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Posted at 3:35 PM ET, 07/25/2005

What's Brewing on the Hill and at the Zoo

By Fritz Hahn

Two of my favorite things -- outdoor happy hour and the cask-conditioned beer known as real ale -- now come together every Thursday at the Capitol City Brewing Company on Capitol Hill.

Every Thursday, weather permitting, brewer Pete Velez will be out on Cap City's patio, pouring beer from a tiny barrel called a firkin. (I've gone on about cask-conditioned ale before; it's a traditional English style that's served warmer than what many Americans are used to. It contains live yeast, so the beer is still "alive" when you drink it.)

Last week's brew was Velez's Amber Waves Ale, and the cask version was richer and smoother than what I've tasted inside, with a nice, hoppy bitterness up front. Velez works the lone outdoor tap himself, offering conversation and tasting notes on the beer. Because it's happy hour, this is a steal: From 6 to 8, pints are $2.50, and that price includes a souvenir pint glass etched with the Cap City logo.

This week's beer, Velez told me, will be another cask of the Amber Waves. He's not sure what will follow that, but says it may be an Irish red. The patio is raised from street level, so you can actually chat with your date or your friends without having to shout over idling buses. It's an excellent way to relax after work.

The Washington area has a lively brewpub and microbrew scene, but unless you're willing to drive from Leesburg to Gaithersburg to Annapolis, it can be tough to keep up with what's going on. That's why I enjoy local beer festivals like the Old Dominion Beer Festival or the Capitol City Oktoberfest in Shirlington. The point isn't to get drunk -- though people surely do -- but to sample brews you've never tried and maybe find a new favorite. If you discover a beer you like from, say, Annapolis's Fordham Brewing Company, chances are they'll make another you'll enjoy, so you have a new reason to make a daytrip to Annapolis.

The National Zoo's upcoming Brew at the Zoo, a fundraiser that features unlimited samples of beer, food and live music, sounds like a promising place to explore the scene and expand your palette. Nine local breweries and brewpubs are bringing their products on Aug. 25: Capitol City Brewing Company, Sweetwater Tavern, the Arlington branch of Rock Bottom Brewery, Fordham, Founders, Shenandoah Brewing Company, Hops, Baltimore's Clipper City Brewing Company, and the Barley and Hops Grill and Microbrewery.

A baker's dozen of regional, national and international beers completes the lineup, including Young's (London, England), Belhaven (Scotland), Chimay (Belgium), DeKoninck (Belgium), Abita (New Orleans), Rogue (Portland, Oregon), Dogfish Head (Rehoboth, Del.) and He'Brew, the kosher brew from San Francisco.

Food comes from Chipotle, Sequoia, Lebanese Taverna, Cafe Saint-Ex and, oddly, the Zoo Bar, which has never been known for its cuisine.

Tickets are $35 in advance ($25 for members) and include all the beer you wish to sample, food and entertainment from PaPaSHaKE and Jeff Wells. (Wells is a beer connoisseur who works as a regional sales manager for several of the participating breweries.) Proceeds from Brew at the Zoo benefit the Zoo's Asian elephant conservation program. You can purchase advance tickets here.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | July 25, 2005; 3:35 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Thanks for the pointer, this sounds like a lot of fun. Finally something more exciting to do in Woodley Park than get drunk at Murphy's or crash proms at the Wardman Park.

Also, apropos of very, very little, I suppose a reminder of next week's Restaurant Week might be good for some of us cheaper blog readers. The slots are filling up fast, of course, but there's still some good times available.

Posted by: rob | July 26, 2005 6:54 PM | Report abuse

PapaShake is great - fun & funky

Posted by: deanie | July 27, 2005 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I saw papashake sometime last year in Arlington at the Rhodeside - they were great. Can't wait to sample the beer with my girls and dance with papashake.

Posted by: Shayne | August 8, 2005 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Fritz- You stated in your entry regards the Brew at the Zoo event "that the Zoo Bar (note the name is actually Zoo Bar Cafe) has never been known for its cuisine",have you ever had their fantasic 1/2 pound Harley burgers?,or their beef barbeque,which incidently was one of the most popular servings at the Brew at the Zoo event.You should sample their menue,most everything is homemade and prepared fresh when ordered.

Posted by: Steve | September 9, 2005 7:38 PM | Report abuse

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