Welcome to What the FAQ, where we ask the hard-hitting questions about an upcoming event.
Today, we’re getting down and dirty with Snallygaster.
According to a quadruple-sourced (!) sentence on Wikipedia, the snallygaster is “a dragon-like beast said to inhabit Central Maryland, the Washington DC metro area, and particularly Frederick County, Maryland.” The legend stretches back to communities of 18th-century German immigrants, who were apparently working through some issues.
Honestly, this whole Wikipedia entry is fire, so I’m just going to let it rip: “The earliest incarnations mixed the half-bird features of a siren with the nightmarish features of demons and ghouls. The snallygaster was described as half-reptile, half-bird with a metallic beak lined with razor-sharp teeth, occasionally with octopus-like tentacles. It swoops silently from the sky to pick up and carry off its victims. The earliest stories claim that this monster sucked the blood of its victims. Seven-pointed stars, which reputedly kept the snallygaster at bay, can still be seen painted on local barns.”
OK, you had me until the tentacles party. A flying creature with tentacles just doesn’t check out. But still… holy fucking shit!!! Where is the M Night Shyamalan treatment of this?
In the present day, Snallygaster is also the name of DC’s largest and arguably best beer festival. That’s what we’re here to talk about today. Going forward, Snallygaster = beer festival.
Snallygaster is a production of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (“NRG”), an Alexandria-based empire of bars and restaurants. NRG is behind some of the DC area’s premier beer bars (ChurchKey, both Rusticos, the Sovereign), one of its best breweries (Bluejacket), and a slew of dining establishments with great beer programs (The Partisan, Evening Star, Iron Gate). All in all, we’re talking about over 20 properties, which is [extreme Future voice] crazy.
Overseeing all things beer at NRG is Greg Engert, aka Slim Necktie, aka The Big Palate, aka Quaff Daddy, aka Kid Cuvée, aka Dr. Dregs, aka Lil’ Hand Pump. He is assisted by Tim Liu, who at press time did not have any nicknames.
For Snallygaster, Engert and his team are responsible for selecting close to 400 beers from over 125 breweries around the world. I repeat: 400 beers. I repeat: 125 breweries.
And because Engert is probably the most well-connected single human in the DC beer universe, he brings in breweries that are rarely if ever poured in this area. That means buzz-magnet U.S. breweries (like L.A.’s Monkish, Toronto’s Bellwoods, Berkley’s The Rare Barrel, and all the Vermont whale farms), a ton of Belgian and German rarities, and all your favorite local breweries.
Formerly held in mid-September, Snallygaster is on Saturday, October 13th this year.
Do you know what one downside of the last few Snallygasters was? Trying to enjoy #rare beer whilst your face melted off under the unforgiving sun. You know what’s better? Mid-October. Mid-October is my time to shine. Puffy vest, not-sweaty jeans, cold beer, can’t lose.
VIP entrance for Snallygaster is at noon. Sadly, to quote the title of Drake’s beloved mixtape, if you’re reading this it’s too late. VIP passes are sold out. That means you will miss the sight of grown men (and women) (but mostly men) sprinting from the festival entrance to the stations where the #rarest beers are being poured. When I say “sprinting,” I mean sprinting. Sprinting to (literally) sweet, sweet barrel-aged imperial stout. (Don’t Drink Beer captured this beer fest phenomenon at Cigar City’s Huna Day earlier this year.)
Normie – or “general admission” – entrance is at 1:30 pm.
Will a few beers kick by 1:30 pm? Yes, sure. Will 98% of attendees notice? No.
How much is Snallygaster?
Normie tickets are $40. That covers your entrance to Snallygaster, live music, and all other non-consumable splendors. Not insignificantly, it also includes $30 worth of drink and food tickets.
Yes, Snallygaster is a ticket-based economy. If a beer is #rare and boozy, it will probably cost you a few more tickets than, say, UNION Craft’s Anthem. This requires strategic drinking.
As an alternative to the advanced ticket, you can pay $15 at the door to enter Snallygaster. You lose out on a few extra drink tickets going this route, but perhaps you are afraid of commitment.
Wait, did you say live music?
I did. The Pietasters, Rare Essence, and (BYT faves) Loud Boyz will be kicking out the jams. On top of that, DJ Brothers Brau (DC Brau founders Jeff Hancock and Brandon Skall) and DJ Stillwater’s Brian Strumke will be… hold on, let me check… ah yes, DJing. They will be DJing those hard, hard electronic beats.
