You like beer. Bars and breweries like your money. These mischievous institutions are constantly devising creative ways to convince you to give them your money in exchange for beer. Many people call these things “events.” There are a lot of them. Possibly too many. Which ones are worth your time, hangover, and hard-earned, disposable income? That’s a great question.
Welcome to Draft Picks, the column where BYT picks the month’s ten – err, eleven best beer events.
Why eleven? Because there are too many good events this month. I didn’t even mention the Allagash Brewing tap takeover at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer this Friday.
What’s the criteria? Enough with the questions.
Churchkey Presents… Cloudwater Brew Co.
When: Saturday, September 8
Normally, a four-beer event will not get you into Draft Picks. But there is nothing normal about Cloudwater Brew Co. washing up on the banks of the Potomac.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Manchester brewery, g-g-g-get familiar. They are hot shit. They excel at hoppy stuff, barrel-aged Brett saisons, sours, imperial stouts, lagers… Pretty much everything, OK? They’re basically UK Trillium. But with more lager game.
A few weeks ago, I spent close to an hour picking out beers in Cloudwater’s webshop… only to be told at checkout that they don’t ship to the U.S. Thankfully, tha slim-necktied god Greg Engert heard my sobbing all the way across town, and the NRG beer director has arranged for a Cloudwater drop. All the prayer emoji hands.
ChurchKey will dip into its stash on September 8. On tap… Small Chinook El Dorado Pale, Helles Tettnanger, DDH IPA: Citra Ekuanot BBC, and DDH Pale Citra Mosaic BBC.
You want to know the best part about these beers? I DON’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN THEM. IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE IN THE NAMES. Also, I’m sure they’re divine.
As with all ChurchKey events, it’s all you can drink for all you can pay.
Atlas Brew Works Five-Year Anniversary
When: Saturday, September 8
Where: Atlas Brew Works
Earlier this year, I found myself in Atlas Brew Works taproom, ogling the stacks of barrels the brewery had on display. (All of them are marked with a different album cover, including – much to my amusement – WU LYF’s Go Tell Fire to the Mountain.) When I inquired what was inside each of these barrels, Tap Room General Manager Rachel Murray kindly shared a little secret: A few contained a barleywine spiked with Brettanomyces, and if the aging process played out as hoped, Atlas would release the beer for its fifth anniversary.
Of course, I subsequently forgot this, but a half-year later, here we are: On September 8, Atlas Brew Works will release that boozy, funky beer as Batch 500. I’m pretty jazzed about it. Brett beers might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to the Ivy City brewery, but from the annual La Saison de Brett to the recently re-released white wine barrel-aged Brett Helles Pope Magic, Atlas has proven a serious knack for utilizing the wild yeast.
Oh, and there’s a party, too. Sorry, I was blinded by the Brett. Atlas is turning five-years-old! Well, it technically already turned five-years-old, but unless you possess a magically air-conditioned auxiliary space or a giant-ass parking lot, an August anniversary party is a dicey proposition. So, on the presumably more temperate September 8, Atlas will celebrate five years of Rowdiness.
Like last year, tickets for the all-day rager cost $15, which includes your first beer and a donation to the Living Classrooms Foundation. The “Steam Punk Carnival Celebration” will also include face-painting, fortune telling, a dunk tank, a “fire performance,” a Big Wheel Race in the brewery, and live music. That’s a lot of shit! And beers are $5 all day.
If you just can’t wait until Saturday to try Batch 500 (and Pope Magic!) (and more!), Roofers Union is throwing Atlas a birthday fete this Thursday.
Go West Beer Fest
When: Friday, September 14
Where: Eastern Market North Hall
Uh, wicky wild wild.
Wicky wicky wild.
Wicky wild, wicky wicky wild wild wild west.
Beer fest, Colorado, not cider.
No, you don’t want nada-
OK, fine, I’ll stop. We don’t have to indulge my love of late ’90s art house cinema.
On September 14th at Eastern Market, the State Societies of Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington are hosting the 14th(!) iteration of their Go West Best Fest, a benefit for those state societies, as well as the Wildland Firefighters Foundation, an organization that helps families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assists injured firefighters and their families.
For $35, you get beer from all six of those states. And because the Brewers Association is involved, there’s some good ish, like Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing and Montana’s Kettlehouse Brewing.
Good cause, fair price, cool venue, Friday night, no brainer.
Aslin Beer Co. Third Anniversary
When: Saturday, September 15
Where: 771 Elden St, Herndon
Aslin Beer Company. Top five breweries of all time. You already know.
But did you also know Aslin was turning three? I don’t really remember life before the Herndon buzz magnet, so I would have put them at closer to 30-years-old. But it actually checks out: They’re only three. That’s three years of elite IPAs and fruited sours and decadent imperial stouts, a very nice saison, an equally nice Pilsner, and a bunch of crazy shit with vanilla and lactose milk sugar. Also a few barleywines. And a Hefe. And a Biere de Garde. And some wheat wines. Look, these dudes have made everything. Untappd currently has them at 237 unique beers. In three years. Cray.
