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 best beer events.
Why ten? Because it sounds cool.
What’s the criteria? Enough with the questions.
When: Saturday, September 7
Where: Atlas Brew Works
Despite having a baby-faced founder and a cherubic head brewer, both of whom may be operating under the Benjamin Button model of reverse-aging, Atlas Brew Works (as an institution) is getting older. In fact, the Ivy City brewery is fast approaching its sixth anniversary.
Six years! It feels like just yesterday I was sitting down with bossman Justin Cox and founding brewer Will Durgin in their dingy production floor “tasting room.” That was long before Atlas opened its slick taproom, and certainly well before it started construction on a second brewery and taproom near Nats Park. (Coming Spring 2020!)
But let’s not look too far ahead. Let’s live in the now. Atlas is turning six. And we shall celebrate on September 7.
More specifically, we shall listen to the live music of Blue Plains and SteeloSoul, we shall participate in mini-bike races, we shall compete in MarioKart and pinball tournaments, we shall drink Blood Orange Gose slushies, we shall dunk Cox in the dunk tank, and and we shall consume the wares of Lil’ Sesame and Pelota food trucks.
Your $15 ticket (or $25 at the door) (probably want to buy in advance, huh?) includes one beer ticket and a donation to Living Classrooms. But all beers are $5 all day, so you’ll totally make back that money.
One of those beers will be Dave Trippel, the brewery’s 6th Anniversary Beer. As you might have guessed, it’s a Belgian Trippel. The twist? It was aged in rum barrels. Welcome to Flavortown.
When: Sunday, September 8
Where: Roofers Union and the rest of Adams Morgan
Is Adams Morgan Day – a 41-year-old celebration of community and the arts and service organizations – a beer event? I mean… look… probably not.
But here’s the thing: They made an Adams Morgan Day beer (à la Aslin’s Funk Parade beer and UNION Craft’s annual Charm City Bluegrass Festival brew.) So, I’ll allow it.
In this case, “they” are the brewery Atlas Brew Works (you may remember them from the blurb above) and AdMo drinking and dining establishment Roofers Union. And the beer they made is called Satanic Pig Worship.
Correction: The beer they made is called Adams Morgan Festival IPA.
It is a 5.3% session IPA. It’s hopped with… actually, I don’t know. The press release doesn’t say. Because press releases are fascist, man. It does purport to have “aromas of lemon, lime, and melon rind and ripe citrus flavors reminiscent of grapefruit and lemon.” That sounds delightful on a warm (but hopefully not sweltering) Sunday afternoon.
“Session IPAs have been a trend for years, a style attempted by so many and mastered by only a few,” Roofer Union beer guru Dave Delaplaine said in that statement. “We wanted to switch things up and try a new approach to the style, one that will better speak to our community. If Adams Morgan isn’t dynamic approachability, I don’t know what is!”
Side note: Every press release or story about a session IPA includes a quote along the lines of “Session IPAs often suck… but not ours!”
The collaboration will be on tap at least 15 establishments in Adams Morgan, so head to the fest, pop into a bar, and there’s a good chance you’ll find it. And if it’s not on draft, demand to speak to the manager and then write a nasty Yelp review.
For more on the beer, here’s a Washington City Paper article with a nonsensical riff about pizza beer.
When: September 8-15
Where: Um… DC?
DC Beer Week is coming. And so is a special Draft Picks dedicated to it. Sorry, people, I need to stretch this content like the finest pizza dough. Also, if I included DC Beer Week events, we’d have 25 Draft Picks, and I am not breaking the arbitrary rules I created three years ago.
But let’s hit the highlights rapid fire.
DC Beer Week kicks off at Bluejacket with the release of the 2019 Solidarity Brew, a German-style Kellerbier. (Given Director of Brewing Operations Ro Guenzel and Bluejacket overlord Greg Engert’s A+ track record of traditional German beers, it is supremely not hard to imagine this being the best solidarity brew to date.) (It’ll also be available in 16oz cans.)
Then come two classics: On Tuesday, all 55 ChurchKey taps are dedicated to DC beer, while six breweries compete for supremacy at Boundary Stone’s sixth Battle of the Barrel-Aged Beer. On Wednesday, seven breweries will throw down at Roofers Union’s annual Kick the Keg contest. (Show up early or risk Dave Delaplaine’s public ridicule.) On Thursday, Red Bear hosts a Women in Beer panel, while Port City completes its trilogy of Super Fun Party Times at Cotton & Reed Distillery.
