hot beer spots dc
Photo: Trent Johnson

What’s On Tap

Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of wonderful establishments 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 some of what’s coming up On Tap at these beer hot spots.

Red Derby
Beverage Manager Nick Schiever

On Tap: What new beers are you guys carrying in February?
Nick Schiever: A couple of new things that we’ll be bringing on are ANXO Cidery cans and Republic Restoratives Borough Bourbon, and we’ll be pairing that with Atlas Brew Works District Common Beer.

OT: What’s exciting about them?
NS: They’re both local, and we’re supporting local businesses. A lot of people want it, and it’s a trend that I’m seeing. I think a lot of other places are keeping it local as well.

Red Derby: 3718 14th St. NW, DC;

General Manager Kevin Ramsey

On Tap: What new things do you have coming up in February?
Kevin Ramsey: Probably the thing we’re most excited about is the Melvin 2×4 on February 4. Melvin Brewing Company is from Wyoming, and this is a double IPA from them. It’s won a number of awards, including the Alpha King championship, and it’s citrusy and hazy.

OT: What about this is exciting?
KR: For the event, Melvin is encouraging bars around the country to make it ninja/Wu-Tang Clan style.

ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC;

Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Beer Director Nahem Simon

On Tap: What new beers are you guys carrying in February?
Nahem Simon: I’m excited to get the Off Color Dino S’mores. It’s one of those rare beers that isn’t produced in massive quantities, and it’s incredibly tasty and sought after. It’s the perfect beer for chilly February days.

OT: Any brews you’re bringing back from last year?
NS: We are going to carry a special batch of Space Reaper 2.0 from DC Brau, where they aged it in one of our cask barrels. It ended up amazingly. They’re almost done with the final carving of the keg, and it’s really fantastic. It takes all of the elements of the beer, but it kind of imparts this deep, dark wood character. It’s almost as if sequoia had a flavor. One of the beers that I’m really enjoying right now is the Van Steenberge Gulden Draak Nitro Ale.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon: 2007 18th St. NW, DC;

General Manager Sam Buis

On Tap: How do you guys select beers?
Sam Buis: I definitely try to acquire the more unique, interesting beers that I think people will really enjoy. I come from 10 years of working in craft beer bars. I’m fully aware of what good beer is, and what beer nerds like, so I try to achieve what they want. We’re all cans here, so that limits our ability to get certain beers, but it also helps us get others that aren’t as common.

OT: How often do you reach out to distributors to get new stuff in?
SB: Constantly. I only get a few cases of any beer I choose, so I’m always on the lookout for new beers. I’m always pestering my reps to find new things, and they put their weight on breweries to find out what they have in cans. If enough people request a can of a certain beer, they’ll make it.

OT: What are some beers you’re looking forward to carrying in February?
SB: Union Rye Baby IPA because Union always makes great beers, and this one has a great peppery resin quality with a super smooth mouth feel. Another is Evil Twin Mission Gose – it’s salty, sour and funky. Always happy to see good sours in cans, and so will my regulars. And last is Old Ox Black Ox Porter. I love me some dark beer, doesn’t matter what time of year, but it’s even better when it’s a cold day in February. Plus, it has great malty, roasty flavors balanced with some rye to give it a crisp finish.

Kingfisher: 1414 14th St. NW, DC;

Smoke & Barrel
Beverage Director Jace Gonnerman

On Tap: What new beers do you have coming up in February?
Jace Gonnerman: We will have year two of our Triple IPA with Ocelot Brewing Co. called Talking Backward. It’s a collaboration with our three restaurants, and it’s an 11 percent IPA with citrus and mosaic hops. On February 7 at Meridian Pint, we’ll be hosting Firestone Walker, and it’ll be a bunch of rare beers that they have. We’re also revamping our cocktail and liquor list, which will be inspired by Frank Mills. He’s made a big name [for himself] in the city. That will be released on February 6.

Smoke & Barrel: 2471 18th St. NW, DC;

Photos: Charlotte Geary Photography and Nick Hard
Photos: Charlotte Geary Photography and Nick Hard

Celebrate Virginia Craft Beer Month at Three New NoVA Breweries

Summer is almost over, so don’t miss your chance to visit some great breweries in NoVA that have recently opened their doors and patios. Here’s a short list of three new ones to try during Virginia Craft Beer Month.