Anyway, they’re throwing a party. And by “party,” I mean a massive festival. Think: Northern Virginia’s answer to WakeFest. The list of participating breweries is nuts. It covers a significant cut of the country’s best and the buzziest operations, most of which are not available in DC regularly. That list includes the UK’s Cloudwater, Toronto’s Collective Arts and (my personal death row brewery) Bellwoods, Hill Farmstead-offshoot Casita Cerveceria, Brooklyn’s Threes, and… OK, I don’t have time to go through everyone. There are literally 100 breweries. Click the link above.
The festival is split into two sessions, one early afternoon and one late afternoon. Both have a general admission option (unlimited pours + a taster glass) and a snazzier VIP alternative (the pours + VIP tasting glass + an anniversary cooler bag stuffed with an anniversary beer, an anniversary teku glass, Aslin Coffee, and more). Surprise, surprise: The VIP option is sold out. Don’t get in the way of a beer nerd and a limited edition teku glass. But GA remains available.
If you can’t make it to the bash, ChurchKey is throwing a pre-party with Aslin and a handful of the visiting breweries on Thursday, September 13.
Bell’s Brewery End Of Summer Beer Garden & Hoedown
When: Saturday, September 15
Where: Up Top Acres
What’s cooler than your average beer garden? How about a beer garden… in an actual garden? Pretty cool, right? OK, now hold onto your butts: Put that beer garden (in an actual garden) on top of a building. Did I just blow your mind?
Well, on September 15, Michigan craft beer institution Bell’s Brewery is teaming with the folks at rooftop farming company Up Top Acres to blow some minds. The pop-up beer garden will pair Bell’s beer with food from Equinox Chef de Cuisine Colin McClimans.
For $35, you bag four beer-and-food pairings. There’s also a VIP option that gains you access to two additional pairings, an #exclusive area to consume them, and some QT with the creative team behind this endeavor, like widely adored Bell’s rep – and freakishly obsessed Miami Dolfan – Chris VanDeWeert.
Plus, there will be live music for VIP and normie ears alike. I think this is where the “hoedown” bit comes in? Yes, it’s officially a hoedown. Stretch accordingly.
When: Saturday, September 22
Where: Ocelot Brewing
Breaking news: Oktoberfest is a 16- to 18-day beer festival held annually in Munich, Germany. You heard it here first.
More news: The drink of choice at Oktoberfest is Märzen, an amber, slightly sweet, bready lager. Some call it Festbier. Others just call it Oktoberfest.
Each year, Oktoberfest (the massive event) is scheduled so that it culminates on the first Sunday in October. That means Oktoberfest (again, the event) begins in late September. In 2018, for example, it kicks off on September 22.
Of course, you’ve probably seen local and national takes on Oktoberfest (the beer) in bottle shops and grocery stores since early August. That’s kind of the way it goes these days: You gotta get on shelves and tap lines early. As Sierra Nevada Brewing founder Ricky Bobby once said, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
And, look, I’m not here to start a debate over seasonal creep. Märzen tastes good any time of year. But I will say this: Ocelot Brewing waits to release its Oktoberfest (the beer) until actual Oktoberfest (the event), and that’s kind of fucking cool. It helps that the beer, Witching Hour, is a very, very, very nice rendition of the style.
On September 22, Ocelot will unleash Witching Hour. They’ll be selling special 1L steins to mark the occasion (which will sell out pretty quickly), as well hosting an outdoor festival with communal tables and 15+ local artists/vendors. Celebrate Oktoberfest properly!
Side note: Have you tried the new Stumbled yet? I know a lot of beer nerds have forsaken the hoppy red ale, but between Stumbled (hopped with Simcoe and Columbus) and this spring’s Twist of Fate (dry-hopped with Amarillo), Ocelot has cranked out two amber-hued bangers in 2018.
The Veil Beast Feast
When: Thursday, September 27
Where: Red Apron (Mosaic District)
Five duck courses. Five beers from The Veil. Change your life.
Make It Funky
When: Saturday, September 29
Where: Denizens Brewing Company
Denizens Brewing Company boasts arguably the area’s most adventurous wild and sour beer program, so it’s only fitting that the Silver Spring brewery hosts our premier festival for wild and sour ales. That shindig is called Make It Funky, and on the last Saturday afternoon of September, it’s back for the fourth time.
