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Photo: courtesy of Via Sophia

New and Notable: Casta’s Rum Bar, Oak Steakhouse, Piccolina and More

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

NEW

Casta’s Rum Bar
Open: August 2
Location: West End
Lowdown: This colorful Cuban oasis is the result of a collaboration between the mayor-appointed Chairman of Nightlife and Culture, Vinoda Basnayake (who is also behind Heist Night Club and Morris American Bar) and the Cuban owner of Castañeda Cigars, Arian Castañeda. The indoor dining area and bar hides underground, but is full of life thanks to plenty of greenery, weathered walls and murals of the streets of Havana. Outside, the patio is infinitely Instagrammable, with lots more wall art and plants, dangling string lights and leaf tropical print upholstery. Chef Alberto Vega’s menu is made up of Cuban classics like a Cuban sandwich, empanadas, croquetas and ceviche Caribeño with citrus, mango, pineapple, cucumber and plantain chips. Cocktails are mainly rum-based and they don’t skimp on the rum. Choose from a simple mojito or a playful frozen Sexo Tropical with cognac, rum, coconut Red Bull and watermelon. For the full Cuban experience, pair your meal or drink with a cigar in the designated area of the patio. 1121 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.castasrumbar.com

Oak Steakhouse
Open: July 12
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: Oak Steakhouse from Charleston-based restaurant group Indigo Road Hospitality has sprouted up in Alexandria. It’s the group’s second outpost in the area – the first being O-Ku Sushi restaurant in the Union Market neighborhood. Executive chef Joseph Conrad helms the newest location of Oak, highlighting Virginia ingredients with modern flair. The rustic reclaimed wood and exposed brick dining room gives way to a pewter tile open kitchen, where steaks and chops are the centerpiece. The options range from a modest 8-oz. Certified Angus Beef filet to a massive 36-oz., 60-day, dry-aged prime porterhouse for two. All the cuts can be enhanced with sauces and butters like the house steak sauce or black truffle butter, as well as accompaniments like a grilled half lobster tail or bone marrow. As if that wasn’t enough, there are decadent sides like baked and fried potatoes and crispy Brussels sprouts.  Don’t forget to start with appetizers like parker house rolls with cultured butter or creamy oysters Rockefeller. For dessert, opt for the peanut butter semifreddo, which mimics the flavors of a caramel apple, with caramel sauce, peanuts and Granny Smith chunks. 901 North Saint Asaph St. Alexandria, VA; www.oakalexandria.com

Piccolina
Open: July 29
Location: CityCenter
Lowdown: Chef Amy Brandwein’s restaurant family has grown by one with the addition of Piccolina, or “little one.” Her second restaurant complements the first, as an all-day café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s right across the alley from Centrolina restaurant and market, in the former RareSweets space, which was given an Italian makeover with brushed wood, hammered copper countertops, colorful and comfortable seating and a wood-fired oven. Much of the menu comes from that oven, including 10 rotating varieties of freshly baked breads and sandwiches, crepes and omelets cooked in custom long-handled iron pans and roasted fruits and vegetables like grapefruit and broccoli rabe. In addition, Piccolina is now home to several of the market offerings formerly at Centrolina, like pastries, coffee and prepared items like chicken salad, caponata and the beloved eggplant Parm. Rotating Italian varietals of wine as well as spritzes and house-made sodas pair well with the selections. Brandwein took significant time to prepare for the opening of Piccolina – she took a research and development trip to Sicily to perfect one of the featured wood-fired menu items, a stuffed flatbread called scacce. She also attended the San Francisco Baking Institute to learn the craft of bread baking. The menu will change with the seasons, as ingredients are available from the nonprofit farm DC Urban Greens. 963 Palmer Alley, NW, DC; www.piccolinadc.com

Via Sophia
Open: June 12
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: As part of the Hamilton Hotel’s multi-million dollar renovation, the property is now home to Via Sophia, a southern Italian osteria. The restaurant is headed up by executive chef Colin Clark, who served as the chef de cuisine at Fiola Mare. Sleek and bright, the space lined is with black and white quartz, illuminated by geometric fixtures and dotted with antique pizza paraphernalia. On the menu, Neapolitan pizza is a focus, kissed by the flames of the oak-burning oven handmade in Italy. Antipasti, crudo, pasta and hearty entrees like monkfish ossobucco round out the offerings. The beverage program skews heavily toward Italian wines, with local craft beers and spirits available as well. For an aperitif or a nightcap, head around the corner to the micro cocktail bar, situated off the lobby and hidden by day. Society is revealed at happy hour, when the 1920s art deco-inspired bar and lounge opens to the public. With dim lighting, dark leather, diamond glass chandeliers and curious artifacts, the space is reminiscent of the alleged interior of Yale’s Skull and Bones Society’s meeting hall. The succinct menu includes craft libations like the Triumvirate with whiskey, walnut liqueurs, dry vermouth and house bitters. 1001 14th St. NW, DC; www.viasophiadc.com

NOTABLE

Hook Hall
Location: Park View
Lowdown: DC’s coolest new event space has taken shape in a 13,500-square-foot 1940s building, with modern touches that don’t erase the antique character. On the walls, dark black bricks – actual cinderblocks – peek through industrial fixtures and a 15-foot projector screen. The café and tavern takes after its namesake, Captain Hook: Hook Hall is a place where no one will tell you to grow up. Dog- and kid-friendly, the space is filled with lawn games, communal tables and cabanas on the outdoor synthetic lawn. During the day, the café offers Vigilante coffee and food from Bread and Chocolate. In the evening, it turns into a bar and beer garden with cocktails, beer, wine and food from rotating local vendors like Rocklands, Smoke and Ember and Sunrise Caribbean. (After 9pm, it’s 21+.) The venue is regularly open to the public and also available for private bookings. Owner Anna Valero also plans to offer events like beer and wine festivals, edutainment courses, screenings of sporting events (including international soccer), workout classes and more. 3400 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.hookhall.com

Odd Provisions at Dio Wine Bar
Location: H Street
Lowdown: Pioneering natural wine bar, Dio, has partnered with a fellow woman-owned business to revamp their food offerings. [email protected] began this summer and is here to stay, featuring the food by Odd Provisions, a contemporary corner market in Columbia Heights. The new menu was designed with wine in mind – think cheese and charcuterie pairings, snacks like chicken liver mousse, hummus and pickles, as well as seasonal salads and sandwiches like the spicy salami with herb pesto, Gordy’s cherry pepper spread, fennel confit and pecorino. The partnership also means you can place special orders to buy Dio wines through Odd Provisions. 904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Photo: Raisa Aziz

Big Flavors, Baller Bubbles At Zeppelin

While frosé floods the District in warm weather months, the creative minds behind Zeppelin encourage discerning drinkers to sip on something a little bit more progressive this fall. From the brothers behind the extensive cocktail list at Chaplin’s in Logan Circle, Micah and Ari Wilder crafted Zeppelin’s short but heavy-hitting cocktail list with one goal: be approachably esoteric.

“We steer clear of trendy,” Micah says bluntly. “Whatever’s in, we try not to capitalize [on it].”

Their approach at the Shaw newcomer, which opened this spring, is to draw inspiration from experiencing taste and travel. From architectural aesthetics to discovery of an unusual and savory ingredient, the Wilder brothers pride themselves on not acting on things they see everyone else doing.

“[Ideas] don’t just come from our dining experiences,” Ari adds. “It’s not always from other restaurants and cocktail bars. A lot of it is a blank canvas with very little influence from other people and places. That’s what’s always been great about us working together. We can bounce ideas off each other and one thought turns into a whole new direction.”

