ShamrockFest 2019

This year’s ShamrockFest at RFK Stadium Festival Grounds featured a music lineup with The Mahones, DJ Brandi Cyrus, Mighty Might Bosstones and more, plus beer, Irish games and delicious festival food. Photos: Alan Kelly

DC Fray’s Late Night Glow Snow Tubing Trip

DC Fray, the champion of things to do in DC, were at it again with their Late Night Glow Snow Tubing that kicked off during happy hour at Kelly’s Irish Times for the pre-game, the continued with the BYOB #Fraylife Bus ride all the way to the slopes at Avalanche Express. Photos: Cristina O’Connell

Mardi Gras & Crawfish Eating Contest at Hot N Juicy Crawfish DC

Hot N Juicy Crawfish DC celebrated Fat Tuesday with the annual crawfish-eating contest. Participants enjoyed drink specials, gift card prizes and more. Photos: Mike Kim

 

Shakespeare Young Prose Night: Richard The Third

Shakespeare Theatre’s Young Prose Night for Richard The Third featured a post-show reception with a complimentary wine or beer from Ballast Point. Photos: Trent Johnson

Brewer’s Ball at The National Building Museum

The National Building Museum hosted the craft beer event of the season, Brewer’s Ball, featuring more than 40 of the best breweries and 30 popular restaurants, all while supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Guests enjoyed unlimited samplings of handcrafted beers and tastes of the best local cuisine, and bid on unique silent and live auction items and experiences. Photos: Mark Raker Photography

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Leading The Way With Glass In Hand

DC’s wine scene continues to expand and innovate, with new restaurants and bars pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. Gone are the days of stuffy wine lists. As consumers become more educated and adventurous, wine programs must evolve to keep up with hot trends, new regions and unique varietals.

The wine industry has long been male-dominated, but that too is rapidly changing. More women rise to the top and thrive within all areas of the wine industry – from winemakers to business owners to sommeliers at the hottest dining destinations. We sat down to chat with a few of the amazing women driving the District’s wine scene.

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Photo: Durazo Photography

Stacey Khoury-Diaz
Owner, Dio Wine Bar

Originally from Sonoma County, Stacey Khoury-Diaz fell in love with the natural wines movement she’d experienced across the country and abroad. She opened Dio Wine Bar in the H Street Corridor in September 2017 to fill the natural wines gap she felt was missing in DC.

On Tap: Your menu indicates wines that are made by female winemakers. Do you find there are any notable differences between wines made by women and wines made by men?
Stacey Khoury-Diaz:
When I opened Dio, I wanted to highlight other women in the industry, so about 20 percent of our list is made up of wines that are from woman-owned wineries or wineries with a woman winemaker. I tend to see a lot more elevated wines made by women.

OT: What advice would you pass along to women beginning their career in the wine industry?
SKD:
Men can walk in and simply say, “This wine is awesome.” But a woman has to be more prepared with facts and statistics to prove her knowledge base. This applies on many levels in business. We have more obstacles and have to work harder to prove ourselves.

OT: What’s your go-to wine at the moment?
SKD:
I can’t stop drinking a winter rose by Daniel Ramos from Spain. It’s 100 percent garnacha and a very deep, fragrant rosé. It tastes like roses, vanilla and baking spices. It’s beautiful!

OT: What sets Dio apart from other local wine bars?
SKD:
We really highlight the fact that we’re a natural wine bar, meaning the wines are all organic or biodynamic with little added. I’m socially and environmentally driven, so natural wines fit how I live my life. We’re eclectic as far as countries represented and have a lot of fun bringing in wines that aren’t available elsewhere.

Dio Wine Bar: 904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Photo: Marissa Bialecki

Niki Lang
Partner and Sommelier, Maxwell Park

Niki Lang has years of experience in the wine and hospitality industries, and most recently embarked on a venture with business partners Brent Kroll and Daniel Runnerstrom. Shaw’s Maxwell Park opened in June 2017 and continues to garner praise and accolades from locals.

On Tap: What wine can you not get enough of lately?
Niki Lang:
I’ve been nerding out over Northern Piedmont recently. My favorite is La Kiuva, a Picotendro [local name for the Nebbiolo grape] from Valle d’Aosta [in Italy]. It’s a lighter, more delicate style but still very interesting and complex.

