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All words: Travis Mitchell — All photos: Daniela Toleva

There are few experiences more enjoyable than tasting unlimited craft beer on what can reasonably be considered a giant party boat. Combine that with picture-perfect conditions on the Potomac and a whole lot of people passionate about beer, and it’s a recipe for hop and malt bliss. Without a doubt, Sunday’s 2012 DC Beer Week Cruise aboard the Odyssey was a palate-pleasing indulgence in more than 75 of the most unique and flavorful beers in from the mid-Atlantic and across country.

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Aided by short lines and ABVs straddling double-digits, this evening could have easily turned sloppy in a hurry. And although I did at one point spot a few attendees shotgunning cans of double IPA, the event kept things classy and was a worthy kickoff to the fourth-annual D.C. Beer Week (Check out BYT’s full survival guide HERE-ed).

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As expected, Sunday’s event was a great exhibition for local breweries, and marked the debut of Solidarity Saison, a collaboration of seven area breweries and the official beer of D.C. Beer Week. The best local bottle I tried was D.C Brau’s Oaked Penn Quarter Porter, which is aged in Catoctin Creek rye whiskey barrels and is currently available only at the brewery. Also of note was Bluejacket’s über-strong Washington O.C., a Belgian Quad made with plums and brewed in collaboration with California-based The Bruery. Bluejacket hopes to open its brew pub in early 2013 with the aim of having 15 beers on tap, as well as additional rotating draught choices and cask ales.

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While not featured during Sunday’s event, local beer fans should be on the lookout this week for Port City’s limited-edition Derecho Common beer. This steam beer was born after the June 29 Derecho left the Alexendria brewery without power or any method of cooling its beer. But despite the higher-than-normal fermentation temperature, 120 kegs of were salvaged into the one-off batch. The draft-only beer is currently being distributed throughout the area at local establishments including Big Hunt, Bier Baron, Churchkey, Del Ray Pizzeria, Lyon Hall, and Lost Dog, among others.

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Along with the local showcase, Sunday’s balmy weather provided an appropriate backdrop for brewers to introduce the fall brewing season. One of my favorite seasonal selections was Lost Rhino’s Rin’OFest Märzen. At a modest 5.5 percent ABV, its malty profile and crisp finish make it a highly sessionable beer and a perfect companion to those post-labor day barbeques squeezed in before the mercury dips. Though not yet available, I’m also keeping an eye out in the coming weeks for Six Point’s Autumnnation, a pumpkin-pie inspired beer brewed with spices including white peppercorn, pumpkin and ginger.

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I was impressed to see the larger microbrewers like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada getting back to their roots of producing small, craft batches of beer. Sierra Nevada featured its recently released 2012 Beer Camp series – four offerings derived from recipes submitted by beer lovers across the country. Sam Adams, which gets singled out (with good reason) for its standard-bearing Boston Lager and seasonal rotation, is recommitting to small batches with a series of old world beers like Norse Legend, an amber brew derived from an ancient recipe – one the brewery has been tinkering with for years. Frederick’s Flying Dog is also getting back on the single-batch trend by producing a series of single-hop beers. Its Chinook variety hit DC stores on August 10, though the brewery says that at this point you’d be lucky to find a bottle.

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For those of you that didn’t make it out for Sunday night’s event, the good news is that many of the beers featured during the four-hour tasting are available in stores or can be found during this week’s events, which include tap takeovers, beer dinners and happy hours. So, fellow beer lovers, take the rest of this week to celebrate the greatness of the DC beer scene. Because in a culture that too often focused on finding the lowest calorie or most refreshing beer, Washington is raising a new beer standard that rewards craftsmanship, complexity and taste.

I’ll most definitely drink to that. Cheers.

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