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Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham // Photo: Courtesy of the Rosen Group
Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham // Photo: Courtesy of the Rosen Group

Brewing Diversity: Supporting DC’s Black Beer Culture

One way to celebrate Black History Month is with beer. Whether you consider yourself a conscious consumer or not, this vital celebration is also an opportunity to support small businesses. You don’t even have to spend money to follow those raising the bar for black beer culture – you can simply follow them on social media, and answer calls for inclusion.

Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham wears many hats. She’s an academic, a homebrewer and most recently, the first-ever Brewers Association diversity ambassador. She is also the chair of the Communications Studies department at Randolph College in Lynchburg. While she holds many titles, in the beer world, she’s known as “J,” “‘Dr. J” or simply “Doc.”

“I am absolutely an advocate of visibility,” she says. “Shining a light on people who don’t have light shined on them very often is inherently valuable.”

Mike Potter, founder of online magazine Black Brew Culture, estimates that there are 50 black-owned breweries across the nation. Jackson-Beckham agrees with this number, which seems staggeringly low when compared with a Brewers Association’s statistic indicating more than 7,000 craft breweries in the U.S.

She recognizes positive trends and sees craft brewing in general “as a kind of center of small business and entrepreneurship.”

“When we look at trends of brewery locations and where they’re going, there’s opportunity for people of color and black people in particular,” Jackson-Beckham continues.

Port City Brewing Company’s brewer Leon Harris delivers excellence in beer production. Every time you enjoy one of the Alexandria-based brewery’s drafts, there’s a chance he had his hands in the creation of that batch.

Harris got his start as assistant brewer at District ChopHouse downtown and Shirlington’s now-shuttered Capital City Brewing Company before opening – and literally building – Heroic Aleworks in Woodbridge. He was cutting concrete and installing fermenters that held 465 gallons of liquid, and jokes that his blood, sweat and tears were in the place. Next, he became brewer at Caboose Brewing Company’s flagship location in Vienna before joining the Port City production team.

“I would love to see more black people in the [beer] industry,” he says. “I think it’s a thriving industry. It’s a welcoming and accepting industry in every sense of the word.”

He’d also love to see “more black-owned businesses that cater to the community, cater to veterans like myself or cater to trying to better those around them.”

Service Bar in Shaw is another black-owned establishment improving beer culture in the DC area. A few months ago, the cocktail bar partnered with Capitol Riverfront brewery Bluejacket to create Hurricane Alley – a sour ale with passion fruit and sweet cherries. The brew mimics the flavor of fruity cocktails like the Hurricane but is imminently more drinkable at 4 percent alcohol by volume.

DC Brau Assistant Manager Myesha Cheatham’s beer journey began by chance.

“I fell into the beer world by accident,” she says. “I used to be a teacher, but I got a homebrewing kit and thought, ‘Oh, I should work in a brewery!’”

Like all good educators, she progressed via communication and critical thinking.

“I’m lucky that at DC Brau, I have people who are willing to share knowledge. Just not being afraid to ask questions has been very helpful.”

Cheatham has worked at high-volume places like MGM National Harbor, the Willard InterContinental’s Round Robin Bar and the Café Du Parc, and at some of them, she’s had to do her own beer training.

“I brought some awesome beer-related ideas to [the table], like ‘This is how we change a keg’ and ‘This is what to do with an old keg’ and ‘We need to plug our lines every night to make sure we don’t have fruit flies in the beer.’”

The knowledge she’s gained as a protector of black beer culture has enabled her to be a positive force in driving it locally. She offers up examples of people to follow online.

“Social media is taking off and they’re a lot of people on Twitter, as well as bloggers like Ale Sharpton, Beer Kutlure and Afro.Beer.Chick, who are bringing black beer culture to the mainstream.”

Follow Cheatham’s recommendations on Twitter @alesharpton, @beerkulture and @afrobeerchick. Check out Potter’s magazine at www.blackbrewculture.com and follow Jackson-Beckham on Twitter @jnikolbeckham.

Learn more about these breweries and bars below.

DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. Suite B, NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com
Port City: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com
Service Bar: 926-928 U St. NW, DC; www.servicebardc.com

Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Call Your Mother Deli’s Daniela Moreira and Andrew Dana

There’s a calmness to Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira, a laidback vibe that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a young couple running two businesses daily. The pair are the driving force behind Petworth’s Timber Pizza Company and the newly opened Call Your Mother Deli in Park View, adding to DC’s growing community of local foodie spots with a mom-and-pop, neighborhood feel. Their “Jew-ish” deli has garnered much buzz since its October opening with lines out the door every weekend, yet another new business putting Park View on the map. We sat down with Dana (founder) and Moreira (head chef and partner) to pick their brains about how they put their own spin on a Jewish deli, why their bagel shop is at the top of every local foodie’s brunch list, and what supporting the local community means to them.

On Tap: Why does Park View feel like the right fit for your second business together? How do you think the area is changing?
Andrew Dana:
I grew up in Mount Pleasant, so I’m very familiar with the neighborhoods. For a long time, I’ve said that DC has been great at opening big, fancy restaurants and hip, new restaurants. But what it’s not good at is the neighborhood staples that have been around for generations because it’s such a transient city. We were really attracted to [Park View] because there’s not a lot of other noise going on. It’s really residential. People are putting down roots. The funny thing about this building is we looked at it before we opened Timber and then we found this really cute, perfect spot up in Petworth. Then we started turning the wheels on this bagel idea and this was coming back on the market, so it seemed like it was a sign from the bagel gods that they wanted us to open [our deli here].

OT: I heard you had lines down the block and couldn’t keep up with the crowds the first week you opened, so you closed for a little bit to rework your menu. Were you surprised at the spot’s overwhelming success right out of the gate?
AD:
We truly thought this was going to be like a neighborhood bagel shop and we’d have to do a lot of wholesale and catering to make it work. The kitchen’s not really set up for there to be a 100-person line, and that’s exactly what happened the first weekend. We had to shut down for a couple of days and make the menu a little bit more manageable. We had to keep up with the demand. We had to trim the fat and just go with the best of the best.

OT: How’s the buzz been since then?
AD:
Every weekend, we’ve had a line out the door down to the alley. Now, we’re really proud of the menu. It’s much tighter and more concise.

OT: DC’s seeing a resurgence of mom-and-pop foodie spots in up-and-coming neighborhoods, and they’re wildly popular. Why do you think that is? Why does it feel important to be part of that scene?
AD:
I’m from here so what I want above all is just for DC to be awesome. I went to grad school in New York and lived in Brooklyn, and [when] you walk around there’s pizza shops that have been around for 50 years. I want my hometown to have that same vibe, so that is what it is at its core. And the food, Dani and I just do what we like. We like the staples: pizza, bagels. And if creating stuff we really like resonates with people and helps the neighborhood out, that’s awesome. There’s not some sort of bigger master plan. It’s make food that we really, really like in neighborhoods we like and be here for the people.

