Photos: Chelsea Bailey

City Brew Tours Brings Unique Brewery Experiences to DC and NoVA

Like the leaves, craft beer changes with the season. From Oktoberfests to pumpkin ales, there is a perfect fall beer for every drinker just like there is a perfect brewery tour for every experience. Whether you want to explore breweries in DC or escape the city, City Brew Tours (CBT) is a local company that offers a variety of experiences for every kind of beer lover. They provide all-inclusive brewery tours in and out of the city with carefully selected beers at each of their stops, behind-the-scenes brewery access and food. Each tour is led by one of their expert guides, who provides their guests with a unique local brewery experience. Founded five years ago, CBT operates in close to 10 cities including DC and recently launched a weekly NoVA Brew Tour. We caught up with CBT’s Washington DC area city coordinator Steven Quartel to learn more.

On Tap: What’s your role at CBT?
Steven Quartel: When I’m not coordinating logistics for our business in the DC area, I can be found at breweries giving tours, “researching” 16-oz. at a time when something new is in on tap or training our beer guides.

OT: What qualifications does one need to be a
CBT guide?
SQ: If you’re great with people and have a passion for beer and want to share that with folks but need to learn more, we can make you a beer expert.

OT: When someone comes out for their first CBT, what are you hoping that they take away from the experience?
SQ: We specialize in creating unforgettable experiences. If we can create moments that stick with people long after their tour is done, we’ve succeeded.

OT: What is included with a CBT ticket?
SQ: We offer a few different packages including private tours, safe transportation, an expert beer guide, beer and food. This also includes our curated pairing plate and a beer flight.

OT: Are the routes the same for every tour?
SQ: They are not. We strive to develop close relationships with several breweries. This allows us to vary the routes and offer an exclusive look behind the scenes at many places.

OT: How are the breweries on the CBT routes selected?
SQ: We look for breweries of all kinds so that we can highlight all manner of production techniques, beer programs, and the human stories that make each brewery unique.

OT: What was the inspiration for the new NoVA tour that launched in September?
SQ: It’s no secret that Virginia has definitely been having a moment in terms of craft breweries. We’ve been looking at branching out into NoVA for two years now.

OT: What went into building out the NoVA tour?
SQ: We wanted to take the city tour model and expanded it to a deluxe version in a more suburban environment. I worked hand-in-hand with the GMs and chefs at Crafthouse and Fire Works Pizza to put together an extraordinary beer and food pairing experience.

OT: What is your favorite thing about giving tours?
SQ: Seeing someone find their new favorite beer, especially if it’s one I picked out for them.

OT: How did you get started in beer?
SQ: My wife. I was more of a dark liquor drinker coming out of college. She worked at a brewery and introduced me to Belgians, IPAs, nut browns and stouts.

OT: What is your favorite fall beer style?
SQ: Brown ales. The Boxcar Brown from Caboose, the [Northern] Nut Brown at The Public Option [and] Wallops Island from Rocket Frog are perfect once the temps start cooling.

OT: Where do you go for a pint when you’re off the clock?
SQ: Fire Works Pizza Cascades [in Sterling, Virginia] or Crafthouse. I love poring over the tap list at Hops N Shine in Del Ray. When I’m in DC: Free State, Brookland Pint or District ChopHouse.

OT: Are there any upcoming beer releases that you are looking forward to?
SQ: Grampus, a nut-brown ale from Hellbender, and Maniacal IPA from Port City. I love seeing creativity from brewpub collaborations and smaller-batch brews from 3 Stars, Right Proper and Lake Anne Brew House.

CBT’s NoVA Brew Tours are available on Sundays, DC tours are offered daily. Tour availability and tickets are available at www.citybrewtours.com/dc. Use the code ONTAP15 by October 31 to save 15 percent on your NoVA tour booking.

Writer bio: Follow Chelsea Bailey and her beer adventures on Instagram @21stamendmentgirl.

Paul Gonzalez, Lauren Paylor, Deke Dunne // Photos: M.K. Koszycki

Behind the Bar: Honoring the Past and Future of Black Bartenders at Allegory

How do you honor a legacy that has all but been forgotten by a collective consciousness? It’s an almost impossible question, but the team at Allegory – Eaton Workshop’s literary-themed cocktail bar – is answering it in a way that’s interactive, educational and engaging.

