sour beer

What the Funk! Sour Beers 101

Sour beers have been popular in Belgium for decades but have only recently caught mainstream attention in the United States. But what exactly is a sour beer?

Beer is comprised of four main ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. Yeast plays a large role in the brewing process by not only converting the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, but also by dramatically influencing the beer’s taste. For example, many classic Belgian beers are known for a fruity flavor which comes from the type of yeast used and not the addition of fruit.

A lot of mass produced beers are fermented with a single culture, or specific type of yeast, usually top fermenting (ale yeast) or bottom fermenting (lager yeast). Sours are brewed with what is called a wild culture, meaning one or several types of yeast or bacteria are used to ferment the beer, giving it the funky or tart flavor that characterizes this style of beer. This can be done through either controlled or open air fermentation. Controlled fermentation is the more common practice, during which brewers carefully add specific types of yeast and bacteria to the beer.  As the name implies, during open air fermentation, brewers literally open the tanks to let wild yeast into the wort. Now that you know the basics, here is a deeper dive into the world of sours…

Yeast and Bacteria Associated with Sour Beers

Brettanomyces is a strain of yeast that can be used in primary or secondary fermentation and will give beer a funky, not necessarily sour, flavor. It is an unpredictable and slower working yeast but yields unique results when used properly. There are five different species of Brettanomyces, or Brett, but only two of them are used in brewing, bruxellensis and anomalus. Characteristics commonly associated with Brett are barn yard or horse blanket aromas.

Lactobacillus is a lactic acid bacterium that, when used in brewing, converts sugar to lactic acid instead of alcohol. Lacto, as it is often referred to, is the reason a beer is sour. It is frequently used in the production of Lambics, American Wild Ales and Berliner Weisse. Lactobacillus can also be found in yogurt.

Pediococcus, like Lactobacillus, converts sugar to lactic acid. However, Pediococcus creates a harsher and more complex sour taste and often produces buttery or undesirable flavors. As a result, it is usually combined with Brettanomyces to balance out the unwanted notes. It is common in Flanders Red Ales.

Sour Facts 

A coolship is an open fermentation vessel that provides more surface area for the beer to cool while also allowing exposure to wild yeast. Although coolships are common in Belgium, only a select few American breweries possess these vessels. Allagash, Russian River, Jester King and Anchor Brewing Company can all claim coolships in their brewing repetoire.

Before Louis Pasteur and the invention of modern refrigeration, all beer experienced wild fermentation. In other words, all beer was at one point sour or funky to a certain degree. It was not until the invention of pasteurization in 1864 that brewers learned the unwanted bacteria in beer could be killed off by heat.

Although Brettanomyces is often sought out and embraced in the beer world, it is feared by winemakers because an infection can cause havoc in the facility and destroy the wine.

Established in 1900, the legendary Brouwerij Cantillon is widely considered the best sour beer producer in the world. The brewery is currently operated by the founder’s great-great-grandson and still contains some of the original brewing equipment. They specialize in lambics and age each one for a minimum of three years.

Sour Styles to Look For

Berliner Weisse a classic German wheat beer that is soured by lactobacillus and is occasionally served with flavored syrups to mellow out the tartness and acidity. They are known for their lower ABV and make for a great session beer. Try Sorry Chicky(4.4% ABV) by Burley Oak Brewery, MD.

Gose is another German sour wheat beer that uses lactobacillus. However this style is brewed with salt and coriander to mimic the high mineral content of the German waters the beer was originally brewed with. Gose beers typically have low to medium alcohol content, high acidity and tart-lemon flavors. Try Blood Orange Gose (4.2% ABV) by Anderson Valley Brewing Company, CA or Hardywood Watermelon Gose(5.2% ABV) by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, VA.

American Wild Ale is a type of sour beer brewed in America that use Brettanomyces or bacteria to achieve their funky or sour flavor. They are often compared to Belgian Lambics (think Cantillon). Try Tart of Darkness (7% ABV) by The Bruery, CA, Lolita (9% ABV) by Goose Island Beer Company, IL or Bramble Frumenti (7%) by Lost Rhino Brewing Company, VA.

Flanders Oud bruin means “old brown” which refers to the aging process that can take more than a year. Oud Bruins undergo secondary fermentation and are often aged in barrels before being bottle conditioned. Try Lips of Faith – La Folie (7% ABV) by New Belgium Brewing, CO or Petrus Oud Bruin (5.5% ABV) by Brouwerij De Brabandere, BEL.

celebrate cider

Celebrating Cider

With a history of cider drinking dating back to Julius Caesar’s days, the beverage has long been loved in Europe, and its popularity has now become entrenched in America as well. Not only can you easily find worldly ciders across the DMV, many cideries are popping up all over the east coast—especially in Virginia. The craft cider movement fits in nicely with farm-to-table food trends, and the vast number of heirloom apple varieties ensures many unique cider styles from which to choose. There are more than 7,000 varieties grown worldwide today; that means if you ate an apple variety a day, you’d be trying a different apple each day for almost two decades!

Ciders are delicious, refreshing and incredibly food friendly – sip a sparkling style as an aperitif or pair it with creamy, buttery dishes; or try a sweeter version with spicy Asian cuisine or tangy barbecue. Mix up your holiday beverage routine this year and serve a few ciders to guests. Virginia’s official Cider Week runs November 13 to 22 and offers a range of opportunities to taste and try.

Check out www.ciderweekva.com for all the details on special tastings, events and other cider happenings.

Finding Cider in the DMV

It’s easy to find cider at retailers and restaurants around the District—funky Basque cider, sparkling Normandy cider, crisp Virginia cider and everything in between.

ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: A new addition to Truxton Circle, slated to open in early 2016, ANXO will be the district’s first urban cidery. They will produce their own Basque-style cider on site in collaboration with Millstone Cellars, a Maryland-based cidery. ANXO will also serve up pintxos—Basque small bites— to complement the cider. Read more at www.anxodc.com
Screwtop Wine Bar: This Arlington favorite featured a Virginia craft cider flight in October, and plans to keep several ciders on the menu this fall. Also not to miss is Screwtop’s Spiced Cider Sangria…what could be better to enjoy on a crisp autumn weekend? Visit www.screwtopwinebar.com for more information.
Thally: The folks at this hot Shaw restaurant are self-proclaimed cider fans, and promise to always have at least two ciders on tap and a few others by the bottle. Not ready to fully commit to only drinking cider? Create your own flight along with selections from their extensive beer list. Check out  www.thallydc.com
Cideries We Love
With the popularity of winery, brewery and distillery tours and tastings, it’s no surprise that many cideries open their doors to the cider-thirsty public.
Bold Rock: Not only does this cidery offer tours and tastings at their newly remodeled facility in Nellysford, you can also find their lineup of ciders at many stores throughout the area. Partners John Washburn and Brian Shanks continue to develop the Bold Rock label and now even offer a pear cider. Learn more at www.boldrock.com
Blue Bee Cider: Virginia’s first urban cidery is located in the heart of downtown Richmond, and has a tasty lineup of many cider styles—including classic dry, blackberry infused and a dessert version spiked with ginger eau de vie. True cider lovers should definitely join the Blue Bee Cider Club. Learn more atwww.bluebeecider.com
Potter’s Craft Cider: Potter’s cider is recognized as one of the top producers in Virginia, and you can find their ciders at several retailers in the area. They are currently in the process of renovating a trailer into a mobile tasting room, so keep an eye out for cider-on-wheels coming soon! Learn more at  www.potterscraftcider.com
A Cocktail a Day  Keeps the Doctor Away
While cider is easily enjoyed in its pure form, having some fun cocktail ideas in your playbook is always a good idea.
Apple Old Fashioned
2 orange slices
2 brandied cherries
½ oz. honey
1 oz. rye whiskey
½ oz. sweet vermouth
3 oz. hard cider (a dry style)
Directions: Muddle cherries, oranges and honey in glass. Fill glass with ice. Add whiskey and vermouth. Top off glass with cider. Pour ingredients into mixing cup and then back into glass. Serve.
The Bad Apple
3 oz. stout beer, such as Guinness
3 oz. hard cider (a sparkling style)
Directions: Fill Champagne flute halfway with chilled stout. Float the cider over the stout by pouring it slowly over the back of a spoon, making a two-layered drink. If making two individual layers isn’t working out, the drink is just as good with the two liquids simply mixed together.
Take a Fall Trip For Cider
 
Bold Rock Hard Cider
One of the fastest growing cider companies on the East Coast is located two hours south of DC. Virginia Apple is their refreshingly crisp Granny Smith Apple flagship and it is available throughout the DMV. Their facility is open for tastings and tours seven days a week.
1020 Rockfish Valley Hwy., Nellysford, VA; www.boldrock.com
Distillery Lane Ciderworks
Distillery Lane crafts dry ciders in the European and traditional American method.  They specialize in a variety of ciders, including one aged in whiskey barrels. The distillery offers seasonal cider making classes taught on premise and a tasting room on Saturdays and Sundays.
533 Gapland Rd., Jefferson, MD; www.distillerylaneciderworks.com
Faulkner Branch Cidery & Distilling Co.
Located at Blades Orchard, every cider produced by Faulkner Branch is crafted from apples grown on premise. There are 20 different types of apple varieties used, including some of the oldest cider apples grown in this country. The tasting room is open on Saturdays and Sundays.
4822 Preston Rd., Federalsburg, MD; www.faulknerbranch.com
Foggy Ridge Cider
Cider maker, Diane Flynt is involved in every aspect of the cider making process with the goal of revitalizing the American artisanal cider tradition. Foggy Ridge Handmade is a crisp cider made almost exclusively of Newtown Pippin apples and available in small bottles at specialty stores. Foggy Ridge is open Saturdays and Sundays from April to December.
1328 State Rd. 656, Dugspur, VA; www.foggyridgecider.com
Millstone Cellars
A rustic farmhouse cidery located outside of Baltimore that focuses on oak aged dry ciders, meads and cysers. Try Hopvine, an oak barrel aged cider that is dry-hopped with locally grown cascade hops. The tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays and offers free tours every 30 minutes.
2029 Monkton Rd., Monkton, MD; www.millstonecellars.com
Potter’s Craft Cider
College friends, Tim Edmond and Dan Potter, transformed their love of homebrewing beer into professionally crafting artisanal ciders. Farmhouse Dry is an effervescent dry cider with hints of peach and a tart and crisp finish. They do not currently offer a tasting room but are working on the development of a mobile tasting wagon in a vintage Airstream Trailer.
4699 Catterton Rd., Free Union, VA; www.potterscraftcider.com
Winchester Cider Works
UK Native, Stephen Schuurman, could not find a cider that he liked in this country so he set out to make his own. Malice is their flagship cider made from a blend of five local apples grown in the Shenandoah Valley.  The tasting deck is open Saturdays and Sundays while they continue the construction of a proper tasting facility.
2502 North Frederick Pike, Winchester, VA; www.winchesterciderworks.com
Coming Soon: ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar
DC’s first cidery is heading to Truxton Circle within the year. Kyle Sherrer of Millstone Cellars is involved with what will soon be the production of small-batch, oak barrel aged ciders. Although the cidery is not yet open for business, the ANXO team has been hosting dinner parties around town to showcase their food and cider.
300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com
dc cocktail week

Behind the Bar: Celebrate DC Cocktail Week

Sponsored by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), DC Cocktail Week is coming up Nov. 16 – 22 and that means sweet deals on cocktails for locals. Dozens of DC area bars and restaurants will offer specially priced cocktails and food pairings, and this is your chance to try something new. In preparation for this cool event, we caught up with a few participating bars to get their take. For a full list of participating bars visit www.dccocktailweek.com.