A large portion of the cocktail list at Zeppelin is dedicated to the highball, a tried and true cocktail that requires only a few basic ingredients: ice, a base spirit and soda water. At Zeppelin, the base spirit varies between whisky, bourbon, gin or vodka. The common denominator? They’re all Japanese and hard to find elsewhere in the city.

While most highballs are meant to be slow-sipping, many fall flat as the soda bubbles dissipate. To create the perfect cocktail, the Wilder brothers asked themselves how they could ensure a drink for sipping and savoring throughout the meal.

“We love champagne,” Ari says. “We enjoy playing with bubbles.”

Enter the Toki highball machine, a device that is able to procure champagne-like effervescence by running water through a coil system that creates small, continuous bubbles. The bubbles pass through a baking soda tablet and finish as a stream. The water pours out slower than a soda dispenser, but the result is long-lasting bubbles.

“It’s like what you see what you’re looking at the bottom of a freshly opened bottle of champagne,” Ari continues. “Bubbles continuously rising, velvety texture. It keeps going and going.”

Rather than just using champagne or a sparkling wine to enhance the cocktails, each libation is finished with highball bubbles so the drinker can enjoy a well-balanced, bubbly cocktail over a long period of time without the effect falling flat. The brothers are proud enough of this finishing touch to include it in the list of ingredients as “Baller Bubbles.”

While the use of a highball machine isn’t the most unusual idea (it’s popular in New York and Chicago), the brothers continue to revolutionize their take on highballs by mixing Japanese spirits with unusual combinations of sweet and savory ingredients.

“We didn’t want a huge, ridiculous scotch program because it doesn’t play with most of our food,” Ari comments. “The direction was to have a smaller, procured program that would focus on newer brands of spirits that aren’t everywhere.”

In fact, food plays a big factor in their approach to Zeppelin’s cocktail program.

“Sometimes you see things that you normally wouldn’t even think to add,” Micah explains. “You take sweet in a different direction. A combination of several ingredients gives us an idea. Food is definitely more of an inspiration than beverage.”

At Zeppelin, Chef Minoru Ogawa influences the cocktail list not by way of menu planning but by providing access to lesser-known ingredients to the expansive sushi menu and Japanese street fare.

“Inspiration is just walking through our kitchens and discovering cool ingredients we’ve never heard of,” Ari continues. “A part of how we’re discovering ingredients is seeing how the chefs use [them] in their sauces. We get to see and test fermented pastes. We ask the chefs about it. We start playing with [the ingredients].”

Fermented yuzu kosho (a fermented paste made from green or red Thai chili peppers, yuzu peel, and salt) and sansho (Japanese peppercorns, which are similar to but more potent than Sichuan peppercorns) are both put to work along with ingredients like pandan, tamarind vinegar and choya plum to create the cocktails on Zeppelin’s menu. The yuzu kosho in particular is the defining ingredient for Zeppelin’s number one bestselling cocktail: The Heartbreaker.

“It really pushes the depth of the cocktail,” Micah confirms.

The brothers take pride in how often regulars will come into both of their locations with questions about hard-to-find spirits and liquors. They’re both emphatic about being an approachable neighborhood restaurant.

“We have a good chef and we love the neighborhood,” Micah says of their Shaw location. “We want to give the neighborhood what it needs.”

Ari adds that their passion is reinforced by people, and “it feels so much more valuable for us to develop such an amazing staff and culture of regulars and neighborhood supporters.”

So the next time you’re at Zeppelin, dive in with questions about the cocktail program. If you’re looking for a certain spirit, the Wilder brothers will most likely source it for you and incorporate it into the next iteration of their drink menu.

“[Our customers] continue to be a part of the decisions we make.”

Learn more about Zeppelin at www.zeppelindc.com.

Zeppelin: 1544 9th St. NW, DC; 202-506-1068; www.zeppelindc.com

Beef pares // Photo: Sieg Fuster

The Best of Both Worlds: Tiki on 18th Opens Above Filipino-Inspired Sports Bar

To stand out in the rising culinary metropolis that is the DC area and have staying power, you should be prepared to offer up something different from the crowded pack of gems. That is exactly how Jo-Jo Valenzuela approached serving up mouthwatering Filipino food at sports bar The Game in Adams Morgan, and the menu at their new upstairs getaway Tiki on 18th.

After all, one can go to any sports bar in the District and get a beer and watch the game. But where can you find one that also serves up meticulously prepared sizzling sisig – a popular Filipino dish of grilled pig’s ears with crispy pork belly – or lumpiang shanghai, heavenly pork and mushroom spring rolls with a sweet mango chili sauce?

“The funniest thing I’ve ever heard was when somebody looked at the menu and then just asked me, ‘What is this?’” Valenzuela says of The Game’s menu. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m Filipino.’ And the individual said, ‘Oh, so you’re a Filipino bar?’ And I said, ‘No, we are a sports bar. The cook just happens to be Filipino.’”

Valenzuela is well-known in the area for his expert mixology skills, with previous stints at Brine in Mosaic and AdMo’s Jack Rose Dining Saloon. But, The Game and now Tiki on 18th take Valenzuela from overseeing the bar to also being in the kitchen.

“If you’re passionate about making good drinks, cooking is a big part of mixology and it basically evolved into that,” he says. “Anyone can make wings, burgers or nachos and buy the best ingredients, and it’ll be good. But I grew up in the Philippines and know Filipino food, and that’s my passion. So, if I’m doing a sports bar, I’m going to do the food I’m comfortable with.”

A packed crowd on a recent college football Saturday certainly suggests customers are as equally comfortable with Valenzuela’s food.

“We have one customer that will sit in an hour’s worth of traffic just to come have the sisig,” Valenzuela says of the dish, which involves quite the tedious but worthwhile preparation process. “That’s pretty amazing.”

Along with the sisig, which Valenzuela says The Game has become known for, other dishes he recommends are the gambas al ajillo – shrimp with garlic chili oil and lemon served with crusty ciabatta – or the rice bowls, especially the beef pares with braised beef brisket and garlic fried rice.

For drinks, Valenzuela’s 2015 DC Rickey Competition-winning rizal is on the menu, as is a creative riff on the old fashioned. I Love My BBC (Bacon, Bourbon, Chocolate) combines bacon fat-washed Bulleit Bourbon, orange-maple syrup and chocolate bitters for a fresh take on the classic cocktail.

Upon venturing up the stairway from The Game to the second-floor Tiki on 18th, which opened this July, the vibe immediately changes to an island green paradise. Bright, palm-printed paper covers the walls of the intimate space, with gigantic wicker-patterned chandeliers and an eye-catching tiki bar to complete the tropical vibe. Guests can venture out to the Luau Patio, accented by the “Let’s Tiki, Baby” neon sign.

And while the DC area is no stranger to tiki bars – with the likes of Coconut Club near Union Market and Tiki TNT at The Wharf opening recently – the combination of talent behind the cocktails and bites at Tiki on 18th is giving it some significant advantage. Valenzuela’s partners at the tropical spot include Jonathan Peterson, co-founder of Rum Day DC, and former Service Bar bartender Saab Harrison.

“I’ve had cocktails in the area and in Chicago and New York, and the drinks we have up here are some of the best,” Valenzuela says. “We are extremely careful with how we do things upstairs.”

Cocktail favorites include the Missionary’s Downfall, a made-to-order, frothy, mint-and-fruit concoction that comes in a decorative white-and-green cup, topped with colorful fresh mint. The menu playfully describes the drink as “a pineapple, mint, peach jacuzzi in a blender.”