OT: How did you find your way to the wine industry?
NL:
I grew up with my grandmother and wine was part of everyday life for her, so I was always exposed. When I took the first course from the Court of Master Sommeliers, it opened up a whole new world. I went into wine sales for a few years, worked at other fine dining restaurants in DC, and even worked at a distillery to learn mixology and the distillation process to broaden my knowledge of the beverage world.

OT: What’s the collaborative process like with your business partners?
NL:
Brent, Daniel and I have different backgrounds, so we bounce ideas off each other constantly. We have 50 wines by the glass that change monthly. March’s theme is “The Upside Down” – Southern Hemisphere wines. It’s collaborative and fun, and we try to keep it clever.

OT: How do you think the DC wine industry has evolved throughout your career?
NL:
DC feels like it’s been exploding with fine dining restaurants. I’ve seen a trend toward value-driven, approachable wine lists that focus on obscure varietals. At Maxwell Park, we work with almost 50 different distributors because we change our list so often and we want unique, experimental wines that are popular among consumers.

Maxwell Park:1336 9th St. NW, DC; www.maxwellparkdc.com

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Vanessa Cominsky
Sommelier, St. Anselm

With its namesake location in Brooklyn, St. Anselm expanded to the District last fall and was an instant success in the up-and-coming Northeast area near Union Market. Vanessa Cominsky was part of the opening team and currently oversees a wine program of more than 700 options.

On Tap: What’s your top priority as a sommelier?
Vanessa Cominsky:
Our goal is to challenge perceptions and take people on an adventure. There’s truly something for everyone, from classics to more funky picks. This area is also so vibrant and people are excited to come in and explore, which helps me as a sommelier.

OT: What’s in your glass today?
VC:
My honest answer is a double shot of espresso. Blue Bottle saves my soul. I’m also into Sicilian and Southern Italian wines right now like Azienda Agricola COS, one of the original wines from Sicily that’s imported in the States.

OT: What challenges do you face as a female wine professional?
VC:
I’m almost numb to the “Oh, you’re the sommelier?” looks at this point. I hope eventually I won’t have to list my accomplishments to justify that I’m qualified to do my job. Until we don’t have to do that, we’ll have a lot of work to do within the industry.

OT: What makes St. Anselm relevant in DC’s ever-changing foodie scene?
VC:
We have Joe Carroll [the restauranteur behind St. Anselm] in New York, and he always gives input on what’s coming. I also eat out a lot and listen to people. Writing off trends seen on social media and Instagram would also be a big mistake. It’s a big part of how we connect with [customers] in regards to food and wine.

St. Anselm: 1250 5th St. NE, DC; www.stanselmdc.com

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Darlin Kulla
Beverage Director and Sommelier, KNEAD Hospitality + Design

After returning to DC for an internship in climate change, Darlin Kulla quickly realized office life wasn’t her path. She soon began working with various fine wine programs throughout the District, and now she’s gearing up to sit the advanced exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers this fall while leading the wine programs at Succotash and Mi Vida.

On Tap: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to the beginning of your career?
Darlin Kulla:
I wish I’d know that it’s okay to ask for help, advice or mentorship. It’s easy to forget we’re not in this alone. There are so many people in DC that are driven and talented; it’s a great community and very supportive.

OT: Tell us a bit about the wine programs at Succotash and Mi Vida.
DK:
Succotash is Southern American food, so think bold, structured wines that can stand up to the food. Southern food is not shy! Mi Vida’s menu is more varied in terms of styles, even though it’s a smaller list. We went heavier in Spanish and Iberian wines. There are some fun Portuguese wines and also a Mexican Chardonnay by the glass.

OT: Wine perhaps isn’t the first pairing people think of with Mexican cuisine. How do you help guests select wines to pair with more complex dishes from the menu?
DK:
We have descriptors for all the wines printed on the list so the consumer is able to get a snapshot of the wine before they order, which is helpful with more eclectic wines. People are becoming more adventurous and what they’ll try continues to exceed expectations.

OT: What wine is currently on your short list?
DK:
I drink a lot of Beaujolais – that tends to be my go-to.

Learn more about KNEAD at www.kneadhd.com. Two new spots, Gatsby in Capitol Riverfront and The Grill at The Wharf, will join the restaurant group’s existing locations later this year.

