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Photo: www.fona.org

OAKtoberfest Promotes Community Through Music at National Arboretum

A quaint, intimate gathering along the grasses of the National Arboretum quickly turned into an excited musical experience as this year’s OAKtoberfest, an annual kickoff for fall, featured the multi-talented DMV Hip Hop Orchestra, The Shmoods. 

When you think of hip-hop, the cello and violin aren’t the first instruments that come to mind. Yet somehow, the instruments under a hip-hop flow create an entirely authentic sound. 

A collaborative group built on the spectrums of soul, hip-hop and, most importantly musical instruments, has create a sensational ripple effect for their respective audiences, and Saturday, October 19 was no different. Simultaneously bringing everyone to bob their head and gaze as each note left each instrument.

They parallel the past, present, and future of what collaborative music looks like. 

Numerous artists within this group including: The Box Era, Kaseem and Alex Von, all have a unique approach to music. The collective resonates with the crowd because each sound is different. Some are strictly instrumental, some soulful and others play a part in their own likeness. In each case, it connects and brings an entirely different perspective. 

The event was not only built for the music, but for the community as well. Craven Rand, Executive Director at Friends of the National Arboretum said, “it’s important to bring people out to the Arboretum, we want to share this wonderful place with all of DC, Maryland and Virginia. I think these concerts do a great job with sharing their music and sharing this wonderful place with the public.”

Concert-goer, Kelci Reedy echoed the sentiment, exclaiming, “it’s best to connect with your audience on a more intimate setting. I think it gives them a sense of community. They ultimately end up coming back when you need support, get more exposure and hopefully get bigger.” 

The comfortability amongst the crowd made more for a peaceful ambiance. Marcus Moody, the founder and composer of The Schmoods, tried to incorporate the crowd as much as possible.

“The point of the music is to make sure that everybody can feel it, not in a sense that it’s applicable to everybody, but it’s the core of everybody.” 

Allowing fans and members of the crowd to imitate their name, and bring other respective artists on stage helped build more of a community. In respect, he also asked for the support. Donations to undiscovered artists helped bring them on stage in the first place, and now that they’re there, they can create even more of a presence within the music industry. 

But what Moody stressed in his performance, is that it’s all about the music and the people.

“It’s not the surface, it’s not the superficial part. It’s the heart of what we do, and that’s being together on stage. Being together is the heart of the music.” 

For more information about OAKtoberfest and other events at the National Arboretum, visit here.

National Arboretum: 3501 New York Ave. NE, DC; 202-544-8733; www.fona.org

Photo: courtesy of Bold Rock

Bold Rock Embraces Pumpkin Season With Fall’s Harvest Haze

Pumpkin season has creeped closer and closer toward summer ever since Starbucks unveiled its Pumpkin Spice Latte way back in 2003. Since, the ultimate coffee combo has sparked a renaissance of culinary experimentation featuring the orange veggie with products ranging from coffee (duh) and pastries to this year’s Pumpkin Spice Spam (what now?) While a hint of the squash plant in a latte was a can’t-miss, the flavor’s foray into salted meats seems like a leap – but people just can’t seem to get enough, so why not? At least that’s Bold Rock’s approach.

“It’s always been a request from the customers,” says Lindsay Dorrier, Bold Rock Hard Cider’s director of new business development. “We tried to skew in the opposite direction because pumpkin was an obvious choice, [but] we finally caved because the customers wanted it so badly.”

This is likely music to the ears of cider aficionados who double as pumpkin enthusiasts. Yes, the Nellysford, Virginia-based cidery is following the unshakeable trend of tossing out a pumpkin product with its 2019 fall seasonal Harvest Haze. But Dorrier says the flavor will still be distinctly Bold Rock as the cidery took heavy precautions against simply pumping out something they knew could sell.

So while the cider is unlike the brand’s typically crystal-clear beverages – with floating bits and pieces of our favorite orange edible providing a unique texture – apples are still front and center and prevalent throughout.

“We wanted to craft a pumpkin-infused cider that was still a quintessential Bold Rock cider,” he says. “It’s still an apple cider. It’s just got a hint of pumpkin. We really tried to capture a flavor profile [for] the entire fall harvest.”

Dorrier says the team prepped for the fall season’s newest addition for about eight months, adding that the cidery was still tinkering with what would become the final product at the 11th hour. While the bottle features an orange logo, it’s clear the team didn’t take the path of least resistance by simply dialing up pumpkin flavors. Instead, the cider makers sought to capture the entire palate of the fall season.

“We wanted to create something that we could toast to the entire fall harvest,” he says. “Pumpkin is an important [part] of the flavor profile, but not the entire part. [For] any seasonal variance we use, all the alcohol comes from apples, but we want it to shine through as well. We add in a jolt of excitement depending on what we want to do with the flavor.”