When: Saturday, September 14
Where: Aslin Beer Co.
Aslin Beer Co. recently opened a chic, expansive tasting room and production facility in Alexandria, Virginia. Perhaps you heard? Perhaps you’ve visited?
If not, don’t worry, I went deep with co-founder Andrew Kelley in July’s Johann Needs a Bigger Brewery: Aslin’s Alexandria Expansion and Imperial Ambitions. Think of it as Everything You Wanted to Know About Aslin But Didn’t Know You Were Supposed to Ask.
One thing we did not discuss, though, was Aslin’s anniversary party.
Now, every brewery has an anniversary party. Draft Picks might as well be called This Month’s Brewery Anniversary Parties and Other Things. But as far as local breweries go, Aslin’s anniversary party is on another level. It’s one of the region’s most elite beer festivals. In fact, if Snallygaster wasn’t around, Aslin’s party would probably vie for the crown with The Veil’s Forever Summer and RAR’s Dank Day.
It’s not just that Aslin brings in over 120 breweries. It’s that those breweries represent roughly half of the hype breweries on the planet. Civil Society! Alvarado Street! Bearded Iris! Birds Fly South! Dancing Gnome! Finback! Tombstone! Southern Grist! I could do this all day!
Tickets are priced at a very reasonable $65, which comes with unlimited pours, a commemorative glass, and… did I mention unlimited pours? There will also be live music and whatnot.
And in better news for District dwellers, the festival has moved from Herndon to Alexandria this year, so your Lyft ride just went down $30.
When: Saturday, September 14
The Other Half invasion continues. All hail our Brooklyn overlords.
After hovering its spaceship over Gaithersburg’s Downtown Crown for a handful of can drops, the New York brewery will be driving into DC for a pop-up sale at Craft Beer Cellar and then a massive 25-draft event at ChurchKey.
Side note: Do you realize this existential dread seeping into haze bros’ hearts as they are forced to choose between Aslin’s anniversary party and an Other Half tap takeover?
So far, details are a little slim on the CBC can sales. We know that it will entail four different beers, and we know that the H Street bottle shop will open at 10:00 am. We don’t know what beers they are. But if the DTC drops are any indication, you can expect them to go heavy on the hoppy, hazy, often lactose’d IPAs.
The ChurchKey event, on the other hand, is nearly fully fleshed out. And let me just say: wowzas.
Highlights include Double Street Green (am as-yet-unreleased 10% double IPA collaboration with Trillium), the Omnipollo collab VIP Cookie Kooks (a 15.4% imperial stout with peanuts, maple, vanilla, caramel, cereal, and lactose), Triple Cream (a Triple IPA hopped with Wai-iti, Kohatu, Ekuanot, and Citra), and a mystery collab with Hudson Valley.
So, you know, a lot of beer turned all the way up to 11.
If you’re tied up on the 14th, a press release informs me that “Other Half will be popping up more informally at Boundary Stone on September 11.”
Is this all building towards something? Is Other Half DC happening? Will it really specialize in lagers? Or are these guys just dropping the occasional beer on DC? Only time will tell..
When: Thursday, September 19
This event must be serious: The title contains two colons. Personally, I would have gone with an em dash, but no one asks my opinions on these things: I just write Draft Picks.
If you haven’t been paying attention, ChurchKey has been celebrating its tenth anniversary all year with a series of events: first a hype lord showcase, then an evening with Bruery, and now a Hill Farmstead extravaganza.
Hill Farmstead probably needs no introduction: It’s one of the country’s most revered breweries. On the whole, the Vermont brewery’s beer fall into two buckets: fresh hoppy ales and mixed-fermentation saisons. But they’ve also been dabbling in a new genre: lagers!
On September 19, they’ll be sending 20 beers to ChurchKey, including: Society & Solitude #6 (a double IPA hopped with Mosaic), Of First & Last Things (an IPA hopped with Motueka, Nelson Sauvin, and Simcoe), and Conduct of Life (and IPA hopped with Amarillo and Citra).
Personally, there are two beers I’m most excited about: Double Riwaka and Double Nelson. My fascination with Double Riwaka stems from Shuan Hill’s interest in the hop: The Hill Farmstead founder recently dedicated a social media post to describing his quest to procure a steady supply of the New Zealand varietal.