Mi Vida: 98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com
Succotash: 915 F St. NW, DC; www.succotashrestaurant.com

Photo: Greg Powers

New and Notable: Olivia, Vim and Victor, Urbano 116 and More

Olivia
Open: January 10
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj has performed yet another extreme restaurant makeover. This time, Olivia replaced American brasserie Nopa Kitchen + Bar. Executive Chef Matt Kuhn is still running the kitchen, but his cooking is now influenced by flavors from Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and Greece. The new restaurant takes its name from the Latin for olive tree, evoking Mediterranean imagery like round glass wine vessels hanging from the ceiling draped in fishing net, a whitewashed brick wall and a panel of wooden slats dotted with flower pots. The menu features spreads like tzatziki labne and roasted carrot hummus, as well as various small plates including creamy chickpea ravioli, classic dolmades, octopus carpaccio and chicken bastille – a savory Moroccan phyllo pastry. If you’re really hungry, consider a large plate like the Portuguese seafood stew or braised short rib tagine. The showstopper on the dessert menu is a grand hazelnut profiterole crowned with gold leaf. 800 F St. NW, DC; www.oliviawdc.com

Vim & Victor
Open: January 10
Location: Springfield
Lowdown: Since becoming a father, celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn’s career has moved away from television, fine dining and fast casual concepts and into the wellness space. His latest concept at the St. James (a 450,000-square-foot sports and wellness complex) is a natural fit for the longtime hockey player. He’s distinguished Vim & Victor as a disruptor when it comes to food in the fitness scene, as it encompasses a grab-and-go counter, a full-service restaurant and a bar. Overseeing the dining option at this facility was a tall order to fill because it needed to provide something for everyone who might find themselves working out, watching their kid’s soccer game, getting a treatment at the spa, taking a dance class, training for an elite event or playing in an adult basketball league. The guiding philosophy for his menu is healthy, hearty and hydrating. That means you’ll find a seared salmon filet, an ancient grain salad and smoothie bowls alongside cauliflower nachos, a lobster salad toast, and a burger topped with American cheese and special sauce. The drinks range from wellness lattes and teas to smoothies and cold-pressed juices, plus cocktails, wine and beer. The counter menu offers breakfast sandwiches and pastries in the morning as well as personal pizzas and Beyond Meat sandwiches during the day. The St. James: 6805 Industrial Rd. Springfield, VA; www.vimandvictor.com

Urbano 116
Open: January 21
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: Alexandria is now home to an authentic taste of Mexico City thanks to the arrival of Chef Alam Méndez Florían. The owners of Mason Social, Augie’s Mussel House and Catch on the Avenue crossed paths with Méndez Florían while on a research and development trip in Mexico City for their newest restaurant Urbano 116. Méndez Florían has been recognized by both national and international media for his restaurant, Pasillo de Humo, and he has cooked in Michelin-starred kitchens like Noma Mexico and Arzak in Spain. Here in the U.S., Méndez Florían is using imported ingredients like heirloom Oaxacan corn, which is nixtamalized, ground and turned into supple and flavorful tortillas. His menu borrows family recipes for complex sauces that take days to create, like black mole on grilled Cornish hen and pipián sauce on butternut squash. You’ll also find various tacos, zippy ceviches, saucy enchiladas, bar-friendly starters like grilled tlayuda and plantain molotes, and of course, fresh fried churros to be dipped in sauces like chocolate and guava cinnamon. Drinks heavily skew toward agave spirits and syrups, including Mexican spins on classic cocktails (think Mezcamule and Old Oaxacan). The space feels like an ode to luchadores, with murals and masks displayed prominently. 116 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.urbano116.com

Coconut Club
Open: January 25
Location: Union Market
Lowdown: If there’s one thing celebrity chef Adam Greenberg hopes you experience at Coconut Club, it’s fun. He may be an undefeated Food Network competitor with two decades of industry experience, but that’s not why he thinks his new restaurant and bar is worth visiting. He’s trying to recreate a simple kind of bliss: the way he felt drinking a frozen cocktail in a pool in Hawaii on vacation with his wife. The food and drink menus are playful but unfussy, with coastal small plates and island cocktails laid out on colorful patterns that mimic the bright and leafy mural on the wall. Dishes let the high-quality ingredients like fresh fish flown in from Hawaii overnight or local pasture-raised pork speak for themselves with simple but creative preparations. You’ll want to try the crowd favorites, which so far include the ora king salmon poke and the spam fried rice. Pair that with a frozen Mahalo at You Later cocktail or the Waking Up From a Disco Nap cocktail for two and you’ll instantly feel like you’re relaxing on a tropical beach. Instagrammers are welcome here, as evidenced by the social media handles and emojis accenting the menus, the whimsical serving ware (coconuts, plastic pineapples, sparkly disco balls) and the decals on the bathroom mirrors. Greenberg calls the concept “authentically me” and equates it to welcoming guests into his own home. Above all else, the chef wants anyone who walks into Coconut Club to find an escape and feel free to be themselves. 540 Penn St. NE, DC; www.hellococonutclub.com