Dane Nakamura of Range

On Tap: What is Range going to be offering for DC Cocktail Week?
Dane Nakamura: The bite that we are going to be doing is bone marrow. So we roast off bone marrow in our wood oven and then it’s served with some pickled vegetables, a golden raisin relish in a housemade pretzel bun. So you are essentially going to get two canoes of bone marrow. Our cocktail is going to be a sage-infused mezcal with a cranberry shrub.  It starts off with some housemade cranberry vinegar, then we add a housemade cranberry syrup that we use with our sodas. We mix them together to make the shrub.

OT: How did you come up with the bite and cocktail combination?
DN: It was a cocktail I had already been thinking about and Chef and I just sat down and collaborated on what we wanted to do. The bar program here, I’d say maybe 65 percent of it, is done in the kitchen first and foremost, so there is always a lot of collaboration happening between the kitchen and the bar based on what produce is going to be available.

OT: Most think of wine pairings with food, how do cocktail pairings differ?
DM: Cocktails work a lot better than wine in a lot of situations because they can evolve constantly and you can adjust the ethanol content to balance what food you choose to make. Whereas wine will hit this kind of threshold when it comes to being able to balance out fattiness, with cocktails, one of the main components of ethanol is the fact that it can balance out fat. So, you can keep on adjusting what you are going to be doing with your cocktail, based off of what your dish is going to be.

OT: Complexity or simplicity with pairing?
DM: I’d say everything is complex in a way, but really, it’s trying to break things down to simple components that are well made and mixing them together to get a complex end result. So even though the bone marrow doesn’t seem to be a very complex dish, there is a lot going on considering that they had to make their own pickles, they had to make their own golden raisin relish. What goes into the cocktail? It’s the same thing. So, we’re making our own syrups, we’re making our own vinegars, we’re doing all those things, so that we can try to highlight the taste of mezcal, highlight the taste of pork.

OT: What are some guidelines for pairing cocktails and food?
DM: With my cocktail pairings and what I like to do is I like to contrast generally, because it’s really going to be one singular dish altogether.

Range: 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW #201, DC; 202-803-8020; www.voltrange.com

Millian Palma of Jardenea at The Melrose Georgetown Hotel

On Tap: Can you describe how you came up with your cocktail and food pairing?
Millian Palma: The pairing we are offering is a Dr. Brown Plymouth Gibson paired with six Barren Island Raw Oysters with a Pomegranate Shallot Mignonette and Cured Lemon Peel. Dr. Brown is a regular at the bar, so we named it after him, and it is your typical gin martini. We use Plymouth gin, with lots of botanicals and lots of herbs, lemon peels and all those goodies, and a little bit of dry vermouth. Chef and I work closely on cocktails and the menu, and so we thought that was a really great pairing of flavors.

OT: How has the relationship between the bar and kitchen evolved?
MP: In the past, the kitchen and the front of the house had always been separated. But since the rise of craft cocktails in the city, the kitchen and front of house has been getting closer and closer, and that is a tremendous help for both. For example, I spend half of my time in the kitchen. We are seasonally driven, so the first thing I do, when we change the menu, is I see what we are using, what is in season. We go through a whole list of what chef is using in his dishes, so I look at using those ingredients in my drinks as well.

OT: What are you looking forward to with Jardenea’s participation in DC Cocktail Week?
MP: First of all, I’m excited about putting my menu out there and bringing people into the bar. And to show our guests that not only can wine be paired with food, but cocktails too, and explain how and why it works.

OT: Do you find that your patrons are pretty adventurous with cocktails?
MP: Yes and that is what I like about this place. I love working with infusions. We have a bacon infused old fashioned garnished with a piece of bacon dipped in chocolate and people just love it. I think if you make it and its good, people will try it.

OT: Anything you are doing for the fall/winter season that is not yet on the menu or flavors you are experimenting with?
MP: What is not on the menu right now, because it takes about three to four weeks, are barrel aged cocktails. Stay tuned because we have a barrel aged Manhattan and a barrel aged Negroni coming soon.

OT: What foods would you pair with each of those cocktails?
MP: For the Manhattan, your base alcohol is bourbon, so that has a pretty strong base, very complex, so I would go for something like steak, filet mignon, or something a little richer, like a New York Strip with a good marbling. The Negroni has a sweetness to it, so if you have foie gras on the list, I would definitely go for that.

Jardenea: 2430 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; 202-955-6400; www.melrosehoteldc.com

Robert Robinson of Beacon Bar & Grill

On Tap: Describe the cocktail and pairing you are offering at Beacon Bar & Grill.
Robert Robinson: For that week we are going to focus on shrimp and grits, but we are going to revise the traditional dish. Not only are we going to have andouille sausage, we are going to add a chorizo, to give it a little more Mexican spice, a creamy cheese like pepper jack or cheddar and tiger gulf shrimp. You will have your smokiness and your spiciness all-in-one and a little bit of cream in the grits.

OT: What cocktail will you be offering with this bite?
RR: I took an old classic cocktail, the Sazerac, and did a little spin to it. So I’m calling it the BB&G Sazerac, but essentially it’s a Mexican Sazerac. We’re already doing a southern/south of the border kind of theme, so instead of rye, we’re using reposado tequila, bitters and simple syrup. It’s simple, but creative. It touches on the smokiness in the food pairing, what better way to do that then with tequila itself.

OT: When people are looking at cocktails, any rules to follow with pairing?
RR: Contrast is definitely important. How you smell the notes and, if it’s heavy, light, smoky, whether it’s a bourbon, whiskey, or even with vodkas or gins, look for the actual flavors and berries. You mix and match and find out what works best. And sometimes it’s okay to think outside the box.

OT: Do you find that people are getting more adventurous with cocktails?
RR: It depends on what kind of mood they are in. Lately, it’s been more beer and wine, but last November we went through a whole slew of cocktails and people wanting to come in and try different drinks. For example, last year during cocktail week, we had a cocktail with egg white and people LOVED that and they were coming back specifically for it. So as it gets colder people want more of your bourbons and your scotches. In November and December, I feel like it gets more boozy.