While most fall pumpkin-infused products veer on the sweet side, including other ciders, Bold Rock was weary of overdoing it with Harvest Haze. While they ultimately want to nail it with cider drinkers who championed this special varietal, Bold Rock didn’t want to produce a cider that couldn’t be enjoyed by people who aren’t as cavalier about pumpkin consumption.

“We try to bridge that gap between pumpkin-crazed and the people fatigued,” he says. “We wanted something that could appeal to both. We wanted some nuance in that profile. We didn’t want the drink to live and die [with] that pumpkin preference. If you crave the dry, we have it covered. If you want something fruit-forward, we have that, too. We’re just trying to explore all corners of the palate.”

With apples hailing from Virginia and pumpkins sourced from the Pacific Northwest, the cider hits all marks for both the cider crazed and those enthusiastic drinkers looking for anything featuring the season’s most versatile vegetable.

Bold Rock Hard Cider’s Harvest Haze hits shelves in October and will be available throughout Northern Virginia and DC. For more information about the seasonal release and other Bold Rock varietals, visit www.boldrock.com.

Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Private Barrel // Photo: Bultema Group

Break Out The Brown Stuff: Bourbon Season Returns

Gin is the spirit of summer. Clear, light and reminiscent of an herb garden: it’s perfect for three-digit temperatures and Collins glasses overflowing with ice. But the second the mercury dips below 80? Forget it. The only thing you want is bourbon.

With autumn in the air, it’s time to break out the brown stuff. September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and while sketching out the details of a road trip to central Kentucky might be tempting, there are plenty of distilleries in the area offering top-notch spirits crafted from local grains.

Today, Kentucky is making the vast majority of bourbon in America, but it isn’t the birthplace of American whiskey – this is the cradle of American spirits. Times were tough in the early days, and paramount among the colonists’ priorities was making some decent hooch. As early as 1620, colonists were writing home about the distilled corn spirits they were making in Virginia.

“Wee have found a waie to make soe good drink of Indian corne I have divers times refused to drinke good stronge English beare and chose to drinke that,” wrote George Thorpe, an early resident of Williamsburg who had either been drinking at the time he penned this correspondence or was taking full advantage of English’s not-yet-formalized spelling conventions.

By the late 1700s, even the Founding Fathers had gotten into the game. After his presidency, George Washington retired to Mount Vernon and by the time he died, the plantation was pumping out about 11,000 gallons each year of what we’d today probably call rye. Over the next century, production moved west and one by one, the DMV distilleries shuttered. By the time Prohibition was underway, there weren’t many distilleries left to close. But in 1934, bourbon came back to Virginia when A. Smith Bowman, a jack-of-all-trades from Louisiana, returned to his family’s ancestral home in Fairfax to start a granary.

“Our founder was actually in the industry prior to Prohibition,” says Brian Prewitt, A. Smith Bowman Distillery’s sixth master distiller. “He was running one of the biggest distilleries in America down in Algiers Point, Louisiana. It didn’t survive Prohibition and went under around 1916. He did a lot of things in between but wanted to get back to his roots and heritage in Virginia. I think he knew Prohibition was ending.”

Prewitt says one of the really interesting parts of his heritage as a distiller is that Kentucky used to be part of Virginia.

“If you look at it like that, it’s where American whiskey really started. Being that we’re the oldest distillery in Virginia, that was what we started with right off the bat – that history.”

The distillery has since moved to Fredericksburg, 50-plus miles outside of the District. If that’s a hair too far, look for Prewitt and his colleagues at Virginia ABC stores where they’re planning to do many tastings of their bourbon.

In the District proper, several distilleries are making bourbon these days including One Eight Distilling and Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distillery. Though they’re shoulder-to-shoulder in Ivy City, they’re taking radically different approaches when approaching their heritages. One Eight takes its name from the section of the Constitution that provided for the establishment of DC, and is looking decisively toward the future of small-batch bourbon.

“We’re a grain-to-bottle distillery and all our suppliers are from within a hundred miles of One Eight,” says Cara Webster, One Eight’s events and marketing director. “Rye was the first chapter of American whiskey, so we started there.”

Today, the distillery makes a rye-forward bourbon to which lovers of Basil Hayden’s or Bulleit will surely fawn over. One Eight is offering two events for Bourbon Heritage Month. On September 8, open house-style event Tribe Vibes will offer mixology classes, distillery tours and West African-inspired hors d’oeuvres. The sixth annual Battle of the Barrel-Aged Beers on September 10 will showcase the District’s six breweries that make beers aged in liquor barrels: 3 Stars, Atlas, DC Brau, Hellbender, Port City and Right Proper. The latter is one of One Eight’s most popular events, so be sure to order tickets in advance.