NOTABLE

New Flavors at Hazel
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: After debuting global, Asian-leaning small plates to much acclaim, Hazel has changed its culinary compass to point towards the Mediterranean. Chef Robert Curtis took over the kitchen last summer and introduced his new direction this winter. Curtis worked internationally at Noma, as well as locally at Bourbon Steak and Restaurant Eve, before joining Neighborhood Restaurant Group to helm Hazel. The new menu he developed is inspired by a trip to Turkey to visit his fiancé. Each meal should begin with laffa flatbread topped with condiments like whipped tahini, smoked catfish and muhammara. The dishes, all intended for sharing, are laid out in four categories: Greens & Beans, Grains of Various Names, Animal Kingdom and Feast. Vegetables like roasted carrots, crispy potatoes and fried Brussels sprouts take center stage, complemented by Middle Eastern flavors ranging from harissa oil to za’atar. 808 V St. NW, DC; www.hazelrestaurant.com

Selva Pop-Up at El Techo
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: The trendy rooftop above Rito Loco has once again debuted a tropical pop-up to elicit vacation vibes and this time, they’re taking you to the rainforest. Selva is inspired by the Amazon with woven lanterns made from repurposed fishing baskets, a Mayan calendar wall mural and naturally, plenty of vegetation. The space has been upgraded with additional insulation to keep in the heat and make you feel like you’re in a balmy jungle. The food and drink match the mood with tacos, spicy chicken soup, breakfast nachos, hot cocktails and shareable spiked Jarritos served in skulls. A portion of the proceeds from Selva will be donated to the Amazon Conservation Team and other global organizations to protect rainforests worldwide. 606 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.ritoloco.com/el-techo

Photo: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Women’s Issue Edition

DC has risen in the ranks as one of the most exciting bar scenes in the country as of late. At the helm of many of the buzziest bars in the city are women leading award-winning teams to craft the best and brightest cocktail programs. Whether they’re mainstays, newcomers or home to a specific spirit, each one is worth taking note of – not just because of the world-class drinks, but for the noteworthy ladies at the helm, too.


Megan Barnes (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Megan Barnes

Beverage Director + Partner, Espita Mezcaleria

Notice mezcal popping up across the city over the past few years? You probably have Espita Mezcaleria’s Megan Barnes to thank for that. The Shaw spot’s menu highlights the spicy and smoky spirit’s best qualities, converting even the most stubborn drinkers into passionate connoisseurs who keep diaries around their favorite varieties.

“I loved it from first sip,” Barnes says of the spirit.

She got her start at Columbia Room working under Drink Company’s Derek Brown, who introduced her to mezcal.

“After work, I would walk down to Oyamel because at the time, that was the only place you could get mezcal. Now, I go down to Mexico about three times a year, and that’s also opened the door for me to learn about different ranges, styles, techniques and flavors. And meeting the families who are producing the mezcal – it’s really kind of a romance.”

Although Barnes’ time at Espita so far has been a well-awarded one, including a RAMMY last year for best bar program, she credits the bar team behind her and the city’s supportive cocktail scene for her continued successes.

“The DC bar scene is probably the best in the entire country. We’re so tight-knit and we’re always rooting each other on, especially the women in the city. We love each other so much.”

Espita Margarita (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Margarita
Tequila
Lime
Ligit Triple
“Nogave” syrup

Espita Mezcaleria: 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com

 


Alex Bookless (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alexandra Bookless

Beverage Director, Eaton Workshop

Eaton Workshop’s ambitious pursuit of creating a social justice-minded hub for travelers and locals alike is a perfect match for seasoned beverage director Alexandra Bookless.

“We’ve got four concepts including the cafe [and] the coworking space, and we do events as well, so there’s a lot going on,” she says of the bars she oversees within the multi-use downtown space, which sees about a 50/50 split between natives and visitors.

Bookless and her team develop detailed menus for Allegory, American Son, Kintsugi, Wild Days and a soon-to-open bar within their coworking space. Not only do they make it seem effortless, but Bookless has helped usher in a new wave of luxury hotels as spots for community and craft cocktails.

