Photos By Melissa Groth, Words By Logan Hollers
Unlimited tastes of 18 beers from nine local brewers. Unlimited tastes of 18 dishes designed to pair with those beers from nine local restaurants. Absurd people-watching. BYT-assisted hookups. I’m surprised I made it out alive.
Hundreds of craft beer enthusiasts converged Saturday night in the atrium of Old Ebbitt Grill for the third annual Craft BrewHaHa, the historic downtown restaurant’s celebration of local craft beer, food, and music. Local band the Soul Crackers cracked souls and performed a bunch of cheesy-ass covers that got more absurd as the night went on and, along with the abundance of neon, served as a pretty perfect backdrop to the event.
Nine breweries were on hand, each featuring two of their beers: DC Brau, Flying Dog Brewery, Evolution Craft Brewing Company, Atlas Brew Works, Hellbender Brewing Company, Port City Brewing Company, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Denizens Brewing Company, and Old Ox Brewery. Nine restaurants were then paired with the breweries, each one offering two dishes designed to complement the beers.
Someone needed to try all those beers. Someone needed to taste all that food. Did I mention the pours were unlimited? I toughed it out for you, you guys. (You’re welcome.)
Best bite of the night? Toss-up between Red Apron’s whipped n’duja (spicy AF, for real) on a fennel cracker (being paired with one my favorite beers, Port City’s Derecho Common, didn’t hurt), and the random carnival cart slanging mini half-smokes with nacho cheese and sauerkraut. This dude was flexing mad tubed meat game. Nacho cheese + sauerkraut + half-smoke = FOH.
Best beer of the night was an easy choice: Hellbender Brewing Company’s KPA (Kolsch Pale Ale). Beer was delicious, and guys were super chill. Actual conversation had with that brewer: Me: “KPA, huh? Never heard of it – what’s it all about?” Brewer: “Yeah, dude, I totally made that up. Doesn’t mean shit. Beer’s great though, right??” Me: “Can I have a refill?” The Hamilton pumped out a crispy Berkshire pork trotter cake on zucchini cornbread, which was basically like pulled pork that was deep fried, so you can imagine how that tasted, which was awesome.
Atlas Brew Works and the Fainting Goat were the winners of the night’s pairing contest for me; Chef Nate Beauchamp’s Jamaican curried pulled goat with mango slaw tossed out some deep, complex spiciness that married nicely with the juicy, citrus hoppiness of the Ponzi American IPA. The beer fanned the flames at first, for sure, but then helped wash away some of the lasting heat.
The home team brought it, as well – Old Ebbitt’s Wellfleet oysters with tomato granita and serrano chilis was barely topped by its pork belly sliders with peparonata. Probably helped that they were paired with local favorite DC Brau, who brought along their Brau Pils (light and crisp, and huge for taking a break between some of the heavier beers and food) and their On the Wings of Armageddon Imperial IPA.
And they didn’t even have the best oyster of the night! That honor definitely went to Tower Oaks Lodge. The Searzall-torched Chesapeake oyster was great, natch, but the dehydrated corn and…no joke, fried chicken skin…pushed the dish to amazing. Great pair with, of course, Flying Dog’s Dead Rise Old Bay Ale.
Speaking of corn, I have a bone to pick with the Red Hen. I thought I was going to be getting a delicious pureed corn something or other with at least some corn or maybe some corn flavor. Nope. I was 100% wrong. You can’t call something sweet corn pudding, then give me a goddamn peach dessert with no corn. Knock it off with the dessert traps, yo. Good thing Chef Mike Friedman made up for it with an impeccable tomato-braised lamb meatball with chiles and feta. Hella good when paired with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s Peach Tripel. Which, now that I think about it, probably would’ve been a great match with some peach dessert pudding crap, too. Okay, yeah, I fucked that up. Still owe me some corn, though, Friedman…
Oh yeah, also, this random dude named Dennis kept blowing up our spot and coming to find us and hang out with us all night; turned out to be a pretty cool guy (what new person you meet isn’t, after you’ve had 20 beers) and we eventually talked him into going and hitting on this girl and they later walked out holding hands after getting all hot and heavy on the dance floor, so that’s pretty dope.
Evolution Brewing had one of my other favorite beers of the night, offering up its Exile Red Ale – one of the more malty beers on hand, and a welcome change up from the blasts of hops from everyone else. Evolution’s pairing mate, Boundary Stone, had two really delicious dishes: a curried chicken sausage roll (flaky, spicy, great) and a confit pork nugget which tasted awesome, but far too closely resembled a certain porn act (or, uh, so I’ve heard) that rhymes with “steam lie” when you bit into it. Hard to photograph and finish after we realized that. Also hard to stop laughing.
Smoke and Barrel and Old Ox Brewery had another great pairing with the restaurant’s smoked brisket with shitake mushroom grits and the brewery’s Black Ox Rye Porter. This was towards the end of the night. I tried to slam the first porter pour I got. That was a mistake. The food made it way better, and slowed down my drinking.
By then, I was semi-impaired. I remember Jack Rose Dining Saloon’s pickled shrimp being likethebestthingever at that point, since it was cold and not fried and/or rich red meat. Also probably didn’t need that last (couple) Born Bohemian Czech-style Pilsner(s) from Denizens Brewing Company, either. Oh well. Live and learn, I guess(?).
Is it a cop out to just sum up by saying that, outside of one or two subpar dishes, basically everything we ate and drank was fantastic? It is? Whatever. You’re just here for the pics, anyway. See below for more debauchery. Oh and, also, shout-out to Dennis – that salute said it all, my man.