Brewer’s Ball
Photo: On Tap Magazine

DC Brewer’s Ball Serving Up Hope One Pint at a Time

For over a decade, the metropolitan Washington, DC chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation has been serving up hope, one pint at a time. The gala event returns for its 12th year on March 5 at the National Building Museum, and this year promises to be the best and biggest edition yet. Tickets are on sale now and cost $140, of which $70 is tax-deductible.

The 12th Annual Beer Institute’s Brewer’s Ball presented by matchboxfoodgroup and Anheuser-Busch will continue to feature more than 30 of the very best local and regional craft breweries, as well as some national players. Beyond the beers, over 25 great restaurants will keeps attendees well-fed while local band the VIPs keep the crowd moving with live music and dancing.

“Brewer’s Ball is a highlight annually for those that love great beers and better causes,” says Dennis O’Leary, one of three co-chairs of the committee that coordinates Brewer’s Ball each year. O’Leary’s desire to help find a cure for CF is deeply personal; his son, Casey, was born with the disease. “This event raises funds that have contributed greatly toward research for new treatments, programs, and care for those with CF.”

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic, life-threatening disease that affects about 30,000 people in the United States. Approximately 10 million additional people are carriers of the gene that causes CF. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs, which clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure.

A few decades ago, most people with CF didn’t live long enough to attend elementary school. Through the efforts of the CF Foundation, the life expectancy of a person with CF has doubled in the last 30 years. Today, many people with CF are living into their thirties, fourties, and beyond. Recent drug discovery and development programs have yielded drugs that have changed the course of CF. For the first time, two FDA-approved therapies (Kalydeco and Orkambi) treat not just the symptoms of the disease ,but the underlying genetic defect for a small percentage of the population. Recent research shows great potential for additional treatments that will similarly affect a larger percentage of people with CF. Although great progress has been made, there’s still a lot of work to do to put a cure in the hands of every person with CF.

Brewer’s Ball has grown immensely along with the DC area’s craft beer scene. When the event started, there were no production breweries in DC or Northern Virginia. Now, over a decade later, local favorites like DC Brau, Port City, Flying Dog, and Hellbender will rub elbows with nationally renowned brands like Dogfish Head, Allagash, and New Belgium. In fact, the folks from two local breweries, Adroit Theory and Belly Love Brewing Company, came together earlier this month to make a special collaboration brew, which will be served exclusively at Brewer’s Ball. Named Brooke’s Currant Obsession, this brew honors 15-month old Brooke who lives with CF, and is the daughter of one of the Brewer’s Ball committee members.

The event, which has become well-liked among breweries as well, allows for attendees to chat with brewery representatives, giving lovers of fine ales and lagers plenty of chances to ask questions and find out more about their favorite suds. (Don’t worry, wine and cider fans, there’s something here for you, too.) Area restaurants like Ted’s Bulletin, Hill Country Barbecue Market, Matchbox, and Charlie Palmer Steak DC pull out the culinary stops, often pairing their dishes with the breweries at the event.

Once the well-dressed attendees are fed and watered (or beered, as the case may be), they can bid on a number of intriguing silent auction items ranging from brewery tours to weekend getaways to themed baskets. Using their mobile phones, guests can conveniently check back periodically to make sure they haven’t been outbid on that bourbon basket they’re itching to bring home. During the live auction, guests go head-to-head for one-of-a-kind experiences such as a “custom cask build experience” at Heavy Seas Beer, where the lucky winner will craft their own special firkin of beer; a trip to Hollywood to see The Ellen DeGeneres Show, or a week-long trip to Palm Springs.

Brewer’s Ball, which raised $380,000 last year, has grown from more modest roots —it raised $40,000 in its first year. With the help of the local craft beer community, area restaurants, attendees, and sponsors who have a great time while contributing to a great cause, the event will hopefully grow even more this year as it taps into the continued push for a cure.

DC Brewer’s Ball: March 5, 2016 at the National Building Museum. 401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001; for tickets and information.

Photo: On Tap Magazine