“People really support our ideas and allow us to have a strong creative voice, which is really on theme for Eaton Workshop in general – just supporting art in all forms. It’s kind of a holistic approach to supporting creative outlets here.”

Allegory drink (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

2666 from Allegory
Pechuga mezcal 
Reposado tequila
Sherry 
Creme de cacao
Mole bitters
Chocolate-covered fig made in-house 

Eaton Workshop: 1201 K St. NW, DC; www.eatonworkshop.com

 


Alejandra Martin 2 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Alejandra Martin

Bartender + Manager, Gaslight Tavern

Alejandra Martin credits her family with her love of the food and beverage industry. Her parents owned a Mexican restaurant in California, and she says the restaurant world has always been in her blood. A bartender of 11 years, she joined the team at Shaw’s Gaslight Tavern when it opened last January.

“It’s been great to have been here from the beginning,” she says of the Art Deco-inspired bar. “We base our cocktails on the setting, so a lot are classic cocktails or spins on them. We stick to that time period but still get creative with them.”

Martin’s creativity shines in drinks she creates outside of the pantheon of classics, too. She crafted a current special called the Mezcalito, an homage to her love of the spirit. She keeps the retro feel with a float and an ornate glass.

“I like it because it’s a little different and it’s layered, with a fernet float on top. It’s cute and flavorful – a complex yet simple cocktail.”

The warm and inviting space is filled with – as the name would suggest – fireplaces, and its location sees locals stopping in to be guided into the arena of old-school drinks by Martin.

Mezcalito (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Trent Johnson

Mezcalito
Mezcal
Agave syrup
Pinch of salt
Fernet float
Dehydrated lime
Fresh-squeezed lemon

Gaslight Tavern: 2012-2014 9th St. NW, DC; www.gaslight-dc.com

 


Columbia Room (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

Suzy Critchlow

Head Bartender, Columbia Room

Suzy Critchlow has risen to the top of the industry thanks to her curiosity, creativity and initiative. Despite reverence for the history of the craft, change is part of the ethos of Columbia Room. Critchlow and her team are constantly reimagining and refining their menu at the award-winning Blagden Alley spot, pushing the boundaries of classic cocktails. Their current menu Distortion is no exception.

“We’re distorting ingredients, flavors, visuals and sound,” she says. “Another menu I really loved was one called Women Rule. It was all inspired by female chefs, mixologists and bartenders. Pretty much as soon as we release a menu, we hit the ground running designing a new one.”

And although there’s no shortage of innovation in her current role, she says DC’s fast-paced drink scene keeps her on her toes and always challenges her to be even better.

“There are new places opening all the time, [which] challenges you to make sure that you’re still keeping your standards very high because there are so many people out there who are so talented and have a lot to bring to the table. It gets better [in DC] every day.”

Columbia Room_drink (Photo - Daniel Lempres)

Photo: Daniel Lempres

The Prose Punch
Gin
Fino
Pear
Roses
Whey
White vermouth

Columbia Room: 124 Blagden Alley NW, DC; www.columbiaroomdc.com

 


Erin Adams (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Erin Adams

General Manager, AC Hotel National Harbor

On Tap: Tell us a bit about the offerings at AC Lounge within the hotel.
Erin Adams: AC Lounge is our bar area where guests can enjoy local craft beers, expertly made signature cocktails such as locally inspired gin and tonics, specialty wines sourced from around the world including Spanish Albarino and Rioja, and a curated selection of tapas-style small bites.

OT: Any mainstays or customer favorites on the drink menu?
EA:
To kick the evening off, we offer a nightly ritual of passing the porrón – a tradition started because of our Spanish roots. The porrón is a traditional glass wine pitcher filled with wine and tipped directly into mouths as a conclusion to the work day and kickoff to the evening.

OT: Why should local drink enthusiasts visit the lounge?
EA: AC Lounge is unique from other National Harbor bars as we highlight our Spanish roots and culture in the experience. Our bar shelves resemble National Harbor’s picturesque sunsets, and the space offers floor-to-ceiling window views of the destination as well as an outdoor terrace that can be enjoyed year-round.