OT: Did you hesitate at all with the “Jew-ish” theme? How did you decide to walk the line between the authenticity of a traditional Jewish deli and putting your own spin on it?
Daniela Moreira
: I’m not even Jewish. I was like, “I don’t know anything about Jewish traditions or anything.” So I was scared.
AD: I like “Jew-ish” because I’m half Jewish. I [don’t] think that binds us to traditions. If somebody says, “Why don’t you have chopped liver or pumpernickel?” We’re like, “Oh, it’s ‘Jew-ish.”’ And I think Dani is selling herself short. I think what Dani likes the most is the creativity and reading a ton and doing trial and error, which she got to do. She didn’t have all of these preconceived notions of what a bagel had to be. She’s from Argentina. They don’t have bagels. It was fun watching her start from scratch and learn what a bagel was supposed to be. We probably went through 100 recipes – that’s no exaggeration. She became a scholar of the bagel.

OT: I read that you did lots of research, including some trips to NYC. Was iconic Jewish deli Barney Greengrass on the list?
AD:
We went to New York. We did go to Barney Greengrass, which was awesome. We ate so many bagels, it was ridiculous.

OT: You also brought in bagels from other cities, right? What motivated those choices and what areas did you draw inspiration from?
AD:
We had bagels flown in from Montreal. We actually went to South Florida because that’s where all the older Jews retire – Boca [Raton], Delray. We were sort of taking it all in. Actually, how we finalized our [bagel] recipe is every weekend, we would do a blind taste test [versus] New York bagels that we would ship in. We didn’t stop until we were consistently beating that taste test.

OT: What staples of a Jewish deli were important to you to maintain?
AD:
The Rihanna-Flex is sort of like your classic salmon bagel, which we actually didn’t have the first week. The first week we were open, we had a classic pastrami with mustard on rye bread that we were making. It was just so crazy, it was too much, so we said, “Alright, let’s do a pastrami brisket cheesesteak” [The Greenberg]. There’s nothing totally classic on there – all twists.

OT: What personal twists did you each take? Dani, can you walk us through some of the Argentinian influences?
DM:
Well, we opened with a soup. It was a South American vegetable soup. But again, we had to change the menu to make it easier for the kitchen to execute so we took it out for now. We have black and white cookies – alfajores – filled with dulce de leche. That’s super traditional.
AD: It’s one big ass cookie.
DM: There’s no bagels in Argentina, not at all.
AD: But we have a za’atar bagel, which obviously isn’t Argentinian, but that’s also not classic. And I think we arrived there because when Dani is thinking about bagel toppings, it’s not classic, classic, classic. She’s like, “I like za’atar. I like bagels. Let’s make za’atar bagels.”

OT: What has been the most popular bagel on the menu?
AD:
At the farmers market, people do love the za’atar bagels. They [usually] sell out. And in the shop, our bacon, egg and cheese or pastrami, egg and cheese with spicy honey [The Shyne].

OT: What’s your personal favorite, or the one you’re proudest of?
AD:
I love the Craig D. We made a nectarine cream cheese with fresh nectarines that we got from the farmers market. [It’s] sliced nectarines, jalapeno, bacon and potato chips, so it’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s crunchy. And now that nectarines are out of season, we use apples, so [it’s made with] apple cream cheese and sliced apples.
DM: The Amar’e. The Amar’e is a za’atar bagel with candied salmon cream cheese and then a salad of pea shoots, cucumbers and crispy shallots. It sounds healthy. It makes you feel better when you eat it [laughs].

OT: You’ve got pizza and bagels checked off the list, so what’s next? Do you have a dream spot you’d like to open, either as a team or individually?
AD:
I mean, we’re animals and we eat nachos all the time. I don’t know if that’s a full-scale concept or not. Woodfired nachos would be a real thing too. That’s going to be a ways off. [Running two businesses] is taking a lot of energy and focus. We’re hunkering down here for a little while.

OT: What do you guys like to do when you’re not working? Do you hang mostly in Park View and Petworth?
AD:
We live in Petworth. We like exercising, travel, eating of course. We go out to eat all the time. We work out a good amount. Travel – she just got back from Costa Rica [and] I just got back from New Zealand. We’re trying to pick up squash this year. She wants to take lessons.
DM: Yeah. It’s fun.
AD: I’ll start taking lessons when she can compete with me.
DM: We’re not really fun.
AD: Yeah, we’re not that fun.
DM: We just go to sleep, eat, and that’s it [laughs].

OT: What cocktail bars and restaurants are on your radar right now?
AD:
I love Indigo, the Indian restaurant in NoMa, [and] Don Juan’s in Mount Pleasant.
DM:
I love Amsterdam Falafel[shop].
AD: She’s a French fry fanatic. It’s pretty scary, actually.
DM:
Bars? No. We don’t really drink that much. I only drink once a year when I go back home and that’s enough for the whole year [laughs], so I don’t really go out to bars here.
AD: We were at Players Club yesterday, love Players Club. My two great loves in life are basketball and food, and they have pop-a-shot basketball, so I played like 25 times yesterday [and] ate some Shake Shack. Life is good.

To learn more about Call Your Mother Deli’s menu, check out www.callyourmotherdeli.com.

Call Your Mother Deli: 3301 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.callyourmotherdeli.com

[FIRST PAGE HEADER IMAGE] Photos - Trent Johnson

 

Photo: Travis Vaughn Photography
Photo: Travis Vaughn Photography

What’s On Tap: The Berliner

While you were away on vacation or bundled up in your homes over the holidays, you may have missed the opening of Georgetown’s newest beer hall The Berliner. The 4,200-square-foot establishment was inspired by modern Berlin, Germany, offering comfort food, a spacious venue and, of course, delicious brews. To get an inside look at the selection process for beers and better understand the vibe of DC’s newest German-themed beer spot, On Tap spoke with operating partner Mike O’Brien, who also serves as The Berliner’s chef and beverage director.

On Tap: What did you find alluring about The Berliner?
Mike O’Brien:
I wanted to get away from the high cost of living [in the San Francisco Bay Area]. I first became involved with The Berliner in June 2018. I’ve been making sausage for 10 years, and a lot of those are German-style because it’s such an integral part of the culture and cuisine. As far as German beer, I really have a passion for it.

OT: You feature a myriad of German-style beers. How did you settle on the final list?
MO:
I wanted to include smaller producers that I knew about and had tried. The list was constantly changing, but some of the smaller German beers were directly imported. I’m very happy with the Kulmbacher’s EKU Pils – those are exemplary German pilsners.

OT: How often will you change up the beer menu?
MO:
Ideally, the menu changes pretty much daily. They’re small changes, but I’m not going to have dedicated lines. It’ll change organically, and I’ll start to bring in larger German producers like Hofbräu. The local beers will rotate. We reprint our menu maybe once a week, but we expect changes to pick up in the summer. The one I’m most excited about is just solid lagers. For a place concentrating on German styles, [solid lagers are] great for us. And [lagers are great] for me personally, because those are the kinds of beers I like to drink.