OT: What is your favorite drink and food pairing?
RR: You can give me a nice rye Manhattan and some hush puppies. And of course if I do a dirty martini, I’ll pair that with some guacamole.

OT: What are you looking forward to by participating in DC Cocktail Week?
RR: I want people to try the cocktail with the food, not just the cocktail by itself because, I feel like you’re going to miss out on some of the hidden gems, especially the spiciness of it all. So I tell everybody, do the cocktail and the appetizer and then if you like the cocktail that much go back and get it again. But this is made in a way that it complements every part of it, so you won’t feel like you’re missing something.

Beacon Bar & Grill: 1615 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC; 202-872-1126; www.bbgwdc.com

new dining dc

New & Notable in Dining November 2015

NEW

American Tandoor
Order: Masala Sour (fig-infused bourbon, lemon, garam masala syrup, egg white, aromatic bitters)
Chef Satinder Vij has landed directly from India to execute a unique vision of East Meets West. Gin and Indian food is the Victorian era’s great international love match, and American Tandoor recognizes this with a solid offering of gin-based cocktails. But the ultimate modern fusion challenge in Washington always involves brunch, and American Tandoor is doing it in style with buttermilk dosa waffles and masala bacon. American Tandoor: 7943B Tysons Corner Center, Tysons Corner, VA; 571-633-1820; www.americantandoor.com

Chase the Submarine
Order:
 Sweet Beef Cheeks sub (beer-braised beef cheek, tamarind sauce, baby Asian greens)
The powerhouse food couple behind Water & Wall teams up with Michael Amouri (Caffe Amouri) for a craft sandwich and coffee shop. Ground lamb, offal, mustard crème fraiche and more are in play, and the results are fabulous. There is also a butcher’s counter. Chase the Submarine: 132 Church St. NW, Vienna, VA; 703-703-7033; www.chasethesubmarine.com

Cooper’s Mill
Order: 
Plum Manhattan (Copper Fox Rye, sweet vermouth, plum bitters)
Hotel restaurants are also in on this trend away from corporate boredom: between the need to keep increasingly adventurous tourists from leaving and the opportunity to attract curious locals, chefs are getting more freedom from head office dictums and menus are becoming more thoughtful. Cooper’s Mill in the Bethesda Marriott focuses on ingredients from within 100 miles, offers beer flights and imaginative cocktails, and serves it up in a rustic environment. Cooper’s Mill: 5151 Pooks Hill Rd., Bethesda, MD; 301-897-9400; www.coopersmillrestaurant.com

Crust Pizzeria Napoletana
Order: 
Certified pizza
Crust is certified by the “Associazione Verace PIZZA Napoletana,” the gold standard for authentic Neapolitan pizza, and uses fresh ingredients imported from Naples or Campania, Italy. Maybe you can’t escape far from the office, but your Italian vacation is just down the street. Crust Pizzeria Napoletana: 8415 Old Courthouse Rd., Vienna, VA; 317-810-1777; www.crust-pizza.com

Earl’s Kitchen + Bar
Order:
 Old Foster (banana chip infused rum Zacapa 23, demerara sugar, fig and cinnamon bitters)
Go for the sophisticated Old Fashioned Bar, hang out in one of the lounge areas and maybe stay for a burger. We love that restaurant chains are reinventing themselves and allowing locations to have their own, local personalities and menus. We’re also fans of the daily specials (Tuesdays: $4 bellinis until 9 p.m.!).  Earl’s Kitchen + Bar: 7902 Tysons One Place, Tysons Corner, VA; 703-847-1870; www.earls.ca

Lincoln Park Kitchen & Wine Bar
Order: 
Ginny Hendrix (Hendrick’s Gin, Saine Germaine, lemon juice, cucumber syrup, cucumbers)
Don’t be fooled by the name: in addition to wine, this little neighborhood joint also offers a delightful list of creatively-named cocktails. And add it to your list of brunch destinations: they do bottomless mimosas or bloodies for $10. Lincoln Park Kitchen & Wine Bar: 106 13th St. SE, DC; 202-543-0184; www.lincolnparkdc.com

Momofuku Milk Bar
Order: 
Everything
Let the Milk Bar mania begin. This trendy New York institution and sister-bakery to David Chang’s legendary Momofuku restaurant, has been the object of intense anticipation and lust in DC for months. Go, if only to avoid FOMO. Momofuku Milk Bar: 1090 I St. NW, DC; 855-333-6455; www.milkbarstore.com

Oz Restaurant and Bar
Order: 
Kangaroo skewers
Haven’t you always wanted to eat a kangaroo? Well now is your chance – though the emu skewers are perhaps the tastier choice (who knew?). Chase it with an Oz Painkiller (silver rum, black seal rum, coconut puree, orange juice, pineapple juice, lime, nutmeg). The range of Australian beers is limited. Oz Restaurant and Bar: 2950 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA; 703-664-0693; www.ozarlington.com

The Public Option
Order: 
Whatever Mr. Perry is brewing
The Option’s website features an earnest manifesto on “Tipping & Compensation,” complete with historical references and calls for systemic change, which perhaps makes this the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” of restaurants. Continuing the theme of the little guy standing up to the system, this tiny brewpub features the beers made (a barrel at a time) by co-owner Bill Perry. The Option is open Fri-Sat until it expands its hours sometime in December (the only employees currently are the owners). No tipping is allowed. The Public Option: 1601 Rhode Island Ave. NE, DC; 202-397-5129; www.thepublicoptiondc.com

Small Fry
Order: Patriot Poutine
We love anything that the folks behind sandwhich destination Sundevich do, and Small Fry, a “nontraditional smokehouse and fry shop,” is no exception. The rotating menu will include smoked fish, jerkies, and pickled products in addition to a wide range of BBQ offerings. Companion bar Union Drinkery will open next door in the coming months. Small Fry: 3214 Georgia Ave., NW, DC; 202-808-8572; www.smallfrydc.com

Union Social
Order: 
The Redline (Fresno-pink peppercorn infused tequila, citrus, angostura meringue)
There are a lot of DC restaurants with “Social” in their names; this one comes courtesy the Wooden Nickel Bar Company (Copperwood Tavern, Mighty Pint) and features the group’s signature attention to décor. The beautiful space is flooded with natural light during the day, and takes inspiration from the nearby metro tracks. The food is meant to be “social” – shared and small plates. Union Social: 100 Florida Ave. NE, DC; 202-652-1844; www.unionsocialdc.com

NOTABLE
The Happy Tart

Why: A second location
The Tart was one of the first bakeries to produce gluten-free treats that were not merely bearable, but actually craving-worthy. Their expansion was long overdue. The Happy Tart: 410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church, VA; 571-244-3662; www.happytartbakery.com

NO LONGER
Costa Brava
Jin

Distillery Guide Washington D.C.

