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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;www.boldrockcider.com

Summer Canned Beer Roundup

Summer Canned Beer Roundup

Hopefully you’ve wrapped up your spring cleaning by now, so you can devote all your attention to the outdoors this summer. That means pool parties, day trips to go tubing in nearby rivers and, of course, outdoor music fests. We know you’d never get rowdy enough in the drippy summer heat to put your neighbor in danger with a glass bottle, but there’s always that one wobbly, angry dude – so most venues discriminate against any liquid wrapped in glass. Fear not. The craft beer revolution continues to progress at breakneck speed, and this summer happens to coincide with a glorious moment in craft history: the can is becoming king.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the decades-old debate between can and bottle advocates, but rest assured, cans have their place in the beverage world. They’re easy to recycle. They keep the sun out. And they’re light to carry. So do what my cousin taught me to do back in high school: line your backpack with a few garbage bags brimming with ice, rip open a few cases of canned beer and then crack a can of craft goodness as you enjoy one of the best summers of your life!

DMV’s Finest
Craft breweries in the DMV are on the cutting edge in more ways than just taste and unique styles. When DC Brau hit the city’s streets back in 2009 – the first in the nation’s capital since 1956 when Heurich House went under – they were intent on filling local coolers with city pride. Their signature punchy pale ale and subdued IPA, Corruption Ale (shout out to you, Congress!) are canned and ready-made for anything the outdoors brings your way in the coming months.

But other local breweries are now catching up with DC Brau and the canning revolution. Atlas Brew Works’ flagship brews, Rowdy and District Common, are both available in cans and sold locally. And the Eastern Shore’s RAR – or Real Ale Revival – is now widely available in stores throughout the DMV (try their Reaper, which, at 8.3 percent ABV, you may want to be sitting down for). You’d also be wise to hop on a mini-road trip and hit up their Cambridge, Md. brewery, which is walking distance from the Chesapeake Bay and the freshest crabs around.

Down in Virginia, Devils Backbone is also getting into the canning business. They came out of the gates with a refreshing 4.7 percent ABV Hefeweizen – the Trail Angel Weissbier – so whether you’re hiking in the Shenandoah or listening to wofty jam bands, make sure to grab an orange or two to accompany your Hef.

Throw Your W’s Up
No one knows the outdoors better than our brothers and sisters out west, so let’s start this tour in Colorado – a craft beer mecca. Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins just started canning their Loose Leaf Session Ale. It’s only 4.5 percent ABV, which means you’ll be able to sip it all day and keep standing until the stars come out and you leave the fest for a friend’s backyard BBQ. Oh, and their remarkable canning setup is cranking out more than 300 cans per minute, so I don’t think we’ll be suffering any Leaf shortages this summer.

Be That Guy: Bring Nitro to a BBQ
You wanna turn a head or two at a cookout this summer? Grab a four pack of Sam Adams’ new nitro cans. Nitro was made famous by Guinness, but we’re Americans, damnit! Just like the original Boston Tea Party way back in the day, the Boston Beer Company is taking an idea from across the pond and making it vastly better. They’re currently available in three varieties: Nitro White Ale, Nitro IPA and Nitro Coffee Stout. You’ll wow anyone when you pop one and the heady foam bubbles up. These are better for a park concert than a festival, because once you pop it, you’re advised to immediately pour it into a glass.

Can’t Make Up Your Mind
Let’s face it. It’s summertime and you likely checked your brain at your office door on Friday before catching a happy hour. We’ve got you covered. If you don’t know what you – or your BBQ hosts – are in the mood for, just scoop a variety pack of CANundrum by Oskar Blues. It includes four of their staple Dale’s Pale Ales (which in its signature blue and red can often passes as a Pepsi at any place that discourages BYOB), four tasty yet muted Mama’s Little Yella Pils and four powerful Old Chub Scotch Ales. You can’t go wrong no matter what direction your taste buds direct you.

Sure, glass bottles are debatably better – or, at the very least, easier to consume – when you’re close to your own fridge, but this is the season to get outside and embrace all of the DMV, nature and whatever your wacky friends throw your way. Besides being easier to enjoy at outdoor venues, craft beer cans have made monumental strides this season. Why not show your appreciation, and cutting-edge style, by ditching the glass and grabbing a sixer next time you hit the local beer store? Oh, and don’t forget to pack plenty of water, too. It’s gonna be a hot one. Don’t be that wobbly one at the fest.