OT: How do you think the décor adds to the modern, industrial vibe of The Berliner?
MO:
We wanted to have more of a modern German feel. My business partners have a lot of family in and around Berlin and are in the know as far as the trends there. We wanted to be different. We didn’t want it to feel like a typical German bar. We wanted it to feel like something special. The space isn’t dark. It has high ceilings, [is] airy and the wood is a lighter shade.

OT: What sets the two dining areas apart from one another? 
MO: They definitely have different, unique feels to them because the downstairs color is white and natural light comes through, while the upstairs is darker green and the ceiling is dark. It provides a different feel. Once the weather clears up, then it’ll be emphasized even more.

OT: How important is it to you that the food menu complements the beers you offer?
MO:
One of the great things about beer is there’s so many varieties and it lends itself to food really well. We have 24 taps and you can vary the flavor profiles enough that something will pair up. I’ve kept the food menu pretty tight, which lends [itself] to pairing.

The Berliner: 3401 Water St. NW, DC; 202-621-7000; www.theberlinerdc.com


Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

MONDAY, JANUARY 28

Bend & Brew at Mad Fox
Do you love yoga? Do you love beer? Regardless of your answers, why not combine the two? In this 60-minute introductory class, the group will flow while sipping on flights of delicious Mad Fox brews made in the very same building. The best news? Happy hour goes until 7 p.m., so you’ll have time to hang out and grab a pint of your favorite beer. 5-6 p.m. Tickets $25, bring your own mat. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30

Cidermaking Workshop
Join Capitol Cider House Cidermaker Jared Fackrell for a 90-minute, hands-on, interactive workshop and learn how to make cider from the comfort of your own home. Not only will guests enjoy a sampler flight of Mid-Atlantic ciders during the workshop, they’ll also receive a cidermaking starter kit. 7:30-9 p.m. Tickets $39. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitolciderhouse.com

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1

Après Ski at The Sovereign: Colorado Beers & Spirits
Join The Sovereign as they feature some of their favorite beer and spirits producers from the Rocky Mountains. On this night, they will showcase wonderful wares from Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Casey Brewing and Blending, Breckenridge Distillery, and Leopold Bros. Whether you are a lover of beer, cocktails or both, this event is for you. 4-10 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7

Fair Winds Beer and Dessert Pairing
Throw away your resolutions and come join Fair Winds for the ultimate beer and dessert pairing. No one does it better than Out of the Bubble Bakery in Springfield, Virginia, with goods baked 100 percent nut- and dairy-free. This event sold out last year, so don’t hesitate to capitalize on the amazing desserts. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $30. Fair Winds Brewing Company: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9

DC Homebrewers: February JamBEERee Meeting
The DC Homebrewers Association’s February meeting will once again be a joint meeting with other area homebrew clubs. The association will be debuting the latest SMaSH beer experiment at this meeting, plus there’s an IPA competition and a food pairing competition sponsored by various clubs. You’re also welcome to bring other food to share and, of course, bring homebrew to share. 1-5 p.m. DC Brau Lodge: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14

Valentine’s Beer Dinner
True Respite Brewing Company and Say Cheese! are bringing you a Valentine’s Beer Dinner for craft beer and grilled cheese lovers alike. The dinner will include four pairings and a bag of chips to use as a palate cleanser. Each pairing will consist of an 8-oz. beer and one-quarter of a specialty sandwich from Say Cheese! There are four options to choose from. 6-8 p.m. Tickets $28-$53. True Respite Brewing Company: 7301 Calhoun Pl. Suite 600, Rockville, MD;
www.truerespite.com

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15

Love Thy Beer Winter Warmer Showcase
Join the Brewers Association of Maryland at Love Thy Beer, the signature event of FeBREWary: Maryland Craft Beer Lovers Month. This must-attend event for the craft beer enthusiast features exclusive beer releases you won’t find at your local craft beer store and a selection of specialty beers brewed specifically for FeBREWary. Brewers are being challenged to come up with their own individual “Cupid’s Curse” brew for you to taste and vote on your favorite. 6-10 p.m. Tickets $50-$75. Silver Spring Civic Building: 1 Veterans Pl. Silver Spring, MD; www.visitmaryland.org/article/febrewary-maryland

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16

Cupcake and Beer Pairing
For the love of friends, family and that someone special, head to Tucked Away Brewing. Indulge in some delicious cupcakes from The Lemonade Bakery while enjoying a flight of beer, perfectly paired to complement one another. The bakery will also be onsite selling other tasty treats. 1-4 p.m. Tickets $16-$20. Tucked Away Brewing: 8420 Kao Cir. Manassas, VA; www.tuckedawaybrew.com

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21

Southwest Neighborhood Happy Hour
Join the tap room at Union Stage for a neighborhood happy hour featuring 16 taps of local and national craft beers, handcrafted pizzas, and an extensive liquor list. Happy hour specials include $1 off select drafts and $10 for a pint and half pizza. Event starts at 5 p.m. Free to attend. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23

Battle of the Barrels
Passing from hand to hand, liquid to liquid, season to season, the complexities of barrel aging can be endless. Want to see who does it best? Dive into a battle of the barrel with 3 Stars Brewing, Charm City Meadworks, Don Ciccio & Figli, Oliver Brewing Co., One Eight Distilling and Supreme Core Cider where you’ll taste a collection of barrel-aged beer, mead, cider and amaro, each finished in a District Made Straight Rye Whiskey barrel. 1-6 p.m. Tickets $25. One Eight Distilling: 1135 Okie St. NE, DC; www.oneeightdistilling.com

Winter Fest
Celebrate winter at part four of Pizzeria Paradiso’s Four Seasons Beer Festival at its Georgetown location. This festival will feature seasonal drafts, beer slushies, snow cones, popcorn, and games including skee-ball, pinball, darts and more. 1-5 p.m. Tickets $15. Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown: 3238 M St. NW, DC; www.eatyourpizza.com

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 24

9th Annual Barleywine Festival
Don’t miss the largest barleywine festival in the Mid-Atlantic. Mad Fox will showcase more than 30 barleywines from around the region and across the county, with multiple sessions on Saturday and a single session on Sunday. 11 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Free to attend. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25

The Paradiso Blackboard: Pizza and Beer Class
Learn about the intricacies of matching the right beer with your food or the right food with your beer, then try your hand at creating the perfect pairing. 6-7:30 p.m. Tickets $30. Pizzeria Paradiso Spring Valley: 4850 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.eatyourpizza.com

Photo: Julia Lofstrand
Photo: Julia Lofstrand

Pie Shop Returns to Rock ‘N’ Roll Roots

You may recognize Dangerously Delicious Pies from their aptly named operation spanning pie sales in food trucks, coffee shops, and their brick-and-mortar H Street outpost. While the pies themselves are now fully part of the fabric of the DC fast-casual scene, the shop expanded into something else last summer: a full-fledged music venue, affectionately named the Pie Shop. On the surface, this might seem like an odd pairing, but co-owner Sandra Basanti says the dual-purpose digs were always part of the master plan.

“The pie and rock ‘n’ roll thing isn’t a schtick,” Basanti says. “A lot of musicians do work here, and it is ingrained in the business. Last year, we opened the bar and music venue on the second floor, which used to be my apartment. It’s kind of come full circle.”

