All words: Rachel Lazarus — All photos: Jeremy Kim
This past Saturday’s Snallygaster beer festival ended as all successful bacchanals should: with the distribution of free brats amongst a very dehydrated crowd. The fundraising event at Yards Park marked the first time that Snallygaster had seen such a large crowd, after outgrowing last year’s smaller Virginia venue to now fill up the large waterfront park. Organized by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Snallygaster was developed with the intent of raising funds for the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. In fact, every penny of the $5 at-the-door donations went to Arcadia… which will end up being a lot of green for greens, as up to 10,000 people were predicted to attend.
The festival, curated by beer director Greg Engert to feature over 100 diverse beers and ciders, purveyed everything from international rarities (“Franconcian Rubber-Clad Gravity Kegs” — surprisingly, not a character featured on American Horror Story, but a very nice selection of German beverages) to local favorites like DC Brau and Starr Hill. Meghan Parisi, the brewmaster of Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s upcoming brewery/restaurant Bluejacket, is a local beer maker excited to bring more “real beer” to the DC area. “Making the beer, and doing it right,” she said of Bluejacket’s brewery goals, adding that “[Bluejacket] will feel not just like a brewery, but a cohesive unit.” Bluejacket is still dealing with the tribulations of permitting, but should open up with about 200 indoor/outdoor seats this spring.
In addition to local movers and shakers, Snallygaster brought in big-name brewing companies like Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada and Flying Dog, whose booth poured something so funky, you guys. So funky. Apparently part of the “Brewhouse Rarity Series,” this beer had rye, lactobacillus, and half a pound of Old Bay per barrel. And while it sounds like a dare you’d get at a frat party, it was surprisingly crisp and refreshing.
In addition to geographic diversity, Snallygaster also brought in a number of brewers with different philosophies on what makes for a good drink. “The Beer of the Gods” — a 4.5% Kolsch from Massachusetts’ High and Mighty Beer Company — was exemplary of its brewery’s convictions. I spoke with Max and Zack Shelton (twins! adorable bearded twins!), sons of the High and Mighty’s owner Will Shelton, about what kind of beer they aim to make. “A lot of modern takes on beer on too focused on really high grav…We’re about brewing beer under 6%,” said Max. “So you can have a couple and not feel completely trashed. We want people to drink and have a good time.” Indeed, “Beer of the Gods” was a beautiful, light beer with a great pour and earthy accent; in other words, the perfect beverage for a sunny October day.
Eventually, hours following the initial massive crowding for beer, fatigued festival-goers descended onto Yard Park’s dock to enjoy the setting sun and live music. Towards 5pm, shit got a little hazy and a lot congenial. Dogs ran off leashes and were petted by many drunk people. Stripped turkey leg bones glistened next to crinkled plastic cups. Beer was handed around between strangers, a couple of scene girls danced to bad trance, and toddlers threw grass in the air like they just didn’t care. “Hey,” cackled a lady noting my press pass, “You’re not supposed to drink at work, honey!” As the festival wrapped up and everyone attempted to find the least-abused Port-a-Potty, friends leaned on each other’s shoulders and brewers chatted, exchanging cards and anecdotes. Snallygaster was not only a rousing success as a fundraiser, but also a promising indication of DC’s burgeoning beer culture.