Presented in conjunction with multidisciplinary artist Khalil Joseph’s “BLKNWS” exhibit, which opened at Eaton last month and runs through December, Allegory’s head bartender Paul Gonzalez and his team set out to commemorate the legacy of black bartenders who paved the way for the beverage industry.

To do this, the Allegory team called upon prominent black bartenders in the community to craft and submit drinks of their choosing to this special menu. They’ve also included drinks made by bartenders of yesteryear who previously have not received the acclaim owed to them – pioneers like Cato Alexander and John Dabney, to name a few, make appearances.

One such modern bartender making a contribution to the menu is Lauren Paylor, bar director at cocktail bar Dos Mamis and beverage director at restaurant Pom Pom, both newly opened in Petworth. Though the Bronx native came to DC to study nursing at the Catholic University of America, she was quickly embraced by the city’s tightknit and talented hospitality world where she found a community to grow and create with.

When Allegory manager and bartender Deke Dunne and Gonzalez approached her to be part of this experience that she describes as a transition and continuation of the “BLKNWS” exhibit, she was all in. Paylor contributed a drink called the Loco Bananas: a sweet, smoky, banana-infused whiskey and rum-based cocktail.

Loco Bananas

“Seeing this turn in the DC community specifically with celebrating all aspects of history as far as cocktails are concerned is really nice,” Paylor says. “There are so many pieces that are often left out. They’re pertinent, they’re important and they have great significance. I was head over heels to be able to be part of this.”

Gonzalez explains that while his time at other bars in historic stretches of DC piqued his curiosity and appreciation for untold sides of the city’s hospitality history, “BLKNWS” provided Allegory with a platform to dive even deeper and make these bartenders’ stories heard and appreciated in tandem with the impactful message of the art.

“Deke and I used to work at The Gibson, and we thought it was fascinating how 14th and U is such a historic corner,” Gonzalez says. “Most of the people who live in the city now or that just go up and down that block know nothing about Black Broadway or all these amazing clubs. There’s a rich history that’s on that one strip from 7th to 14th Streets [in the U Street Corridor]. We took that as the starting point and started doing a little more research.”

To capture the history of black bartenders in the city, Gonzalez and Dunne dove in and found fascinating and necessary stories of entrepreneurs who did much more than just make a great cocktail in an era where the world was outwardly aiming to oppress them.

“The further we researched, the more we dug into finding all of these historic bartenders, and the greater the story [became],” Gonzalez continues. “These people literally started off as slaves and then by the time it was done, they weren’t just free. They owned businesses. One of them put his son through medical school. These are just stories that people need to know. You don’t call yourself a professional if you only care about the pretty side of history.”

The team found that some of the most important voices in this era were often excluded. Dunne notes that they are lucky to know the limited information that was available to them through their research.

“Cato Alexander was one of the forefathers of the cocktail scene back in the 1830s, and there’s little to nothing [available] about him,” Dunne says. “There are all these famous characters that were some of the best bartenders in the world that were black and had vertical growth in society, and nobody was talking about them.”

Alexander is just one of the talents the Allegory team sheds light on. As a modern black bartender, Paylor is happy to have the opportunity to make history known to those who come through to enjoy the menu.

“There is so much I’m learning now about the significance of black people and people of color in history – specifically in DC – and the broader spectrum of America,” she says. “There’s still so much we don’t know and there’s a little frustration that comes with that, but we’re doing our part to ensure that moving forward, we can continue the conversation and hope that this history doesn’t repeat itself. All people deserve to be celebrated for the impact that they’ve made on this industry, whether it was past or present.”

Experience “BLKNWS” and Allegory’s accompanying cocktail menu through the end of December.

For more on Lauren Paylor and Dos Mamis, visit www.dosmamisdc.com and follow her on Instagram @lpdrinksdc. Learn more about Allegory at www.allegory-dc.com.

Allegory at Eaton Workshop: 1201 K St. NW, DC; www.allegory-dc.com

Photo: Nick Donner

Confessions of Traveling Snack Slingers

What happens at the food truck rodeo doesn’t always stay at the food truck rodeo. We caught up with food truckers around the region to hear about the highs and lows of cooking on the road.