Devils Backbone Cran Gose
Devils Backbone Cran Gose

Craft a BIG Adventure

Spring is almost here and it’s time to elevate your sense of adventure. Canned beer has become the darling of the craft beer industry and for good reason – beer stays fresher in cans, cans recycle easily and when you’re ready to head outdoors, they are more portable than bottles.

Devils Backbone Brewing Company’s basecamp, its original location, is in the heart of Nelson County, Virginia and touches on the Appalachian Trail. Who better to come up with a collection of canned beers that encourages you to get outdoors and have some fun? Their canned offerings include the Daypack seasonal collection and new this spring, their award-winning Vienna Lager and Eight Point IPA will be available in cans.

The Daypack series is a collection of four seasonal beers and one beer available year-round: Goldleaf Lager.  First in the series and available now is Cran-Gose, a 4 percent cranberry ale that is brewed in the “gose” style.

“A gose is an old Germanic-style sour ale, lightly flavored with salt,” says Brewmaster Jason Oliver. “It’s a really great base to build upon and for this beer, we added hundreds of pounds of pureed cranberry. The natural tartness of cranberry works well with the fruity character of the beer.”

In May, Trail Angel Weiss, winner of a 2010 Great American Beer Festival gold medal, is the featured beer of the series.Trail Angel is a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen brewed with Tettnang hops. It has a honey colored, light-to-medium body with a fruity, spicy finish, and carries flavors of banana, honey and clove.

Bravo Four Point ushers in fall, and while it keeps to the under 5 percent ABV level of all of the beers in the Daypack series, it has a bolder, hoppier flavor well-suited to the season. Ginger Brau, a honey-hued lager infused with three types of ginger, wraps up the year in November.

Devils Backbone is one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country, and much of that growth is courtesy of its flagship brews, Vienna Lager and Eight Point IPA. Both beers have won numerous accolades and in 2015, Vienna Lager received a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Devils Backbone beers have been so successful that the company has had to expand capacity at its outpost production brewery in Lexington, Va. from an estimated 10,000 barrels in 2011 to 250,000 barrels currently. And now for the first time, the beers that have driven that expansion will be available in cans. Vienna Lager will be offered in 12 and 16 oz. cans, and Eight Point IPA will be offered in 16 oz. single-serve cans.

Single-serve cans are a newer but fast-growing package option for craft beer. The appeal of the larger can includes all the benefits of a regular can – easier to take places and more suited to concerts and sports venues, but also offers the opportunity for consumers to sample new products. Rather than commit to a full six or 12-pack, the 16 oz. can gives the beer drinker the chance to try a beer they may not have had before at a friendly price point, and without fear of wasting beers if it’s not to their liking.  Speaking from experience, the larger size is also a nice option when you are at a show or event, as it’s certainly a little more beer per trip to the bar!

So for those ready to craft an adventure, be it on the trail or at the show, Devils Backbone has a beer that can suit your needs. Look for their beers at area retail and restaurant locations.

To learn more about Devils Backbone or to get more information on their award -winning beers, visit  www.dbbrewingcompany.com.

pints by state

Primary Pints: Suds by State

Washington’s political class has been turned upside down watching traditional Beltway wisdom shrivel on the vine throughout this presidential election cycle. It’s time to throw orthodoxy by the wayside and get back to the basics of American elections: booze.

Pundits and politicians forget how integral alcohol has been to U.S. politics. In fact, the foundation of our first president’s political career was paved with liquid gold.

George Washington lost his first political campaign when he ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses at age 24. He chalked the loss up to not plying voters with enough booze. When he ran again two years later, he bought 144 gallons of beer, rum, punch and hard cider, according to author Daniel Okrent, and he won. Go figure. When you provide about a half-gallon of booze for every vote you receive, you better win!

It’s time for today’s presidential aspirants to tap into the sudsy goodness that made politics great in America’s infant days. Trump’s comedic dominance in this year’s race has moved the nation further away from the coolheaded statesmanship the nation’s first president hoped would embody his successors. Still, all hope isn’t lost: the state of our beer union is strong.