Valenzuela recommends adding the 1933 Mai Tai to your tasting list as well. The original recipe uses Jamaican rum, Demerara rum, lime and orgeat, creating the perfect flavor combination with a colorful pink-and-yellow tone. Another favorite is the Dons Mix Paloma. Described as “on a Mexican beach with earnest,” the tequila, lime, grapefruit and soda cocktail with a hint of cinnamon is served in a tall tiki cup.

To complement the cocktails, Valenzuela offers a tasty menu at Tiki on 18th of “easy bites” including pulled pork tacos, fatty braised beef tostada, grilled skewers and Mexican street corn. Filipino flavors still inspire the menu upstairs, with BBQ glaze marinade on the pork belly kebabs and a heavenly seasoning on the beef skewers. On Sundays, guests can enjoy all-day brunch from 12-8 p.m. with offerings including avocado toast with grilled pork belly, enchiladas with eggs and tostadas with kālua pork.

In the vast array of DC restaurant concepts, Filipino food in a sports bar on one floor and a tiki bar with tacos and kebabs on another is certainly a unique setup. But Valenzuela laments that if you want to be successful in this business, you truly need to find a niche – and you need to be in it for the right reasons.

“All the big places are closing and that’s really sad, but that just means that everyone needs to step their game up. You have to love what you are doing, otherwise there is no point in doing it.”

Valenzuela says he is hoping to keep the foot traffic flowing through The Game as various sports seasons start getting underway this fall, with plenty of televisions and game-day specials to come. Meanwhile at Tiki on 18th, as the temperature in the District begins to cool down, the tropical escape is sure to keep everyone warm.

Tiki on 18th and The Game: 2411 18th St. NW, DC; 202-846-1952; www.tikion18th.com and www.thegamedc.com

Photo: courtesy of Bold Rock

Bold Rock Embraces Pumpkin Season With Fall’s Harvest Haze

Pumpkin season has creeped closer and closer toward summer ever since Starbucks unveiled its Pumpkin Spice Latte way back in 2003. Since, the ultimate coffee combo has sparked a renaissance of culinary experimentation featuring the orange veggie with products ranging from coffee (duh) and pastries to this year’s Pumpkin Spice Spam (what now?) While a hint of the squash plant in a latte was a can’t-miss, the flavor’s foray into salted meats seems like a leap – but people just can’t seem to get enough, so why not? At least that’s Bold Rock’s approach.

“It’s always been a request from the customers,” says Lindsay Dorrier, Bold Rock Hard Cider’s director of new business development. “We tried to skew in the opposite direction because pumpkin was an obvious choice, [but] we finally caved because the customers wanted it so badly.”

This is likely music to the ears of cider aficionados who double as pumpkin enthusiasts. Yes, the Nellysford, Virginia-based cidery is following the unshakeable trend of tossing out a pumpkin product with its 2019 fall seasonal Harvest Haze. But Dorrier says the flavor will still be distinctly Bold Rock as the cidery took heavy precautions against simply pumping out something they knew could sell.

So while the cider is unlike the brand’s typically crystal-clear beverages – with floating bits and pieces of our favorite orange edible providing a unique texture – apples are still front and center and prevalent throughout.

“We wanted to craft a pumpkin-infused cider that was still a quintessential Bold Rock cider,” he says. “It’s still an apple cider. It’s just got a hint of pumpkin. We really tried to capture a flavor profile [for] the entire fall harvest.”

Dorrier says the team prepped for the fall season’s newest addition for about eight months, adding that the cidery was still tinkering with what would become the final product at the 11th hour. While the bottle features an orange logo, it’s clear the team didn’t take the path of least resistance by simply dialing up pumpkin flavors. Instead, the cider makers sought to capture the entire palate of the fall season.

“We wanted to create something that we could toast to the entire fall harvest,” he says. “Pumpkin is an important [part] of the flavor profile, but not the entire part. [For] any seasonal variance we use, all the alcohol comes from apples, but we want it to shine through as well. We add in a jolt of excitement depending on what we want to do with the flavor.”

While most fall pumpkin-infused products veer on the sweet side, including other ciders, Bold Rock was weary of overdoing it with Harvest Haze. While they ultimately want to nail it with cider drinkers who championed this special varietal, Bold Rock didn’t want to produce a cider that couldn’t be enjoyed by people who aren’t as cavalier about pumpkin consumption.

“We try to bridge that gap between pumpkin-crazed and the people fatigued,” he says. “We wanted something that could appeal to both. We wanted some nuance in that profile. We didn’t want the drink to live and die [with] that pumpkin preference. If you crave the dry, we have it covered. If you want something fruit-forward, we have that, too. We’re just trying to explore all corners of the palate.”

With apples hailing from Virginia and pumpkins sourced from the Pacific Northwest, the cider hits all marks for both the cider crazed and those enthusiastic drinkers looking for anything featuring the season’s most versatile vegetable.

Bold Rock Hard Cider’s Harvest Haze hits shelves in October and will be available throughout Northern Virginia and DC. For more information about the seasonal release and other Bold Rock varietals, visit www.boldrock.com.

Photo: Michael Stein

What’s On Tap: DC Beer Week 2019 Celebrates Collaborations, Comradery and Craft Beer

DC Beer Week is back with eight days of beer-themed festivities around the District, from September 8-15. From homebrew competitions and fun runs to comedy nights and crab feasts, the options are endless. We caught up with the creative minds behind Bluejacket and District ChopHouse’s beer menus about this year’s DC Beer Week lineup and the 2019 Solidarity Beer, a German kellerbier crafted at Bluejacket with nearly a dozen collaborating brewers.


Barrett Lauer
Head Brewer at District ChopHouse & Brewery

On Tap: What got you into brewing?
Barrett Lauer: I was working in the kitchen at The Wharf Rat [in Baltimore] and became friends with the brewer through our mutual love of beer and music. He offered me an apprenticeship, and I never looked back.

OT: What beers do you gravitate toward on a menu?
BL: I usually will start with a lighter, lower-ABV beer first. In the summer, I will start with a German pilsner, Vienna lager or Czech pils. If it’s chilly, I may want something more like a Scottish ale. I always like to try kellerbiers, especially at a brewery. Good, lighter beers are trickier to make because the flaws stick out.

OT: Do you sell any special bottles at District ChopHouse?
BL: We have some vintage beers that we sell. We also hold tasting events, like our upcoming cask event, where we serve some special beers from local breweries. We will also be serving the Solidarity Beer brewed for DC Beer Week.

OT: It seems like the beer industry is more collaborative than other types of businesses. Does that ring true for you?
BL: The local brewers all share the same goal of exposing more people to craft beer. If they try mine, they will go to Bluejacket, Atlas or one of the other local craft breweries and vice versa. Once you’ve had flavorful, fresh beer, it’s hard to go back.

OT: What special events do you have planned for DC Beer Week?
BL: We are hosting Cask [Day/Night] on September 6. We will line the perimeter of the brewers’ lounge with tables and patrons will be able to pour their own beers. There will be an assortment of ales and lagers and other beer styles. There will be Oktoberfest, dunkels (dark German lager), blond ale, hazy IPA and more. 

OT: What’s unique about cask ales?
BL: With a cask, after primary fermentation, it’s put in a vessel and then primed. Sometimes, you may add more hops. Some darker beers may have chocolate, toasted oak or coffee. The carbon dioxide produced by secondary fermentation is typically not as carbonated and is typically a softer texture than forced CO2.

