By Phil R. Photos by Clarissa Villondo.
On Saturday afternoon, Andrew Geffken dusted off a light grey suit and drove to the National Building Museum. The Charm City Meadworks founder had initially purchased this garment for a special occasion: his wedding. Where he was headed several years later – the D.C. Brewer’s Ball – probably wouldn’t be as personally significant, but it was a special occasion nonetheless, and a special occasion calls for a suit. And he only owns two suits.
For thirteen years, the city’s Brewer’s Ball has provided those in attendance – whether pouring, cooking, or consuming – with a good excuse to pull that suit or cocktail dress out from the back of their closets. Plenty of breweries and restaurants still opted for the typical brewer’s shirts and chef’s jackets, of course, but when you’re donating kegs, food, and your time, you get to wear whatever you want.
The cause behind all this pageantry is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis. When all was said and done on Saturday – between the sponsorships, $150 tickets, donations, or auction items sold – the Brewer’s Ball had raised $275,000 to help fund research, programs and care for cystic fibrosis. Cheers to that.
I started my night with a bite from one of my favorite local restaurants and a beer from one of my favorite local breweries.
On the chewable side, it was a slight twist on a pig-in-the-blanket from Sixth Engine. The Gallery Place restaurant had elevated the classic house party staple by starting with a DC half smoke, then wrapping it in a pretzel bun, then topping that with queso and pickled fresno. I could eat these all night. (And I basically did.) Generally speaking, I spread the Sixth Engine gospel to anyone that will listen, and Chef Kyle Bailey didn’t disappoint.
As for the sippable, it’s hard to pass up Manor Hill’s Grisette, particularly when I’m easing into an evening. The slightly hoppy, slightly creamy take on a lower ABV farmhouse ale should be in any beer lover’s fridge the moment the temperature rises above 50 degrees.
Other highlights in the dimly lit museum?
I was excited to try Heroic Aleworks going into the evening. Open for two months now, the new Woodbridge, Virginia brewery comes courtesy of CEO (and Army veteran) Tim Hoke and head brewer Leon Harris, a familiar face on local brewing scene after years at The District Chophouse and then Capitol City Brewing Company. The two co-founders brought a very nice, well-balanced, Citra dry-hopped IPA called Doctor Enigma, but the star of the show was its Belgian Dubbel, Mind Trappe. Fermented at a lower temperature to suppress the over-the-top estery qualities of its yeast, Mind Trappe was absolutely wonderful, with a slight cocoa finish.
I couldn’t pass up a few familiar friends, either: Allagash’s new year-round Hoppy Table Beer, the latest batch of Union’s double IPA Double Duckpin, the year’s Port City Tartan Ale, and Denizens’ crisp Born Bohemian.
As in the past, DCBeer.com’s Bill DeBaun did an excellent job curating a selection of breweries that gave up-and-comers some exposure, and the big guys a seat at the table. It’s a tough balancing act.
Food was a little more hit or miss, which is to be expected. At a certain point, there’s only so much pulled pork and mac & cheese you can consume. But let’s focus on who thought outside that box.
The Ivy City Smokehouse’s smoked salmon candy bite (with an “Asian aioli”) was absolutely delicious. Republic’s salad of apple, kale and kohirabi (with curried walnut, freekeh, and cider vinaigrette) provided a blast wholesome and refreshing nutrition. And Ted’s Bulletin worked overtime with a braised pot roast, before refilling their table with an assortment of homemade pop tarts.
All in all, there was plenty to leave your stomach happy, and more than enough to justify the price of admission.
And since that ticket was already going to such a good cause, you’d be a real Scrooge to say otherwise.