Yet again, it features a fantastic selection of breweries. As you’d expect, Maryland is well represented (RAR, UNION Craft, and Black Flag, among others), as are head brewer Jeff Ramirez’s old stomping grounds of Colorado (Avery and Crooked Stave) and Pennsylvania (Free Will). And in the category of random dope-ass breweries: Oxbow, Allagash, Two Roads, and Black Narrows (always a welcome sight). Plus, a ton of other breweries. (Side note: Based on numerous conversations I’ve had, brewers and beer reps truly love – and go out of their way – to work this festival, which says a lot.)
$62.50 gets you access to unlimited nectar from all those breweries. All in all, we’re talking a selection (of mostly one-offs and rarities) in the triple digits. That’s a lot of beers. And if past years are any indication, they’ll cover a wide range of flavors: tart, tropical, citrusy, hoppy, Bretty, fruit-forward, acidic, vinous, and on and on.
If you’re unfamiliar with the world of wild yeast and Lactobacillus, here’s your crash course. It’s a wonderful and not-at-all-scary place to visit – especially when you’re drinking the best stuff.
When: Saturday, September 29
Where: The Salt Line
The Oyster Wars are upon us. Our attempts to quell the Great Mollusk Uprising have proven unsuccessful, and now we must resort to full-scale mouth combat.
Our first major battle will occur on September’s last Saturday at the waterfront’s The Salt Line. That’s where mastermind Kyle Bailey has queued up a murder’s row of talented chefs from All-Purpose, Taco Bamba, Woodberry Kitchen, ChiKo, and more. This dream team will preparing bites from oyster farms up and down the East Coast.
Speaking of dream teams, ZOMG the breweries involved in this event. For the second year, the Salt Line is partnering with Other Half Brewing, and the Brooklyn hype monster has recruited some very prestigious friends, to say the least. TRILLIUM. THE VEIL. MONKISH. BISSELL BROS. WHAT IS HAPPENING? IS THIS REAL LIFE?
As as if that wasn’t enough, J. Wakefield, Allagash, Oxbow, Jester King, and our very own DC Brau and 3 Stars are also sending beer. Cool, kewl, kool.
For $65, you get to feast on all of these things. And by “all of these things,” I mean TRILLIUM AND THE VEIL AND MONKISH AND BISSELL BROS. And, yeah, sure, some oysters, too. (Note: tickets come with unlimited oysters, but the beers are on you.)
When: Saturday, September 29
Where: Diamondback Brewing
Lagers are back, baby! But they never went away! But there are more craft lagers than ever before! Why? Everyone has their own theory! Also, lagers are delicious!
That’s the tl:dr version of my recent Freshly Tapped profile of DC Beer Week’s Solidarity Pilsner. I’d still encourage you to give it a read.
You know who doesn’t need to read it, though? Diamondback Brewing. The Baltimore operation has been on this lager shit since opening in December 2016. Granted, the brewery is best known for IPAs like Green Machine and Hop Broth, but it’s still managed to produce a Zwickelbier, Baltic Porter, Schwarzbier, Dopplebock, and German Pilsner
It also hosted a lager fest well before Lager Fest. Diamondback’s lager fest, Stein Day, celebrates “everything we enjoy about… nuanced easy-drinking lagerbiers.” And on September 29, it’s back for a second year.
You can expect “Lagerbier, live music, local food vendors, glassblowing, outdoor games, and more!” A ticket will run you $20, and it comes with a special 10oz Stein Day glass (10z is the best glass size, don’t @ me) and three pours of ice cold lager.
When: Saturday, September 29
Where: The Sovereign
Each year, legendary Belgian brewery Cantillon picks 70 or so locations around the globe to pour a special and new blend of lambics called Zwanze. The beer is different every year, and there’s not a lot of it. Moreover, every bar has to tap its keg of Zwanze at the exact same time, so that beer nerds worldwide can climax at once.
It’s a big deal that DC has a bar that hosts a Zwanze Day tapping. We are truly #blessed. And, of course, our host is The Sovereign, NRG’s Belgium beer shrine.
What’s the deal with this year’s Zwanze? Good question! According to a press release, this year’s Zwanze blend pays homage to Cantillon’s “great friends from Italy, who were among the first in Europe to promote and protect traditional Lambic.” It was aged exclusively in Sangiovese, Amarone, and Chianti wine barrels for two years. Blended together, Zwanze 2018 is a “fruity beer with notes of mango and citrus, with a fine, lingering mouthfeel,” I am told via the Internet. “Its wine-like character is not only evident, but accentuated by a slight woodiness.”
Doors open at 10:00 a.m. The Zwanze keg gets tapped at 3:00 p.m., but pours are being pre-sold (seriously), so get there before closer to opening. The Sovereign will also have regular ol’ kegs of Cantillon’s Bruocsella 1900 Grand Cru, Gueuze 100% Lambic, Kriek, Nath, and Rosé de Gambrinus. Regular Cantillon? BORING.
Read Philip Runco’s “serious” beer articles and follow him on the Twitter.