District ChopHouse & Brewery: 509 7th St. #1, NW, DC; www.districtchophouse.com


Ro Guenzel
Director of Brewing Operations at Bluejacket

On Tap: How did you get started in brewing?
Ro Guenzel: I started as a homebrewer. My mom bought me a pale ale homebrew kit when I turned 21. My second homebrew was a German pils. They are my love. 

OT: What is one piece of advice you’d give to new beer drinkers?
RG: For most beers; drink fresh. The cellaring of beer introduces the unknown. 

OT: What inspired this year’s Solidarity Beer? What’s notable about a German kellerbier?
RG: The Solidarity kellerbier is a youngish lager beer [and] hazy amber in color. It is modestly bitter and balanced out with a touch of caramel malt. It has plenty of German hops in the flavor and nose.

OT: How did you decide on the style and recipe?
RG: When picking the beer, we try to pick something that fits in with the portfolio of the host brewery [and] that will get brewers excited, showcase what they make and be something that people will want to drink. We took the time of year into consideration. Kellerbiers are typically unfiltered, unpasteurized lagers from the German brewing tradition. The name translates directly to “cellar beer.” 

OT: Do you have any upcoming special releases or events?
RG: For DC Beer Week, we will be serving all of the collaborators’ beers at the kickoff party on September 8. Bluejacket will can about 50 cases of Solidarity Beer for sale out of the tasting room. This year for the first time, all the proceeds will be donated to the DC Brewers’ Guild. [At Snallygaster 2019 on October 12], there will be over 400 beers from 150 breweries around the world. Bluejacket will be serving cans as well as kegs. 

OT: What are you drinking now?
RG: All of this talk of German beers put me in the mood for a nice German festbier.

Don’t miss DC Beer Week from September 8-15 at various locations around DC. Visit www.dcbeerweek.net for the full lineup of events and learn more about Bluejacket and District ChopHouse below.

Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

Disclosure: Dan Rozman is an investor in several breweries and The Minister
of Membership for Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP).


DC Beer Week Events

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Porktober Fest
Mark your calendar! The second annual Old Ox Porktoberfest is happening the first day of September. Celebrate Labor Day Weekend with the release of Oxtober Bier, pretzels and pastries from The Baekehaus, a pig roast, and other delicious pork dishes from RESQ BBQ Catering. Enjoy live music from Felix Pickles and Rowdy Ace, a stein-lifting contest, and more. 4-9 p.m. Free to attend. Old Ox Brewery: 44652 Guilford Dr. Ashburn, VA; www.oldoxbrewery.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Brews Around the World: DC International Beer, Wine & Food Festival
Join this celebration of the very best of global beer and cuisine in our nation’s capital. You’ll get your own tasting glass for unlimited tastings of more than 80 carefully selected beers in a single session. Plus, two dozen amazing wines, 10+ ciders, hard sodas, gluten free options and more. There will be a DJ playing music all day and lots of outdoor games, arts and activities. 12:30-8 p.m. Tickets $20-$69. The Bullpen: 1201 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

The Area Two Experimental Brewing Showcase

Join The Sovereign as they celebrate DC Beer Week 2019 with the fine folks from Area Two Experimental Brewing. You’ll see six wild and funky beers from the brand new Connecticut brewery. Meet master brewer and co-founder Phil Markowski of Area Two, which is a sour, barrel-aging and experimental brewery from Two Roads Brewing Company. The offshoot brewery will produce a wide range of sour beers, including spontaneously fermented ales inspired by the legendary Lambics of Belgium. Headlining the list is the award-winning Hexotic 2019, a Lambic-inspired ale aged two years in oak barrels, then conditioned on mango, orange, passionfruit, guava, pineapple and guanabana. All Two Roads beers will be priced individually by the glass and in 4 oz. tasting pours. The menu is subject to change without notice. 5-11:30 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW; www.thesovereigndc.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Beer Yoga

Bring your own mat and flow through a flight of Right Proper Brewery favorites during this hour-long power yoga class. You’ll sip and stretch at Right Proper’s Production House in Brookland. Come for yoga, nama’stay for beer. One three-glass flight included in yoga class ticket purchase. Noon-1 p.m. Tickets $15. Right Proper Brewing Company Brookland Production House and Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

Heurich Oktoberfest: Senate Beer Style
This Heurich Oktoberfest celebration has a new twist: The Senate Beer revival will be fully available to the public for the first time, and some new partners will help celebrate. This Oktoberfest-style biergarten festival will take place in the Castle Garden and feature Senate Beer plus brews from Sankofa Beer Company, Red Bear Brewing Co., ANXO Cidery, Silver Branch Brewing Co., Supreme Core Cider, Crooked Run Brewing and Streetcar 82. Owners and representatives of these breweries and cideries will be onsite. All tickets include unlimited tastings and full-pours, a meal and one pretzel, all locally made. 1-4 p.m. $65-$85. Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

Oktoberfest Kick Off Party at Hops N Shine
Join Hops N Shine to celebrate the start of Oktoberfest! Participate in stein hoisting competitions, eating competitions and specials all Oktoberfest long. 2-5 p.m. Free to attend. Hops N Shine: 3410 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.hopsnshine.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

Pints & Paint Nite
Grab your friends and unleash your inner artist at the Original Paint Nite. You’ll go from a blank canvas to a masterpiece of your own, with plenty of laughs along the way. Guided by a talented and entertaining artist, you’ll be amazed at what you create, and how much fun you have doing it. Instruction is provided by an expert host, so no experience is required, and everything you need is supplied. Fill up on the many Solace brews on tap. 7 p.m. Tickets $35. Solace Brewing: 42615 Trade W Dr. #100, Sterling, VA; www.solacebrewing.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

5th Annual Make It Funky Wild Beer Festival
It’s Denizens Brewing Co.’s fifth annual ‘Make It Funky’ Wild Beer Festival, which celebrates the unique and mouth-watering style of wild and sour brews. Craft beer fans from all over the DMV will gather to sample funky beers from breweries around the region while listening to live music. This year’s focus is on mixed fermentation and barrel-aged beers only, so you’re guaranteed to get the best of this style from participating breweries. 12-5 p.m. Tickets $62. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 E W Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

Oktoberfest Outdoor Party at Port City
Port City’s most popular limited release beer, Oktoberfest, deserves its own party. There will be games, prizes, competitions such as stein hoisting and costumes, music, food and plenty of beer. Don’t miss out on their biggest event of the year. Enjoy food from Pizzeria Paradiso, Village Brauhaus, Borinquen Lunch Box Kitchen and Daddy G’s Craft Salsas. Noon-10 p.m. Port City: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

DC Beer Week Fun Run
Kick-start DC Beer Week 2019 by participating in the inaugural DC Beer Week Fun Run. Registered participants will receive a free beer at the starting point Right Proper Brookland Production House, and then a free beer at the end of the run at Red Bear Brewing Co. Race proceeds benefit the DC Brewers’ Guild. All are welcome for this 2-mile course down the Metropolitan Branch Trail between Right Proper and Red Bear. Register in advance or at the starting point at Right Proper. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets $10-$25. Right Proper Brewing Company Brookland Production House and Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC;  www.dcbeerweek.net

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

3 Stars Home Brew Extravaganza
Celebrate DC Beer Week by competing in this year’s 3 Stars Brewing Homebrew Extravaganza. Clone this year’s Solidarity Beer – a kellerbier, Double IPA and wild American sour beer. Entries are due no later than 9 p.m. Monday, September 2. Visit dcbeerweek.net for awards and category details. 6-9 p.m. $5 per entry. 3 Stars Brewing: 6400 Chillum Pl.NW, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10