Barnhouse Brewery 
This cute farm brewery in Leesburg recently reopened after expanding and relocating their facility not far from Vanish Farmwoods Brewery (also a personal fave of mine). Down a dirt road tucked between two quaint wineries, you will find a beautiful wooden farmhouse with a dog-friendly patio perfect for a quick beer with your boo in between winery visits.
  • Banshee Irish Red, 5.5 percent: This one’s for you, Dad. No seriously. My dad loves his George Killian’s Irish Red, and similarly, this one reminds me that some beers are just drinkable. No bells and whistles, just a red with hints of caramel malt that I could drink all day with my pops. Rating: Sharing is caring!
  • Shenandoah Stout, 7 percent: A milky, flavorful stout with hints of cocoa and coffee beans, this is the one I keep going back to for another sip. And it’s the chocolate that lingers on your tongue like that last spoonful of ice cream. Savor it. Rating: Shenan-WHOA-a!
Barnhouse Brewery: 43271 Spinks Ferry Rd. Leesburg, VA;

Mustang Sally Brewing Company
This Chantilly-based brewing company is the perfect pit stop on the way to Jiffy Lube Live for a concert or a good excuse to “stop for gas” off of I-66. Good tunes, cool facility and delicious beer.
  • Mustang Sally IPA, 6.5 percent: If you’re looking for a strong, firm and bitter IPA, look no further than this baby. Packed with two-row pale, rye and Columbus hops, this guy will give you the Popeye face. Rating: Bitter, baby! But well-crafted.
  • Mustang Sally Porter, 6 percent: This bold and traditional English porter has more smooth cocoa nibs than coffee, and is my go-to beer at Mustang Sally because I love malts – especially chocolate ones. Rating: Perfect beer to “take the load off, Sally!” 
Mustang Sally Brewing Company: 14140 Parke Long Ct. Ste. A-C, Chantilly, VA;

Lake Anne Brew House

Lake Anne Brew House is a modern nanobrewery in Reston. Just look for the orange sign and enjoy a brew on the amazing patio. This brew house is a hidden secret and a treat!
  • Reston Red Ale, 5.5 percent: This tasty brew is hopped like pale ale, so it’s got some residual bitterness to go with a caramel malt backbone. A tasty red indeed. Rating: One red to rule them all.

Lake Anne Brew House: 11424 Washington Plaza W, Reston, VA;

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try?  Drop him a line at

Photos: Charlotte Geary Photography and Nick Hardt


Lowdown on Local Brews: On Tap’s Virginia Craft Beer Guide

Virginia Craft Beer Month presents the perfect time to acknowledge how the craft brew scene continues to explode throughout the state. No, these proverbial bursts aren’t of the catastrophic nature, but rather an accurate representation of the fiery rise in popularity these niche beverages are experiencing statewide. If you peruse the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild website, you’ll see a legion of these breweries all working toward the same mission – delivering delicious tasting beer.

According to, now is the best time to be a fan of this grain-based alcoholic beverage, due to the colossal number of breweries popping up throughout the nation. There’s a litany of reasons to hoist a cold one in Virginia, as the state routinely ranks in the top half of the country regarding this particular topic.

In case you’re unaware, the Brewer’s Association defines a craft brewer as small, independent and traditional. Virginia has a number of craft breweries in spades, as 124 are housed within state lines, ranking 13th in the United States according to the association. The state for lovers also clocks in at 19th overall for barrels of craft beer produced per year with an astonishing 274,111.

So, while there’s definitely the supply for a host of brews, this is only possible because of a staunch demand for such product. The average Virginian of age consumes 1.4 gallons of craft beer per year, which doesn’t seem like a lot, until you remember that beers consumed from the neighboring DMV areas don’t count toward the total, so the number is likely much higher.

The steady fascination didn’t always exist, as the numbers of barrels of beer increased by about 350 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Last month, even Governor Terry McAuliffe voiced support for the expanding market.

“Listen, I’m a huge supporter of our craft brew industry,” McAuliffe told WHSV TV-3. “We have 275 wineries, and we have about 40 cideries now, so we are really taking off, but the craft brewery industry here in Virginia is taking it to another level.”

The boom isn’t a secret. With the numbers and public statements from high-ranking officials, the word is out about how stupendous the scene has become, and the industry is only growing, if not evolving.

What can you do to participate? Navigate a craft brew trail such as the Brew Ridge, or take a day trip to Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Lexington, Beer Hound Brewery in Culpeper, or Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton and Arrington. If you’d rather stay close to the District, visit Port City Brewing in Alexandria, Ocelot Brewing Company in Dulles, Aslin Beer Company in Herndon, Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn or dozens of other locations around NoVA.

Salivating for brews yet? Then be sure to pay a visit to the Virginia Beer Museum this fall, located in Front Royal and opening on September 24 in conjunction with the Brew and Blues Festival. Also, don’t miss the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest at Devils Backbone on August 20. Before you add these to-dos to your calendar, read about  a few tastemakers in Virginia’s craft beer world.