Craft Booze Boom! Local Distillery Guide

Washington, DC had a particularly tough go of Prohibition. The District went dry on November 1, 1917, much ahead of the rest of the country, which took the leap when the Volstead Act went into enforcement on January 17th, 1920.

“While Prohibition passed in 1919, the Sheppard Act, named after Texas Senator John Morris Sheppard, was passed in 1917, effectively instituting Prohibition throughout the District two years before the rest of the country,” explains Derek Brown, who’s been the chief spirits advisor at the Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History exhibit at the National Archives Museum.

The 21st Amendment was passed on December 5th, 1933, the date now honored as Repeal Day, yet, Prohibition persisted in DC until March 1, 1933, an extra three months. In total, that’s about two and a half extra years of a mandated lack of happy hours in DC.

That doesn’t mean people weren’t drinking. “It was the end of legal drinking, but that hardly stopped our city from hitting the sauce,” says Brown.

In fact, you might say there was a modest collection of speakeasies serving up the hard stuff — about 3,000 or so, according to Garrett Peck’s book “Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t.” By 1929, it was estimated that bootleggers were hauling some 22,000 gallons of spirits into DC each week.

Now, I’m no scientist, but population statistics say that DC had 483,000 residents by the end of the 1920s. One gallon is 128 ounces, so with 22,000 gallons flooding the scene each week, equaling 2,816,000 ounces, every single person — man, woman and child — in DC could have had him or herself 5.8 ounces of sweet illegal hooch per week, and that doesn’t even include what was being made right in the city.

Of course, today speakeasies seem to be nearly as prevalent in the District as they were then, with more hidden spots and back rooms continuing to pop up in and around area. Additionally, several bars are actually located on the site of known Prohibition-era speakeasies. “I believe one was at the current site of Dirty Martini,” says Brown.

Perhaps DC residents are still making up for the Prohibition punishment of their forebears. In nearly every measurable way, according to national polls, DC residents are always near the top of imbibing lists. Hey, let’s see Indiana or Arizona try to cope with the federal government and beltway traffic.

Regardless, the end of Prohibition was especially long coming for the District, making Repeal Day celebrations all the more justified.

One of the best ways to get in on the fun will be at the 5th Annual Repeal Day Celebration at Jack Rose Dining Saloon on Saturday, December 5. The multifaceted event promises to be an all night affair, with drink specials on Prohibition-era cocktails and punches, and specialty whiskeys, as well as an option for bottomless champagne.

Downstairs, the Dram & Grain space will convert into a 1930s style speakeasy, with historic bourbons and ryes. Festivities will also include burlesque dancers, cigarette girls offering cigars for sale, and of course, plenty of whiskey all around. Admission is free, so just show up in your Prohibition-era finest.

Of course, Repeal Day parties offer a good time, but the real celebration is our booming craft distillery scene. In the pages that follow, a guide to the area’s newest round of distilleries makes it simple to score fantastic and legally made hooch. Cheers to that.


Local Distillery Guide

Washington DC

Don Ciccio & Figli 

6031 Kansas Ave. NW, DC; 202-957-7792; www.DonCiccioeFigli.com

Flagship Spirits: Concerto (Coffee Liqueur), Nocino (Walnut), Mandarinetto (Mandarin), Fico D’india (Prickly Pear), Limoncello (Lemon), ‘5’ Cinque Aperitivo, Luna Amara Bitter, Amaro delle Sirene, Amaro delle Sirene Special Edition and Fennel.

What to Expect: Visitors will enjoy a tour and tasting featuring some of Don Ciccio & Figli’s signature handcrafted liqueurs and aperitifs. Visitors will also be able to purchase bottles of their favorite liqueurs and DCF merchandise on-site to take home with them or share with family/friends.

Tasting Room/Location Hours:

Saturdays 1 – 5 p.m.

Jos. A. Magnus & Co.

2052 West Virginia Ave. NE #202, DC; 202-450-3518; www.josephmagnus.com

Flagship Spirits: Joseph Magnus Bourbon,Vigilant Gin and Royal Seal Vodka.

What to Expect: Joseph Magnus was a significant pre-prohibition bourbon and gin distiller, blender and rectifier who founded his company in 1892, and his great grandson reopened the distillery with help of a whiskey and gin “dream team” to bring this pre-prohibition heritage to DC, including Dave Scheurich, former Woodford Reserve Distiller and Whiskey Advocate Life Time Achievement Award Winner, Nancy “The Nose” Fraley, Director of Research for American Distilling Institute and the nation’s top whiskey blender, Richard Wolf, former Chairman of the Kentucky Distillers Association and VP General Manager at Buffalo Trace and Nicole Hassoun, 2014 Washington Post Bartender of the Year and founder of custom tonic company Chronic Tonic.  Tours and free tastings Saturday 1-5 p.m. and be sure to visit our Murray Hill Club cocktail lounge for custom bourbon and gin cocktails.

Tasting Room/Location Hours:

Murray Hill Club cocktail lounge open Friday 5 – 9 p.m., Saturday 1 – 9 p.m. and Sunday 1 – 5 p.m.

One Eight Distilling

1135 Okie St. NE, DC; 202-636-ONE8; www.Oneeightdistilling.com

Flagship Spirits: District Made Vodka, Ivy City Gin, Rock Creek Whiskey and Untitled special releases.

