Sure, you love beer.
When you head to the bar for happy hour with friends, you carefully consider the draft, can, and bottle lists. You often order something you’ve never tasted, just to see what it’s like. You might have gotten into the habit of filling a growler at a brewery every weekend, or stopping by the neighborhood bottle shop two or three times during the week. Perhaps you’re comfortable with spending $10 on a special beer every now and again.
But have you left work at 2 p.m. or woken up at dawn to wait in a line that stretches around the block outside a brewery or a bar so a staff member could assign you a number like you were standing at a deli? Did you wait in a four-deep throng or an interminable queue for a four-ounce pour of some rare beer that either hails from a vast distance or is available in such a miniscule quantity that it’ll be gone within half an hour?
Of course you haven’t. You’re not a whale hunter.
Local breweries have been working to create special releases for this year’s D.C. Beer Week. The innovative brews here show an impressive range of what Washington’s zymurgists have to offer—from low-alcohol near-beers to highly rare and heady big brews, and even some recipes recreated from the early 19th century. These are the most interesting ones you should seek out.
Beer gardens have been popping up even faster than small-plates spots over the past year. But it’s not all brats and hefeweizens—although there are plenty of those, too. Outdoor drinking hubs are offering a wide range of beers, including some made on the premises, and eats that range from pig heads to calamari. (And in some cases, you’re encouraged to bring your own food.) Which beer garden is the right one for you?
Before the international beer cognoscenti were hip to the smoked lagers of Bamberg, Bob and Ellie Tupper had discovered the Gouda-like quality of the Bavarian town’s Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. They’d developed an appreciation for the hand-pumped real ales of England, the distinct Kölsches and Altbiers of Rhineland, and the tart lambics of Brussels long before such brews became mainstays of American beer nerds’ “yeah, of course I’ve had that” lists.
These are just a few of the bragging rights the Bethesda couple has accumulated from more than 20 European beer trips since 1978. By phone midway through their latest six-week sojourn, Ellie, 63, and Bob, 67, describe the scenes at spots they’ve visited in England—the Wellington Pub in Birmingham, a beer festival in Plymouth, the Greenwich Union in London—with the spirited yet didactic rhythm of someone dictating an observation just crafted to perfection in his head.
Local breweries are kind of obsessed with Marion Barry. The mayor-for-life is a recurring theme in D.C.-area beer, inspiring colorful puns and providing an excuse to brew with marionberries (a type of blackberry from Marion County, Ore.). Here’s a history of the Ward 8 councilmember’s pint-sized cameos over the last few years.
Flying Dog Brewery’s UnderDog Atlantic Lager
The Frederick, Md., brewery promoted the release of this light lager with an image of Barry and the phrase “Crack one open D.C.” Barry’s lawyer asked Flying Dog to take down the ad—not because of the lowball joke, but because they didn’t have Barry’s permission to use his image for commercial purposes.