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All words: Brittany Martin
All photos: Stephanie Breijo

According to legend–by which, of course, we mean Wikipedia–the Snallygaster was a mythical beast that hassled the German immigrants that established farms around Fredrick, Maryland over two centuries ago. They claim that “Snallygaster was described as half-reptile, half-bird with a metallic beak lined with razor-sharp teeth, occasionally with octopus-like tentacles,” so if you see one you should probably be sure to send us a pic.

Marginally less in the stuff-of-nightmares category: the annual Snallygaster beer festival, held this weekend at Union Market. Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the company behind beer-centric establishments like ChurchKey, Birch & Barley, and Rustico, called their pals from across the beer world to come take over the Market’s sizable parking lot, offering over 200 beers from the mainstream to the super-rare.

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Among the rarities was the just-released American Beauty from Delaware craft beer pioneers Dogfish Head. This beer was inspired by The Grateful Dead, so of course the grain used in the recipe is organic granola. (Seriously.)

The commitment to local brewers was highly visible walking around the booths. Stillwater, Brewer’s Art, 3 Stars, DC Brau, and Flying Dog were among the pourers. At Flying Dog’s booth, their offerings included a Roggen from their Brewhouse Rarities. An older German style that is not frequently produced in the US today, this roggen is made with 40% rye grain and had a very pleasant flavor.

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We observed that, by late-afternoon, the brewery’s ubiquitous Raging Bitch, available at most area grocery stores, had run out, but this special release was still waiting to be ordered. This seemed strange, but taking a look around we realized there were clearly two different types of beer fans in attendance. The ones there when we first arrived as gates opened who seemed interested in really enjoying the special offerings, and the later arrivals who turned orderly queues into disorganized masses lurching indiscriminately towards the nearest kegs baring names they knew, sloshing whatever they were already holding onto any unsuspecting passerby.

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Hosts NRG are opening their own brewery next week, the long-anticipated Bluejacket, so naturally their beers were available for sampling. Of the half-dozen in-house creations, our favorite was the #19 Dunkelweizen. It was, in fact, one of our favorite new sips all day. The light sweetness and subtle caramel and clove notes was ideal under chilly, cloudy skies and a much-needed break from some more aggressively-hopped beers we tried.

Parked center-stage at Snallygaster was a reminder, in the form of a schoolbus converted to a mobile market, that this was all a benefit for NRG’s farm project Arcadia. The nonprofit is working to promote healthy, sustainable food systems in the DC area community, particularly areas that do not have regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Which, since the original Snallygaster brutally attacked local farmers with razor-teeth, it seems like a pretty good re-branding move for him that the festival named in his honor is a benefit for those very folks.

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