Nothing embodies that more than thumbing through the upcoming primary schedule. The great thing about the Washington region is that you don’t need a seat on a campaign’s charter jet to enjoy the myriad of beers that primary voters are wildly toasting (or crying into).

So come with me and take a stroll through the primary calendar from right here in the DMV.

March 15:  North Carolina
I’m predicting this election will be injected with booze politics sooner than we’ve seen in the past, and Ashville, N.C. – the unofficial beer capital of the East Coast – is where politicians would be wise to hit the local bar scene in full force.

Voters there come out on the crucial March 15 primary. It’s admittedly hard to find most of N.C.’s best beers in DC. But there seems to be a North Carolinian picking the kegs at ChurchKey on 14th Street. They have four different local choices on tap, including a 12-month aged barley wine from Fullsteam Brewery and a light porter from Foothills Brewing.

But if you really have a hankering for Ashville’s finest brews, just stop by the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is a co-chair of the Small Brewers Caucus. He has a nice little fridge that’s usually brimming with his town’s finest craft brews. Tell him I sent you!

April 5:  Wisconsin
The next big primary contest is on April 5 in Wisconsin – the home state of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In honor of his drink of choice and all of the big, watery beers coming out of the Badger State, that seems like a good day to just grab a Miller Lite (what the Speaker was sipping during the Super Bowl), which you can snag for a cool $3 a pop on Tuesdays at the Cleveland Park Bar and Grill on Connecticut Avenue.

APRIL 19: New York
The New York primary on April 19 seems like a great day to get toasted in honor of the state’s two leading presidential contenders: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If you’re a Trump supporter, you likely have bad taste (yeah, I’m looking at you, Chris Christie!), and your presidential candidate is a teetotaler so maybe just grab a decaf tea and leave the rest of us alone that night!

For Clinton supporters, you might as well put on some skin-tight hipster jeans and sip a cold one from Brooklyn Brewery, which is just a short jog away from her campaign headquarters. Iron Horse Taproom and Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Northwest have been known to showcase some of their specialty brews. If you’re an energetic Bernie Sanders supporter, that’s promising to be a night where you want to avoid being in public. Sorry.

APRIL 26: Pennsylvania
The race to the White House may be more clear when Pennsylvania voters weigh in on April 26 than it was in 2008 when then-Senator Obama was duking it out in a tight contest with Clinton. You could tell they were both pandering to blue collar voters, because Clinton allowed herself to be filmed taking a shot of whiskey and Obama sipped a Guinness for the cameras.

But hey, I wish more candidates pandered to voters with booze! In honor of the PA contest, head out of DC and go to the classic Philadelphia Tavern in Manassas, Va., where they’ve been known to showcase a wide variety of special Yards Brewing Company ales based on the original recipes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. If they’re out of the brews from our founding fathers, just crack a Yuengling and watch the returns roll in.

The nation is at a crossroads and it seems like it’s silly season when it comes to political discourse. But there’s no reason to despair because the craft beer revolution is alive and well.  So even if our politics suck right now, keep your chin up as you keep sipping.

Matt Laslo is a veteran congressional reporter and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s MA program.  He hosts the craft beer and politics show “Bills and Brews.” Follow him on Twitter: @MattLaslo

New District Brewing & Vanish Farm Brewery

New District Brewing & Vanish Farm Brewery

While you may find yourself “green” on the couch from too much Jameson or in full body paint for your team this March, may I suggest a better way to spend your weekends getting in the spirit of the season?  How about some new and great local beer?  Yes, instead of painting, drinking or literally turning green this March, why don’t we make your beer buddies “green” with envy? Grab a pen, plot the course on your GPS and head to Virginia for two (TWO, Johnny Utah!) new breweries that should be on your radar.

“Just tell your girlfriend you’re going out to walk the dog…and then walk your butt to the damn brewery.”  – Roommate wisdom  

NEW DISTRICT BREWING COMPANY
New District in Shirlington is a labor of love from some local ex-rock ‘n’ rollers who had a dream of putting down the drumsticks and starting their own brewery, but did so at an unbelievable, under $350K budget with the help of many, many friends and their engineering degrees. These dudes literally MacGyvered their own equipment and entire build-out on a shoestring budget to create a small up-and-coming brewery with, dare I say, Arlington’s first walk-up growler fill-up window.

