By Philip Runco
Rejoice: SAVOR, one of the nation’s premier beer gatherings, arrives next week. And it’s time to formulate your plan of attack.
As far as the formal event goes, the ten-year-old festival draws over 80 breweries under the roof of the National Building Museum on Friday and Saturday night. Each brewery will pour two beers, and since SAVOR is a BFD, they’re bringing their best stuff. You can check the full list here. Also, psst, we’re giving away two tickets.
But even outside the confines of SAVOR proper, there is a lot of beer to enjoy in DC between May 30 and June 4. Every night, there are a handful of events across town – the majority of which are free to attend. (The beer, sadly, is not free, though.) Many of the breweries at SAVOR don’t distribute in DC, so this is their chance to show the city what they’ve been brewing up (and to scope out the city’s beer scene for possible expansion in the future). And it’s your chance to see what’s the big deal with, say, Free Will or Half Acre or pFriem. And then there are the breweries you’ve never even heard of. This is your chance to be adventurous.
To guide that adventure, we’ve rounded up the week’s best events – and we’ll update this list as more get announced.
Shuckfest at City Tap House
For the third year running, City Tap House will celebrate Memorial Day with oysters and beer. There’s nothing wrong with oysters and beer.
Triple Tap Takeover at Roofers Union
File this event under: Sure, Why Not? On Tuesday, Roofers Union brings together three different but very tasty breweries from Richmond (Ardent Craft Ales), Missouri (4 Hands Brewing), and Connecticut (the somewhat-new-to-DC 2 Roads Brewing). Sure, why not?
City Tap House has a tap and menu takeover with New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing (and its Hayseed Restaurant).
Ocelot & J Wakefield’s ‘Here, Kitty Kitty’ Showdown at Smoke & Barrel
Late last year, Miami buzz magnet J Wakefield Brewing released Here, Kitty Kitty, a 12% imperial stout with Tahitian vanilla and Kopi Luwak coffee. This monster was hatched in collaboration with the pride of Dulles, Virginia, Ocelot Brewing. You probably didn’t try to it because chances are you live in the DC area and not South Florida. (Or maybe you’re balling out with a beachside winter home – I don’t know.) Here’s the plot twist, though: Fast forward to this spring, and Ocelot decided to brew a new take on the collaboration on its own system.
So, this begs the question: Who did it better? Smoke & Barrel beer director Jace Gonnerman has pulled some strings to allow you to make that call yourself. On Wednesday, the Adams Morgan bar will pour both versions of the boozy imperial stout. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but samplers might suffice. I’m not saying you can’t handle two 12% beers – there are just other beers to drink, too.
To wit, Ocelot will be sending three of its latest creations: the IPA Loaded Questions, the DIPA Tongue Tied, and Patiently Waiting, a crisp IPL hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc. I tried all three of these over the weekend, and they are all certified Ocelot bangers. As for J Wakefield, its contributions include Taking My Talents to Miami (an imperial Berliner weisse made with The Bruery) and Big Poppa (a 16% imperial stout infused with coconut, vanilla, and coffee).
For Locals Only at Red Apron Burger Bar
Red Apron Burger Bar is the newest edition to the Neighborhood Restaurant Group / Greg Engert empire (well, sorta new – it used to be DGB), so you know the beer program is on point. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s the only place in DC you’ll randomly find The Veil, Crooked Stave, and Tired Hands randomly at happy hour prices.
But on Wednesday, the Dupont burger joint will keep the focus local and turn its lines over to DC Brau, Hardywood Park, Port City, Right Proper, Union Craft, and Bluejacket. (Side note: Since when is Hardywood local?) (Side note to the side note: That’s not a complaint – I’m down with Hardywood.) Highlights include new joints from Union (the Lemondrop-hopped Vienna Lager Tiny Elvis), Right Proper (an absolutely delicious “gin-inspired” saison called Spirits Rejoice), and Port City (its equally delicious Belgian IPA, Trifecta).