AC Hotel cocktail (Photo - Courtesy of AC Hotels)

Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotels

Cherry Blossom Sour
Sloop Betty Vodka
St. Germain
Simple syrup
Cherry brandy
Oloroso sherry
Lemon juice

AC Hotel National Harbor: 156 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD: www.marriott.com/hotels

Daniel Lempres contributed to this article.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Chrystalle Ball

Leading Ladies of DC’s Beer Scene: Deep Roots Gain New Ground

The world of craft beer is dramatically different than it was even a few years ago. Quality beer is more readily available than ever and thanks to social media, it’s easy to keep up with new beers and breweries. Here in DC, women have a prominent place in the beer scene.

Chrystalle Ball is the founder of DC Metro Girls Pint Out, the local chapter of a national craft beer organization for women to enjoy happy hours, tastings and other events that build community around a love of beer. She joined the Arizona chapter originally, but after moving to the DMV, she found there were no chapters here. She got to work, and DMV Girls Pint Out had its first event in 2013.

“There is a stereotype that women don’t drink beer,” Ball says. “People come to our events for the first time and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there were so many women that drink beer in this area.’ There are, you just have to look.”

Ball says that over the past five-plus years of involvement in the DC beer community, a lot more women are beginning to actually work in beer. She notes Lake Anne Brew House in Reston, Virginia, which is women-owned and has many women brewers, and says that DC also has plenty of women industry veterans like Kristi Mathews Griner of Beltway Brewing Company in Sterling, Virginia.

“Women are popping up all over the area in brewing roles, and it needs to keep happening,” she says, noting that the Pink Boots Society, which helps women advance their careers in the beer industry, is an important resource. “Women are pigeonholed toward wine, but women love beer – and women were the first brewers of beer.”

Sara Bondioli, president of the DC Homebrewers Club, says that the long tradition of women brewers also helped inspire her to try it herself.

“I was reading a book that had a section on the history of brewing, and for most of history, women were the main brewers,” Bondioli says. “It’s only more recently that it’s been seen as a male profession. It hadn’t occurred to me that homebrewing was even an option until then, but I did a lot of baking from scratch and I thought I would try making beer from scratch.”

Fast forward to about seven years later, and she’s now running the club and helping other women get into homebrewing, too. Women club members started the Homebrewing Outreach and Participation Sisterhood (HOPS), which has women-focused brew days, happy hours and speaking events. Bondioli says that through homebrewing, women and men alike have freedom to create funky combinations while enhancing their appreciation of the brewing process.

“I’ve had some really creative beers through the homebrew. Someone made a pickleback beer, but they did it in a very restrained way that worked out really well. Especially with the club, you get to see what other people create and it gives you ides of things to try as well.”

Her signature beer? A strawberry rhubarb saison. This creative spirit is everywhere in the beer world, from the beers themselves to their labels. Chelsea Bailey, who runs the @21stamendmentgirl beer Instagram account and works in DC Brau’s tasting room, says she originally started the account to highlight the beauty of beer design.

“Honestly, I started drinking craft beer because I love the labels,” she says. “I challenged myself to drink a whole bottle of whatever I chose [to feature], I developed a palate and it grew into this whole other world.”

Bailey landed her job at DC Brau thanks in part to her social media presence, and it’s given her “a chance to meet other people who are like-minded and passionate.”

“There are people who have heard about my Instagram account, and I’m excited to go in and talk about beer with them.”

All three women say that there’s a number of things happening in the DC beer world to look forward to this spring. This month, ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar is exclusively pouring ciders, wines, beers and cocktails from female-owned and operated businesses. On the homebrewing front, the DC Homebrewers Club is now accepting entries for its annual homebrewing competition, the Cherry Blossom Challenge. And DMV Girls Pint Out will soon host its fifth annual Girl Scout Cookie and beer pairing event; check website for updates.

“If someone wants to get into beer and has experienced that whole beer snobbery thing, I would love for them to come to our events and just try things,” Ball says.

That’s the main theme that seems to unite area breweries and beer enthusiasts: condescension and pretentiousness are out, and inclusiveness and community are in.

“Overall, the DC beer scene is supportive of having women involved, active and part of the group,” Bondioli says. “Most of the places out here seem to understand that they don’t have to market beer to women differently. They can just make a good beer and women and men will drink it – and everyone out here can appreciate that.” Bailey echoes that sentiment.

“Beer isn’t a man’s drink. It’s everybody’s drink.”

Follow Bailey on Instagram @21stamendmentgirl and learn more about DMV Girls Pint Out at www.girlspintout.org or on Twitter @dmvgirlspintout. Check out the DC Homebrewers Club at www.dchomebrewers.com, the club’s Cherry Blossom Challenge at www.dchbcompetition.com and the Pink Boots Society at www.pinkbootssociety.org. More on the breweries and cideries below.