Although Dangerously Delicious Pies as the DC area knows it has been in its current form for a decade, the pies and the music have been important parts of the owners’ lives for much longer.

“The whole concept came about from the Glenmont Popes, the band my husband [co-owner Stephen McKeever] and [founder] Rodney Henry are in,” Basanti continues. “They’ve been touring for many years, and Rodney grew up baking pies in Indiana. He would spend summers with his grandmother there, and so a lot of our recipes are her recipes. He had it in him – he was just raised on pie.”

The trio opened the shop in 2009 – Basanti manned front of house, her husband ran the kitchen and Henry lent his passion for pies to the shop. She fondly refers to McKeever and Henry as the “brains and the brawn” behind the operation; they’d often sell pie at merch tables or trade the treats for a couch to crash on while on tour with their band.

“One day, [Henry] thought if rock ‘n’ roll isn’t paying the bills, which we know it doesn’t for a lot of musicians, then maybe pie will pay for rock ‘n’ roll,” she explains. “And it has – the Glenmont Popes are still going strong.”

In fact, Basanti and the band had just returned from playing shows in Ireland the day before we chatted about the group’s new ventures. And it was pies that brought them back to the apartment-turned-bar and venue that now boasts live music alongside top-notch food and a refreshingly unpretentious beer and drink menu.

While opening the venue was always part of the pie and rock ‘n’ roll business plan, Basanti and company took their time to open it. As musicians who’ve been part of the local scene for many years, the trio wanted to get things right and fill a void in the realm of DC live music.

“There’s a lot of these big, beautiful clubs opening up, which is amazing, but they mostly cater to touring bands and acts that have kind of already made it,” Basanti says as she describes the ethos that drives Pie Shop. “To offer a room that is also beautiful and has excellent acoustics – and to treat the smaller bands who are on the up and up with the same respect as a super famous band – is our goal. I didn’t want to be a basement, taped-together place where bands could just play. I wanted it to be a room that gives these artists justice. We put a lot of time, effort and thought into how it’s laid out.”

Dennis Manuel is Pie Shop’s sound engineer, with help from Melina Afzal. Manuel even helped design the venue, and hand-selected the space’s equipment. The stage boasts a full backline of equipment, and prides itself on the high-quality sound it can provide smaller local bands and touring acts.

The spot also accommodates comedy shows, literary workshops and burlesque shows, among other eclectic events supporting the local creative community. Basanti started out booking Pie Shop shows on her own but is now assisted by Jon Weiss of Union Stage and Babe City Records; the two consistently collaborate on what bands are the best fit for the team’s vision for the venue.

“We want to offer that smaller room for bands who are on their way up – to have that space to build a following, especially with local bands, which has been a lot of our focus,” she says. “It took us a while because we didn’t have the money, and we wanted to do it right. We try to treat all the artists with lots of respect and offer them top-notch hospitality.”

All of that and a dazzling array of delectable pies is sure to satisfy the appetite of local music lovers and foodies alike for years to come. Follow Pie Shop on social media @dangerouspiesdc to learn about upcoming shows.

Pie Shop Bar: 1339 H St. NE, DC; 202-398-7437; www.dangerouspiesdc.com

Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar with The Peoples Drug’s Jon Schott

Jon Schott is a rare breed of professional, the kind of person whose brain is never really turned off. From coming up with some of his best cocktail ideas while walking his pups in the woods to making every orgeat and tincture on his expansive drink menu from scratch, he brings a level of enthusiasm and thoughtfulness to his work that seems unparalleled. The best part? He’s completely unpretentious about the art and consumption of craft cocktails. His creations are jotted down A Beautiful Mind-style in an old-school notebook that he’s happy to share with cocktail nerds, and he loves nothing more than to answer questions from customers about some of the more layered or complex concoctions on his menu.

Enter The Peoples Drug, the retro-inspired, neighborhood cocktail bar and food spot where Schott wears many hats as both beverage director and general manager. The Old Town, Alexandria locale modeled after the nostalgic local drugstore chain of the same name has steadily picked up buzz since opening last summer, with rotating seasonal and classic cocktail menus from Schott and a brand-new food menu launched earlier this month. We caught up with the man behind the well-crafted drinks about the labor of love that goes into each new creation and the casual, community vibe of his bar, among other cocktail-related things.

On Tap: You’ve got a lot of cleverly named cocktails on your winter menu like the Schrute Farms Margarita with spiced beet agave and Pistachio Mustachio with pistachio orgeat, to name a few. What’s your creative process for naming them?
Jon Schott:
I like people to step a little bit outside of their comfort zone, and I think a great way to do that is to have a clever or comforting name. We get their guard down a little bit and then get a new drink in their hand, and now they’re trying new things. And who knows if that sparks this whole new journey of them trying new drinks and stepping outside of their comfort zone, which is the fun thing about food and drink – there’s infinite possibilities.

OT: As someone who grew up here and has worked in the bar industry for nearly two decades, how do you think NoVA’s cocktail scene has shifted in recent years?
JS:
Everything seems to have shifted toward [being] more casual, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality or atmosphere. Just because you want a good drink doesn’t mean you have to make plans to do it. That’s what we were hoping for here, where you’d see everyone come in – whether you’re dressed up and on your way to a date or running errands and still in your sweatpants. We’re always open to the public. We never do reservations. You just walk in.

OT: Why do you think Old Town is the right location for Peoples?
JS:
People in Old Town know good food and they know good drinks. They’re a really tight, really cool community. We’re a nightcap or before-you-go-out, happy hour [spot] because we’re casual. Come in here, let your hair down, relax and [enjoy] the good vibes.

OT: Walk me through the classic versus seasonal menus, and how you came up with the concepts.
JS:
I like balancing a list with classics. If you know cocktails, you can look at the classics and see we know what we’re doing. It lets people know you can get good classics here and we’re following script.

OT: What about going off script for the seasonal menu? What inspires those selections?
JS:
It’s really important for guests to have a well-crafted and constructed cocktail, because it’s built with love. Time and energy goes into these, totally. We juice citrus every morning. Everything you see on the menu – like an orgeat or tincture or fusion or syrup – I made it myself. If it’s a syrup or an orgeat, I’ve made it within the last [few] days. Like the dehydrated fruit, I do that in my house and bring it in. That’s why I love the seasonals. These are all things that we have made [where] I started with a thought for a drink and as a team, we knocked it down into a really fun, well-balanced and creative drink. Enjoy yourself and don’t be pretentious about the cocktails.

OT: Does the classic menu stay the same or is it dynamic?
JS:
I change it every season because there’s certain classic cocktails that I think fit certain seasons. This season, they’re big because it’s winter. There’s a lot of Manhattan- and martini-style drinks, and spirit-forward ones. I also do barrel-aged [cocktails] where I age the cocktail in an oak barrel for 32 days and then bottle and serve it. I spy on people when they have a sip of their drink to see their first reaction. That will [tell me] the most honest feeling they have about the drink.

