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Nat Geo Nights: Galápagos

Known for inspiring Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, the unique and diverse species of the Galápagos Islands are facing new challenges to adapt. On this Nat Geo Night, guests had the opportunity to discover the remarkable islands — and the threats they face — with marine ecologist Pelayo Salinas de Leon and Emmy Award–winning filmmaker Greg Marshall. Photos: Devin Overbey

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Rosslyn Bonfire Concert Series: Trailer Grass Orchestra

Trailer Grass Orchestra played at Rosslyn’s Gateway Park on Thursday night. Guests celebrated autumn by enjoying the live music, seasonal brews, ciders and wine. Drink proceeds each week go to A-SPAN, a charity organization striving to end homeless in Arlington. Photos: Mike Kim

Photos: Alex Thompson
Photos: Alex Thompson

Heritage Brewing Co. Brewpub Masters the Beer Dinner

The perfect marriage is something few, if any, can say they’ve achieved, but for Heritage Brewing Co. Market Common Brewpub and Roastery, their carefully planned, seasonal menu from renowned NYC chef Donal Crosbie and wide variety of expertly crafted beers from Heritage’s flagship brewery in Manassas (and brewhouse onsite) showcase a seamless partnership.

And while guests can experience this collaboration daily at the Clarendon taproom and bar, to get an even better idea of the true harmony between the beer and food, Heritage is holding its first (of hopefully many) beer dinners on Tuesday, October 24. On Tap Magazine attended a preview of the four-course meal and beer pairing, and I can certainly speak for all at the event when I say, sign me up for October and every beer dinner after.

Head Chef Josh Ber, an old friend of Crosbie (both worked under legendary Chef David Bouley), delivered with a menu that ingeniously utilized the beers not just in the pairing of flavors with the dishes, but also as ingredients in the dishes themselves. From glazes to braising to dessert components, guests were able to experience the full spectrum of flavors each incredible beer offered, while also drinking the beer on its own with the dish, coming full circle.

The result was a meal that was by far more elevated than I think anyone walking into the brewpub and roastery expected, and better than any fancy wine dinner or other pairing event I have been to (and I’ve been to quite a few).

“This is the culmination of what we wanted to build for a very long time – showcasing the brewery and the food,” Heritage Brewing Co. CEO Sean Arroyo said at the preview. “Everything here – the food and the beer – is made from scratch. And this was the way to merge two things together and create a unique experience.”

The evening started off strong with two perfect bites showcasing the versatility of beer immediately – a sesame crusted ahi tuna with a spicy glaze made with Heritage’s American Expedition Honey Ginger Wheat Ale, and a brat braised in Heritage’s Freedom Isn’t Free IPA atop a fresh pretzel with sauerkraut and beer mustard. Both bites had the respective beers within the dishes served alongside as well, with all wiping their plates clean, ready for the next pairing.

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Next up, octopus braised in Heritage’s Teddy East Coast Pale Ale, one of the brewery’s flagship beers, and then charred and served with fingerling potatoes, frisée, and sweet and sour pumpkin puree. The tang from the braising of the octopus in the pale ale was incredible and the dish was well-paired with the pale ale, along with Heritage’s Barrel Aged Wild Belgian Ale.

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Next up, the entrée and something I was looking quite forward to: a duo of lamb, with a shoulder braised in Heritage’s Revolution Amber Ale, and a spent grain-crusted loin served over pearl barley risotto and wild mushroom. The dish was paired with Heritage’s Revolution Amber Ale (hundreds of oranges are squeezed by hand to make this beer) and Heritage’s Legado Hispanic Lager, meant to cleanse the palate and get you ready for the dish ahead.

This was without a doubt the best lamb dish I have had since my travels to New Zealand. The dish was so rich and full of layers of flavor thanks to the earthiness of the Revolution Amber Ale it was braised in, and combined with the rich sauce, everything just melted in your mouth.

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While the entire crowd would have welcomed another plate of lamb for our dessert, the menu provided a perfect finishing touch with delicate, rich flavors in the food, as well as the beer.

Guest were served a vanilla panna cotta, topped with peach compote made with Heritage’s Kings Mountain Scotch Ale, served with madeleines and the 2014 Barrel Aged King’s Mountain Scotch Ale. I’m a stickler for a perfectly textured panna cotta and this dish did not mix, while the peach compote had an extra depth of flavor from the Scotch ale – a welcome theme throughout this menu.

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The final dish we received was truly for both chocoholics and beer lovers alike, as two, delicate chocolate truffles made with Heritage’s Sovereign Imperial Stout were placed before us. These tiny little treats packed a heavenly punch with the richness from the chocolate and the stout, creating the most perfect pairing.

We enjoyed this last bite with Heritage’s Barrel Aged Grand Cru, which along with the stout used Heritage’s own Veritas Coffee in the crafting process. Noteworthy on the coffee: the brewpub and roastery has two permanent draft coffee lines, including a traditional cold brew and a draft latte that rotates weekly with new flavors.