Captain Cookie & the Milkman

On Tap: What is the craziest event you’ve ever taken your truck to?
Founder // co-owner Kirk Francis: That would be The Festicle, which was a testicle-cooking festival held at the Bullpen. There were numerous testicle-cooking competitions, a team who did WWE-style wrestling and pole dancers. A close second was the Flugtag by Red Bull, where we saw various teams compete to push their homemade flying objects on hilariously unsuccessful launches. There was a lot of smashing and a tiny bit of flying.

OT: Most surprising order?
KF: We make cookie cakes, and over the years we’ve been asked to make some highly inappropriate cookie cakes for bachelorette parties. We also made and delivered a cookie cake once that simply said, “F—k you.” I hope it was a joke.

OT: What’s your favorite snack to enjoy after Captain Cookie calls it a day?
KF: Kimchi with rice and a fried egg. I ferment my own so there’s always a jar handy. It’s salty, sour and spicy, but still pretty healthy.

www.captaincookiedc.com

Photo: courtesy of CapMac

CapMac

On Tap: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever made for a customer?
Owner Josh Warner: The craziest order would probably be catering. They wanted to get fancy, and they wanted six courses and a plated dinner for four hours. Zero mac and cheese at all.

OT: What’s one thing most people don’t realize about owning a food truck?
JW: You think we’re only open for two hours, but we make everything from scratch so it’s a full day. It’s so much more if you do it right, and we do it right. We love people more than we love food.

www.capmacdc.com

Photo: courtesy of Rebel Taco

Rebel Taco

On Tap: What’s one aspect of owning a food truck most folks don’t realize?
Owner Mike Bramson: It gets hot inside the truck! If you’re feeling hot, imagine 10 degrees warmer – at least. Whoever is serving you on a warm day, just give them a “thank you.”

OT: What Rebel Taco dish do you crave post-shift?
MB: I’m normally craving the taco that I saw go out the most that day. It’s usually either the Super Chick (chipotle-marinated chicken, avocado crema and pico de gallo on a flour tortilla), steak quesadilla or the Shrimp Gone Wild (cornflake-battered shrimp, slaw and Rebel sauce).

OT: Name the food order that made you raise an eyebrow.
MB: One time, we had an order of 16 tacos from one person. I figured he was taking it to a group, but it was just him and his friend. I guess they must really like our tacos.

www.rebeltacova.com

Photo: courtesy of Swizzler

Swizzler

On Tap: What’s the oddest food order you’ve received?
Founder Jesse Konig: The weirdest thing that I’ve seen get ordered is asking for two hot dogs in one bun. I think people see the spiral-cut hot dogs and think they should be able to fuse together and make a super-sized hot dog. I respect the creative thinking, but it just doesn’t quite work out the way you think it would. Please, don’t order it.

OT: What’s your go-to Swizzler snack after a long day?
JK: I’ve been on a big burger kick recently so I’d have to say my number one choice would be a Swizz Stack fresh off the grill, maybe even with some caramelized onions and candied jalapeños added on top if I’m feeling crazy! After a long day working on the truck, that thing will disappear in 30 seconds flat. If we’re talking hot dogs, it would have to be a Feast Mode. Just thinking about it is making me hungry!

www.swizzlerfoods.com

Photo: courtesy of Pepe

Pepe by José Andrés

On Tap: After a long day with Pepe, what do you eat standing over the kitchen sink?
Chef Aaron Helfand: Spanish pulled pork with shredded cabbage slaw, hold the bread.

OT: What’s the weirdest thing someone’s asked you to make?
AH: Being a small workspace, we only have so many options to alter something. But guests come up with all sorts of interesting tweaks, whether it’s adding jamón to everything or adding croquetas to the inside of a bocata.

OT: What’s the one thing you can’t do without on your truck?
AH: This depends on where we are in the DMV area. It is interesting how guests at each location crave different items from our menu. We try to bring as much as possible so everyone can enjoy, but we can never be without jamón.

www.joseandrescatering.com

Photo: courtesy of Puddin’

A Day in the Life with Puddin’ Food Truck Owner Toyin Alli

Toyin Alli, founder of DC’s beloved soul food staple Puddin’, knows what people like: great ingredients, comforting flavors and a second to experience bliss in the middle of a busy day. Cooking is a thread that runs through her entire life, first as a way to bond with family, then as a hobby and ultimately as a calling. DMV residents gravitate toward Alli’s warmth and the sense of fun she brings to food. With two food trucks, a Union Market stall and a spot at Eastern Market’s Saturday farmers market, Puddin’s growth has tracked right alongside the District’s food truck scene. We caught up with her to learn more about where she’s been and where she’s headed next.