Country Boy Wild Ales at Meridian Pint
On Wednesday, Meridian Pint will pour ten offerings from Lexington, Kentucky’s Country Boy – a brewery that does a number of styles exceptionally well. For this particular event, the spotlight will be shined upon Country Boy’s relatively new Living Proof sour program. You can expect three funky creations from it: Living Proof Tart Saison (a 7% saison fermented with house Brettanomyces and aged in French oak for 18 months), Living Proof Rose Wild (a 8% blend of sour red ales aged in bourbon, sherry, and wine barrels), and Living Proof Brett Pale (a 6.5% pale ale with a secondary Brettanomyces fermentation in oak foeders).
Country Boy will also flex its hop chops with Alpha Experiment Nelson IPA (a 7% IPA hopped exclusively with Nelson Sauvin), Lazy Rye (a 6% rye pale ale), and citrusy flagship IPA Cliff Jumper. SAVOR week exists for events like this.
Urban Farm Fermentory & Gruit Brewing at Pizzeria Paradiso
Everyone knows that Pizzeria Paradiso beverage director Drew McCormick loves gruits, and she’ll fly that herb flag on Wednesday night when Urban Farm Fermentory & Gruit Brewing visit her in Dupont. The Portland, Maine operation is jack of all trades, churning out kombucha, jun, cider, gruit, and mead using mostly local and foraged ingredients. Of these libations, they’ll be bringing their Toasted Oak Kombucha, Dandelion Saison gruit, and Dry Cidah to Pizzeria Paradiso. [Stephen Malkmus voice]: No! Big! Hops!
A Bittersweet Night with Wicked Weed at Roofers Union
So, I don’t know if you heard, but the world’s largest brewery conglomerate (AB InBev) acquired one of the craft world’s most respected critical darlings (Wicked Weed), and the reaction has been slightly akin to that time Yo La Tengo left Matador, made a record with Diplo, and licensed its music to Michael Bay-directed commercials for KFC’s gun-shaped chicken buckets. If you would like a more nuanced take on the economics of the deal and why it matters, I would kindly point you in the direction of Creature Comforts CEO Chris Herron’s much-circulated piece, but suffice to say, a lot of people are peeved. I mean, The Rare Barrel basically drain-poured its Wicked Weed collab on social media.
But, look, from IPAs to barrel-aged sours to fruited Brett saisons, Wicked Weed beers are still very good to great. You can choose to taste for yourself (or not!) at Roofers Union, when they put on tap almost a dozen of the North Carolina brewery’s offerings. (Half-priced specialty bottles, too!) As for the conflicting feelings that such an event may provoke, you have to give Roofers Union beer director Dave Delaplaine credit for calling a spade a spade with this framing.
Golden State Showcase at ChurchKey
In slightly less controversial news, last week revered Southern California brewery The Bruery sold a majority share of its operation to Boston-area private equity firm Castanea Partners. I’m still waiting on the Creature Comforts dude to tell me what this means, but I do know that The Bruery also happens to be getting a little Wednesday night spotlight in DC. This time, it’s at ChurchKey, where DJ Greg Engert will be dropping a sick playlist of oak barrel-aged Bruery Terreux jams like Frucht: Yumberry (a Berliner weisse with yumberries), Griffon Bruxellois (a sour brown ale with cherries), and Humulus Rueuze (a dry-hopped sour blond ale). Rounding out this Golden State Showcase is the El Segundo Brewing Company, a Los Angeles brewery specializing in hoppy offerings.
Stone Tap Takeover at City Tap House
Stone is always a presence at big beer events like SAVOR. On Wednesday, it throws down at City Tap House with 40 lines. That’s a lot of hops! We’ve written about Stone twice recently, both in our Freshly Tapped: Soused and Freshly Tapped: DC Brau’s Collaboratron features. Study up!
Two funk-forward breweries, Free Will and 4 Hands, unite at ANXO. Over at the Ballston Rustico, meanwhile, Schlafly rolls out some rarities and bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout variants to raise money for the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. Need a break from beer? Brookland Pint spotlights Graft Cider and Moonlight Mead.
Melvin and Lord Hobo present: Kung Fu and Wu-Tang at Meridian Pint
When you let colorful Melvin Brewing founder Jeremy Tofte help plan your SAVOR event, chances are it’s going to end up involving Kung Fu films and a Wu-Tang Clan soundtrack. And that’s exactly what you’ll be able to expect in the basement of Meridian Pint on Thursday night when the Wyoming brewery and Massachusetts’s Lord Hobo take over the taps.