What to Expect: Representing the nation’s capital with sophisticated, hand-crafted spirits served from an industrial-chic tasting room. The distillery is also available to rent for private functions and events.

Tasting Room/Location Hours:

Open to the public for tours and tastings on Saturdays from 1 – 4 p.m. and by private appointment.

New Columbia Distillers

1832 Fenwick St. NE, DC; 202-733-1710; www.greenhatgin.com

Flagship Spirits:  Green Hat Gin, Green Hat Spring/Summer Gin, Green Hat Fall/Winter Gin (“Ginavit”), Green Hat Navy Strength Gin, New Columbia Summer Cup, Capitoline White & Rose Vermouths.

Awards: Gold Medal (SF World Spirits Competition) for Spring/Summer Gin; Silver Medal (Intl Review of Spirits) for Green Hat Gin; Silver Medal (American Craft Spirits Assn) for Fall/Winter Gin.

What to Expect: A working industrial vibe with vinyl playing and handmade cocktails on offer.  No charge for tastings or tours.  Friendly and relaxed.

Tasting Room/Location Hours

Saturdays 1-4pm.

Maryland

Blackwater Distilling

184 Log Canoe Circle, Stevensville, MD; 443-249-3123; www.blackwaterdistilling.com

Flagship Spirits: Picaroon Maryland Rum, Sloop Betty Handcrafted Vodka.

Awards: Sloop Betty: Gold Medal and Best Vodka in Show (New York World Wine & Spirits Competition). Picaroon Gold: Silver Medal (NYWWSC). Picaroon White: Bronze Medal (NYWWSC).

What to Expect: Located an hour from DC just across the Bay Bridge, Blackwater Distilling is Maryland’s oldest and most awarded craft distillery.  Join us for an approximately 45 minute tour and tasting to learn all about the art and science behind our rums, vodkas, and upcoming whiskies.  

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Friday through Sunday 12 – 4:30 p.m. with tours every hour (see website for reservations).  Use code ONTAP for a 50 percent discount off your reservation.

Springfield Manor Winery & Distillery

11836 Auburn Rd., Thurmont, MD; 301-271-0099; www.springfieldmanor.com

Flagship Spirits: Springfield Manor Brandy, Patriot Rum, Grappa, Lavender Gin

What to Expect: Beautiful family operated 135 acre historic estate. Our Country Inn hosts weddings, events, overnight stays and much more!  Winery and Distillery located in restored bank barn.  Our beautiful Bavarian Still crafts spirits onsite and our tasting room features beautiful terraces, intimate indoor seating and a large rustic chic event space for up to 150 guests.  Come visit today!

Tasting Room/Location Hours:

Come join us Thursday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., with additional hours for special events.

Twin Valley Distillers

711 E Gude Dr., Rockville, MD; 240-421-1115; www.twinvalleydistillers.com

Flagship Spirits: Seneca Bay white rum, Seneca Bay rum (aged), Norbeck vodka, Twin Valley distillers bourbon, Twin valley corn whiskey (gluten free) and Twin Valley distillers clear whiskey.

What to Expect: In two words…MARYLAND AUTHENTIC. We are truly YOUR local distillery.  Founder Edgardo Zuniga, after living in Montgomery County for over 10 years felt “compelled “to keep the business in his local area.  Using the culinary “farm to table” concept Twin Valley Distillers partners with local businesses and farmers in sourcing all grain and raw products within a 50 mile radius.  Grains are recycled back to local farms for animal feed.   Our mission is to restore Maryland’s liquor making legacy one bottle at a time.  To date, we have produced the first bourbon to be made from start to finish in Maryland.  If high quality, fine taste and exclusive spirits are what you seek, then we have the answer in our products!!

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Hours for tasting are Thursday and Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.  We also offer private classes on the production and distillation of alcohol and opening and operating a micro distillery.

Virginia 

A. Smith Bowman Distillery

1 Bowman Dr., Fredericksburg, VA; 540-373-4555; www.asmithbowman.com

Flagship Spirits: Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon, John J. Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon, George Bowman Rum, Deep Run Vodka and Sunset Hills Gin.

Awards: Bowman Brothers – 1st place for Best Small Batch Bourbon and 3rd place for Best Bourbon at 2015 International Whisky Competition. John J. Bowman – 2nd place for Best Single Barrel Bourbon at 2015 International Whisky Competition

What to Expect: Located just a few miles off I-95, is the historic A. Smith Bowman Distillery. With roots dating back to the repeal of Prohibition, Abram Smith Bowman and his sons relocated to Virginia, continuing a family tradition with the distillation of exceptional bourbon whiskey. As a small and family owned company, A. Smith Bowman Distillery continues the time-honored traditions on which it was founded, by producing an assortment of hand-crafted spirits distilled from only the finest natural ingredients. This micro-distillery focuses on the production of premium bourbon and other spirits, honoring the pioneering legacy of Virginia’s first settlers.  

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Complimentary tours depart on the hour Monday –Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Gift shop remains open until 5 p.m.

Belmont Farm Distillery

13490 Cedar Run Rd., Culpeper, VA; 540-825-3207; www.belmontfarmdistillery.com

Flagship Spirits: Virginia Lightning Corn Whiskey and our Kopper Kettle Virginia Whiskey.

Awards: Kopper Kettle Silver Award and Virginia Lightning Apple Pie second place at ADI.

What to Expect: Until 30 years ago, whiskey for popular consumption, had been made in column stills, handling thousands of gallons per hour. Only at our family owned and operated Belmont Farm, our whiskey is produced in a genuine solid copper pot still like our forefathers in the hills of VA. While others may be flooding the market, our pot still whiskey is slow and handled with care, to preserve all of the aroma and taste of a fine fresh whiskey. Our copper pot still is truly the secret of our whiskey!

Tasting Room/Location Hours: We close for the season on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but are open for tastings and tours again after the first Saturday in April Tuesday through Saturday 11-4pm (closed Monday, Sunday and Holidays).  Tours are every 20 minutes starting on the top of the hour.  (Last tour will start 20 minutes before closing).