On Tap: What drew you to cooking?
Toyin Alli: I come from a family of people who love cooking. My dad is Nigerian and my mom is African American, so they’re always trying to merge those two things in the kitchen. I gravitated toward Cajun and Creole food because they have the influence of West African cuisines, French, Native Americans – it feels like the most American food there is. I ended up using a lot of West African ingredients and when I went to Louisiana [to research], I saw so much stuff that my dad was using, like okra. It felt like food that was very familiar to me.

OT: How did Puddin’ come to be? How did you pick the name?
TA: I started in 2005 just doing all different kinds of puddings – bread pudding, mousse, panna cotta – literally any kind of pudding I could think of. But it didn’t really take. People just started calling me Puddin’ and it stuck. It’s also a common Southern nickname. People come up to the truck all the time and say, “That’s MY nickname!” I started again after I graduated from grad school [in 2010]: gumbo, shrimp and grits, banana pudding. This wasn’t an overly thought-out business idea. It came from a love of cooking and it was a thing I did on the weekend. I was working a full-time job and I was rushing around getting ingredients. I quit my job about six months after I started the business. It was scary, but it ended up paying off. I was able to incrementally build my business by starting in the Eastern Market farmers market.

OT: Now you’re at Eastern Market and in Union Market, and you’ve got the food truck. How does your clientele differ at each location?
TA: We have die-hard Eastern Market people who come every weekend for our po’boys because I put a twist on it. It’s still traditional with big fried shrimp, but we put our remoulade and a vinegar-based slaw on them. We use local Rappahannock oysters and wild blue catfish, which is different too. They’re an invasive species and they’re not bottom feeders so they don’t have that muddy taste, plus getting them out of the water helps the ecosystem. Union Market is changing. We have people who come because they support me as a black-owned, female-owned business. The new market people are trendy millennials, tourists – and they’re having a different experience. It’s all cool. It’s all great.

OT: What’s your bestseller? Why do you think that is?
TA: The bread pudding is always a hit. It’s an old-timey dessert you either love or hate. What’s fun for me is taking one of those old-school desserts and turning it into something people really enjoy. Getting people to try it is a challenge. “That’s wet bread! Who wants wet bread? I don’t!” But ours is no nuts, no raisins, no cinnamon, and who doesn’t love butter and bread with sugar and bourbon? Rather than try to overcomplicate it, I made something simple – and people love it.

OT: What does comfort food mean to you?
TA: When I think of comfort food, I think of anything that makes my body tingle [while I’m eating it]. It’s so good, I’d rather be doing that than any number of things that also make me feel good. Comfort food to me is, you need this not only for nourishment, but to feed your soul. I know you can’t indulge every day, but sometimes you just need some fried shrimp, you need some gumbo. Ultimately, if it feels like home.

OT: What’s next for Puddin’?
TA: I’m working on Puddin’s Community Kitchen. We’re hoping to open in November. I purchased warehouse space in Capitol Heights, Maryland, right outside DC. It’ll be an incubator space and a commercial kitchen, but also a community space for cooking classes and whatever else the community needs. I’m trying to create a space that can be used to fill that gap. Additionally, there’s going to be a carry-out space so people in that community can buy Puddin’ food without coming into the city.

 Learn more about Puddin’ and where to find Alli’s food trucks at www.dcpuddin.com or on Instagram @dcpuddin.