While it’s only open on Saturdays, once they expand their capacity, you can expect some additional hours for enjoying their great brews, tunes and food trucks. Or bring your dog since the Shirlington Dog Park is nearby and grab a beer without the usual scolding from your partner about day drinking on a Saturday – because let’s face it, that’s why God invented Saturdays and your boss gave you off, isn’t it? It’s the American thing to do. Drink these for America.

1821 Belgian-style Saison 5.5 percent: Crisp and easy to drink, this floury,  biscuity craft homage to your favorite glass of Stella Artois – only local, better and more crafty.
Rating: Just “sais” yes.

1821 Black Lager, 8.5 percent: Easily my favorite, this malty, easy drinking lager improves on the Greek family recipe with a special mystery ingredient that I still haven’t guessed yet. No worries, however, as it has a slight licorice/anisette-type dark lager feel with a bitter ending that’s delish. Rating: Smash a lager, not a plate. Yamas!

*Looking for something drinkable for the beer nube? Also try the bitter but drinkable Kolsch or the light cocoa nib First Time stout.  I will always remember my first time well. Thanks Katrivanos family!

VANISH FARM BREWERY
Still need to walk “the dog” a little further? Try a new farm brewery like the epic Vanish in Lucketts, Va. Owner Jonathan Staples originally bought the farm to grow hops for his spirits at James River Distillery in Richmond. However, his friends at Flying Dog Brewing planted the brewery idea in his head (which he continued with alone after the partnership idea disintegrated), and so his rustic and historic Virginia farmland became the site and supplier for Vanish beer.

Here you’ll find an immaculate, 200+ seated tasting room and hop farming facility with a satellite kitchen for weekend BBQ, tasters around $2 and $4 to $5 pints. Plus, an outside biergarten is in the works for the warmer weather. I’d talk more about all the cool farming and local ingredient sourcing, but I’m going to let the owner’s knowledgeable staff regale you with that. I’ll just do the drinking, thank you very much!

Session IPA, 4.5 percent: One-of-a-kind flavor from rye malt and “Brett” yeast, and dry-hopped with Chinook and East Kent Golding. Citrus and dry, earthy tones. Very flavorful/drinkable. Rating: Hands down, you’ll like this beer. If not, replace your tongue (it’s broken), and repeat.

Double IPA, 8.5 percent: Imagine a lighter 75 IBU version of the Heavy Sea’s Double Cannon. Is that possible? Yes it is.  Dry-hopped with slight  tangerine  fringe
and ever so slight dry  bitterness.  It’s  hop   heavy without weighing down your taste buds.  Rating: Double the booze, singular light flavor.

Abbey Dubbel Ale, 7.2 percent: Prunes and raisins dominate the palate with a clean, full-bodied ale that warmed my ruddy facade. Perfect fit for the wet and cold weather. Rating: Plums up!

Sahti (unfinished at 8 percent): Coming soon and amazing. Juniper sourced from the farm, seeds of paradise and hops make this Finnish-style fermented ale just pop on my taste buds.  Rating: The best and most unique thing I’ve tasted in the DC area in months – just amazing!

*Need something more approachable for a beer newbie? The Brown and Oatmeal pale ales are decent, too.

NEW DISTRICT BREWING COMPANY: 2709 S Oakland St. Arlington, VA; 703-888-5820;www.newdistrictbrewing.com  

VANISH FARM BREWERY: 42264 Leelynn Farm Ln. Leesburg, VA; 301-471-6015;www.vanishbeer.com 

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try? Drop him a line at nick@ontaponline.com.