OT: What seems to be the customer favorite right now?
JS:
The most popular one is the Schrute Farms Margarita. People relate to the name of it and the color of it is super bright.

OT: Can you give us a sneak peek of the spring menu?
JS:
There’s one drink I dedicated to my mom. She told me, “If you’re going to succeed in this industry, you need to appreciate gin, and that’s when you’ll get all the real drinkers.” And she was right. So [this cocktail] plays with gin, tea and fresh things like orchids, lavender and roses. I’d love to introduce cucumber bubbles. It’s a way of stacking up bubbles. I can layer them on top of the drink. You know what I’m really excited for? [My] team to submit original ideas [they’re] working on. I love to open the menu up to the whole staff. It has to be a team effort.

OT: What about funky ingredients? What flavor profiles are you intrigued by at the moment?
JS:
I love playing with orgeats, so any syrup with any type of nut in it. I’m looking forward to playing with cedar and gin and sage [on the spring menu]. Those things together remind me of walking in the woods. And then maybe sneaking an amaro in there.

OT: Any food options you recommend pairing with cocktails?
JS:
We have a lot more sharable snacks [on our new menu], like finger foods. I think the truffle fries go well with any cocktail. A little bit of salt also helps all the flavors pop. Our sandwiches are really tasty too.


[HEADER] Photos - Trent Johnson

Wasabi Martini
Tito’s Vodka infused with wasabi
Snow pea and sea salt tincture
Domaine de Canton


Learn more about Schott’s classic and seasonal cocktails and the spot’s revamped food menu at www.thepeoplesdrug.com.

The Peoples Drug: 103 N. Alfred St. Alexandria, VA; 571-257-8851 www.thepeoplesdrug.com

Photo: Courtesy of StarChefs
Photo: Courtesy of StarChefs

StarChefs Honors Rising Stars in DC’s Culinary World

Amidst the sticky heat in June of this year, a buzz was rising from restaurants around the District. StarChefs, a platform and publication for restaurant industry professionals, was searching for “the future of American cuisine” through their Rising Stars initiative – including a stop in the nation’s capital to review the talent.

In preparation for StarChefs’ visit, prominent chefs around the city poured over their menus, determining what to put on display. One of those chefs was Drew Adams of Bourbon Steak, whose approach was simple: “Let’s have fun with it.”

Adams will be honored during the Rising Stars Awards ceremony and tasting gala at Union Market next Tuesday, December 11. Himitsu’s Kevin Tien and Kith and Kin’s Kwame Onwuachi are among the 24 local chefs accepting awards. Rising Stars is a prominent mention in the world of chefs that helps to launch and strengthen careers, highlighting those with “strong, compelling culinary philosophies and are committed to fostering a culinary community by sharing their knowledge with fellow professionals.”

Those who are familiar with Adams’ work know of his extensive experience in fine dining, as well as his love for whimsy. This was captured perfectly on a plate when he presented a scallop-on-scallop crudo dish with scallop cream made from abductor muscles and scraps. The dish was topped with chive oil, caviar and a squid ink tuile for a touch of salinity. A little-known fact about Adams is his love of foraging.

“I’m obsessed with it,” he says. “It’s nice to get out of the city and outside. I started off with ramps about five or six years ago, and then just went down the rabbit hole.”

For StarChefs, Adams plated up a tartine of chargrilled sourdough with ricotta, asparagus, peas, fiddlehead ferns, Edwards ham and pickled green tomatoes – a dish that rotates seasonally on Bourbon Steak’s menu. No prominent culinary philosophy is complete without a nod to nostalgia. For Adams, it’s a simple dish that does the trick.

“My family were not cooks,” he laughs. “My grandmother would marinate steak with Wish-Bone dressing and then throw it in the broiler and, somehow, I loved that fatty steak with the acid coming through.”

Adams elevates this fond childhood memory by marinating pork with balsamic and local maple syrup, and then caramelizing it on the grill. The pork is topped with pickled mustard seeds and charred mustard greens, and served with white balsamic and beet puree.

“The fine dining part is great, but when you have a wholesome meal with a nicely composed entrée, it makes you smile. And that’s awesome for me.”

Adams saved the best for last and, luckily for Rising Star Award attendees, his olive-fed wagyu beef is on Tuesday’s menu.

“We made and clarified miso with barley and dashi,” Adams says. “We put the seared olive-fed wagyu on top of a bed of raw mushrooms with a little chive oil on top and covered them in honey truffles.”

The truffles have a sweet yet Szechuan-like taste, making your mouth tingle. The broth will be poured tableside.

“It’s over the top,” Adams admits, chuckling.

Tickets to Tuesday’s event are available here. Awards ceremony at 6:30 p.m., gala from 7-9:30 p.m. Learn more about StarChefs’ Rising Star initiative here.

Dock5 at Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith
Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Behind the Bar: Left Door, Destination Wedding and Prequel

Don’t let the cold keep you inside this winter. With a whole host of festive drinks throughout the District, there are plenty of reasons to bundle up, venture out, and indulge in the sweet, the spicy and the seasonal this winter. We rounded up three of our favorite winter-ready drinks to add to your list of spots to enjoy over your holiday break.


 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left Door
Mick Perrigo, Owner

On Tap: What are your winter-centric drinks for this year?
Mick Perrigo: What I’m making now is the Cocoa Nog Fizz, and we do this drink every year. It’s a refreshing but fattening eggnog drink. We’re doing it a little differently this year than in the past. Last year, we did it just with Irish whiskey and brandy.

OT: What other items on your menu tend to do well during the holidays?
MP: We’re going to have a bubbly drink called Krampus Got A Brand New Bag with tequila, lime, agave, allspice dram, angostura bitters and a sparkling rose.

OT: What’s your favorite drink on the menu and why?
MP: I’d say it’s probably the Where the Buffalo Roam. It was a drink I had been working on for a while. It’s delicious, dry and altogether a refreshing cocktail.

OT: What sets Left Door apart from other bars in the area?
MP: We stay true to exactly what we said we would do when we opened up: we focus on hospitality and on the cocktails. I don’t feel like we’ve strayed from that, and I think that’s the reason people keep coming back here.

 

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Cocoa Nog Fizz
Catoctin Creek rye
Brandy
Sherry
Egg white
Heavy cream
Vanilla
Cane
Cocoa powder
Nutmeg
House-made cinnamon tincture

Left Door: 1345 S St. NW, DC; www.dcleftdoor.com


Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Destination Wedding
Lukas B. Smith, Owner

On Tap: What winter drinks are you featuring this year? 
Lukas B. Smith: We like to keep our menu rolling, so guests can expect to see a lot of seasonality. Our first drink of fall is the Tee & T. It features Teeling Irish whiskey and a spiced pineapple tonic from a new recipe of mine. The tonic is made with molasses, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne and ginger to ride along with pineapple husk, lemon stock and cinchona. The spices and molasses bring around autumnal feels but the tonic stays bright and poppy.