DC Total Tap Takeover at ChurchKey
ChurchKey will once again devote all 55 of its draft and cask lines to beers brewed right here in the District for the fifth straight year. A true tribute to the collective greatness of DC’s brewing scene, they’re showcasing a wide array of one-offs and rarities, both on cask and on draft. Birch & Barley will feature executive chef Jarrad Silver’s four-course tasting flights paired exclusively with DC-brewed beers. All beers will be priced individually by the glass and in 4 oz. tasting pours. 4-11:30 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

Women in Beer at Red Bear Brewing
Celebrate women in the craft beer industry with a panel discussion of all things beer, why the brewery industry is a great place for women to work and more. The event will also include a special beer release, brewed in collaboration with the Pink Boots Society – a Belgian blonde. Proceeds of beer sold benefit the local DC Pink Boots Chapter. You’ll hear speakers Leah Cheston from Right Proper, Melissa Ramano from Pink Boots, Katie Marisic from the DC Brewers Association and more. 6-8 p.m. Red Bear Brewing Company: 209 M St. NE, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

Yacht Rockin’ & Brau Poppin’ DC Beer Week Sunset Beer Cruise
Sail into the final weekend of DC Beer Week on the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Miss Mallory for the inaugural Brau Poppin’ & Yacht Rockin’ sunset cruise. Ride along the Potomac sipping on DC Brau and listening to yacht rock curated by the Brothers Brau. Ticket includes a two-hour sunset cruise departing from The Wharf’s Transit Pier in Southwest DC, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a DC Brau. Additional beer and other beverages will be available for purchase on board. For the full details on tickets, visit www.potomacriverboatco.com. 6-8 p.m. Tickets $75. The Wharf: 970 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Brewers On The Block
Brewers On The Block is back for its sixth annual cele-BREW-tion. Sponsored by DCBeer.com, join the fun as Suburbia hosts 40+ local brewers at Union Market, where hopheads and brewers can meet and drink. You’ll hear live music from Big Bad JuJu. General admission includes unlimited tastings, conversations with local brewers, souvenir tasting glass and live music starting at 3 p.m. The VIP ticket includes hour ahead event access, extra face-to-face time with the brewers, UNICORN beers and frozen hoptails from Suburbia. 2-6 p.m. Tickets $55-$75. Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

Photo: Josiah Everly

Aslin Beer Taps Into Wider DMV Market

If you wanted to get your hands on the highly sought-after cans of beer from Aslin Brewing Company prior to this summer, you had to get in the car and make the pilgrimage to a humble strip mall in Herndon, Virginia. Beer aficionados have been camping out in line outside Aslin in the hopes of snagging a few cans since 2015, like New York City tourists waiting for a cronut outside of Dominique Ansel Bakery. Coming up on their fourth anniversary, it seems Aslin’s brews have earned a reputation as the cronut of the beer industry.

This July, beer drinkers across the DMV welcomed Aslin’s long-awaited new outpost in Alexandria with open arms and empty growlers. Gone are the days of trekking out to Herndon solely for beer to-go.

“[Because] people [can] come in and drink a few beers and get their cans, there’s rarely much of a line,” says Aslin Brand Manager Erik Raines.

The “real test,” he says, will be what the wait is like on the day of a major stout release. Though enjoying a beer onsite in the Herndon space is not allowed, Aslin has an extremely committed following. On one particular beer release day, Alexandria resident Justin Booth got in line two hours before they opened.

“People will post pictures on social media with line updates,” Booth says. “I waited for about 30 minutes after they opened, so it was about two-and-a-half hours.”

Raines says being go-to for the last few years created quite a trek for some Aslin fans.

“I get it,” he says. “I get having to schlep all the way out [to Herndon] just to get some cans and get right back into your car and get back on 66. We’ve gotten feedback from guests who are so pumped to have us five or 10 minutes from their house now.”

When Alexandria city planners reached out to Aslin about coming to their neck of the woods, the company found the 25,000-square-foot warehouse space was more than big enough to offer them the growth they needed. One of the hardest parts, Raines mentions, was trying to decide how to utilize all that wall space with four years’ worth of beer can art by artist Mike Van Hall, who has been instrumental in helping to define their brand.

“It’s just such a luxury to have someone like [Van Hall] that you can give minimal direction to and just know that he’s going to completely knock it out of the park,” Raines notes.

With endless wall space to fill, the team at Aslin set out looking for someone to incorporate Van Hall’s art into the taproom. They enlisted their new neighbors across the street, CSI Printing & Graphics, to make his beer can art come to life – literally from floor-to-ceiling.

“We got so lucky,” Raines says.

The resulting partnership brought colorful, minimalistic wall designs practically begging to be posted on Instagram. While art is a core component of their brand, Aslin’s focus continues to be on making beer people are willing to wait for – even if the waiting part isn’t as much of a commitment as it once was.

Aslin plans to make its beer even more accessible in the near future. They are expanding their reach beyond Alexandria and Herndon and recently signed with DC-based distributor Hop & Wine Beverage. They expect to begin distributing Aslin beer across the wider Northern Virginia area this fall. In the meantime, Aslin’s new Alexandria taproom is open daily and family-friendly until 7 p.m.

“After 7 p.m., ‘Adult Swim’ is in effect and patrons must be 21 and over,” states their website.

Purchase tickets to Aslin’s four-year anniversary party on Saturday, September 14 on Eventbrite; tickets start at $65. For more information about Aslin’s new Alexandria space, visit www.aslinbeer.com.

Aslin Brewing Company: 847 South Pickett St. Alexandria, VA; 703-787-5766; www.aslinbeer.com

Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Private Barrel // Photo: Bultema Group

Break Out The Brown Stuff: Bourbon Season Returns

Gin is the spirit of summer. Clear, light and reminiscent of an herb garden: it’s perfect for three-digit temperatures and Collins glasses overflowing with ice. But the second the mercury dips below 80? Forget it. The only thing you want is bourbon.

With autumn in the air, it’s time to break out the brown stuff. September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and while sketching out the details of a road trip to central Kentucky might be tempting, there are plenty of distilleries in the area offering top-notch spirits crafted from local grains.

Today, Kentucky is making the vast majority of bourbon in America, but it isn’t the birthplace of American whiskey – this is the cradle of American spirits. Times were tough in the early days, and paramount among the colonists’ priorities was making some decent hooch. As early as 1620, colonists were writing home about the distilled corn spirits they were making in Virginia.

“Wee have found a waie to make soe good drink of Indian corne I have divers times refused to drinke good stronge English beare and chose to drinke that,” wrote George Thorpe, an early resident of Williamsburg who had either been drinking at the time he penned this correspondence or was taking full advantage of English’s not-yet-formalized spelling conventions.

By the late 1700s, even the Founding Fathers had gotten into the game. After his presidency, George Washington retired to Mount Vernon and by the time he died, the plantation was pumping out about 11,000 gallons each year of what we’d today probably call rye. Over the next century, production moved west and one by one, the DMV distilleries shuttered. By the time Prohibition was underway, there weren’t many distilleries left to close. But in 1934, bourbon came back to Virginia when A. Smith Bowman, a jack-of-all-trades from Louisiana, returned to his family’s ancestral home in Fairfax to start a granary.

“Our founder was actually in the industry prior to Prohibition,” says Brian Prewitt, A. Smith Bowman Distillery’s sixth master distiller. “He was running one of the biggest distilleries in America down in Algiers Point, Louisiana. It didn’t survive Prohibition and went under around 1916. He did a lot of things in between but wanted to get back to his roots and heritage in Virginia. I think he knew Prohibition was ending.”