Right Proper Brookland Production House
Photo: Nick Hardt

Bierdo Visits Right Proper Brookland Production House

It’s already been a tough 2016 Bierdos! Rock star and celebrity deaths have become an alarmingly increasing weekly ritual on my Facebook newsfeed—enough to drive you to drink! Music has been a passion of mine for longer than my love of beer, so it was time to raise a cold one in DC for some fallen Bowie-esque “heroes” to celebrate all the great music that changed my life. It just so happened we were raising a glass of DC Brau’s Alpha Domina Mellis (an amazing new DIPA made with local honey and 100 IBU’s of experimental hops) last week for Lemmy of Motorhead with my DC Brau tasting room and concert buddy Jon Pacella, when I realized that a seven-minute drive northeast was the new Right Proper Brookland Production House (920 Girard St. DC; 202-526-5904; www.rightproperbrewing.com), and I had to absolutely check it out. As I entered the extravagant new tasting room, randomly enough, I was greeted by the sound of the rambunctious joyful singing of bar goers and the chiming keys of an old piano. “How ironic,” I thought (still reminiscing about all the music I had thought we had lost that week) as I followed the tunes to what ended up to be the bathroom, where to my surprise sat a full piano in the corner of the men’s room. “Now this was a place with character,” I thought out loud as I was invited to sing—and we hadn’t even gotten to the beers yet!

“I’ll say it again, truly, ‘The road goes on forever and the party never ends’.” –Robert Earl Keen

The Brookland Tasting Room & Production House is a beautiful, reclaimed cherrywood bar, adorned with growlers to fill and the wonderful old brickwork and artwork you’re accustomed to at their first location, Right Proper Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen (624 T Street, NW DC 202-607-2337), only the new facility is located on Girard Street NE near 10th Street NE in the residential neighborhood of Brookland—a lovely neighborhood retreat for young professionals and hipsters who don’t want the corporate setting of downtown DC, but who still want an element of class and design. It’s a cozy tasting nook with an amazing facility where you can view the rustic wooden foudres and spotless new brewing equipment from the tasting room window or take tours of on Saturdays, every hour from 1:30-6:30 p.m. Tasting room hours are Thursday through Friday 5-9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 1–9 p.m. There’s no food yet, but you can bring your own or hit up a food truck outside regularly. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever met a more welcoming staff, and we shared stories and laughed throughout the night. I don’t want to ruin the surprise element of how great this production tasting room really is visually, so just know it’s impressive enough for a date and the perfect spot for warming up this winter with friends in a classy beer environment. You will be in awe to say the very least! Here are some beers to toast the good times and to roast the bad times—truly a new beer oasis that I had to rub my eyes and see to believe. Great beer, music and merriment all wrapped up into one new refined location!

  • Ornithology 3.9%: The standard here for a first-timer and a yeasty upgrade of their original Ornette offering I’ve enjoyed in Shaw for years, this light, bright, session-like wheat beer is more complex than you’d think, fermented with wild yeast in French oak foudres in the new tasting room. Rating: Foudres-tastic!
  • Raised By Wolves 5%: An aromatic pale ale dry hopped for a dry but juicy and fruity citrus taste. My personal go to at Right Proper as a hop head in 2016. Rating: Raise the woof!
  • Haxan 7%: If you’re looking for something more malty and sweet with a kick, try this Baltic leaning porter. Roasted Chocolate notes dominate this semi-booze bomb, as it’s definitely a more delicious and improved offering than the original recipe I had at Brew at the Zoo many years ago before they opened. Rating: They improved the un-improvable. Fantastic.
  • Baron Corvo 7%: A slightly strong farmhouse ale fermented in those fantastic French oak foudres again, this yeast driven beauty is for the more refined beer drinker with a wine-like oaky profile that has hints of fruit and spice. The yeast dominates in very good way. Rating: Beast of the yeast!

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try? Drop him a line at nick@ontaponline.com.

Photo: Nick Hardt

Brewer’s Ball
Photo: On Tap Magazine

DC Brewer’s Ball Serving Up Hope One Pint at a Time

For over a decade, the metropolitan Washington, DC chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation has been serving up hope, one pint at a time. The gala event returns for its 12th year on March 5 at the National Building Museum, and this year promises to be the best and biggest edition yet. Tickets are on sale now and cost $140, of which $70 is tax-deductible.

The 12th Annual Beer Institute’s Brewer’s Ball presented by matchboxfoodgroup and Anheuser-Busch will continue to feature more than 30 of the very best local and regional craft breweries, as well as some national players. Beyond the beers, over 25 great restaurants will keeps attendees well-fed while local band the VIPs keep the crowd moving with live music and dancing.

“Brewer’s Ball is a highlight annually for those that love great beers and better causes,” says Dennis O’Leary, one of three co-chairs of the committee that coordinates Brewer’s Ball each year. O’Leary’s desire to help find a cure for CF is deeply personal; his son, Casey, was born with the disease. “This event raises funds that have contributed greatly toward research for new treatments, programs, and care for those with CF.”

