all photos: Jeff Martin
DC Has plenty of beer events and wine events and cocktail events, but how about a simply AMAZING DRINKING ALL AROUND event?
Neighborhood Restaurant Group, who knows how to fill a need in our hearts before we even know it is there had their three beverage directors (who, btw, are ALL BYT Drink Diary Alums): Greg Engert (Beer), Brent Kroll (Wine) and Jeff Faile (Bar & Spirits) come up with a new, seasonal libation concept, called ABV, which kicks off on May 16th (THIS SATURDAY). From hyper rare tequilas to the finest roses to regional beer debuts they’ll all be there. Plus, of course, Red Apron to the rescue on the food side. Keep your eye out for a full preview on BYT soon but it is probably smart to get the tickets NOW (BONUS FOR BYT READERS: Buy a ticket using the BYTABV code and get a FREE DRINK on top. Never say we’re not thinking about you)
But, before you dive into the weekend, to whet that drinking appetite we sat down with these three fine men and asked them about some spring seasonal pro-drinking tips (as well as what they personally are excited the most about this Saturday).
READ AND LEARN. And then drink:
Any particular Spring / Summer drink trends you’re excited about? What are you happy to see go?
Jeff: Agave! More tequila, better tequila, traditional tequila done right! I’ll be glad to see any and all mint drinks go. Nothing against the flavor, but as a bartender it’s as messy and time consuming as it gets.
Brent: I’m excited to celebrate the Summer of Riesling with a large selection of Rieslings by bottles and by the glass and I’ll be spending a few evenings pouring Greek whites on Iron Gate’s patio. August will bring the return of our Lambrusco Week at The Partisan. I’m happy to see the rise in underrated countries like Brazil and Croatia.
I’m happy the hype for orange wine has calmed. It’s thought provoking and we work with it, but it doesn’t need a pedestal. I’m happy that we don’t have to pour an over buttery Chardonnay and over the top Aussie Shiraz by the glass anymore. The district had shown, it will support lesser known varietals.
Greg: I’m excited to see more and more craft brewers trying their hand at traditional pilsner brewing and–as the weather warms–local options are increasing. We can now gulp DC Brau PIls (DC) alongside Hardywood Pils (VA), and still find room for one of my all-time favorite Lagers, Firestone Walker’s Pivo Hoppy Pils (CA), since that’s finally available in the Mid-Atlantic as well.
In terms of what I’m happy to see go: I wouldn’t mind seeing the whole shandy/ radler trend subside. I like that they are sessionable, and a few are downright delicious, but the majority tend toward a near-cloyingly sweet, obvious and simplistic flavor profile. More mildly-spiked soda pop than anything else.
What is your currently favorite food / beverage pairing at an NRG restaurant and beyond…
Jeff: Lambrusco with charcuterie at The Partisan.
Brent: Mushrooms from the woodburning oven with Assyrtiko at Iron Gate. Chef Will’s risotto and Rioja at Vermilion. One of my favorite general pairings is salted peanuts and dry Bartoli Marsala or Madeira
Greg: I’m loving our Birch & Barley tasting menu pairing of Pork Leg & Pork Sausage Pot Au Feu with Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale. The dish’s smoked mayo blends with blood consommé (poured over the stew tableside) and melds perfectly with the meaty-rich roundness of the brew.
How much of a collaborative process has ABV been – or is it just three men who really know their stuff doing their thing next to each other?
Jeff: I think it started out as three guys putting together three separate lists without any regard to the others. Once the offerings started coming in though, we all seemed to try to and one up each other a bit. There are no losers in that instance!
Brent: I think we’re all doing our own thing to an extent, but we talk to each other about what we want the event to be and there’s a lot of mutual respect and open conversations.
Greg: I’d say that the event itself grew out of a cohesive, collective approach to crafting seasonally-inspired beverage programs. The three of us together pushed for ABV to embrace the season, and from there the lists developed organically. In the end, I think each of our specific stylistic choices were influenced, at least in part, by the choices of the others. That’s why there is such a cool thematic thread that runs from saisons and sour ales to rosé wine and gin cocktails, and back again.
Open up your kimono a little – what should ABV users be particularly excited about in terms of what you have prepped for them?
