Get Your Fill During D.C. Beer Week
Craft beer bars like Birreria Paradiso, Brasserie Beck, R.F.D. and Granville Moore's have helped turn Washington into a capital-B Beer Town in recent years, but it's always been a sum-of-the-parts collection of microbrew-friendly destinations instead of a unified front.
That's about to change, though, with the launch of D.C. Beer Week, a six-day celebration of beer that involves taverns and restaurants across the city, from high-end hop havens to laid-back neighborhood bars.
And while beer lovers can get their fix of rare Belgian styles, limited-edition Dogfish Head concoctions and tasty cask ales, there's more than just boozing on the agenda -- try live music, cheese tasting, a freak show and even baseball.
"The idea is really to emphasize more than just beer," says Jeff Wells, one of the organizers. "We wanted to include nightlife all over town -- we wanted to feature H Street, Capitol Hill, U street, Adams Morgan. And we wanted to showcase places that aren't known for their beer, like music venues, not just beer bars. The idea is that it's a door opener, to get people into new venues and have them drink really good beers.
"What's exciting for me is that we've come a really long way -- we've reached that point where when restaurants open, they offer good craft beers. And I hope we can use beer to introduce people to new bars and restaurants."
Multiple bars will be hosting events every night. Sometimes you'll just pay for the beer you drink. Other events are more involved, like the $75-per-person tasting led by an award-winning brewmaster. Here's a night-by-night guide to some of the highlights. For more information, see dcbeerweek.com or join the event's Facebook group for updates.
Sunday, Aug. 16
The "Unity Jam" at the Rock & Roll Hotel features live reggae, rock and blues from See-I, the Blackjacks, the Laura Tsagaris Band and the Jeff Wells Band from 2 to 8 p.m. Besides the music, $20 gets you 10 samples of new and hard-to-find beers like Allagash Four, Troegs Dead Reckoning Porter, Victory V-Saison and Brooklyn's Oktoberfest.
After the Hotel party ends, there's an afterparty down the street at the Pug sponsored by Oregon's Rogue Brewery, with Dead Guy Ale and Dead Guy Whiskey on special all night.
Monday, August 17
Allagash brewer Rob Tod leads a six-course dinner at Granville Moore's, with house-cured pork belly, cheeses, lamb shoulder and other dishes paired with Belgian-style beers from his Portland, Maine, brewery. All-inclusive tickets are $75, and the meal begins at 7. Call the restaurant for reservations.
Dogfish Head crashes the Belgo-centric draft lineup at Beck for the night, offering Raison D'Etre, Theobrama and Fort for $5 a glass from 5 to 7. (You get to take your logo glass home with you.)
Hoppy beers -- tongue-puckering, brutally bitter hoppy beers -- are one of those things that divide beer lovers. Some hate 'em. Others think the bigger the hop load, the better. If you find yourself in the latter camp, swing by the Black Squirrel between 7:30 and 10 for "Hop Times in the City: A Beer Tasting for Hopheads & the People Who Love Them." The $40 ticket includes tastes of five big-time brews, including the Avery Maharaja, Green Flash IPA and Speakeasy's Double Daddy IPA, plus a hopped-up cocktail and hop ice cream. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to make reservations.
Pairing beer and sausage is a no-brainer, and the combination of beer and fancy cheese is becoming more and more common. "Sausage, Cheese, and Beerliciousness" at the Big Hunt offers microbrews from across the country along with regional sausage and cheese. The $25 ticket includes food and drink, and is available from thebighunt.net. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Chimay, a brewery owned by Belgian monks, makes delicious cheese as well as three amazing beers. At Birreria Paradiso, they're using the cheese on their pizzas and putting the beer on draft. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Tuesday, August 18
Oregon's Rogue Brewery had originally planned to offer Oregon oysters with its beers during its "Oregon Ale and Oyster Festival" at the Reef, but apparently it hasn't been a good year for Oregon oysters, so organizers are bringing in mollusks from elsewhere. No matter, though -- there will be plenty of Rogue beers on draft and used in the night's menu. All food and drinks are a la carte.
Brooklyn Brewery brewer Garrett Oliver has become famous in beer circles for his book "The Brewmaster's Table," which is all about pairing beer with food. He's an evangelizer for pairing cheese with beer instead of wine, and at Cafe Saint-Ex, you can try four Brooklyn beers, including the new Local 2, with cheeses supplied by Cowgirl Creamery. Tickets are $20; make a reservation by calling Saint-Ex. The tasting begins at 7.
Speaking of pairings, what better to enjoy with New Orleans' own Abita beer than a traditional shrimp and crawfish boil? At the Argonaut, $30 gets unlimited Abita Amber beer and an all-you-can-eat meal with coleslaw and other treats. As I write this, only 28 slots are left for the 6 p.m. dinner, so move quickly and e-mail email@example.com.
Wednesday, August 19
The founders of Coney Island Lagers give their beers names like "Human Blockhead" and "Sword Swallower" in honor of the sideshow performers who haunt the famous seaside resort, so it's only appropriate that they're hosting a party at the Palace of Wonders, which features daredevils, sideshow acts and burlesque dancers on its stage every weekend. (There's talk of "a performance by an authentic Coney Island Freak Show legend" at the event.) Doors open at 9 and admission is free.
Belgian beers are classified as "single," "double," "triple" or "quadruple" ales based on the amount of malt used during brewing. Marvin's "Hit for the Cycle" food-and-beer event features one sample of each style, plus a buffet-style meal with pork ribs (braised with Belgian beer) and Belgian meetballs. The tasting begins at 5:30; the $35 admission includes tax and tip.
With all the great beers coming into Washington this week, it's easy to overlook the brews being made right here. Barrett Lauer of the District Chophouse will be leading tours of his facility and offering half-price pints from 3 to 7 p.m.
CommonWealth usually has two tasty beers from Downingtown, Pennsylvania's Victory Brewing Company on its English cask engines, and during the "Drink to Victory" party from 5 to 10, there will be a couple of "limited-release seasonal beers" offered as well.
Thursday, August 20
It's a big night for Troegs Brewing: The Harrisburg brewery's beers will be offered all night at the Red and the Black -- take advantage of the back patio if the weather's nice -- while the bar gives away pint glasses from 7 p.m. on.
And over at Asylum, the dark, malty Troeganator Double Bock will sell at reduced prices all night, along with Rogue's Dead Guy Ale and Coney Island Sword Swallower lager.
Friday, Aug. 21
The last happy hour of D.C. Beer Week takes place at R.F.D. Washington, with specials on the highly regarded beers from Allagash, Bell's and Dogfish Head between 4 and 8 p.m.
It must be fate that D.C. Beer Week coincides with the Nationals playing host to the Milwaukee Brewers. Even though the beer selection in the stands is lackluster, the Nats are offering discounted prices in the mezzanine or outfield reserved stands to anyone who mentions D.C. Beer week when they call 202-640-7648 to order tickets.
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