Here’s another change from last year! Once the lonely child of Navy Yard, Snallygaster is now being held in downtown DC, on Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 6th NW. So, it’s basically across from the Newseum, which makes it more Uber/Lyft/Metro accessible for everyone who doesn’t live in Navy Yard.
Per a press release, the new location will allow for “far more seating, shaded areas, and restrooms.” I DON’T NEED SHADED AREAS, IT’S MID-OCTOBER, LET ME PRAISE RA IN ALL OF HIS AUTUMNAL GLORY. (Here for the extra bathrooms, though.)
Why is Snallygaster?
Heady question, bro. But thank you for asking. Snallygaster is the largest annual fundraiser for Arcadia, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in our region right here in our own backyard.”
Here you were, just trying to get drunk on some hazy Veil IPAs, and the whole time you were actually making a difference in the community. Good for yooooou.
What should I drink at Snallygaster?
Here’s the $40 question.
For the third year running, the fine folks at DC Beer have put together their Snallygaster Rankings. And for the second year, BYT voted. So, we stand by that post and its top 25 beers. Truly, can’t go wrong with any of those.
But if you insist on some personal recommendations, here are the dozen breweries I am personally most excited about.
- Bellwoods (Toronto, Canada): I won’t front, this will be my first visit. Bellwoods can do no wrong in my book. The Canadian brewery is sending two different fruited version of their dry-hopped sour ale Jelly King, as well as the Citra IPA Roman Candle. Bellwoods has been reluctant to send its IPAs south of the border, so this is a big get.
- Burial (Asheville, North Carolina): Beer nerds (not incorrectly) will reach for the bourbon barrel-aged coffee stout, but I’m coming for that wet-hop pilsner. Burial has proven again and again to be an incredibly versatile brewery.
- Monkish (Torrance, California): Hazy triple IPA. Hazy double IPA. Just like the rest of the L.A. area, they’ve got haze for days. Thank you, everyone! Tip your waiters!
- Foam (Burlington, Vermont) Just like Monish and Great Notion, you can file Foam under “hazy IPA hype monsters.” That said, they are sending a pilsner, as well.
- Birds Fly South (Greenville, South Carolina): Birds Fly South makes Brett saisons about as well anyone in the country. Oddly enough, though, they are not sending a Brett saison to Snallygaster. What they are sending is foedre-aged braggot (a mead-beer fusion) and a pastry stout. I’m sure they are wonderful.
- Great Notion (Portland, Oregon): A hazy IPA and a fruit lactose vanilla sour? Sounds about right from the Oregon hype monster. (They have a very cool space if you ever find yourself in Portland.)
- Suarez Family (Hudson, New York): Perhaps more than any U.S. brewery, Suarez Family is making lager cool again through the sheer power of quality. The New York brewery is also sending a mild because YOLO.
- Ocelot (Dulles, Virginia): I don’t give a fuck if it’s local: Ocelot makes #elite beers on par with anything at Snally. The main attraction here is probably Walking with Spiders, an 8% ABV blend of bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout and regular ol’ stout. But Fading Beauty (a Nelson and Huell Melon DIPA) is also stunner, and the other day head brewer Jack Snyder told me that Velvet Sea (a coconut porter collab with Fair Winds) is one of his five favorite Ocelot beers ever.
- Hill Farmstead (Greensboro, Vermont): Shaun Hill is the Lebron James of mixed-ferm saisons.
- Cushwa (Williamsport, Maryland): Cushwa is the region’s next great brewery, and they’re bringing to Snally the hazy IPAs they normally horde for the taproom. (Also, I swear to god, BYT’s long-overdue Cushwa profile is coming soon.)
- Blackberry Farm (Walland, TN): Blackberry Farm makes some of my favorite “clean” saisons this side of the Atlantic. Go ahead and forward its new Harvest Ale (brewed with spelt, rye, and oats) directly to my stomach.
- Great Raft Brewing (Shreveport, Louisiana): I’ve yet to have a less-than-stellar beer from this DC Beer alumnus.
Should my friends and I amass a table of small pours so we can share everything and each drink 1oz of 70 beers?
I don’t know, that sounds neither hygienic nor fun, but do you.
What should I wear to Snallygaster?
Normal-ass clothes. This is a beer festival, not Halloween.
Are we in Germany?
Friends don’t let friends drink and wear pretzel necklaces.
What the fuck is wrong with you people?
My favorite kilt?
I’m gonna let kilts slide.
Where can I learn even more about Snallygaster?
It has a website.