On the liquid front, expect a lot of hops. Lupulin-loaded offerings include Melvin’s instant classic 2X4 (a 10% Imperial IPA and the “winner of every IPA award ever created,” per Meridian Pint), Lord Hobo’s Boomsauce (a 7.8% New England-style imperial IPA with notes of tropical fruit and citrus), and Melvin’s Hubbert (which beer director Jace Gonnerman will tell you might be his favorite hoppy pale ale on the planet). And when/if you need a hops timeout, feel free to order Melvin’s new-ish Mexican lager Hey Zeus and its imperial stout Ruckus.
Oregon Brewery Total Tap Takeover at ChurchKey
A day after transporting us to Southern California, ChurchKey travels up the coast to Oregon for a total tap takeover. And because we’re talking ChurchKey, that means an insane 55 lines of Oregon beer from Deschutes (Bend), Crux Fermentation Project (Bend), Ninkasi (Eugene), Alesong (Eugene), pFriem (Hood River), and Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland). Check out the full list here.
Personally, I’m eyeing Alesong’s Touch of Brett: Mosaic (a pinot noir barrel-aged dry-hopped saison), Ninkasi’s always refreshing summer IPA Maiden the Shade, and pFriem’s Abrikoos (a Lambic-inspired ale with apricots). Actually, I’m drinking all the pFriem. Also, if you’re feeling saucy, Birch & Barley will be serving up a 5-course tasting menu paired with Oregon beers.
Reuben’s Brews Tap Takeover at Roofers Union
Speaking of the Pacific Northwest, Roofers Union will host Reuben’s Brews on Thursday. Unfamiliar with the Seattle brewery? Get familiar: The Ballard operation is at the front of the city’s current wave of fantastic, next-generation breweries, including Fremont, Stoup, Cloudburst, Holy Mountain, and Urban Family. (Seriously, go take a Seattle beer trip.)
According to Roofers Union, no brewery in Washington has won more medals since Reuben’s opened in 2012. (I’ll take their word for it.) The three-leveled Adams Morgan will pour a dozen of the brewery’s offerings, including the rye iteration of its taproom-only NE-style IPA series, an imperial black IPA, its award-winning gose (back-to-back GABF golds!), and flagship IPA Crikey, which holds the high distinction of being the signature beer at my friend Lindsey’s wedding in Seattle last summer.
Pekko Showcase at Smoke & Barrel
If you haven’t been paying attention, Pekko Beer has quietly upped DC’s beer cred about a million nerd units in less than a year’s time. From Modern Times to Transmitter to Kent Falls, the local boutique distributor has been responsible for bringing us some of the most buzzy (and, more importantly, delicious) beers from up-and-coming breweries around the country.
On Thursday, Smoke & Barrel will give the distributor the keys to the… I don’t know, the F-150? We’re talking about a BBQ joint.
Anyway, the event will feature 24 beers from SingleCut, Logsdon, Modern Times, D9, Tombstone, Lord Hobo, Prairie, and Transmitter. Looking at the list, they’ve got pretty much every style of beer covered: farmhouse ales, double IPAs, fruited sours, imperial stouts, lagers – you name it. Highlights (as determined by yours truly) include SingleCut’s Why Pamper Life’s Complexity #2 (an oak-aged Brett IPA), Modern Times’s barrel-aged Devil’s Teeth with barrel-aged coffee, Tombstone’s Kveik Gose, Prairie’s Birthday Bomb, and Logsdon’s Big Log Smoked Rice Lager.
Orchard Funk Vol. 2 at ANXO
During CBC, Truxton Circle cidery (and low-key beer oasis) ANXO hosted an Orchard Funk event with Oxbow, Fonta Flora, and Jester King. The concept: fruited wild ales. This makes a lot of sense because, you know, cider. Well, now they’ve brought back Orchard Funk for a SAVOR remix with Allagash, Avery, Upland, and Bullfrog. Hard to find a weakness in that funky line-up.