OT: Can you tell me more about the menu and concept in general?
LBS: Our goal was to make a bar that had good, balanced drinks, fair pricing and extremely fast and friendly service. We run draft cocktails with both CO2 and N2, and a frozen machine to keep things moving. As far as concept goes, I feel that weddings are the best examples of get-togethers. People are at weddings not so much to dine, drink or dance but to have an all around good time, all the while celebrating togetherness, family, friendship, traditions and new beginnings. They’re great.

OT: What sets Destination Wedding apart from other DC bars?
LBS: Over 90 percent of what we serve is made by Redbeard at Union Kitchen, meaning we’re more than 90 percent waste-free. We use dehydrated garnishes, clarify juices for enhanced stability, and repurpose the hulls from citrus and pineapple juicing to make our syrups and, occasionally, our bittering agents.

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Lukas B. Smith

Tee & T
Teeling Irish whiskey
Spiced pineapple tonic
Pineapple husk
Lemon stock
Cinchona

Destination Wedding: 1800 14th St. NW, DC; www.fb.com/destinationweddingdc


Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Prequel
Rob McGill, Beverage Director
Rob Long, Head Bartender

On Tap: Tell us a bit more about the Left-handed Golf Clubs, your pick for a great seasonal drink.
Rob Long: I first infused plums and nutmeg with brandy about two years ago, and added the allspice dram to get more seasonal winter notes. It worked but it wasn’t quite right. Then Rob was messing around with the pear and red wine syrup, which added a depth and body. The pear, which we poach in the syrup, is delicious. It’s an old fashioned style drink, it’s pretty spirit-forward and not too sweet.

OT: What other drinks from your expansive cocktail menu would you say are holiday flavor-forward?
Rob McGill: We change things up pretty much weekly, especially if we have a new spirit coming in. We have been doing the Meowzabub which has a great spice to it, and people seem to really enjoy spicier drinks.

OT: If you had to pick a favorite, what would it be and why?
RL: I’m really proud of the Warm & Fuzzy. It uses cachaca, which is an underused spirit, and a little bit of citrus, cinnamon syrup and Benedictine for an herbal note. It’s on the sweeter side but it screams Christmas – it’s like if cinnamon gave you a hug.
RM: I’m torn between the Freeman Morgan and the Oh Bother. The Oh Bother was changed up for the fall so it wasn’t as floral and we added rosemary, but it’s really straightforward and definitely a bestselling drink that we get great feedback on.

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Left-handed Golf Clubs
Plum & nutmeg-infused Maison Rouge VSOP
Red wine & spiced pear syrup
Allspice dram
Cherry bark vanilla bitters

Prequel: 919 19th St. NW, DC; www.prequelrestaurant.com

Photo: Cooper Sheehan
Photo: Cooper Sheehan

A Tasteful Trend: Dessert Wines on the Rise

From sweet madeira to dry sherry, dessert wines are making a comeback.

Compared to their regular red and white wine cousins, dessert wines are often sweeter and have higher alcohol content, which has turned some wine connoisseurs off in the past according to beverage directors from local spots ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar, Maxwell Park and Flight Wine Bar.

In recent years, however, wine experts have noticed a piqued interest in dessert wines. Flight Wine Bar Owner Swati Bose says the trend in dessert wines is traced back to a greater enthusiasm in all wine in general.

“I think part of the reason people are interested in dessert wine is we have a growing interest in wine and people are more interested in exploring it and [are] less afraid,” Bose says. “As people learn more about wine, [dessert wine] is another part of wine they’re learning about. The whole culture of wine is becoming part of our day-to-day lives.”

Last year, Bose added flights of madeira and sherry to the menu at her Chinatown wine bar after she noticed her customers were more interested in learning about the varietals.

Mollie Bensen, general manager and beverage director at ANXO in Truxton Circle, believes sweet wines “made with skill and care can be truly transcendent” and can even change people’s opinions on dessert wines. Although ANXO – DC’s first cidery – is best-known for their namesake libation, they also have an extensive wine and cocktail selection, which is Bensen’s main focus.

“I think wines with sweetness, much like wines that have been oaked, have gotten such a bad rap over the past few years that many people have eschewed them entirely,” Bensen says. “The issue was never the sweetness or the oak, but rather that each were used to cover flaws in the wine.”

One category of high-quality dessert wine is madeira. According to Maxwell Park Beverage Director Brent Kroll, madeira is “indestructible” and highly versatile. Because of its longevity, spending the extra cash on a quality bottle of madeira is worth the investment. Although it is classified as a dessert wine, madeira is also a great aperitif before a meal.

“The palate is stimulated by acid and sugar, not just acid, so [madeira is] great to really get your palate excited,” Kroll says. “I think for dessert it’s one of those forgotten gems.”

Bose suggests pairing madeira with savory foods like cheeses, nuts and olives instead of traditional sweet desserts.

“People think of madeira as a dessert wine and they have it with dessert, but in truth, it’s so complex and delicious that it can be paired with anything,” she says.

Like Flight Wine Bar, Kroll also sees an increased interest in both madeira and sherry at his Shaw wine bar. He attributes madeira’s rise in popularity to its indestructibility.

“[Madeira] has a ton of acid and you can get drier styles,” he says. “This is a shift from the wines of the 70s and 80s when people gravitated toward wines with dinner that had more sugar like off-dry chardonnays.”

As the holiday season approaches and you’re wondering what kind of wine to serve, follow these tips from Bose, Bensen and Kroll to blow your dinner guests away.

Mollie Bensen, ANXO

“One helpful trick for pairing dessert wines is to match the color of the drink to the color of the dessert. Light-colored wines like sauternes go well with custards and vanilla-based dishes, spicier and fruitier desserts match well with a high-acid oloroso sherry, and chocolate and caramel pair excellently with port.”

“Another way to serve dessert wines is to use them in cocktails. At ANXO, we have a variation of a negroni using mezcal, campari and ice cider. We substituted Heirloom Blend from Eden [ice cider] in place of sweet vermouth, so we needed an equally high-intensity spirit to match it. Smoky mezcal was the perfect complement. I also like to use dry sherries in a gin martini, especially manzanilla with its slight salinity.”

“It’s important to remember that a dessert wine is exactly that – wine, and needs to be treated as such. With the exception of madeira, I’d recommend keeping dessert wines in the fridge for optimal longevity.”

Restaurant & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC
Cidery & Tasting Room:
711 Kennedy St. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com

Swati Bose, Flight Wine Bar

“Go for two different types of dessert wines: one a drier style and one a sweeter style because not everyone around the dessert table is going to like the same type of dessert wine, and that tends to be what normally scares people off of dessert wine. I think having two options that pair with the same food would be a nice idea. If you wanted to go for madeira, you could have something like sercial, which is a dry madeira, and something sweet like colheita, and pair them with the same dish.”

“The other option would be to do an off-dry riesling with a really nice acid structure, so it holds up really well. And you can go with a sweeter muscat so it gives people two options to try something.”

“One of my favorites [to pair with sercial and colheita] is blue cheese. But I understand not everybody likes blue cheese, so I would go with a crumbly, nutty cheese. If you don’t have a nut allergy, you could also go with a dessert with a hazelnut or anything with dark chocolate.”

