching hot take on the space: a very welcome addition to downtown DC! It boasts a hearty 38 taps, and (more importantly) Beer Director Garth Welsh uses them to spotlight a well-curated selection of local and national craft. Also, when I was there, more than 5 of those lines were flowing with gems from the Shelton Brothers catalogue, like BrewFist’s Chardonnay barrel-aged Galaxie Saison and Godspeed’s Kurayami Mystery Stout. Straight outta Italy and Toronto, respectively. (Semi-humorous side note: The restaurant’s tagline is “Pizza & Pints”, despite not serving a single beer over 14oz, but that’s DC for you.)
Speaking of Toronto breweries, on October 18, Corner Office will turn the taps over to Collective Arts. As you may have noticed, the Canadian operation entered the DC market at the end of July with its hoppy and sour offerings. And many of them will be on tap for the occasion: Life in the Clouds, Surround Sound DDH DIPA, Dry Hopped Lager, Jam Up The Mash Dry Hopped Sour, the wonderful Gose with Guava, and Hazy State.
A DJ will be kicking out the tunes for the event, and there are rumblings of a live art presentation. (Don’t hold me to that last part.)
When: October 18 & 19
Where: Fair Winds Brewing
Beer and meat go together like… well, beer and meat. Beer and meat is the ultimate combo. Sorry, pizza. Sometimes you’re a little too filling.
Fair Winds Brewing gets this. On October 18 and 19, it will be host its “first annual” Fair Winds BBQ Competition. Yes, first annual. They said it. Called their shot. There’s no need to establish a proof of concept. Fair Winds knows the BBQ Competition is going to be a hit. It’s here to stay.
What does the BBQ Competition entail? Meat, naturally. More specifically, meat from five local BBQ joints, all of whom will each be preparing three beef dishes (for Saturday, October 19) and chicken wings (for Friday, October 18). Friday wingfest tickets run you $25; the beefier Saturday is $45.
Both tickets come with your first two beers on the house. In addition to Fair Winds beer (which given their generally crispy, quenching nature are really all you need), the brewery will have on A+ guests taps from Ocelot, Solace, Crooked Run, and Bluejacket. Oh, and Commonwealth – rejoice, NOVA Beer Friends.
When: October 19
Where: Old Bust Head Brewing
A year or so 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 in excess of $500,000 over the past six years.)
Old Bust Head’s marquee event to promote Finley’s Green Leap Forward is an annual 5K at the brewery. Now in its sixth year, the race (or fun run!) (or walk!) will be held on October 19 in Vint Hill. It starts and ends at the brewery, where finishers can treat themselves to a beer (generously included as part of your $35 registration). (You also get a T-shirt.) 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 19
Where: Astro Lab Brewing
As you might guess from the title of this event, one year has passed since Astro Lab opened in Silver Spring. If you have yet to visit, you are fucking up. The Maryland brewery has quickly made a name for itself with an array of bright, juicy, aromatic, often hazy IPAs. In fact, there is a legit argument that Astro Lab is making the best IPAs inside the Beltway (though Bluejacket and now Aslin might have something to say about that). But don’t pigeonhole the brewery on the strength of those offerings: Its New Zealand-style Pilsner Tahi is excellent, and its mixed-fermentation barrel program is starting to bear fruit.
Astro Lab will be releasing the first bottles from that latter program at its one-year anniversary party on October 19. One, called Lil Corporal, is a Berliner Weisse fermented the old fashioned way with Brett, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces. The other, Waka, is a mixed-ferm farmhouse ale named after Māori watercrafts.
If you’re picking up on the Kiwi vibes here, that’s because co-founder and Head Brewer Matt Cronin hails from New Zealand. And one of the perks of those origins is a connection with the Southern Hemisphere country’s hop growers. So, you’re going to find way more of the vaunted, sought-after New Zealand hops – like Nelson Sauvin, Motueka, and Riwaka – on the Astro Lab menu than is customary around these parts. Along those lines, Cronin recently mentioned to me that’s he’s preparing an all-Riwaka pale ale for the anniversary. (If you haven’t read Shaun Hill’s post about his quest for Riwaka, give that read.)
Also on tap for the occasion: a bourbon barrel-aged stout, food, and entertainment.
When: Sunday, October 27
Where: Solace Brewing
For the past two years, Lost Dog Café has collaborated with Port City Brewing on Rescue Ale – a rye IPA that raised money for the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation. But in 2019, the mini-empire of pizza-and-beer joints (with five Virginia locations) is mixing it up. It has found a new brewing partner, and together they’ve made a new beer, and they’re putting it in a new receptacle.
Now let’s work through that string of declarative statements.
This year’s Rescue Ale was brewed at Solace in Sterling, Virginia. It’s still an IPA, which is a good thing, because Solace is in the upper echelon of local IPA producers. More specifically, the new Rescue Ale is a 7% IPA hopped with Mosaic and Amarillo, two Pacific Northwest gems that typically lend a beer notes of berry and orange blossom, respectively. The beer is still fermenting, but let me tell you something: There is no way Solace is fucking up a Mosaic-Amarillo IPA.
The beer will debut on draft and (for the first time) in 16oz four-packs at all Lost Dog Café locations on Thursday, October 17. A portion of proceeds from every pint or can sold will support Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation, a non-profit founded in 2001 to non-profit corporation devoted to helping homeless dogs and cats find homes.
On Saturday, October 26, Solace will host its own release party for the beer. The next day, from 2:00 to 6:00, the brewery will host the third annual Paws Vegas, a family friendly charity casino event with silent auctions and raffle prizes. Like everything else mentioned in this blurb, proceeds will go to a very good cause.
“Palaces of Montezuma” Release
When: Wednesday, October 30
Where: Ocelot Brewing
If you’ve ever had a sip of the Ocelot’s Home*, you are familiar with its unfuckwithable splendor. Brewed with a kiss of malted rye and hopped with Citra and Nelson Sauvin, the 7% IPA stands with the country’s best renditions of the ubiquitous style. Citrusy, slightly vinous, a little grassy, juicy but not toothless – it’s a marvel of construction.
And on October 30, after what feels like an interminable absence, Home* returns to Ocelot for the second time this year. No case limits, just right.
The kicker: The IPA won’t be arriving alone. That Wednesday also brings the release of Palaces of Montezuma, a 5.8% pale lager brewed with a kiss of malted rye and hopped with Citra and Nelson Sauvin. Sound familiar? Well, it’s basically lager Home*.
To get a little more in the weeds, the beer falls somewhere between a hoppy Kellerbier and an IPL. The hops are all Citra on the hot side, then Nelson Sauvin and Citra in the dry-hop. The grist consists primarily of pilsen malt, with Vienna malt and (half as much) malted rye rounding out the mix.
Palaces of Montezuma marks the first collaboration between Ocelot and Right Proper. Another party mildly in the collaborative mix: writer Phil Runco. Yes, me. Long story short, I had suggested the concept for the beer, which basically makes me the guy with the bold vision to suggest that McDonald’s make a Big Mac with chicken instead of beef. Also, I am getting married at the Right Proper in Shaw on November 2, so this release may be timed to coincide with that event. And, spoiler alert, “Palace of Montezuma” is our first dance song.
Does all of this make me emotionally biased towards this beer? Duh, yes.
But do we all truly need lager Home* in our lives? Double duh.