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic, life-threatening disease that affects about 30,000 people in the United States. Approximately 10 million additional people are carriers of the gene that causes CF. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs, which clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure.

A few decades ago, most people with CF didn’t live long enough to attend elementary school. Through the efforts of the CF Foundation, the life expectancy of a person with CF has doubled in the last 30 years. Today, many people with CF are living into their thirties, fourties, and beyond. Recent drug discovery and development programs have yielded drugs that have changed the course of CF. For the first time, two FDA-approved therapies (Kalydeco and Orkambi) treat not just the symptoms of the disease ,but the underlying genetic defect for a small percentage of the population. Recent research shows great potential for additional treatments that will similarly affect a larger percentage of people with CF. Although great progress has been made, there’s still a lot of work to do to put a cure in the hands of every person with CF.

Brewer’s Ball has grown immensely along with the DC area’s craft beer scene. When the event started, there were no production breweries in DC or Northern Virginia. Now, over a decade later, local favorites like DC Brau, Port City, Flying Dog, and Hellbender will rub elbows with nationally renowned brands like Dogfish Head, Allagash, and New Belgium. In fact, the folks from two local breweries, Adroit Theory and Belly Love Brewing Company, came together earlier this month to make a special collaboration brew, which will be served exclusively at Brewer’s Ball. Named Brooke’s Currant Obsession, this brew honors 15-month old Brooke who lives with CF, and is the daughter of one of the Brewer’s Ball committee members.

The event, which has become well-liked among breweries as well, allows for attendees to chat with brewery representatives, giving lovers of fine ales and lagers plenty of chances to ask questions and find out more about their favorite suds. (Don’t worry, wine and cider fans, there’s something here for you, too.) Area restaurants like Ted’s Bulletin, Hill Country Barbecue Market, Matchbox, and Charlie Palmer Steak DC pull out the culinary stops, often pairing their dishes with the breweries at the event.

Once the well-dressed attendees are fed and watered (or beered, as the case may be), they can bid on a number of intriguing silent auction items ranging from brewery tours to weekend getaways to themed baskets. Using their mobile phones, guests can conveniently check back periodically to make sure they haven’t been outbid on that bourbon basket they’re itching to bring home. During the live auction, guests go head-to-head for one-of-a-kind experiences such as a “custom cask build experience” at Heavy Seas Beer, where the lucky winner will craft their own special firkin of beer; a trip to Hollywood to see The Ellen DeGeneres Show, or a week-long trip to Palm Springs.

Brewer’s Ball, which raised $380,000 last year, has grown from more modest roots —it raised $40,000 in its first year. With the help of the local craft beer community, area restaurants, attendees, and sponsors who have a great time while contributing to a great cause, the event will hopefully grow even more this year as it taps into the continued push for a cure.

DC Brewer’s Ball: March 5, 2016 at the National Building Museum. 401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001; www.dcbrewersball.org for tickets and information.

Photo: On Tap Magazine

best local beer dc

10 Best Local Beers of 2015

2015 was a big year for beer in DC. Right Proper built a new production facility in Brookland, DC Brau started burst distributing in Massachusetts, and several new breweries opened their doors in the DMV including 7 Locks, Fair Winds and Ocelot. It was also a great year for delicious new brews and reimagined classics. Here are On Tap’s best ten local beers of 2015.

Ghost White IPA
3 Stars Brewing Company
Style: White IPA  |  ABV: 5.90%  |  IBU: N/A
In 2015, 3 Stars started offering some of their classic brews in cans, like the Ghost White IPA, now available in a 16-ounce tallboy. The well-carbonated white IPA pours a bright orange color with light citrus and earthy hop aromas. Mild grapefruit flavors mix with bright lemongrass notes to create a beautifully balanced and sessionable IPA.
3 Stars Brewing Company: 6400 Chillum Pl. NW, DC;  www.3starsbrewing.com

Ponzi
Atlas Brew Works
Style: American IPA  |  ABV: 7.30%  |  IBU: 62
Last year Atlas Brew Works debuted their new American IPA hopped with cascade, Chinook and mandarina hops. Munich malt creates a medium body and highlights the light tropical fruit and grassy flavors. Ponzi is named after infamous con artist Charles Ponzi for its deceptively high alcohol content.
Atlas Brew Works: 2052 West Virginia Ave. #102 NE, DC;  www.atlasbrewworks.com