Monday through Sunday at Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com

Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Eastern Market: 635 North Caroline Ave. SE, DC; www.easternmarket-dc.org

Turtle Recall at Nationals Park

The Budweiser music series at Nationals Park concluded on Friday, September 27 with live music from Turtle Recall in the Budweiser Terrace as the Nationals warmed up to play the Indians. Photos: Mark Raker Photography

Sixth in the Sixth Culture House DC Anniversary Party

On Tap Magazine and DC Fray joined forces to celebrate Culture House DC’s sixth anniversary in Ward 6, kicking off the first week of Map Glover’s “Save The Seed” exhibit. Guests caught a glimpse of vibrant local arts and culture through the lens of visual and multimedia artists, music curators, musicians and other creatives with access to food trucks and a cash bar. Featured artists included Maps Glover, Domo, Mane Squeeze, The Mixxtress and GIRLAAA. Photos: Nick Moreland Photography

D.C. United Cornhole Tournament at Audi Field

D.C. United fans celebrated the start of fall with a cornhole tournament at Audi Field before the game against the Seattle Sounders. Fans pregames with a little friendly competition in a double elimination tournament, then enjoyed Sunday’s game with DC Fray drink specials. Photos: Mark Raker Photography

Oktoberfest at Dacha Navy Yard

Dacha Navy Yard hosted its opening weekend of Oktoberfest on Saturday, September 21.  This DC Oktoberfest celebration is every Saturday and Sunday until October 6, complete with brats, brews and music. Photos: Mark Raker Photography

Chesapeake Oyster, Wine & Beer Festival 2019

Union Market DC hosted the ultimate seafood and libations celebration on Saturday, September 21. Guests enjoyed 30 all-you-care-to-taste beers, wines and spirits, all-you-care-to-taste oysters, and other seafood dishes with access to restaurant tasting stations, and great music on the main stage. Photos: Mark Raker Photography

Photo: Mark Raker

Shuck, Slurp, Repeat: Chesapeake Oyster Fest Deliver Supremely Delicious Shellfish to Union Market

“Shuck, slurp and repeat – that’s what it’s all about,” said Greg Nivens, who along with other members of the Trigger Agency, braved the unseasonably warm temperatures to steam and grill seafood for the attendees.

The 9th Annual Chesapeake Oyster Wine and Beer Festival took place on Saturday September 21 at Union Market’s Dock 5, where a number of people avoided the heat by scarfing down wonderful seafood dishes paired with seasonal beers. 

 It was easy to follow those directions to enjoy all seven oyster stations, but the options also included mussels, clams and shrimp. An estimated 30,000 oysters were consumed between the two sessions.

There were casual eaters and true oyster devotees, and some people even carried tasting books to take notes on the different types of oysters. 

This event provides attendees with the chance to eat all of the oysters they could, and to learn more about the different varietals of the shellfish. Everyone who has ever tried knows it takes skill to open oysters, and expert shuckers take it another level, something like an art form. 

Pros were happy to share information about the oyster farms, as well as variety of options. The environment and terroir (waters) they grow in help determine the oyster’s size and flavors.

Shuck, Slurp and Repeat – that’s what it’s all about,” said Greg Nivens

Some of the selections were big and plump, and some were small. They ranged from sweet to briny, however, for the oyster lovers committed and new, they all had one thing in common: they were delicious .

This year, the Chesapeake Oyster Wine and Beer Festival partnered with The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP). There were special “recycling stations” provided for the shells. These recycled shells help to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Kevin Boyle of Shore Thing Shellfish in St. Mary’s County, Maryland said that “farming oysters is beyond sustainable, it is restorative; creating life and ecosystems where there was nothing.” The organization loves this event, because it allows the people of DC to enjoy the oysters and connect to the Potomac.

In addition to the seafood, folks enjoyed Hard Times Cafe chili and barbecue from Kloby’s Smokehouse. There were also several dozen beers, wines and spirits available for sampling, using the commemorative sampling glass provided.

Participants also enjoyed pairings. Blue Point Brewing Company was pouring a number of styles, and locally-brewed Granite City Brewery sampled their SMASH beer, single malt and single hops as well as the seasonally available Blue- Eyed Brunette Bourbon Brown Ale. 

Champagne pairs wonderfully with oysters, so naturally, the Korbel Champagne bar was a popular destination. The wine station offered a number of tasty varieties, and local distilleries assisted attendees with spirits, allowing for attendees to truly customize their pairings. 

As Shakespeare said “The world’s mine oyster” but on Saturday, it is safe to say that the oysters were our world.

For more information about the Chesapeake Oyster Wine and Beer Festival, visit here. Want to relive the festival? Check out Mark Raker’s photo gallery