If you missed Country Boy on Wednesday, they’ll be pouring their Living Proof series at the Right Proper brewpub and debuting a new collab with the DC brewery. On a similar note, Bluejacket hosts Boulder’s FATE and releases their collab Hopfenweisse, a hefeweizen hopped with the hottest of hot new German varietals: Mandarin Bavaria, Hallertau Blanc and Huell Melon. The DC Brewers Guild showcases our fine city’s very own breweries with $2 off local drafts at Iron Horse. The Sovereign chats with New Belgium brewmaster Peter Bouckaert and pours a selection of his barrel-aged sours. Anchor Brewing and and its brewmaster Scott Ungermann visit B-Side in Fairfax. The Dupont and Georgetown locations of Pizzeria Paradiso dip into their respective cellar for a night of Bruery rarities. And Brookland Pint hosts a showcase of barrel-aged Great Lakes beers.
Anaerobic Soak: RAR + Burial + Dogfish Head at Brookland Pint
“RAR is one of my absolute favorite local breweries and for good reason: a great hefeweizen, several outstanding limited IPAs, a stout brewed with strawberry, and of course, Nanticoke Nectar,” Meridian Pint beer director Jace Gonnerman wrote in his recent CBC Drink Diary. “Anytime I go a while without drinking it, I’m reminded of its brilliance. I heard a friend refer to it as the Two Hearted of the DMV, and I couldn’t agree more.”
On Friday, Gonnerman will roll out the red carpet for RAR at another of his bars – Brookland Pint. In addition to the Eastern Shore brewery, the event will feature North Carolina’s Burial Beer Co. (the presumptive king of Asheville craft beer in a post AB InBev-Wicked Weed world) and industry stalwart Dogfish Head. What’s the connective thread here? Well, these three breweries recently teamed up for a collab double IPA called Anaerobic Soak. The 8.8% brew was entirely “hop bursted” – so, no hops were used in the boil, which means a DIPA with next-to-no bitterness. As for the particular hops, Anaerobic Soak features Bru-1 (a hop proprietary to Dogfish), Motueka, and Mosaic lupulin powder. That sounds pretty good. And because I’m too lazy to wait in line for cans out in Cambridge, I’m glad Gonnerman is brining it to DC.
In addition to Anaerobic Soak, the draft list will also include Burial’s bonkers Skillet Donut Stout (an 8% stout brewed with oats, molasses, milk sugar, and Counter Culture coffee beans), Dogfish Head’s Alternate Takes 5 (an 8% sour ale brewed with blueberries and raspberries), a double dry-hopped take on RAR’s Country Ride with local strawberries, and RAR’s Ella (a 5.5 % barrel-aged pale ale dry-hopped with Citra and Ella).
American Innovators: Perennial & Allagash at The Sovereign
When it comes to twists on Belgian styles, few do it better stateside than Perennial and Allagash. The St. Louis and Portland (the East Coast one) breweries visit the Sovereign on Friday, and they’re bringing a trove of beer you won’t otherwise find in DC (and if you do, it’s probably a $50 bottle.)
From Perennial, that includes Savant Blanc (a chardonnay barrel-aged blond ale with Brett and Chardonel grapes – the best beer I tried at SAVOR last year), Owen (a dry-hopped Brett saison), Mon Ami 2015 (a strong blond ale brewed in collaboration with 2nd Shift), and a good old Helles lager called Brew for the Crew. Allagash, meanwhile, brings the mixed fermentation side of the equation with tart offerings like Windfall (a sour blond ale with peaches), Josephine (cognac barrel-aged sour brown ale), and Merveilleux 2013 (a bourbon and wine barrel-aged sour blond ale).
This is one classy-ass way to spend an evening. If you’re not going to the Friday session of SAVOR, the Sovereign is not a bad place to be.
Geeks Rejoice at Right Proper
During CBC, Right Proper made a beer with three very well-regarded (and like-minded) breweries: Austin’s Jester King, North Carolina’s Fonta Flora, and Chicago’s Scratch. This beer is called Spirits Rejoice, and it is now out in the world, living its beer life, probably on tap at the fine craft beer establishments with which you are familiar. What kind of beer is it? Good question! Also, because this is Right Proper, not an easy one! They’re calling it a mixed-fermentation, gin-inspired saison. It was brewed with juniper berries and a mix of dried blood oranges and tangerines. I’ve had a pint, and it delicious.