Learn more about Virginia Craft Beer Month at

Special Advertising Section

Bold Rock Hard Cider
1020 Rockfish Valley Hwy., Nellysford, VA; 434-361-1030

Flagship Beers
Enjoy complimentary tastes of the Virginia Apple and Virginia Draft hard ciders when you visit the Bold Rock Cider Barn but don’t miss out on the white hot India Pressed Apple (IPA), Premium Dry or Pear Cider. Bold Rock also offers a rotating seasonal cider selection.

Bold Rock has been internationally, nationally and regionally recognized for our hard ciders including a Silver Medal for our India Pressed Apple in the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup Awards.

What To Expect
The Bold Rock Cider Barn is a gorgeous timber-framed Cidery and Tap Room perched on a ridge overlooking the aptly named Bold Rock Meadow. Enjoy close up views of the bottling line and cozy up to our large fireplace in the winter or kick back on our expansive patio during the warm months.

Planning Your Visit
The Tap Room is open daily at 11 a.m. and offers complimentary tours and tastings as well as pints, flights, food, merchandise and cider-to-go for purchase. Make sure to stop by for live music on most Sunday afternoons!

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
2408 Ownby Lane, Richmond VA; 804-420-2420

Flagship Beers
Singel, Pils.

Hardywood’s beers have earned medals at the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival, a rare 100 rating by BeerAdvocate, Virginia’s Top Brewery by users and was recognized as Virginia’s Best Brewery by Thrillist.The company was awarded the Greater Richmond Chamber 2013 Business of the Year Award.

What To Expect
Hardywood focuses on brewing soulful, innovative beers using high quality ingredients while supporting their local community of artists, growers and musicians. Sourcing 100 percent of its power from renewables, including solar, biomass and wind, Hardywood is committed to minimizing its impact on the environment. The taproom has both an indoor and outdoor space with a relaxed, family friendly environment. They host a wide array of local and national musicians ranging from punk and indie rock to jazz and country.

Planning Your Visit
Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays. Contact to schedule one. The taproom offers flights and 12 ounce pours to enjoy at the brewery as well as bottles and growler fills to go. Live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visit the website to join their  mailing list and stay up to date on upcoming events.

Heritage Brewing Co.
9436 Center Point Lane, Manassas, VA; 571-358-8463

Flagship Beers
American Expedition, Freedom Isn’t Free and Kings Mountain.

AC Beer Fest 2nd Place Brown Ales for Kings Mountain, 1st Place TML Battle of the Brews Champion.

What To Expect
We are a veteran owned and operated microbrewery in Manassas, VA. As veterans and patriots, we find that we owe it to our patrons to only produce the finest beer made with the best ingredients with the same level of attention to detail and passion that we brought to serving our country. You will find our space to be industrial yet inviting with everything being made from repurposed materials to create a handmade Americana Vibe to the space.

Planning Your Visit
We do experimental beers every Saturday so there is always something new in the tasting room to enjoy. We have live music a few times a month and you can have BBQ delivered to your seat from The Bone. Tap Room Hours: Thursday and Friday 5 – 9 p.m., Saturday 12 – 9 p.m., Sunday 12 – 6 p.m. Brewery Tours: Saturdays 12 p.m. & 1 p.m. and are $5 (includes flagship flight).

Old Ox Brewery
44652 Guilford Dr., #114, Ashburn, VA; 703-729-8375

Flagship Beers
Alpha Ox Session IPA, Golden Ox Belgian-Style Golden Ale and Black Ox Rye Porter.

What To Expect
Old Ox is a family owned and operated commercial brewery with a fun and friendly tasting room.  We brew classic beer styles along with specialty brews that explore the creative side of craft. Our tasting room features cornhole leagues and unique events every month (check our events calendar). Food trucks cater in great cuisine daily.  We are located right on the W&OD Trail between mile markers 25 and 25.5.

Gold medal for Saison d’Ox and Silver medal for Black Ox at 2014 Virginia Craft Brewers Competition.

Planning Your Visit
The tasting room is open:
Tuesday – Thursday 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.,
Friday 2:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.,
Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and
Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Upcoming releases
Upcoming seasonal beers include October Bier Oktoberfest Style Lager and  The Oxorcist Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Starr Hill Brewery
5391 Three Notch’d Rd., Crozet, VA; 434-823-5671

Flagship Beers
Northern Lights IPA.

21 Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and Great British Beer Festival medals. Countless local awards. Dark Starr Stout has more awards than any Dry Irish Stout in the country, including Gold at the 1999 and 2009 GABF. Whiter Shade White IPA won Gold at the 2014 World Beer Cup and King of Hop Imperial IPA was the “Best IPA in VA” at the 2014 Virginia Brewers Cup.

What To Expect
The second oldest craft brewery in Virginia, Starr Hill is all about community. We support our neighbors through local beer collaborations and hosting local music and food trucks in our Tap Room. Through our Cheers for Charity program, we donate $1 for every pint sold to a different non-profit each month. Our brewery was born in the Starr Hill Music Hall and we know how great beer and live music bring people together.