“For the riesling and muscat, the riesling works with Asian flavors and spice flavors. The muscat would go well with a carrot cake, the riesling would go well with that too. Pumpkin pie has nice spice notes to it and that would balance the wines really well.”

777 6th St. NW, DC; www.flightdc.com

Brent Kroll, Maxwell Park

“I think doing something like a port and a blue cheese might be cool. Even with sweet sherry that can last longer, I think it’s good to look for half bottles of sherry and port. Or if you find madeira, it’s super versatile and can be paired with rich meats and savory courses. It’s indestructible so you could have a glass a year for the next six holidays. I think having a couple ounces at the end of a meal is the way to go. It’s also a safer bet for venturing into [dessert wines].”

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

Glasses with different sorts of craft beer, wooden barrel and barley. Retro stylization
Glasses with different sorts of craft beer, wooden barrel and barley. Retro stylization

What’s On Tap: December 2018

Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 3

Profs & Pints: Nightmares Before Christmas
Profs and Pints presents: “Nightmares Before Christmas,” a discussion of Krampus and other dark holiday lore, with William Egginton, professor of humanities and director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The star of the talk will be Krampus, the hairy, horned, demon who accompanies Saint Nicholas in visiting homes in Germany, Austria and other Central European nations every December 6. 6-9 p.m. $12-$15. The Bier Baron Tavern: 1523 22nd St. NW, DC; www.bierbarondc.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5

Lost Rhino Beer Release
This First Wednesday release is the last of 2018 and Lost Rhino is ending on a high note with Pynk Skyes at Night – Sour Blonde Hybiscus. The brewery will also have two holiday events throughout the day including Christmas tree decorating and cookie decorating. Guests will be able to use their creativity to help dress both. Lost Rhino Brewing Co: 21730 Red Rum Dr. #142, Ashburn, VA; www.lostrhino.com

Holiday Beer Tasting
Join Mad Fox Brewing for a festive holiday sit-down beer tasting where you can meet the brewers and brewery/brewpub owners from across the region and taste their wonderful winter selections. Cost is $55 per person with the evening hosted by Bob Tupper. Each brewer/owner will discuss their beer and answer any questions that you have. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to meet and talk to key individuals in the brewing industry. 7-10:30 p.m. $55. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 West Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6

Rocket Frog Beer Showcase
Join Rocket Frog and DCBeer.com at Meridian Pint for the release of Snark Infested Waters, a schwarzbier and the first beer the local beer news and events website has collaborated on its nearly 10-year history. Sterling, Virginia’s Rocket Frog opened in May and has already, impressively, picked up a Great American Beer Festival Medal. Meridian Pint, the Columbia Heights restaurant and bar notable for discovering and promoting up-and-coming DC area breweries, will also showcase eight other beers from Rocket Frog. 5-9 p.m. Free to attend. Meridian Pint: 3400 11th St. NW, DC; www.meridianpint.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7

Barrel-Aged Flight Night
Join this winter at Denizens Brewing Co. as they begin a series of special tastings of their barrel-aged beers. Each night they’ll feature special flights of beer from their reserves to showcase the flavor profiles and complexities that barrel-aging can offer. A member of the brewing team will be on hand to answer questions and lead discussion about these rare offerings. Flights are priced individually and there is no ticket or cover charge for this event. 6-9 p.m. Free to attend. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8

Ugly Sweater Party
It’s fun being tacky…jump into your Mom’s jumper and come dance your holiday stress off. Marshalls and TJ Maxx gift cards awarded for top three ugliest outfits. Holiday onesies also welcome at the year-round climate controlled beer garden.  7 p.m. – 2 a.m. Free to attend. Wunder Garten: 1101 First St. NE, DC; www.wundergartendc.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9

7th Annual Holiday Party
For the 7th year in a row, 3 Stars Brewing is hosting their massive Holiday Extravaganza at the brewery. As always, they will have a ton of rare and limited releases on draft, specialty can offerings, guest taps and a few surprises. Also joining the festivities will be food trucks, DJs, live performances, face painting, photo booth, games and more. 1-6 p.m. Tickets $10. 3 Stars Brewing Company: 6400 Chillum Pl. NW, DC; www.3starsbrewing.com

Santa Comes to Atlas Brew Works
Santa is heading down from the North Pole and stopping in the Atlas Tap Room. Whether naughty or nice, bring the family (including well-behaved dogs) for a fun day of pictures on Santa’s lap and delicious solar powered craft beer of course. Pictures are gratis (please bring your own camera) but Santa is accepting donations to go towards his fundraising efforts for the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free to attend. Atlas Brew Works: 2502 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13

Cellar Series: Maker’s Mark Barrel Aged Tidings
Join as Port City Brewing rolls out their second barrel aged collaboration with their good friends over at Rebellion in DC. Last time they used Rebellion’s barrel for a delicious hopped up Double Wit, and this time around they used the barrel from Rebellion’s Maker’s Mark Private Select and aged their winter seasonal, Tidings Ale. 5-11 p.m. Free to attend. Rebellion DC: 1836 18th St. NW, DC; www.portcitybrewing.com

Rustico Ballston Toys for Tots
Rustico Ballston will host the 3rd Annual Toys for Tots Holiday Party, featuring the United States Marine Corp. Since no party is complete without food and drink, you can expect no less than 20 hard-to-find winter ales on draft, alongside a special holiday-themed menu from the kitchen. For the third straight year, this event will serve as an official Toys for Tots charity drive. 5-11 p.m. Free to attend. Rustico Ballston: 4075 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.rusticorestaurant.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15

DC’s 8th Annual Snow Day Bar Crawl
As the days get colder and the nights get longer, we all could use a day off. Wouldn’t it be nice to re-live the feeling of getting a surprise day off from school due to that lovely wintry mix? This event is giving you an adult snow day. Whether or not there’s actual snow, there will be drinks, festive music and a fun crowd to help you just let it go. Tickets get you a color-changing snow day cup, a souvenir koozie, drink specials and more. 3-10 p.m. Tickets $30-$40. Registration at Blackfinn Ameripub: 1620 I St. NW, DC; www.snowdaybarcrawl.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16

Night of 1,000 Santas
This is DC’s largest SANTACON party. Calling all Santas, Ms. Clauses, perverted elves, grinches and naughty-listed adults. Santa’s favorite beer garden becomes a hedonistic holiday-themed adult costume dance party at this second annual holiday event. Whether you are naughty or nice, this is the event where it is certainly nice to be naughty, as you get a chance to throw brews back with several different Santas. 7 p.m. – 2 a.m. Free to attend. Wunder Garten: 1101 First St. NE, DC; www.wundergartendc.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16

Wetten Winter Beer Dinner
Enjoy a four-course beer dinner with Wetten Beer pairings. The beers are sourced by local guru Dean Myers and rarely found in the US or not yet released, this beer dinner is the perfect holiday date night or group get-together. 7-10 p.m. $60. Granville Moore: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com