Catoctin Creek Distillery

120 W. Main St., Purcellville, VA; 540-751-8404; www.catoctincreek.com

Flagship Spirits: Roundstone Rye, Watershed Gin and Mosby’s Spirit.

Awards: Over 23 medals for our spirits (6 Gold!) and 21 company medals and awards.  See Product awards at www.catoctincreek.com search awards.

What to Expect: Enjoy Catoctin’s intimate location in a beautifully restored historic building, where you can get a free tour of our operations and enjoy flights of whisky, brandy, and cocktails.  Founded in 2009 as the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition, we are located in beautiful Purcellville, Virginia, in the heart of the Loudoun Valley.   At Catoctin Creek, we believe in high quality food and spirits. Organic means higher quality: grain and fruit, sourced locally when possible, free of pesticides and chemical additives that would come through in the spirits we produce. Sure, it is more difficult to produce organically, but the results speak for themselves.

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Open Tuesday through Thursday 1 – 5 p.m., Friday 1 – 7 p.m., Saturday 12 – 7 p.m. and Sunday 1 – 6 p.m.  Tours are free and conducted at five minutes past the hour.  We still encourage you to make a reservation.

Copper Fox Distillery

9 River Lane, Sperryville, VA; 540-987-8554; www.copperfox.biz

Flagship Spirits: Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky, Copper Fox Rye Whisky, Vir Gin, Wasmund’s Barrel Kits.

Awards: BTI Gold Medal 92 for Wasmund’s Single Malt, BTI Gold Medal 94 for Copper Fox Rye and Best New Product Award 2012 VDACS-Barrel Kits.

What to Expect: Come visit and discover where your new favorite whisky comes from!  At Copper Fox Distillery we dedicate ourselves to making great American spirits by emphasizing a combination of innovation and tradition.  We start from scratch, floor malting our locally grown barley, flavoring the grain with apple and cherry wood smoke, then aging with a progressive series of hand toasted wood chips in used bourbon barrels.

Tasting Room/Location Hours: 

Tastings are $7. All products are available in our distillery store.  Free tours are offered on the half hour; Mon-Sat 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun 1 – 6 p.m.  We are closed 11/26 and 12/25.

James River Distillery

2700 Hardy St., Richmond, VA; 804-716-5172; www.jrdistillery.com

Flagship Spirits: Commonwealth Gin, Continental Gin and UA Gin.

Awards: Commonwealth: Made in Virginia 2014 winner, bronze winner in 2014 NY Spirits Competition, bronze winner in 2015 Washington Cup.  Continental:  Bronze winner in 2015 Washington Cup.  UA:  Bronze winner in 2015 Washington Cup.

What to Expect: Learn all about gin and our process done by hand from start to finish in our distillery. Finish your tour with a tasting in our new tasting room and bring home a bottle or two. We are conveniently located in the City of Richmond near the interstates.

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Monday through Friday 1 – 4 p.m., by appointment.

KO Distilling

10381 Central Park Dr., Suite 105, Manassas, VA; 571-292-1115; www.kodistilling.com

Flagship Spirits: Battle Standard 142 Gin (Navy Strength), Battle Standard 142 Gin (Standard Strength), Virginia Moon White Whiskey and small batch bourbon aging in barrels. On-deck:  aged rye, other whiskeys and possibly rum!

Awards: As we just opened in September 2015, we look forward to posting many accolades in the next distillery guide issue.

What to Expect: Located in the historic City of Manassas, a few miles south of I-66 and about 20 miles out from the DC Beltway, our 12,000 sq ft facility has a state-of-the-art distilling plant featuring a 550-gallon copper pot still, 4,000 sq ft for oak barrel storage and a top-notch 2,500 sq ft visitors center for guided tours, tastings, product sales and special events.

Tasting Room/Location Hours: We are open to the public every day except Mondays for tours, tastings and product sales, as follows:  Tues – Fri 1-6 p.m.; Sat 12 – 7 p.m.; and Sun 1 – 6 p.m.  Come on by, it’ll be worth the visit!

Parched Group LLC/Cirrus Vodka

1603 Ownby Lane, Richmond VA; 844-7Cirrus; www.cirrusvodka.com

Flagship Spirits: Cirrus Vodka.

Awards: Gold Medal San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

What to Expect: 100% potato vodka. Gluten Free. We take pride in the attention to detail we use to create the best vodka out there. We start with the finest ingredients and use an intricate process in our custom stainless steel still. But the most important part is enjoying the fruits of our labor. Cirrus Vodka. Hand Crafted to Be Savored.

Tasting Room/Location Hours

Tours and Tasting Room not available at this time, but we encourage you to go to our website and explore our spirits!

Virginia Distillery Company

299 Eades Lane, Lovingston, VA; 434-285-2900; www.vadistillery.com

Flagship Spirits: Virginia Highland Malt.

What to Expect: The Virginia Whisky Experience at Virginia Distillery Company.  Visit us in beautiful Nelson County, just 35 miles from downtown Charlottesville amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Situated on 100 acres in Lovingston, Virginia, the Virginia Whisky Experience aims to be a destination in Central Virginia. Stop by to enjoy a variety of specialty whisky cocktail samples, made with the Virginia Distillery Company’s Highland Malt and seasonal ingredients sourced from local Nelson County farmers.  Interested in learning more about single malt whisky production? In the spring of 2016, a museum, video and tour program will be offered, giving guests the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes to see how whisky is made, from start to finish. An educational tasting of the Virginia Distillery Company’s whisky will be available in our cask warehouse, where guests can take in the sights and smells of whisky production.

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Monday through Saturday 11 – 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 – 5 p.m.

Silverback Distillery

9374 Rockfish Valley Highway Afton, VA 22920  540-456-7070; www.sbdistillery.com

Flagship Spirits: Beringei Vodka, Strange Monkey Gin and Blackback White Whiskey.