On Friday afternoon, they’ll give this beer a little showcase over at Right Proper’s Brookland Production House. In addition to Spirits Rejoice, they’ll also be pouring some beers from their collaborators, including Jester King’s Rare Corals (a farmhouse ale refermented with guava, bananas, strawberries, cantaloupe, toasted coconut, and chamomile), Jester King and Freigeist’s Sing Along Deathmatch (a farmhouse ale brewed with rosemary smoked honey then refermented on Mexican plums), Scratch’s Perilla Tea Saison (a farmhouse ale with housemade fermented perilla leaf tea), and Off Color’s Class War (a Gotlandsdricka with pear-wood smoked malt, juniper berries and honey). They’ll also have a bunch of Penn Druid because YOLO. Check out the full list here. Then, rejoice.
East Coast Hops and West Coast Wilds at ANXO
On Friday, ANXO will spotlight two fixtures of Pekko Beer’s all-star line-up: SingleCut and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. As the event name indicates, this pair represents East Coast hops and West Coast wilds. On the former front, SingleCut is making some of the best IPAs on the East Coast – soft, hazy, juicy. All the hype words. Its double dry-hopped Jenny Said is one of the best beers I’ve tried this year. (And that beer will be on tap at ANXO) (though I’m not sure if it’s the double dry-hopped take). In contrast, Oregon’s Logsdon is all about the alchemy of wild and saison yeast strains. Think of this event as a craft beer “Tango & Cash”.
ChurchKey hosts Savor 2017 All-Stars (bold event name!) with Port Brewing, Revolution, and Free Will. City Tap House throws a SAVOR pre-game with craft OGs Anchor Brewing. If you’re in Columbia Heights, there’s a different SAVOR pre-game with 4 Hands. On the flip side, the Partisan has rounded up DC Brau and two of its past collaborators, Melvin and SKA, for a SAVOR after-party. Similarly, Right Proper is teaming up with Free Will for an after-party at the also-within-walking-distance Lost & Found.
Perennial and Half Acre Tap Takeover at ANXO
Prior to founding Perennial in St. Louis, brewmaster Phil Wymore cut his teeth at two Chicago breweries: Goose Island and Half Acre. On Saturday, he reunites with the latter operation for a tap takeover at ANXO. The big-ticket attractions are Perennial’s Vanilla Abraxas (a variant of their highly sought spiced chocolate imperial stout) and Half Acre’s Galactic Double Daisy Cutter (the imperial, Galaxy-hopped version of their crushable flagship pale ale). Also, the Chicago brewery is bringing Cult Vulture Black Kölsch, which has me very intrigued.
The 6th Annual Brewers Brunch at ChurchKey
Like beer? Like brunch? Like consuming beer and brunch while rubbing shoulders with craft beer luminaries? Buckle up, ChurchKey’s Brewers Brunch is back. The annual event is always a big draw, and this year the line-up of breweries goes a little something like this: Allagash, Dogfish Head, Hardywood Park, The Lost Abbey, New Belgium, and Stone.
Among the 30 beers from these breweries, ChurchKey will be pouring “ultra-rare” kegs of Allagash’s Verdomme, Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew 2015, Hardywood Park’s Rum GBS, The Lost Abbey’s Deliverance, New Belgium’s NBB Love Cherry Felix, and Stone’s Hop C 2 C.
Damn. “Ultra-rare.” That’s like “double dry-hopped rare.” Here I was, living my life, thinking “rare” was a big deal. Now that I know “ultra-rare” is a thing, will I ever be able to drink regular old “rare” beer again and be happy? My heart hurts. I need a beer.
City Tap House hosts a brunch with IPA mavens Lord Hobo (current of home of Atlas Brew Works veteran Will Durgin) and Melvin. Later in the day, the Partisan throws another SAVOR after-party – this time with Flying Dog, FATE, and Allagash.
Allagash’s Post-SAVOR Brunch at Pizzeria Paradiso
The Sunday after SAVOR is all about brunches. It’s time for recovery. And maybe one more beer or two. The Dupont Pizzeria Paradiso will host Allagash, which sounds like a winning combination, since pizza + witbier +Advil = foolproof elixir. As an added bonus, Asheville’s esteemed Burial Beer Co. will be in the house, which is another real treat. Warning: Accidental Sunday drunkenness may occur.
City Tap House hosts another beer brunch – this time with Pennsylvania’s Yards Brewing.