Prewitt says one of the really interesting parts of his heritage as a distiller is that Kentucky used to be part of Virginia.

“If you look at it like that, it’s where American whiskey really started. Being that we’re the oldest distillery in Virginia, that was what we started with right off the bat – that history.”

The distillery has since moved to Fredericksburg, 50-plus miles outside of the District. If that’s a hair too far, look for Prewitt and his colleagues at Virginia ABC stores where they’re planning to do many tastings of their bourbon.

In the District proper, several distilleries are making bourbon these days including One Eight Distilling and Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distillery. Though they’re shoulder-to-shoulder in Ivy City, they’re taking radically different approaches when approaching their heritages. One Eight takes its name from the section of the Constitution that provided for the establishment of DC, and is looking decisively toward the future of small-batch bourbon.

“We’re a grain-to-bottle distillery and all our suppliers are from within a hundred miles of One Eight,” says Cara Webster, One Eight’s events and marketing director. “Rye was the first chapter of American whiskey, so we started there.”

Today, the distillery makes a rye-forward bourbon to which lovers of Basil Hayden’s or Bulleit will surely fawn over. One Eight is offering two events for Bourbon Heritage Month. On September 8, open house-style event Tribe Vibes will offer mixology classes, distillery tours and West African-inspired hors d’oeuvres. The sixth annual Battle of the Barrel-Aged Beers on September 10 will showcase the District’s six breweries that make beers aged in liquor barrels: 3 Stars, Atlas, DC Brau, Hellbender, Port City and Right Proper. The latter is one of One Eight’s most popular events, so be sure to order tickets in advance.

Around the corner is Jos. A. Magnus & Co., a revitalized brand that launched in 2015. Though the distillery was originally in Cincinnati, bourbon bearing the Magnus name was sold in DC where the family decided to begin anew before Prohibition.

“The genesis of Jos. A. Magnus & Company’s re-establishment in 2015 was the discovery of a carefully preserved bottle passed down through generations,” says general manager Ali Anderson. “Magnus’ great-grandson, unaware of just how remarkable the bourbon was, wrapped the bottle in a T-shirt, tossed it in a bag and boarded a plane to Kentucky.”

That the TSA inspectors didn’t break the bottle and the seal only leaked a little is perhaps proof of divine intervention. The whiskey survived all the way to Louisville for industry veterans to taste. Working together, they teased out a contemporary version of the old recipe, which is made today in Ivy City. Don’t worry about the bottle that started it all, though: today it’s stored safely in a military-grade case in a temperature-controlled environment.

To celebrate their remarkable heritage, Jos. A. Magnus is teaming up with Virginia ABC for Spirit Bourbon Day on September 19. Around the Commonwealth, look for Magnus whiskies with special discounts. These sales are rare, so stock up.

Whichever of these origin stories appeals to you most, take advantage of the opportunity to learn a little more about the bourbon heritage of the area. Drinking a nice spicy nip of whiskey on a cold day is, of course, the greatest autumnal joy. But the real reward comes when you get to interject, “Well, actually” at bar trivia when someone tries to tell you bourbon can only be made in Kentucky.

Sip some bourbon at these local distilleries:

A. Smith Bowman Distillery:
1 Bowman Dr. Fredericksburg, VA; www.asmithbowman.com

Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distillery: 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.josephmagnus.com
One Eight Distilling: 1135 Okie St. NE, DC; www.oneeightdistilling.com

Prima dishes // Photo: Jennifer Chase

New and Notable: Hanumanh, Patsy’s American, Prima and More

NEW

Hanumanh
Open: May 20
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: The mother-son chef duo behind popular Laotian restaurants Thip Khao, Padaek and Sen Khao have opened a fourth concept, this one with a more playful vibe. Named for a mischievous monkey deity, Hanumanh is where chefs Seng Luangrath and Bobby Pradachith can let their creativity run free. It’s designed to evoke Laotian night life vibes, like the bustling markets that light up after dark. The tiki bar is the heart of the petite restaurant, with a few tables and ample bar seating. There’s also a spacious outdoor patio in the back surrounded by greenery and shaded by umbrellas. Inside and out, the space is bursting with color, from the intricate monkey murals on the walls to the fresh and bright ingredients on the plates. The small menu changes frequently, but mainstays include a banana blossom salad, red coconut crab curry and tapioca dumplings filled with a savory caramel of salted radish, pork and peanuts. Drinks are ideal for quenching thirst after spicy bites. A popular favorite is the Hanumanh: banana-infused Lao whiskey, brown butter condensed milk, passionfruit, vanilla and mango served in a cheeky monkey cup. When you go, note that the restaurant does not take reservations. 1604 7th St. NW, DC; www.hanumanh.com

Patsy’s American + Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks
Open: May 31 and July 30
Location: Tysons Corner
Lowdown: Great American Restaurants are an institution in Northern Virginia, and now the group has opened two restaurants honoring the institutions behind the empire. Patsy and Randy Norton are the namesakes for Patsy’s American and Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks, housed in the towering red-brick GAR Complex in Tysons Corner. Patsy’s is a nostalgic ode to the company, bringing back customer favorites from the various restaurants over the years. The menu feels familiar, with raw bar platters, salads, sandwiches, seafood, meats and pastas. The space is modeled after an old-fashioned train station, with skylights, green ironwork and a classic station clock. Two murals – one of a carnival scene and another of celebrities and famous faces – add a touch of whimsy. Next door, Randy’s is dedicated to premium cuts of meat and seafood served in sophisticated surrounds. Dishes like oven-roasted branzino and a lobster-crab cake with lobster beurre blanc stand out. After your meal at either spot, you can walk a few steps to the new Best Buns Bakery & Café for desserts like milkshakes, cookies and cupcakes (or some fresh bread to take home). 8051 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA; www.patsysamerican.com and www.randysprime.com

Prima

Open: May 29
Location: Bethesda
Lowdown: Known for hearty Italian comfort food, chef Michael Schlow wanted to show guests a lighter side of the cuisine with his first foray into fast casual. Prima’s bowls are rooted in the Mediterranean diet, with staples like whole grains, olive oil, roasted vegetables, seafood and lean meats. Incidentally, everything is gluten-free, and there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Guests can choose to customize their own bowl with greens or grains, house-made dressings, antipasti-style veggies and legumes, proteins, dips and spreads and crunchy toppings. You can also leave your meal in the hands of Schlow and his culinary director, Ed Scarpone. Options include chef-crafted bowls like the della nonna with meatballs or the vegan ortolana with broccoli, roasted baby carrots, sweet peas, black lentils, tri-color quinoa, marinated baby artichokes, wild mushrooms, Calabrian chile and red pepper spread and balsamic vinaigrette. The ingredients are sourced locally when possible, with an emphasis on sustainability. The space feels more like a full-service restaurant than fast casual, with glass garage doors, wood accents and dangling greenery reminiscent of al fresco dining in an Italian village. 7280 Woodmont Ave. Bethesda, MD; www.craveprima.com