Awards: Strange Monkey Gin:  San Francisco World Spirits Double Gold Medal Winner, ranked one of the top 10 best gins in the world, only distillery in the state of Virginia to ever win this award/Bronze Medal New York World Spirits Competition.  Beringei Vodka:  San Francisco World Spirits Competition Bronze Medal for best packaging/New York World Spirits Competition Silver Medal.

What to Expect: We have the only VA approved outside tasting area, offer free tours on Saturdays and are located along route Rt. 151 in Nelson County.  We are also surrounded by 7 wineries, 2 hard cideries and 3 breweries.

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Monday 12-6 p.m.; Tuesdays and Wednesdays closed; Thursday and Friday 12 – 6 p.m.; Saturday 12-7 p.m.; Sunday 1-6 p.m.

Williamsburg Distillery

7218 C Merrimac Trail Williamsburg, VA; 757-378-2456; www.williamsburg-distillery.com

Flagship Spirits: Yorktown Rum (currently available at the distillery, available in VA ABC in January 2016), Jamestown Gin (available in the distillery in November 2015, VA ABC in 2016) and Williamsburg Bourbon (2016).

What to Expect: Williamsburg Distillery creates superior spirits reminiscent of America’s colonial period, using period materials, recipes and methods.  Our business is “Distilling the American Spirit.”

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Currently open Friday 6 – 8 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Check our website and Facebook for expanded hours.

West Virginia

Bloomery Plantation Distillery

16357 Charles Town Rd., Charles Town, WV; 304-725-3036; www.bloomerysweetshine.com

Flagship Spirits: SweetShine is a line of all natural liqueurs made from 190° corn likker, mountain water, pure can sugar and farm-fresh fruit, roots and nuts.

Awards: 25 international awards, including 2015 San Francisco World Spirit Competition Double Gold for Best Nut Liqueur: Black Walnut; 2015 Good Food Award: Pumpkin Spice; One of the Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America, Entrepreneur Magazine, November 2015.

What to Expect: Come, experience our history, hooch and hospitality in a rural two-story 50’x 16’ historic log cabin on a 12 acre farm where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the Shenandoah River in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. We deliver a WOW experience in that tiny tasting room, with fun, laughter, great hooch and hundreds of five star reviews!  We are unique, exclusive, all natural and farm-fresh.  Just the bare essentials.  Beautifully focused and stark-ravingly good.

Tasting Room/Location Hours: Only 15 Minutes from Harpers Ferry!  Tasting room is open 12 – 6 p.m. Monday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday 11 – 8 p.m.

mixology school

Ahead of the Class DC Gets A New Mixology School

Erik Holzherr started bartending 10 years ago in Los Angeles. Before that he was an officer in the U.S. Air Force. Holzherr witnessed the start of the craft cocktail movement while growing up in New York City and was able to hone his skills on the west coast where he worked towards his dream of one day opening his own bar. That dream came to fruition when he opened up DC’s Wisdom in 2008. Gin fans may know Wisdom for its expansive gin list. “All the botanicals and flavors, its a little bit of a witches brew,” said Holzherr in a recent conversation with On Tap, “It’s exciting if you mix it correctly. It will pop and have some very rewarding compliments.”

Holzherr’s newest project is an expansive mixology class for bartenders and casual cocktail fans alike. The program is a response to what Holzherr describes as a more informed customer: “People are way more educated and interested in cocktails. They are genuinely curious about the history behind these spirits and how they mix with other ingredients.” The classes, which are offered as a continuous cycle, take place on Sundays at Wisdom and Mondays at Church & State. “I wanted to share everything I’ve learned over the years but also expand on my overall knowledge of spirits and bartending,” Holzherr said, “I’m excited and happy. It’s something I’ve been working on for years.”

So far the class is midway through its first cycle and the feedback has been extremely positive. “If someone is a bartender or they want an in-depth look at the history of distilling they would take the full class,” Holzherr notes. “If you’ve never bartended before and wanted to learn more about a single spirit there is the option of a single class.” Additionally, the school is a great and unique way to spend a birthday or celebrate a special occasion.

Classes are intentionally small; Holzherr hopes to keep them to fewer than 10 people at a time to allow for a truly hands-on educational experience.  Holzherr and two of his long-term bartenders teach the classes that are split between five classroom portions and several behind-the-bar classes at his two establishments. This means that each student will graduate with real bartending experience and knowledge. “We want people to walk away confident that they have the skills to work high-end hospitality and to have a good range of cocktails in their arsenal.”

Classes range from novice, intermediate and advanced and teach basics like using proper bar utensils, staple liquors and more. Prices start at $185. Learn more and reserve your spot in class at Holzherr’s website, www.gintender.com.

JimBeam_FredNoe_Tasting (22)

Jim Beam Bottle Signing and Tasting w/ Fred Noe

Beam Distiller Frederick Booker Noe III, great-grandson of Jim Beam was onsite at ABC store #166 in Leesburg, to share the Beam family history and its legacy of whiskey. Photos: Meredith Baker

Nova Brewfest

Nova Brewfest at Bull Run Regional Park

Guests at Nova Brewfest at Bull Run Regional Park enjoyed samples of over 50 fall, winter and holiday seasonal brews from local and regional craft breweries, along with cooking with beer demonstrations, a cornhole tournament, live music, food and more. Photos: Cristina O’Connell

Sam Adams Stein Hoisting

Sam Adams Stein Hoisting Finals at Penn Social

Guests at Penn Social tried their arm at a good old fashioned Sam Adams Stein Hoisting. The finalists from a long stein hoisting season competed for the ultimate stein hoisting supremacy, with the winner moving on to the national finals. Patrons also enjoyed music by Higher Education, games and lots of Sam Adams Octoberfest beer. Photos: Michelle Goldchain

Avenir Pumpkin Festival

Avenir Pumpkin Festival 2015

Guests at the Avenir Pumpkin Festival enjoyed food from area restaurants along with fall fun, trick-or-treating, pumpkin decorating, live music from Justin Trawick, pumpkin brews at the beer garden and more. Photos: Adrianne Morris