ANXO Cidery & Pinxtos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com
Beltway Brewing Company: 22620 Davis Dr. Ste 110, Sterling, VA; www.beltwaybrewco.com
DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. Suite B, NE, DC;www.dcbrau.com
Lake Anne Brew House: 4310, 11424 Washington Plaza W.Reston, VA; www.lakeannbrewhouse.com

Photo: Daniel Lempres

What’s On Tap: ANXO cidery & PintXos Bar’s Rachel Fitz Celebrates Women in Food and Drink

When ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar opened in Truxton Circle, they were the only sit-down restaurant in the neighborhood. Co-owner Rachel Fitz says the grid couldn’t handle a business of ANXO’s size – her team had to increase power and water for the entire neighborhood – but it was important for them to operate in the District and support the local community. A former social worker, Fitz’s commitment to community engagement has translated to her role at ANXO. After the resounding success of the cidery’s collaboration with Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington on International Women’s Day last year, Fitz decided to extend and expand ANXO’s celebration of women. For Women’s Month 2019, ANXO is featuring women in the industry throughout March at special events, and everything poured at the cidery is provided by women-owned or women-run breweries. Plus, happy hour profits for the entire month are going to DC’s Planned Parenthood office.

On Tap: Tell me about your introduction to cider, and your path to opening ANXO.
Rachel Fitz:
My business partners and I traveled around Spain and fell in love with cider. I thought, “Who knew there was all this cider in the world that’s not sweet and is interesting?” We all come from a beer background and really fell in love with cider. The idea when we opened was to start as a cider bar and do a small amount of production, mostly what comes out of the barrel downstairs – that’s our sidra. [Cider] is the original beverage of the United States. We’re really just getting back to our roots, no pun intended.

OT: What exactly did ANXO do last year for International Women’s Day?
RF:
We decided to highlight female producers. We thought it was going to be a small-scale fundraiser [for Planned Parenthood], but we were blown away by the positive support from attendees and those featured. We had no idea these companies had women running or owning them. It got us thinking about how many other women there are doing amazing things, and how women are rarely in the spotlight.

OT: What inspired the longer celebration this year?
RF:
[Last year] was a huge success. We raised over $2,600 in one night and wanted to grow it, so we decided, “Why not do an entire month of celebrating?” We decided to pour only products made or owned by women. With 36 draft lines, plus liquor, wine and nonalcoholic beverages, we went into it thinking it would be challenging. Turns out, there are a ton of female producers. Every day, we come across new options.

OT: Are you doing collaborations with other brewers as well?
RF:
We did two collaborations: a brut IPA with Denizens and a cider with Eden out of Vermont called Nevertheless We Persisted. [The cider] will be released on International Women’s Day. This is the first year of doing a month-long collaboration, and we hope to do it again next year and get other places doing this. It would be great if in the District, everybody was highlighting amazing women in the industry.

OT: Why do you think it’s important to not only highlight women in the industry, but also create a space for them to connect?
RF:
I think a lot of the time there is not a comfortable space to ask questions that would really help you as a young professional. It’s hard to go up to somebody who is very established in the industry and say, “I want to make more money” or ask, “How do I get to where you are?” I wanted to create an environment where people are comfortable [doing] that, and to learn from people who have already been through that.

OT: What would you say to women interested in the cider industry who worry it’s a boys’ club?

RF: Tom Oliver, a famous U.K. cidermaker, says he firmly believes that women are going to be the future of cider. A lot of people think cider is a female beverage – it’s certainly not. But women have a lot of say in the market: in the products that are being produced, in the way that they’re presented. Women have a very powerful voice, and it’s great to see women who are growing trees, orcharding and also making cider. There are no limitations.