Planning Your Visit
Our Tap Room is open Tuesday – Sunday. We feature pints, growlers, crowlers and samples of 24 rotating beers. It’s the best place to get unique and limited releases. Free tours Saturday and Sunday, live music and food trucks.

Photos: Courtesy of Honor Brewing
Photos: Courtesy of Honor Brewing

The Bierdo Celebrates Independence with Honor Brewing

Happy Fourth of July, Bierdos! To honor our Independence Day and all of the great men and women of our fine military that preserve our independence every day, I headed to the best vet-owned bar I know – Dupont Circle’s Rebellion – to try and start the fireworks early. At Rebellion, I tasted some veteran-brewed and extremely drinkable craft beer that I’ve heard praise about in the beer trenches from Honor Brewing in Chantilly, Va.

The brewery is currently still under construction, but Honor beers are available around town for mass consumption (check for details). And of course, Rebellion had all three current beers “on duty” for me to inspect – and let me tell you, Bierdos, I inspected every last single freaking drop!

So raise your glass to honor, my friends! Founded by brewers, patriots and the families of service members who paid the ultimate price, Honor Brewing not only respects and celebrates our military through countless weekly charitable events and fundraisers (and each beer and boot-adorned label is a tribute in and of itself), but it also crafts one helluva beer.

Don’t believe me? I encourage you to strap on your drinking boots and pick up a pint. I have yet to find a local beer that is as drinkable and approachable for everyone as it is well-crafted. I salute you, Honor Brewing team, for striving to create such a drinkable salute to our soldiers!

  • Honor Golden Ale, 4.9 percent: There’s something very drinkable about this blonde golden ale. It’s almost as thirst-quenching as a pilsner or your typical carbonated light beer, but not. Prepare to drink something entirely more flavorful, yet very well-balanced and palatable. You’ll notice the pilsner/white wheat malts and hops right away, but you won’t make the old man hop face, as it delivers something dry, earthy and herbal with some residual hop bitterness. I was very surprised with this well-crafted, smooth and refreshing beer. Rating: Golden nectar of the beer gods!
  • Honor Warrior IPA, 6.2 percent: If you liked the golden ale, but craved a little more hops, you will not be disappointed by their IPA. More piney and again earthy than the typical citrus-forward and heavy IPAs that I always love, Honor Brewing flipped the switch and went in another direction, which I applaud them for. I detected caramel malts and a certain honey sweetness here followed by some residual hop bitterness. Again, a “smooth,” almost “criminal,” IPA. Rating: Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie? You’ve been hit by…one smooth IPA.
  • Honor Gold Star Cherry Wheat, 5.5 percent: The Cherry Wheat is a Belgian-style American wheat beer that’s perfectly proportioned. The cherry is on the tail end, and not overpowering like every other cherry beer I’ve had in my life. It’s very light and refreshing, with the “essence” of cherry. Thanks somebody for finally getting it right. A “flavorful fruit beer” doesn’t have to be like a heavy dessert. It can be a beer with a twist. Here’s living…beer proof. Rating: A little old school, a little new school, a little bit awesome. She’s my cherry pie…cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise!

Honor Brewing: 14151 Newbrook Dr. #200, Chantilly, VA; 866-920-9463;

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try? Drop him a line at 

Photos: Courtesy of Honor Brewing

Photos: Courtesy of Schneider’s and Granville Moore’s
Photos: Courtesy of Schneider’s and Granville Moore’s

Age-Old Brews: Belgian Beers in the DMV

To honor the establishment of a country with a long, deep and rich beer history on Belgian National Day (July 21), let’s go through a quick and dirty breakdown of Belgian beers: a what to know and where to go in and around the District to drink and buy these complex brews. As Belgian-inspired, Belgian-style and Belgian beers are more accessible, look to these places in the DMV for help in learning, growing or just enjoying a traditional, historic style of beer.

Granville Moore’s
The H Street Corridor’s old-timey, Belgian-inspired gastropub puts an emphasis on harder-to-find Belgian beers and new or up-and-coming local breweries. Check out Granville’s menu for an extensive bottle list, and on the many chalkboards in the restaurant for unique Belgian or local drafts, many of which pair well with the spot’s nationally recognized mussel options.

Granville’s beer maven, Erin Gilbert, suggests Ertvelds Wit, on draft during the summer to complement the corn chowder mussels. The gastropub is known for its unique draft list, including the Tripel Van de Garre.

“It’s an 11 percent tripel and goes down like a 5 percent,” she says. “It’s a beautiful example of what a tripel should be.”