For tickets and more information on the October 24 beer dinner at Heritage Brewing Co. Brewpub and Roastery, go here. Tickets for the beer dinner are $65 each and include the four-course menu, beer pairings, tax and gratuity, along with a heavy dose of flavor combination perfection.

Heritage Brew Co. Market Common Brewpub & Roastery: 1300-1398 N. Fillmore St. Arlington, VA; 571-319-0024; www.hbcmarketcommon.com

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Wine Helps! Drink a Little, Help a lot

The Arlington Rotary Club hosted its second anniversary of Wine Helps! Drink a Little — Help a Lot! The event was filled with 20 great wines and gourmet cheeses, as well as great jazz music and generous raffle prizes. Photos: Mark Van Bergh

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Mad Fox Hoppy Oktoberfest

Patrons joined Mad Fox in Falls Church as they transformed their market square into an Oktoberfest biergarten. The fun event showcased a large selection of hoppy beers from some of Virginia’s finest breweries, plus traditional German Oktoberfest beers. Photos: Mark Raker

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Lloyd Dobler Effect at Nationals Park

The Dodgers were in town to play the Nationals on Friday night, and fans came out to enjoy the Budweiser Terrace pre-game show put on by rock cover band Lloyd Dobler Effect. Photos: Devin Overbey

Photo: One Eight Distilling's website
Photo: One Eight Distilling's website

One Eight Distilling Launches Rock Creek Bourbon

While at Ivy City’s One Eight Distilling on Saturday, it seemed appropriate that I found myself beside a green-coated wall while discussing the life and growth of DC’s distillery scene.

“As we uncovered these walls, we saw these green colors here and in the tasting room, and we actually left them,” said Alex Laufer, One Eight’s cofounder and head distiller, as he pointed out the walls and exposed pipes that decorated his office.

One Eight held the official release party for its new liquor, Rock Creek Bourbon, this weekend. For the occasion, Laufer and his team converted their headquarters, which houses a distillery, warehouse and tasting room, into a pop-up festival grounds.

The event featured local vendors, such as gelato company Dolcezza and Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, a liquor-bottle engraving booth, fine glassware for sale and, of course, free tastings of the new bourbon. Laufer’s small office provided one of the few refuges from the commotion.

“It’s such a growing and fast-changing neighborhood,” Laufer said of his secluded slice of Northeast DC, located a block from New York Avenue.

He added that when One Eight moved into the area, it was a very gritty neighborhood. The distillery’s location is an essential part of its identity, and it made Saturday’s event historic. Rock Creek Bourbon is “the first bourbon to be distilled, aged and bottled in the District of Columbia since Prohibition,” according to a press release for the event.

The timing was essential, too. After all, September is National Bourbon Heritage Month.

“I looked up events for National Bourbon Month, and this came up,” said Angie Lomax, who attended the event with her parents from Brandywine, Maryland. Glass crashed and shattered behind the bar of the tasting room as Angie described the taste of the infant bourbon.

“I thought it was kinda spicy,” Lomax said.

“I thought it was smooth, no bite,” said Darnell Lomax, Angie’s father. “I like mine straight, so it was better that way. I don’t put the rocks in mine.”

“It’s an approachable, kind of all-purpose bourbon,” said Nina Shebest, One Eight’s assistant distiller. “It’s not quite as super sweet as a lot of bourbons. Secondary to that, you get the rye spice. Some caramel and toffee qualities in there are really nice; kind of burnt sugar.”

Shebest said the second biggest ingredient in Rock Creek Bourbon after corn – bourbon has to be at least 51 percent corn – is rye. The rye is delivered from Culpepper, Virginia, which highlights the “grain to glass” concept that Laufer has championed.

“The city, I think, is really craving knowing where their products are coming from and how they’re being made,” Laufer said.

He noted the craft breweries that have cropped up in the District in recent years, such as DC Brau, 3 Stars Brewing Company and One Eight’s neighbor, Atlas Brew Works. Laufer said that when he and cofounder Sandy Wood started One Eight, they were the third distillery to open in the District (the first was another neighbor, New Columbia Distillers).

Last week was also the third annual Whiskers and Whiskey cocktail party, for which One Eight teamed up with other local vendors to benefit the Humane Rescue Alliance, located around the corner from the distillery. It’s yet another example of how the distillery has dedicated itself to the community in which it resides.

With Saturday’s event, One Eight Distilling showcased the thriving Ivy City neighborhood and the continuing expansion of the District’s craft distillery scene. And with Rock Creek Bourbon, it sprouted another healthy stem.

For more information about the distillery, visit www.oneeightdistilling.com.

Photo: Annie Madigan
Photo: Annie Madigan

The Bourbon Dynasty: A. Smith Bowman Distillery

For the past two years, A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg has won World’s Best Bourbon at the World Whiskies Awards presented by Whisky Magazine. This year, their single barrel straight bourbon took home the prize. In 2016, it was the Abraham Bowman Port-Finished Bourbon. How does this small, family-owned distillery beat out the competition?

First things first. Isn’t real bourbon from Kentucky?