Jeff: La Venenosa Sierra del Tigre: This is a Raicilla is a mezcal under the traditional definition of mezcal; anything distilled in Mexico with agave. But it is distilled outside of the Mezcal DO area, so it cannot be labeled as Mezcal. It is actually distilled in Jalisco, but cannot be labeled Tequila since it is made with various different species of agave. This is distilled from wild foraged agave plants, roasted over wood embers in an earthen oven, and distilled in a ceramic still. Only 700 liters are made per year. The best part is the difference between nose and palate. On the nose you get, well, a stinky cheese. On the palate, that stinky cheese is nonexistent and transforms in to dark chocolate and sour cherries.
Brent: I’m highlighting dry rosé, so guests should be excited to try some of these crisp and complex wines. I think the guest should be excited about an event that every single pour has been thought away to a great extent, but at the same time it’s going to be a casual fun day.
Greg: I have been crafting the beer list for months now, and have worked–by raiding my own vault and by calling in some favors–to arrange for a collection of beers I frankly love to drink. Though focused on exceedingly rare farmhouse ales and funky brews, this list shows a breadth of brewing approaches, techniques and flavor nuance. We’re pouring brews aged in giant oak foudres, as well as oak barrels (Vin Jaune, Apple Brandy and more), sours spiked with an array of fruits, herbs, hops and spices, and then some of the finest crisp, refreshing lagers around (two of which, Weissenohe Monchskeller & Unfiltered Pils, will be poured fresh and unfiltered from rubber-clad gravity keg, in the the Franconian tradition)
As an ABV guest – how would you approach the event – what would your strategy be?
Jeff: I’d start out with a nice saison or rose to get settled in, and then I’d move on to more of the spirits in the VIP area which are not always the easiest to find.
Brent: Come curious, thirsty and hungry. Try small amounts because there’s a lot of options. Talk to wine professionals, who are way more than a standard volunteer pourers.
Greg: As with Snallygaster, I’d definitely suggest that guests make a short list of can’t miss beverages, and be sure to seek each out one-by-one; by doing so for a few of your targeted drinks, so you won’t miss out on the scarcer offerings. But I’d also recommend keeping that list short, so that you can spend the remainder of the festival exploring and discovering, since this is a festival, and not a scavenger hunt.
What is your favorite outdoor drinking place in DC?
Jeff: Nats Park.
Brent: Iron gate would be one. Also, the roof at Brixton or the patio and American ice company.
Greg: I live on Capitol Hill and love drinking liters of Weissbier on the patio of Cafe Berlin.
What are you drinking in your spare time and why?
Jeff: Now that the weather is warming up, it’s hard to get a saison out of my hand.
Brent: I love mezcal for the smoke, gin for the botanicals, sour beer for the acid and my choice of wine is all over the place, but I like complex wines from coolers climates.
Greg: Barboursville Vermentino, because my friend and colleague Brent Kroll got me hooked on it. Virginia may be known for Viognier, but this wine complicates that appraisal
A day of wine, beer AND cocktails – any pro hangover cure tips for those long days of summer day drinking?
Jeff: For every drink, drink the same amount of water. Take it slow. There’ll be plenty of drinks to go around!
Brent: Gin or white port mixed with tonic. I used this a bit in Spain and Portugal. Amazing.
What makes a perfect summer punch?
Jeff: Gin. It’s the perfect warm weather base spirit. There’s such a wide variety of botanicals in gin, it really combines well with both citrus and spring/summertime herbs and spices. Top it off with bubbles of some kind, and you’ve got yourself a punch anyone should be able to enjoy.
A summer red / pink / white / sparkling – what are your go-to choices for every day enjoyment?
Brent: Red: would be Gamay, Nerello Mascalese and Pinot Noir. I want fresh red fruit and high acidity. Pink: I love sparking rosé and Txokolina rosé. Effervescent dry rosés are great to beat the heat –not too dark and they have to be high in acidity and very dry. White: I’m drinking a lot of white wines that are on the Iron Gate list –designed for hot weather. Blanc de Xinomavro, Assyrtiko, fiano and Vermentino are my favorites.
This Spring / Summer – is there a beer (or beers) you personally plan to have in your fridge at all times?
Greg: Bluejacket Full Bloom & Forbidden Planet, Firestone Walker Pivo Hoppy Pils, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (year-round), Prairie Standard, Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Boreal.
Got all that? See you all at ABV this weekend.