Granville Moore’s: 1238 H St. NE, DC;

Roofers Union
Want to have fun? Go into Roofers Union in Adams Morgan, find beer director Dave Delaplaine, smile nicely and start asking him questions about his favorite beers in stock – many of which are tart, sour, spontaneously fermented lambics. The restaurant and bar has a huge sour beer focus, with at least one to two on draft from Belgium at any given time.

“I love what Belgian yeast brings to the table,” Delaplaine says. “Whether it’s a beer from Belgium or a beer using yeast from Belgium, the complexity created is so extravagant, I cannot get enough of it. When searching for sours, I love the lacto acidity that really makes your mouth pucker. Many of these beers may seem unnecessarily acidic until you pair them with that perfect fatty meat…then bliss.”

Several sours will make their debut on tap at Roofers this summer. In the meantime, enjoy two 2014 sours from Roofers’ cellar that Delaplaine is currently crazy about: Oud Beersel and Weyerbacher’s Riserva.

Roofers Union: 2446 18th St. NW, DC;

Schneider’s of Capitol Hill
Browse through an interesting craft beer selection at Schneider’s, a shop known for its eclectic selection and 60+ year history. Beer Director Stewart Phillips posts to Twitter (@schneidersbeer) when he has harder-to-find beers in stock. Or, if you’re one of his top customers, you might get an email with a heads up when new brews come in.

Phillips mixes up Schneider’s beer selection with Belgians because, unlike many U.S. beers, they’re not as hop-forward – especially during the summer, when he recommends a light, citrusy tripel. He suggests starting your Belgian education with the regularly stocked La Trappe Tripel or Quadrupel, or Saison Dupont.

“They’re easy to get into,” Phillips says. “Belgian beers can have a great flavor without being overwhelming. A classic saison can especially be easy drinking, but as you progress in your beer education, you can get into more heavy stuff, like quads.”

Schneider’s of Capitol Hill: 300 Massachusetts Ave. NE, DC;

The Sovereign
It would be silly not to include the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s newly opened bar and bistro in Georgetown dedicated to “celebrating the rustic cuisine and fabled brewing culture of Belgium.” The Sovereign’s beer program features 50 drafts and more than 350 bottles curated by Beer Director Greg Engert.

But don’t expect to order the Belgian beers you know from your drinking past. The Sovereign’s brews aren’t sweet or overly nuanced.

“We are really focusing on fewer producers, because we are concentrating on the best,” Engert says. “But, we also have a full range of flavors from those Belgian brewers.”

In regards to the exclusivity of the beer that The Sovereign stocks, Engert says, “We get consistent, direct shipments of exclusive Belgian and Belgian-style brews from the likes of Cantillon [Brewery] and Tired Hands [Brewing Company].”

This month, The Sovereign is setting up events to showcase bottle and draft pours of some very rare lambics. You will most definitely find options not available anywhere else in the DMV, and possibly the U.S.

The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC;

Photos: Courtesy of Schneider’s and Granville Moore’s 

Sehkraft Brewing
Photo: Courtesy of Sehkraft Brewing

The Bierdo Visits Sehkraft Brewing

Good things happen to those who wait, Bierdos (just ask my editor!) I’m finishing this beer article on the lawn after my deadline, while at and inspired by the Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros show at Wolf Trap, wishing they had bottled the treasures I just drank at Sehkraft Brewing to-go for my cooler at the show. Poor planning, I know. But sometimes writing, like beer drinking, is done best where you feel at “Home.” Certainly, Sehkraft and Wolf Trap know this about beer and music.

For those of you who haven’t been to Arlington’s newest brewery (or maybe you have, but didn’t know the beer was finally released this month), I’ll momentarily introduce you to a new Clarendon nightlife hotbed of entertainment and local culture. With weekly music gigs from the area’s best talent for only $5 most nights, wine nights and tastings, fundraisers, open mics, kids’ programming, and even a monthly trivia night, Sehkraft makes you feel like it’s been there for years.

And maybe that’s because it’s the sister bar to Westover Market and Beer Garden just down the street on Washington Boulevard, your home for craft beer, comfort food, fire pits, camel burgers, kimchi, a book club and patio fun for over 10 years (or 50, if you count the market). Add in their killer menu, beer selection and butcher shop, and it’s a win-win, Arlingtonians (times two!)

The fact that I’m even explaining this to you all makes me feel silly, being a local, but I’m happy to point you in the right direction. Simply put, both places rock just as much as this show does. Here’s what to drink at CEO Devin Hicks’ Sehkraft Brewing.

Hoptastic IPA, 6.9 percent: Every place has that one “money” beer. This is the one for me. Cha-ching! Yummy tropical citrus hops with piney notes, it finishes crisp and juicy (in fact, it makes my mouth all watery in anticipation of the next sip, it’s so good) with residual bitterness at the tail end to let you know it’s an IPA. Absolutely loaded with hops. Rating: Hopsurd!