Shilling Canning Company

Open: July 10
Location: The Yards
Lowdown: From 1935 to 1958, Shilling Canning Company was a family business selling canned produce in Finksburg, Maryland. Six decades later, Reid Shilling is paying homage to his heritage with a restaurant by the same name. Shilling began his career working with chef Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bistro on the west coast, but soon returned to his mid-Atlantic roots. He cooked at The Dabney for a year before deciding to open his own restaurant with his wife, Sara Quinteros-Shilling. The tavern-style restaurant is centered around an open kitchen that features a copper-clad wood-burning oven, a raw bar and a chef’s counter. The design takes after the original canning facility, with floor-to-ceiling windows, whitewashed brick, dark woods, white shiplap and vintage cans on display. A charcuterie aging room, glass wine storage and a soon-to-be greenery-enclosed patio accent the space. The planter boxes on the patio grow myriad herbs, edible flowers and small produce like cucumbers, tomatoes and hearty varieties of kiwis which are used to garnish and accent dishes and drinks. The Chesapeake-centric menu changes daily, but always incorporates local, seasonal ingredients and preservation techniques from his family business. Current highlights include small plates like honey cakes topped with benne butter and Surryano ham and Chesapeake rockfish with fennel, red potatoes, potato rouille and spicy tomato broth, as well as large plates like dry-aged Rettland duck crown with duck confit boudin, beets, preserved plums and black walnuts. 360 Water St. SE, DC; www.shillingcanning.com

NOTABLE

Buena Vida Social Club
Location: Clarendon
Lowdown: The final piece of La Esquina de Clarendon is complete with the opening of the Buena Vida Social Club. Led by Ivan Iricanin of Street Guys Hospitality, the three-level corner houses TTT Mexican Diner, Buena Vida and now the open-air resort-style club on the top floor. The rooftop channels Acapulco, Mexico with bright shades of aqua and mauve, a lounge area, tropical and frozen cocktails (featuring agave and sugar cane spirits), low-ABV options, casual fare and build-your-own tacos. The space is open for drinks and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekends. On Thursday through Saturday nights, a DJ will be spinning. 2900 Wilson Blvd. third floor, Arlington, VA; www.buenavidasocial.club

Double Deckers in Marshall
Location: Marshall
Lowdown: The main drag in this charming Virginia town is giving new meaning to the term party bus. Two big red antique double decker buses have parked themselves in the middle of the action and are open for business, serving up picnic-style eats and local wine. Johnny Monarch’s is a “bustaurant” owned by chef Brian Lichorowic, who named the business after the pen name his father used to write love letters during WWII. The menu offers sandwiches, classic savory pies and modern takes on TV dinners. Much of the produce used in the kitchen comes from Lichorowic’s hydroponic growing systems operating nearby. The Bubble Decker brings the booze, operated by Cave Ridge Vineyard from Mount Jackson. They offer various sparkling wines including a summery rosé. The lawn outside the buses hosts live music on Wednesdays and Sundays. Seating is available on the top level of each bus, as well as at picnic tables outside. The party buses are open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday from 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Johnny Monarch’s: 8374 W. Main St. Marshall, VA; www.johnnymonar.ch and Cave Ridge Vineyard: 1476 Conicville Rd. Mount Jackson, VA, www.caveridge.com

SweetWater Founder Freddy Bensch // Photo: courtesy of SweetWater

Cannabis Culture: SweetWater’s 420 Strain Brews

The stigma surrounding marijuana consumption is settling down in North America, albeit at a glacial pace. As of this July, 33 states in the U.S. have broadly legalized or decriminalized cannabis in some form while its northern neighbors in Canada fully legalized its recreational use last fall. A competing trade embracing this change is the beer industry. As regulations on marijuana relax, breweries are looking for ways to fuse its properties with their products.

One of the craft breweries leading the way is based in a state rather resistant to cannabis legalization: Georgia. Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Company has been a longtime proponent of the 420 lifestyle. Their flagship beer 420 Extra Pale Ale was first brewed 22 years ago on April 20, naturally. Last fall, they took things a step further by creating G13 IPA, the first of their marijuana strain-specific line of beers.

The brewers at SweetWater managed to accomplish a bit of a scientific feat. After several months of testing, they found a way to mimic the scent of the strain without compromising the taste of the beer. The beer itself wallops the nostrils with the dank scent of Willie Nelson’s tour bus yet tastes like a solid, quality IPA.

“[The brewers] didn’t want it to be a gimmick,” says Tucker Berta Sarkisian, SweetWater’s director of communications, of the 420 Strain concept. “It was a huge goal for the aroma to be there but for the beer to be phenomenal-tasting.”

The kicker? There isn’t a single trace of marijuana in this strain-specific line of beers that along with the G13 IPA includes Mango Kush Wheat Ale and come this fall, Chocolope Stout. No cannabidiol (CBD), no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), not even hemp. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

The secret to creating the precisely scented, strain-inspired beer is in the terpenes – unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants. Terpenes are in several plant organisms from lemongrass to pine needles, and of course, cannabis. Since terpenes lack psychoactive cannabinoids THC and CBD, they are U.S. government-approved and have the green light to be used in SweetWater’s 420 Strain series. Another key component in getting the strain-specific aroma in each beer was curating the right hops.

“The hop varieties chosen are of particular importance because they contain similar terpene profiles to those found in the strain-specific cannabis,” SweetWater Brewmaster Mark Medlin explains.

The marriage of the hops and strain-specific terpenes complement the resulting brew in more ways than one, thanks to genetics. The seemingly unlikely pairing of hops and cannabis is a natural combination when it comes to flavor because they are related. They have biological similarities derived from shared ancestry in the Cannabinaceae family. As a result, what the terpenes hops and cannabis have in common is what make the 420 Strain beers possible.

The second edition in SweetWater’s 420 Strain series is the surprisingly juicy Mango Kush, released this spring. Like the G13 IPA, the Mango Kush’s weed aroma hits you in the face upon popping the bottle cap as if you just entered a party at Snoop Dogg’s house. Once again, the brewers added the potent scent of the strain while maintaining the flavor of the ale. Neither the G13 IPA nor the Mango Kush taste like weed, and it’s likely the forthcoming Chocolope Stout will present a similar sensory experience.

But how did the brewmasters know what marijuana strain would pair well with each beer style? For example, why does G13 work with an IPA and not a pilsner or saison? Initially, they didn’t know.

“It was like playing a mad scientist in a lab experimenting and testing with recipes,” Sarkisian says. “They wanted the perfect aroma to complement the perfect flavor.”

In other words, a fair amount of trial-and-error went into the brewing process in order to find the right balance in each 420 Strain beer.

SweetWater’s 420 Strain G13 IPA and Mango Kush can be found at various liquor stores and tap houses throughout the DMV. Chocolope Stout debuts in mid-September as a limited release, and once their “mad scientists” get back to mixing terpenes, more strains will be on the way.

Learn more about the 420 Strain series and where to get the three brews locally at www.sweetwaterbrew.com.

Caboose Co-owner Jennifer McLaughlin // Photo: Trent Johnson

What’s On Tap: Mosaic District’s Caboose Commons Hopping with Uncommon Flavors

When I first stepped into the cavernous space in NoVa’s Mosaic District, I was met by soft voices, laughter and striking steel structures – quite intimate for a vast brewery. Caboose Brewing Company opened its second location last September, following its original location on the W&OD Trail in Vienna. Caboose Commons, which sits in what was previously a United Rentals warehouse, offers an array of beer – plus food, coffee and even cocktails. I sat down with co-owner Jennifer McLaughlin to chat about why the brewery chose the burgeoning neighborhood and how it has changed their business for the better.

On Tap: How did the name Caboose come about?
Jennifer McLaughlin: Our original location is in Vienna, and it sits right on the W&OD Trail. One of our key focuses has always been building community, so we were looking for a name that also had a subtle shout-out to our community. Caboose being on the W&OD fit into a train theme, and it helped that there was a big red caboose train in Vienna.