MONDAY, DECEMBER 17

Painting & Pints: Winter Birch
Join in the Fairwinds taproom for the monthly paint night. Sessions run approximately 90 minutes and the tickets include your first pint. Painting begins at 6 p.m., so be sure to arrive early to grab a great seat and great beer. 6-7:30 p.m. Tickets $30. Fairwinds Brewing Company: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21

The Longest Night of the Year
This winter solstice, Port City isn’t going to think about the shortest day of the year. Rather, they’ll celebrate the longest night of the year at headquarters with the return of three beers, live music and extended hours. Join for the return of Rauch Märzen, Long Black Veil and Barrel-Aged Porter for your winter solstice. 12-11 p.m. Free to attend. Port City Brewery: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27

Blackwall Hitch Devils Backbone Beer Dinner
Enjoy Devils Backbone craft beers paired with Blackwall Hitch coastal cuisine. Event to be charged at the restaurant. Call to reserve a spot today. 7-10 p.m. Must register. Blackwall Hitch: 5 Cameron St. Alexandria, VA; www.blackwallhitch.com

Photo: The Bruery
Photo: The Bruery

Hoppy Holidays: A Beer Lover’s Gift Guide

‘Tis the season of giving, at least that’s what you’re supposed to do. But you know what you’re not supposed to do? Give crappy gifts. We’ve all heard people say, “It’s the thought that counts,” to mask their disappointment after getting a tacky tie or coffee mug.

It’s always a safe bet to put a little extra thought into your gifts, and to really know your audience. If you’re shopping for a beer lover this holiday season, we have you covered. From local options to items you can have delivered to your doorstep in time for an exchange, the beer-themed gift ideas below will have you looking like a thoughtful giver, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Beer Memberships

“The Bruery’s societies (our beer clubs) are the heart of our business,” says Ethen Adams, The Bruery Store’s area manager. “We love to experiment with flavors and aromas in our beers, and push brewing to new levels.”

Instead of giving someone a six-pack you picked out, why not let the brewers do it? With a beer membership from The Bruery, new experimental beers will be sent several times a year, giving your favorite beer fan an excuse to try variations outside of their comfort zone.

“While many of us have tried and trusted brands, I dare say that a true beer lover is always on the lookout for the next beer that will wow them,” Adams says. “We’re taking this beer journey alongside our members and as such, we try to treat them like a part of the family.”

The Union Market-based shop is also offering a 10 percent discount on their last quarterly installment of the 2018  Preservation Society, bringing the total to $70. Readers of On Tap can sign up online at The Bruery’s website with the discount code OnTapPS18. Each quarterly package comes with three bottles, including a barrel-aged strong ale, a sour ale and a limited experimental beer.

Other memberships on our radar include the DC Brewers’ Guild membership and the international Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. Learn more about the latter at www.beermonthclub.com.

The Bruery Store at Union Market: 513 Morse St. NE, DC; www.thebruery.com

Beer Gear

This one might seem obvious, but let us preface that not all merch is the same. A few breweries in the area are extremely meticulous, setting an extremely high standard for others to keep up with.

“There’s a deep connection between a community and its local breweries, and we’re forever grateful for the passion that people feel for our business,” says Chris Van Orden, Port City Brewery’s manager of marketing and beer strategy.  “We spend a ton of effort making the best beer possible for them, so we want to make sure everything else we offer all meets the high standard.”

Merch is a regular discussion topic at the brewery’s weekly meetings, where the team always tries to plan two seasons in advance. While a ton of places only offer shirts and hats, Port City sells socks, hoodies, dog collars and other unique items.

“We’ve found a few designs with a broad appeal that we keep in stock, but we’re constantly looking for new items that set us apart,” Van Orden says. “So there’s always something new on offer: lapel pins, bike jerseys, socks. We’re delighted each and every time a person decides that they enjoy Port City enough to wear our name on their back or carry our logo on their growler.”

With a strong brand backed by great beer, Port City gear will allow you to represent a local spot with strong ties to the community.

Other spots we recommend for merch include DC Brau and ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar.

Port City Brewing: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Walking Tours

There are a number of breweries to tour in the DMV, but for a next-level experience, organize a walk through the famed Heurich House Museum for the beer head in your life.

The Dupont Circle mansion was built in the 1890s by German immigrant and local brewer Christian Heurich. His family lived there until 1956, and the house still includes all original interiors and a number of family collections.

Though the Christian Heurich Brewing Co. location was torn down in 1962, the museum features a rotating exhibition of more than 1,000 items including bottles, cans, signs and other branded objects from the old DC brewery. The collection is on loan from local collector Jack Blush, but the museum is currently fundraising to acquire and display it permanently.

Patrons can tour the museum for free (donations are welcome), but you can also treat your beer-crazy friends and family to an hour-long brewmaster tour that concludes with a beer tasting. Groups of 10 to 20 can enjoy the tours for $30-$40. For specifics, email events@heurichhouse.org.

Other places to tour include the Flying Dog “Beer Geek” iteration in Frederick, Maryland or Brookland’s Right Proper Brewing Company.

Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

Beer-Focused Dinners

“Wait a second, Trent. Didn’t you say that played-out gifts weren’t what we were talking about here?” Yes, but you have to stick with me on this one as there’s a method to the beer-crazed madness here.
DC has welcomed a litany of terrific eateries over the past few years, and some of them include some particulary intriguing beer menus.

Chief among them is Tiger Fork, a Hong Kong-inspired restaurant in Blagden Alley featuring numerous Asian beers on the menu.
Think of this as tackling two problems at once: you want to get a gift for a brew head, but you also want to eat delicious Asian food.

Another restaurant with an eclectic selection is Capitol Riverfront’s The Salt Line, whose beer selection pulls from all over the country. Not to mention, they have a delectable menu with dishes that pair fantastically with just about every brew you can think to order.

So yes, we’ll admit dinner isn’t super high on the creative side, but you can’t forget to eat when you’re drinking a well-crafted beverage.

We also highly recommend the buzzworthy Bad Saint in Columbia Heights and Himitsu in Petworth for their eclectic beer and food selections.

The Salt Line: 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.thesaltline.com
Tiger Fork: 922 N St. NW, DC; www.tigerforkdc.com

Ask The Expert

We asked Theresa McCulla, historian for the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, for a few beer-themed gift recommendations.

“Be a better enthusiast through books,” McCulla advises. “The past few years have seen a bumper crop of books about beer: brewing manuals, books about important historical events like Prohibition and the craft beer revolution, and brewers’ memoirs.”

Beyond books, McCulla recommends some of the things we’ve already talked about including places that can pair food with beer, eclectic merchandise and tours. One suggestion involves helping to make the brewer happy.

“Bottles are classic, [and] cans and crowlers are handy, but brewers prefer when you drink their beer out of the proper glassware. Research the correct glassware for your favorite kinds of beer and make sure you have them on hand when happy hour rolls around.”

Lastly, McCulla says to look up anything philanthropic your favorite brewery may be involved with that you can contribute to.

For more information about the American Brewing History Initiative, visit www.americanhistory.si.edu.