No, it isn’t quite that simple. To call itself bourbon, a whiskey needs to be made in America, distilled to no more than 160 proof, and bottled at 80 proof or higher. It must be aged in new, charred, oak barrels and contain a mash bill of at least 51 percent corn. The remainder of the ingredients will be rye, wheat and/or malted barley.

Okay, but historically bourbon is from Kentucky, right? Again, not exactly. Bourbon was first distilled in the 18th century, while the name itself dates back to the 1820s. This original bourbon came primarily from Bourbon County, Virginia, an area that was organized in 1785. In 1792, much of this region split away from Virginia to became part of Kentucky. Long story short, bourbon originally came from Virginia, not Kentucky. The area was simply renamed Kentucky after the fact.

But it’s the drink that matters, not semantics or geography.

A. Smith Bowman is a small-batch, hand-crafted distillery founded in 1934, the day after Prohibition ended. Hailing from Mercer County, Kentucky, Abram Bowman started the business with his sons DeLong and Abram Jr. They were originally based in Fairfax before moving to Spotsylvania County in 1988. For the first 20 years of operation, A. Smith Bowman was the only legal whiskey distillery in Virginia. They were best known for Virginia Gentleman and Fairfax County, their signature bourbons. In 2003, Bowman was bought out by Sazerac, a large, 150-year-old liquor company based in New Orleans. Today, Bowman makes bourbon, rye, gin, vodka, rum and other spirits.

So how do we account for the fact that Bowman keeps producing the world’s greatest bourbon? Brian Prewitt, their master distiller, attributes their success to the fact that they “always try to improve.” Whether it’s the ingredients, stills, distillation process, barrels, storage, char, alcohol content or any other variable, Bowman doesn’t rest on its laurels. “Pioneer spirit” is the distillery’s motto, which they embody with relentless experimentation.

Their pot stills are a good example. “Mary,” the main still, was designed in conjunction with Vendome Copper & Brass Works. She’s fitted with a reflux ball that’s topped with a massive copper coil “tiara”– on the vapor side, not the traditional condenser side. This adds more reflux to the distillation process, which in turn fosters a more complex taste in the spirits. “George,” a youngster born in 2015, was also designed in cooperation with Vendome. He’s a hybrid pot still with several distinct trays from which different spirits can be taken out of a single distillate, each at different proofs and with different flavor profiles. The Bowman goal, according to Prewitt, is to “blaze forward” while remaining “rooted in history,” a balance of tradition and innovation.

Prewitt also experiments with barrels. One of his guiding questions is: How does barrel use affect taste? He tried barrels that had previously held port, which infused distinct yet subtle notes of sweet wine into the spirit. Bowman’s espresso bourbon was another success. Local beans were roasted directly into bourbon barrels and left for five weeks. Afterward, the beans were dumped out and the barrels returned to the distillery, where bourbon was added and left to age for six months. Prewitt admits that not all experiments work – hot sauce, for example, didn’t have a positive impact on taste. But that’s okay. Without risking failure, there’s no progress.

Quality control is also a major factor. Mary can hold up to 2,000 gallons, but typically she only distills 500-700 gallons at a time. Bowman bourbons are all triple distilled, and their approach is always hands-on. The production staff is made up of just four people, and their work isn’t automated or computerized – all cuts are done by hand.

I tried 10 Bowman spirits and was impressed with them all – the Rye Expectations gin in particular. The first product of their experimental series, it’s a rye-based gin flavored with a number of botanicals including juniper, coriander and angelica. This isn’t something to dilute with tonic or seltzer. It’s an intriguing, provocative drink to sip over ice.

Whether it’s bourbon or any other spirit, A. Smith Bowman is doing it right. According to Prewitt, their method is neither complex nor mysterious.

“We’re trying to make the best spirits we possibly can.”

A. Smith Bowman Distillery: 1 Bowman Dr. Fredericksburg, VA; 540-373-4555; www.asmithbowman.com

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Country Day at Nationals Park

Nationals fans enjoyed a pre-game country themed party before the game against the Braves, with live music from country singer Shane Gamble, a mechanical bull and tons of ballpark snacks. Fans enjoyed plenty of ice cold Bud and Bud Light. Photos: Kayla Marsh

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6th Annual Wiener 500

Kick off Oktoberfest at the Sixth Annual Wiener 500! 1pm – 5pm on Saturday, September 30 on the boardwalk at The Yards Park in the Capitol Riverfront. $500 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the speediest dogs! Over 96 dogs raced in 2016!

Don’t have a dog? Come listen to live music by 7 Deadlies, drink coldSamuel Adams Octoberfest Beer, participate in the official Sam Adams stein hoisting competition, munch on great food and watch the funniest race around on a 17 foot jumbotron! Wes Johnson, voice of the Washington Capitals will be calling the play-by-play.

This is a family-friendly, FREE event, but you must be 21+ to drink beer, no outside alcohol allowed. Race proceeds will be donated to Humane Rescue Alliance.

Don’t have a Dachshund? You can still take part in the excitement with the all breed contest for best dressed dog! Plus, there will be local vendors and giveaways from DC’s best pet friendly businesses.

For more information and to sign up your Dachshund to race, visit www.wiener500.com!