The cherry on top of this event: Hill Farmstead’s Bob Montgomery will be in attendance! His job description according to LinkedIn: sales, distribution, social media, warehouse management, inventory management, and packaging. So, basically: everything but brewing.
You know the drill with ChurchKey events: All you can drink for all you can pay.
When: Saturday, September 21
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 2019, for example, it kicks off on September 21.
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, hey, I’m not here to start a debate over seasonal creep. Märzen tastes good any time of year. But a few breweries wait until actual Okotberfest (the event) to release their Oktoberfest (the beer). I think that’s cool. Coincidentally, two of those breweries produce my favorite local Festbiers. And both will celebrate the release of these beers on Saturday, September 21.
First up: Ocelot. For the second year, it’ll unleash its Festibier, Witching Hour, with an outdoor festival that doubles as a flea market with communal tables and over 15 local artists and vendors. Head brewer Jack Snyder, who gave Witching Hour a significant remodel last year, says he’s been lagering his Märzen since mid-July. As Carlos Santana once said, “Smooth.”
Ocelot will have a new commemorative 1/2 liter mugs from which you can drink Witching Hour. Unfortunately for you, I’m going to drink it all before you get there.
Inside the beltway, meanwhile, Bluejacket will release its stellar Festiber, Hill House with an Oktoberfest bash. The party will feature a Bavarian Oompah band, liter mugs, and six unfiltered German-inspired beers in rubber-clad Fraconian-style gravity kegs. $20 lands you a liter pour from any gravity keg and a Bluejacket German-style mug.
Based on conversations I’ve had with Director of Brewing Operations Ro Guenzel, there is no Neighborhood Restaurant Group event that gets him more excited.
If you’re not at Ocelot or Bluejacket on September 21, you are fucking up.
When: Saturday, September 28
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 fifth time.
This year, they’ve narrowed their focus to primarily the best breweries from Maryland (including Sapwood Cellars, Astro Lab, and UNION Craft) and DC (Bluejacet, Red Bear, Right Proper, and more). And, of course, you can’t have a Make It Funky without Virginia’s Black Narrows, so at least some of the Chapman family will be in the house. (Head Brewer Josh Chapman tells me that Black Narrows will be bringing its first spontaneously fermented ale, which was conditioned on Pennsylvania apricots after being aged in previously inoculated barrels… that were gifted to him by Denizens at the 2017 Make It Funky Fest. Now that is an awesome story.)
Side note: As I’ve said in the past, brewers and beer reps truly love – and go out of their way – to work this festival, which says a lot.
$60 gets you access to unlimited nectar from all those breweries. That’s a lot of beer. 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.
For an extra $15, you can upgrade to VIP, which nets you a special tasting of reserve beers and early access to “chat with brewers and brewery reps.” Just make sure to brush your teeth prior to arrival.
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 28
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 the Sovereign, this year’s Zwanze blend… isn’t a blend?!?
“Contrary to past iterations of Zwanze, this beer is not the result of a special blend or the addition of a special fruit, but of a wholly unique brew – a smoked Lambic!” they write, taunting me with the use of an em dash. “Zwanze 2019 strikes a balance between the acidic character of Lambic and the woodiness of the smoked malt. The result is a fine Gueuze with the classic notes of a Cantillon beer, complemented by an elegant smokiness in the nose and on the palate.”
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 Gueuze 100% Lambic, Kriek, Magic Lambic, Nath, and St. Lamvinus Grand Cru.
When: Saturday, September 28
Where: UNION Craft Brewing
After over seven years and 250+ beers, our national crisis is over: UNION Craft Brewmaster – and German beer sensei – Kevin Blodger has made an Oktoberfest lager.
It’s about damn time.
UNION will be throwing events across DC and Maryland all month to showcase Fest Beer (including a September 14 event at The Berliner), but the rollout culminates with an Oktoberfest party at the brewery on September 28.
This party promises music, food, glassware, and a whole lot of German beer.
In addition to the Oktoberfest, the brewery will have on tap: Balt Altbier, Blackwing Black Lager, Skipjack Pilsner, Old Pro Gose, Balt The More Sticke Alt, Schmoke Rauchbier, Hasselbrau Hefeweizen, Rough Draughts: Kolsch, and Rough Draughts: Barrel-Aged Rauchbier.
That’s practically a German beer immersion program.