Good to Go Session IPA, 4.8 percent: Crisp citrusy session IPA that’s dry and drinkable. You can drink these like water all night long on the patio. Rating: “GREAT to go!”

Uber-Awesome IPL, 6.5 percent: Tons of hops create this floury, bright, citrus India Pale lager with a huge, bitter finish. Rating: Bitter beer nerds and hop heads rejoice – this has a ton of both just for you, kiddos!

Amber, 5.5 percent: Not a hop head and want something smooth? Try this caramel-infused, malty red ale. Rating: Decent and super drinkable. A great place to start!

Sehkraft Brewing: 925 North Garfield St. Arlington, VA; 703-841-5889;

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try? Drop him a line at

Photo: Courtesy of Sehkraft Brewing

Homebrewing 101
Photos: Courtesy of Sara Bondioli

Homebrewing 101: Crafting Fermentables at Home

How it begins differs. Some picked up at-home fermentation creation in college because it was cheaper than buying beer, others as an adult hobby after getting a “Mr. Brew Kit” as a present. According to data collected by the Brewers Association in 2013, America has an estimated 1.2 million homebrewers; two-thirds of them only started brewing in the last 10 years.

The commonality among homebrewers is their commitment to taking up personal space and time to make their own beer. Thousands from all over gather this month in Baltimore at the 38th Annual National Homebrewers Conference/Homebrew Con 2016 (open only to American Homebrewers Association or Brewers Association members) for seminars, a trade show and events. Homebrews will be shared and recipes swapped. Regional beer clubs will have made special brews just for the Homebrew Con, like the Baltimore Beer Babes ( who paired up with Baltimore’s Brewer’s Art for a dry-hopped saison.

“The most enjoyable aspect of homebrewing is the social aspect of making something you enjoy to drink with those you enjoy,” says Christian Layke, head brewer at Gordon Biersch in Rockville, Md. Layke is a long-time homebrewer and member of the DMV’s homebrew club Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP).

Northeast DC’s Hellbender Brewing Company Co-Founders Patrick Mullane and Ben Evans homebrewed together for four years before making business plans. Mullane, a former political operative, has three tips for hopeful homebrewers.

1. Don’t be intimidated. There’s so much information out there, especially websites that are hard to navigate. So, Mullane recommends finding a local homebrew store who will tailor your setup based on your needs and space.

2. Embrace your failures. “My first batch of beer turned out great,” Mullane says. “My next one was an unmitigated disaster, and I threw it out before I even finished. Out of your first four of five batches, one of them is going to be undrinkable. Your friends are going to humor you and be really nice in helping drink those cases that you made.”

3. Start with the classics. “There are different perspectives, but I am a firm believer in mastering red ales, browns, hefeweizens [and] wits. One of these longtime classics done really well means you have a good base and can move on to IPAs, where you’re putting in more hops.”

Other perspectives include starting with IPAs, because then if you mess up your homebrew, you can throw in additional hops to cover up any mistakes.

Arlington’s new homebrew store, The Brew Shop on Wilson Boulevard, which opened in February and also has a bottle shop, caters to experienced homebrewers looking for parts for their DIY setups or newbies who get sent out with either an extract or an all-grain, one-gallon ingredient kit. Co-owner Julie Drews says that the one-gallon versus five-gallon kits take up so much less space and work well for apartment or townhouse dwellers. She also points customers toward reference resources, like websites Brewtoad, HomeBrewTalk or BeerSmith Home Brewing. The Brew Shop has its own Android app for recipe guidance and several books in the shop.

“I like to recommend really great and classic [books] that are perfect for taking you from your very first brew and beyond, specifically either John Palmer’s How to Brew or [Brewers Association founder] Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.”

BURP members since 1993, couples Pat and Janet Crowe and Tom and Colleen Cannon scoured and followed The Complete Joy of Homebrewing to a tee when they first started homebrewing, almost always as a team, 25 years ago. They keg and give away most of the beer they make. In May, the foursome won the BURP’s annual chili cook-off with their maibock. Competitions among regional beer clubs occur frequently. Occasionally, breweries in the area, like Atlas Brew Works in Northeast DC, will host homebrew contests. And, the number of homebrews entered into the national competition at Homebrew Con 2016 have more than doubled since 2008.

“Don’t think you’re going to make cheaper beer than you can buy,” Janet Crowe says. “Do it because it’s social [and] fun, and start simple, like with a stout or pale ale. I caution new brewers to be sensitive to keeping it clean, because yeast will eat anything, and more than likely, it will eat the wrong things. Also, be careful [of] jumping on the sour bandwagon right away. You easily can end up making a sour beer by doing something wrong in the process. Or, you can contaminate your equipment, and you’ll never get out of doing sours.”