Sorry Chicky
Burley Oak Brewing Company
Style: Berliner Weisse  |  ABV: 4.4%  |  IBU: 4
2015 saw an increase in demand for quality sour beers and Burley Oak’s canned offering is no exception. Sorry Chicky is a tart Berliner Weisse with a funky peach and citrus aroma. Lightly carbonated and slightly sweet with a crisp finish, Chicky is the perfect session beer for sour enthusiasts.

Brau Pils
DC Brau
Style: German Pilsner  |  ABV: 4.6%  |  IBU: 28
DC Brau added a classic German Pilsner to complement the brewery’s impressive arsenal of canned beers. The crisp lager style is light-bodied with spicy hop character from the German Hallertau hops. Brau Pils has a rich, bready start with a clean, malty finish and is perfect for camping, grilling, or tailgating.
DC Brau: B 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC;  www.dcbrau.com

Siren’s Lure
Fair Winds Brewing Company
Style: Farmhouse Saison  |  ABV: 7.2%  |  IBU: 32
One of Virginia’s newest breweries has already taken home a gold medal from the 2015 GABF for Siren’s Lure. This hop-forward saison is dry hopped with citra and German Blanc hops to compliment its wheat and Vienna malt body. Brewed with French farmhouse yeast, Siren’s Lure has a subtle funk and lemongrass flavor. It is not to be missed.
Fair Winds Brewing Company: Suite K and L, 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

Bourbon Barrel  Gingerbread Stout 2015
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Style: Barrel-Aged Stout  |  ABV: 10.6%  |  IBU: 55
Hardywood’s 2015 version of their barrel-aged gingerbread stout is truly “Christmas in a bottle.” Brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, Casselmonte Farm baby ginger, and Bearer Farms wildflower honey and then matured for 12 months in Virginia bourbon barrels, it is both smooth and complex.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery: 2408-2410 Ownby Ln. Richmond, VA; www.hardywood.com

California Stars
Ocelot Brewing Company
Style: American IPA  |  ABV: 6.8%  |  IBU: 60
The brand new Ocelot Brewing Company draws inspiration from music; the brewery takes its name from a popular Phish song. Their American IPA, California Stars, is yellow in color with a subtle bitterness from grapefruit, tropical fruit, and grassy hop flavoring. It is reasonably boozy with a dry finish, making it a success among fans of higher-gravity hoppy beers.
Ocelot Brewing Company: 23600 Overland Dr. #180, Dulles, VA; www.ocelotbrewing.com

Derecho Common
Port City Brewing Company
Style: California Common  |  ABV: 4.8%  |  IBU: 43
In summer 2012, the Derecho storm left millions of DC area residents without power, including Port City Brewing Company. The power outage made it difficult for the brewers to control the temperature of fermentation, which resulted in Derecho Common, a California steam beer. Slight hops and bready malt make this beer a delicious tribute to the notorious storm.
Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Check Point
RaR (Realalerevival) Brewing
Style: American Pale Ale  |  ABV: 4.4%  |  IBU: n/a
Located on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, RaR Brewing is doing their part to make delicious American cask ales. Check Point is a session pale ale that pours a bright straw color. It has tropical fruit and light citrus hop flavors that taste wonderful in cask form. It is worth the short trip to the brewery since RaR beers are difficult to find in DC.
RaR (Realalerevival) Brewing: 504 Poplar St. Cambridge, MD;  www.rarbrewing.com

Diamonds, Fur Coat,  Champagne
Right Proper Brewing Company
Style: Berliner Weisse  |  ABV: 3.6%  |  IBU: n/a
Right Proper’s hugely popular Berliner Weisse is named after track one of the 1980 album “Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev” by American electronic duo Suicide. The moderately sour beer aims to mimic champagne with a similar appearance and effervescence. Hints of lemon citrus in the nose combine with elderflower, grapefruit zest, and Hallertau Blanc hops to create a truly memorable brew.
Right Proper Brewing Company: 624 T St. NW, DC;  www.rightproperbrewing.com