OT: Why did you pick Mosaic District for your second location?
JM: We looked into different spaces, but ideally, we wanted a space with a big beer garden. This space provided us with a beautiful warehouse setting – but that was it, an empty space. We had to build out the entire space on our own, but it was our own empty canvas that we could create for the community. On top of that, there were already people here shopping, eating and drinking – a built-in community.

OT: What obstacles have you faced with Caboose Commons? What wins have you had?
JM: In terms of obstacles, building out the location was just quite an expense. There was no drywall whatsoever and no other structures besides the shell of the building. On the other hand, in terms of wins, there have been several. Mosaic has been very inclusive of us within their own marketing and that has been incredibly helpful.

OT: What are your signature drinks for the summer?
JM: We have quite a few! The first and most popular is our summer beer called Bienvenidos, which is a Mexican-inspired lager. After that would be the maibock, also known as To Helles and Bock, which has a sweeter malt flavor. Finally, our Raspberry Lokaal is a Belgian blonde, which came out last Friday and is so light and perfect for summer.

OT: Your Vienna location highlights a lot of farm-to-table options on the food menu. Did you follow that same theme here?
JM: Following farm-to-table can be incredibly expensive and at the other location, we just were not making our margins with the food prices we were offering. In this location, we do have a lot of local purveyors. We also have non-local, but we have kept the high quality still.

OT: Which beer has been your best seller so far this summer? What food item does that pair best with?
JM: Definitely the Bienvenidos. When we first rolled it out, it sold out a lot faster than we had intended and we did not have the ingredients to immediately recreate it. Customers had to wait two weeks for more. In terms of pairings, beer is such an easy thing to pair with food. The half-smoke we have been offering has been pretty solid.

OT: How did you decide on the pup-friendly Ruff Tuesdays?
JM: We’re always looking for interesting ways to engage with our community, and Ruff Tuesdays not only involves having customers bring their pups, but we also invite local vendors. Overall, it is just fun to engage the community and loop in a good cause.

Caboose Commons is open from 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Follow them on Instagram @caboosecommons. For more information about the brewery and its locations, visit www.caboosebrewing.com.

Caboose Commons: 2918 Eskridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; 703-663-8833; www.caboosebrewing.com


Greetings, beer nerds! As you know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s up next at a few of these locations.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 6

BYOV (Bring Your Own Vinyl)
Lost Rhino Brewing Company hosts vinyl night every Tuesday evening. This is not a DJ night, because there are no DJ/mixing skills needed. All you need is a love for music and a vinyl collection you are willing to share with everyone. Each week will have a different theme and Lost Rhino will be giving away a weekly gift card to one lucky winner who helps celebrate the chosen theme. 5-9 p.m. Free to attend. Lost Rhino Brewing Co: 21730 Red Rum Dr. Ashburn, VA; www.lostrhino.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8

The Brew Gentlemen 5th Anniversary Party
Join ChurchKey as they welcome the fine folks of Brew Gentlemen. On this night, they will celebrate the Pennsylvania brewery’s fifth anniversary by pouring five beers with cofounder Matt Katase. Located in Braddock, Pennsylvania, this exciting young brewery’s product is rarely found outside their home state. Don’t miss your chance to try these out-of-market beers, including standouts Akamai, V and Mise en Rose. 4:30-11:30 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10

Beer Yoga (Cheers & Namah’ste)
Flow through a flight of your brewery favorites during this one-hour power yoga class. By purchasing a yoga class, a three-glass flight is included within the price of the ticket. You must also bring your own mat, as well as anything else you need to have a proper flow. This event is 21-plus. Please make sure you arrive 15 minutes prior to receive your beer flight before the class. Class starts at 12 p.m. Tickets are $15. Right Proper Brewing Company: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 13

Drag Bingo with Desiree Dik
Sassy meets fabulous as drag queen sensation Desiree Dik hosts an evening of bingo at Red Bear Brewing. It is free to play and four games will be played in a span of two hours, with prizes each round and a drag show. Event starts at 7 p.m. Free to attend. Red Bear Brewing: 209 M St. NE, DC; www.redbear.beer.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

Trivia Night at CSBC
Think you’re a wiz at trivia? Come and prove it by grabbing a table early for trivia night at Chubby Squirrel Brewing. Wind down the week with a brew and some food and enjoy two hours of free fun and laughs. 6-8 p.m. Chubby Squirrel Brewing Company: 10382 Willard Way, Fairfax, VA; www.chubbysquirrelbrewing.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 17

DC Brau Oktoberfest Bash
DC Brau is kicking off O’fest season with a Brau-style Oktoberfest celebration at the brewery complete with an Oompah band, brats and of course, beer. In addition to the release of this year’s Oktoberfest, they’ll be pouring Keller Pils, Cha Cha Cha Weisenbock and El Hefe Speaks in the outdoor beer garden all afternoon. 1-6 p.m. Free to attend. DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20

Tuesday Trivia at Atlas Brew Works
Every Tuesday night, join Atlas Brew Works for a fantastic night of trivia hosted by the Capital City Showcase’s Christian Hunt. The winning team receives $50 off their tab and second place gets a free six-pack of Atlas beer. Bring your own team or find friends to make a new one. Event starts at 7:30 p.m. Learn more at www.atlasbrewworks.com. Atlas Brew Works: 2052 Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21

Ballroom at the Brewery
Come give your best shot at ballroom dance in a no-judgment zone. The professionals from Mosaic Ballroom are coming by to show everyone what ballroom dance is all about. Join every third Wednesday of the month. There is no cost to dance, plus enjoy an extended happy hour from 4-9 p.m. Dancing starts at 8:30 p.m. Caboose Commons: 2918 Eskridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 24

5th Annual Crab Feast
From 5-8 p.m., enjoy all-you-can-eat crabs, pit beef, corn on the cob, hush puppies, pasta salad and coleslaw. Wash down all the good food with all-you-can-drink craft brews featuring Special Lady Friend, Feed the Monkey, Czech the Technique and many more. There will be live music from Jordan Sokel, frontman for Pressing Strings, from 5:30-8 p.m. $50-$75. Jailbreak Brewing: 9445 Washington Blvd. North Laurel, MD; www.jailbreakbrewing.com

MONDAY, AUGUST 26

National Dog Yappy Hour
Come out and celebrate National Dog Day with a yappy hour. There will be doggie beer, treats and drink specials for humans, too. Guests can also celebrate by dressing up their pup in a dapper attire. You won’t want to miss this chance for you and your pup to enjoy a night out on the town together. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Free admission. Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

Take a Day Trip to O’Connor Brewing Co.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10

Poochella Continues: Pints, Pups, and Snips
PETA’s multishelter dog adoption event is back, but this time there will be endless amounts of cuteness at O’Connor Brewing. There will be music, crafts vendors, delicious food and best of all adorable pups looking for a loving home. You can also get your dog or cat fixed since PETA’s mobile spay/neuter clinics will be working that day. $25 for dogs and FREE for companion cats. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 757-622-7382, option 3. 12-6 p.m. O’Connor Brewing Co.: 211 W 24th St. Norfolk, VA; www.oconnorbrewing.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

Supreme Effect TIPA Brewery Pre-Release Bundle
New beer alert! O’Connor presents the Supreme Effect TIPA (10.3 percent ABV). Grab it as part of the very limited stock pre release, which features a bundle including an exclusive O’Connor Brewing Co. t-shirt and a four pack of 16 oz. cans. First come, first serve, while supplies last. A Saturday brewery official release will also be held on August 17 from 12-9 p.m. with 30 cases available. O’Connor Brewing Co.: 211 W 24th St. Norfolk, VA; www.oconnorbrewing.com