The theme of cleanliness is big, whether brewing at home or professionally. Layke suggests replacing all hoses once a year to avoid getting a hose infection in your equipment.

“They don’t cost that much and it’s worth not having a batch of pale ale taste like a batch of Orval because of the brettanomyces,” says Layke, who fell in love with brewing because of the process and the social sharing of the crafted product. He welcomes homebrewers to hit him up at the brew pub if they need any yeast, or to bring a beer by to talk about it. Then, he points them in the direction of his homebrew club, because “the best way to learn is to talk and see what they brought to share.”

Vice president of the DC Homebrewers Club, Sara Bondioli, says, “Once I started going to homebrew club meetings, I got helpful feedback. They could taste it and say, ‘This is pretty good, but maybe next time you could tweak the recipe this way. It might be that you’re keeping the beer too warm, so next time…’ Non-beer friends tend to say the beer is always good because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. So bring beer to people who also brew, and they will be honest and helpful.”

Bondioli’s biggest tip to those starting out is to buy an auto-siphon. It costs $6 and she swears it will save many headaches and hours of annoyance.

Check out the American Homebrewers Association for recipes, and to find clubs and competitions in the DC area.

DC Area Homebrew Clubs
– Brewers and Drinkers Around Silver Spring (BADASS) in Silver Spring,
– Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP) in Rockville, MD:
– DC Homebrewers Club in homes/public establishments around the
– GRiST Arlington Home Brew Club in Arlington, VA:
– NoVA HomeBrew in Sterling, VA:
– Prince William Brewers Guild in Woodbridge, VA:
– Stafford Brewer’s Club in Stafford, VA:
– The WortHogs Brew Club in Herndon and Reston, VA:

Photos: Courtesy of Sara Bondioli

Gordon Biersch American Craft Beer Week
Photo: Courtesy of Gordon Biersch

Gordon Biersch Presents American Craft Beer Week Brewer’s Dinner

Gordon Biersch invites beer enthusiasts to a six-course meal paired with six craft beers at its downtown location on Wednesday, May 18 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. This unique dining experience is in celebration of American Craft Beer Week (May 16-22), and includes pairings that run the gamut from tenderloin carpaccio with IPA to beer-infused chocolate truffles with milk stout. On Tap caught up with the talented minds behind the brewer’s dinner, Chef Peter Saletta and brewer Scott Lasater, to learn more about the upcoming event.

On Tap: What was your vision when putting together the six-course menu for this brewer’s dinner?
Chef Peter Saletta: My goal in mind was to celebrate the richness and craftsmanship in our beers by letting the food complement the flavors, not [overpower] them.

OT: What inspired your course selections?
PS: The inspiration for my course selections comes from sampling the beers with Scott, our brewer, and cross-pollinating ideas on [what] taste, texture and region would be the best fit.

OT: Is there a particular course that you feel stands apart from the rest?
PS: Duck confit. This dish has always been close to my heart.

OT: What role did you play in pairing each course with a Gordon Biersch craft beer?
PS: Scott and I worked very [closely] in bouncing ideas back and forth [until] we came up with what we thought our [guests] would really enjoy and would give them the experience they have come to expect from us.

OT: What was your creative process for selecting which of your craft beers to include in the brewer’s dinner pairings?
Scott Lasater:
First, I considered the major flavor and aroma components of each beer, such as malt and hop varieties, yeast esters, bitterness, carbonation levels and alcohol content. In some cases, the pairings are intended to complement the food; others are designed to provide a counterpoint to certain ingredients.

OT: Do you have any favorite beers on the list? Any recent additions?
SL: Maibock and saison are our most recent seasonal beers.

OT: What sets Gordon Biersch’s dinner apart from other American Craft Beer Week celebrations around town?
1) $45 is a great deal; 2) you can get a tour of the brewery; [and] 3) you could win a date with the brewer.

Tickets to Gordon Biersch’s American Craft Beer Week Brewer’s Dinner on May 18 are $45 per person, and can be purchased here:

Gordon Biersch: 900 F St. NW, DC; 202-783-5454;

Photo: Courtesy of Gordon Biersch

Photo: Joy Asico

The Bierdo Visits The Sovereign

Greeting Bierdos! May I point you to DC’s newest Belgian hotspot? The Sovereign is a brand spanking new beer destination in Georgetown. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Beer Director, Greg Engert,  who is “known for his award-winning beer lists at Birch & Barley, ChurchKey, Rustico and more…is now curating and creating a Belgian beer list unlike any other at the Sovereign alongside a menu of classic Belgian cuisine from Executive Chef Peter Smith.”

Don’t believe the hype? You better believe it, buster. As Flavor Flav says: “Yeahhhh boy!” It’s time to try some Belgian brews a little closer to the Virginia line, just across the river in my old college stomping grounds – only much classier than $3 Bud Lights and Jäger in the Georgetown scene of my youth. It’s a destination perfect for dates and fine drinking.