ANXO is exclusively pouring products from women-owned or operated breweries and distilleries for the entire month of March at their Truxton Circle location. Specifics on their other Women’s Month events are available at www.anxodc.com/womensmonth

ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; 202-986-3795; www.anxodc.com


Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely 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 coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

SUNDAY, MARCH 4

Women’s Month Collaboration Dinner
A group of female chefs will be taking over ANXO’s kitchen including award-winning women like Ilma Lopez, Cagla Onal and Amy Morgan. The four-course menu will be paired with ciders and wines made by women in the industry. 7 p.m. Tickets $97.50. ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com

THURSDAY, MARCH 7

Beer & Donuts
With three taps, board games and donuts, Arlington’s Sugar Shack is the place to be on Thursday nights. Taps will pour the latest offerings from Right Proper Brewing Company; tap takeover nights always feature local craft brewers, donuts and a variety of board games. 4-9 p.m. Admission is free. Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee: 1014 South Glebe Rd. Arlington, VA; www.sugarshackdonuts.com

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

ANXO’s International Women’s Day Celebration
For the entire month of March, ANXO will donate happy hour profits to the local Planned Parenthood. On Women’s Day, Elanor Leger of Eden Specialty Ciders will be at ANXO, women’s month T-shirts will be available and ANXO’s newest collaboration with Eden will be available in cans. 5 p.m. Admission is free. ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

Cheers & Namaste
There’s no better way to spend a Saturday morning than enjoying a flight of local beer and doing some yoga. Classes at Right Proper’s Brookland location include a flight of house favorites and an hour of yoga suitable for any experience level. Don’t forget your mat. 12-1 p.m. Tickets $15.  Right Proper Brewing Company Production House and Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com

DC Brewers’ Guild HopFest
The DC Brewers’ Guild is throwing its ninth annual HopFest hosted by DC Brau. The event is an opportunity to sample some of the hoppiest brews from the area’s best brewers. Beer offerings will include community favorites alongside unique HopFest creations and rare brews. Tickets include a special DC Brewers’ Guild glass and unlimited pours. 1-5 p.m. Tickets start at $35. DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbg.org

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

Records, Beer and BBQ
The only thing better than crate-digging is doing so with a fresh pint in hand. Join Hellbender Brewing for a record swap/sale in the tasting room featuring barbecue courtesy of Smoke and Ember BBQ. 12-5 p.m. Admission is free. Hellbender Brewing Company Tasting Room: 5788 2nd St. NE, DC; www.hellbenderbeer.com

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13

De Dolle Vintage Flight Night
De Dolle’s Belgian strong ales are world-renowned for their bold flavors. Many of De Dolle’s offerings age exceptionally well and thrive when barreled, though the brewery is also known for blending maltiness and acidity in its pale ales and sours. The Sovereign will offer 15 different De Dolle beers and four different vintage flights. 5-11:30 p.m. Admission is free. The Sovereign DC: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20

D&V International Beer Dinner
Enjoy fine dining and European beer pairings in the style of the Trappist monks of Belgium. Learn about featured breweries from a Belgian beer expert and taste a variety of beers in the style, many imported specifically for this event, after dinner. 7-10 p.m. Tickets $60. Granville Moore’s: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com    

Visiting Cidery: Wild Hare Ciders
Brewed in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with heritage apples grown in the Shenandoah Valley, Wild Hare Cidery excels at apple-only as well as botanical and other fruit-infused ciders. Tickets include a guided tasting of several Wild Hare offerings including limited releases. 7-10 p.m. Tickets $10. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitolciderhouse.com

THURSDAY, MARCH 21

Southwest Neighborhood Happy Hour
The tap room at Union Stage invites locals to enjoy happy hour specials and mingle with other folks from the neighborhood. Union Stage features an extensive liquor list, 16 taps and house-made pizzas. 5 p.m. Admission is free. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SATURDAY, MARCH 23

Peche Mortel Day
Shipped from Montreal’s Dieu Du Ciel brewpub, Peche Mortel is a standout imperial coffee stout known the world over. To celebrate their 2019 releases, Dieu Du Ciel shares special variants of its famous stout with brewpubs all around the world, including ChurchKey. This year’s offerings include seven variants of the imperial stout, some of which are aged in bourbon or whiskey barrels and finished with an array of ingredients including cherries, coffee and toasted coconut. 12 p.m. Admission is free. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

SATURDAY, MARCH 30

ANXO’s Women’s Month Close-Out Party
Join ANXO in celebrating the end of a successful Women’s Month. The closeout is a comedy brunch, marking the first time a comedian has performed in ANXO’s dining room. Tickets are available both with and without drink pairings. Showings at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tickets $40-$65. ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com

Spring BrewFest
BrewFest promises a day of craft beer, live music, food and more. The event will feature a variety of popular local craft beers, as well as a preview of local 2019 offerings. Virginia wineries and distilleries will also be pouring. 11-5 p.m. Tickets $10-$50. Fredericksburg Fairgrounds: 2400 Airport Ave. Fredericksburg, VA; www.fredbrewfest.com