“With 50 drafts and 200+ bottles (in a dark and romantic, 131-seat, two-story bar), the beer program [features] the work of Belgian brewers who embody the standards, techniques and innovative spirit that underpins the fabled Belgian brewing culture…showcasing the widest array of drafts and bottles from the very best Belgian brewers.”

Temperature-controlled taps and coolers keep every beer at the appropriate serving conditions, and the staff works hard to ensure that the excellent bar, brunch and dinner fare (the menu features rustic, ingredient-driven Belgian dishes, drawing from French, German and Dutch cooking traditions) pairs well with the extensive wine and cocktail selections.

I had the Drie Fonteinen Beersel Lager (a crisp, unfiltered, bready kellerbier lager with residual bitterness, 5.2 percent) and the Thiriez Extra (a rich and hoppy European collaboration golden ale, 4.5 percent), and they were outstanding. Throw in the crispy fried bitterballen and other European-style bar snacks, and you literally feel like you’re overseas and getting the real deal experience.

Experience it for yourself! Here’s what the folks at the Sovereign wanted me to share with you about what their beer menu includes:

  • The deliciously dry offerings of De la Senne, De Ranke and Kerkom, among others
  • Singular farmhouse ales, including those of Blaugies and Thiriez
  • Balanced, complex and bold Belgian strong ales, including those of De Dolle and De Struise
  • The work of Trappist Monastic producers such as Achel and Rochefort
  • Authentic Lambic from Belgian brewers and blenders, including Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, Girardin, Tilquin and De Cam
  • Up-and-coming Belgian brewers, including Sainte-Hélène, Alvinne and Jandrain-Jandrenouille
  • The best international producers of Belgian-style ales, such as Dieu du Ciel (Quebec) and Toccalmatto (Italy), alongside selections from American brewers like Jolly Pumpkin, Prairie, Crooked Stave and Jester King

The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; 202-774-5875;

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try? Drop him a line at

Photo: Joy Asico

Bold Rock Honeydew Hits Shelves

Bold Rock Honeydew Hits Shelves

The U.S. hard cider industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. A traditional beverage overseas, cider had early adoption in this country, but had fallen out of favor with the passing of time. Fast forward to the 21st century, and cider is back in a big way. The reasons for the resurgence are plentiful – the growing interest in gluten-free diets (cider is naturally gluten-free), the strength of the farm-to-table (or glass) movement and the growth in general of craft beverages. Although there are several national players in the market, local and regional cideries are thriving.

We are fortunate to have one of the leaders in the field just down the road in Nellysford, Va. Bold Rock Cider, the award-winning undertaking of master cider maker Brian Shanks and his partner John Washburn, has received dozens of awards for its flagship Virginia Apple and Virginia Draft ciders. In 2014, the cidery saw an expansion of its lineup with Bold Rock Pear, and this year brings another flavor to the family – Bold Rock Honeydew.

Honeydew, as the name implies, marries apples grown at Bold Rock orchards in the Blue Ridge Mountains with honeydew melon. The sweetness of the melon blends with the tartness of the apples to create a flavor that is light and slightly sweet, with a tart finish. Best accompanied by summer dishes, the flavor is a seasonal release and will be available in bottles and on draught through the summer or while supplies last.

When asked what inspired the new flavor, Shanks explained that, “As the largest regional craft cidery in the U.S., Bold Rock stays true to our roots by staying connected with our consumers. Our tap rooms allow us to try some of our new recipes out with our loyal consumers and get their feedback. They love being a part of the process and we value their input. One thing that we are seeing right now is [that] our growing millennial consumer base likes to experiment with new styles of cider. Similar to what is happening in craft beer with brewers blending grapefruit and lemon lime with IPA, Bold Rock is constantly experimenting to blend other natural flavors into our ciders.”

Bold Rock has an IPA of their own. In late 2015, they released their India Pressed Apple, a cider dry-hopped with a blend of five hops, including Centennial, Cascade and Citra. When asked about plans for future releases, Shanks replied that, “[Our] IPA has been very successful both on tap and in six pack bottles, and will be launched in cans and as part of our Variety Crate this summer. Honeydew is our first seasonal style, but Bold Rock will continue to look at new recipes that could later become new styles, and we anticipate some being announced later this year.”

In the meantime, you can find Bold Rock ciders on draught and in bottles at area bars and restaurants, and in bottles at grocery and retail outlets. Or, make the trip to their taproom and orchard in Nellysford. Who knows, you may help craft the next Bold Rock flavor.

Bold Rock Cider: 1020 Rockfish Valley Hwy. (Rt. 151), Nellysford, VA;