Around the corner is Jos. A. Magnus & Co., a revitalized brand that launched in 2015. Though the distillery was originally in Cincinnati, bourbon bearing the Magnus name was sold in DC where the family decided to begin anew before Prohibition.

“The genesis of Jos. A. Magnus & Company’s re-establishment in 2015 was the discovery of a carefully preserved bottle passed down through generations,” says general manager Ali Anderson. “Magnus’ great-grandson, unaware of just how remarkable the bourbon was, wrapped the bottle in a T-shirt, tossed it in a bag and boarded a plane to Kentucky.”

That the TSA inspectors didn’t break the bottle and the seal only leaked a little is perhaps proof of divine intervention. The whiskey survived all the way to Louisville for industry veterans to taste. Working together, they teased out a contemporary version of the old recipe, which is made today in Ivy City. Don’t worry about the bottle that started it all, though: today it’s stored safely in a military-grade case in a temperature-controlled environment.

To celebrate their remarkable heritage, Jos. A. Magnus is teaming up with Virginia ABC for Spirit Bourbon Day on September 19. Around the Commonwealth, look for Magnus whiskies with special discounts. These sales are rare, so stock up.

Whichever of these origin stories appeals to you most, take advantage of the opportunity to learn a little more about the bourbon heritage of the area. Drinking a nice spicy nip of whiskey on a cold day is, of course, the greatest autumnal joy. But the real reward comes when you get to interject, “Well, actually” at bar trivia when someone tries to tell you bourbon can only be made in Kentucky.

Sip some bourbon at these local distilleries:

A. Smith Bowman Distillery:
1 Bowman Dr. Fredericksburg, VA; www.asmithbowman.com

Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distillery: 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.josephmagnus.com
One Eight Distilling: 1135 Okie St. NE, DC; www.oneeightdistilling.com

Photo: Aja Neal

Fall Forecast: Fresh Autumn Brews

Swig the last gulps of refreshing summer sours and get ready for fresh autumn brews recommended by some of our favorite local retailers. If you’re not too pumped about pumpkin ales, there are plenty of other familiar flavors brewed or sold locally – from sweet beers with hints of pecan, yams or coffee to malty Belgians and crisp brut IPAs. And don’t worry, you won’t have to give up sours completely, with some fall-forward fruit options on the horizon. Learn more about what’s hot for fall from these beer experts.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Julie Drews and Beth Helle
Co-Owners, The Brew Shop

On Tap: What beers are you looking forward to stocking in fall?
Beth Helle: One thing we love to do in the fall is create our own pumpkin patch, which is our own in-house, mixed six different pumpkin beers. It allows customers to have their pumpkin fix and to try a bunch of different ones without committing to a full six-pack.

OT: Which local brands are popular sellers in the fall?
Julie Drews: Port City’s Oktoberfest is always a big hit. Old Ox does a can, which is somewhat unique.
BH: Three Notch’d always does well. They always hit us up with amazing seasonals. Their seasonal gose will be pomegranate during [fall]. It’s fun to see the sour trend continuing over the fall. I’m sure that it’ll continue to be popular with the changing of fruits for the season.

OT: What brands will you have on tap?
BH: We always have a dedicated sour line, and that will continue all year. We’ll be shifting our fruited sours to more fall-forward fruits. I also think we’ll have an opportunity to play around with more brut beers versus true sours. As we move into the cooler weather, we can play around with a little more funk on that sour line.

The Brew Shop: 2004 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.arlbrew.com

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Erika Goedrich
Owner, Craft Beer Cellars

OT:  When people think fall, they often think pumpkin. Is there another top flavor people overlook?
Erika Goedrich: 3 Stars’ Southern Belle imperial brown ale is year-round now, but that’s a good fall drink. Abita comes out with a pecan harvest at that time. There are different pecan beers available that I think are good for that time of year.

OT:  Is there a summer beer that you think people can still enjoy in the fall?  
EG: I feel like DC summers go into the fall, so are you going by weather or calendar year? [Laughs] I drink lagers and pilsners year-round – for me that’s great. The Old Pro from Union [Craft Brewing] is a gose that our customers can’t seem to get enough of. That one’s technically a summer seasonal. It goes until September I think; it’s a gose-style, which is a salt-forward sour. Again, people are looking for that year-round.

Craft Beer Cellar: 301 H St. NE, DC; https://dc.craftbeercellar.com

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Sean Michaels and Josh Whisenant
Society fulfillment associates, The Bruery Store

On Tap: What Bruery flavors are on-trend for fall?
Sean Michaels: We actually have fall beers we carry year-round. We use a lot of yam and spices like cinnamon – a lot of the beers for fall are darker.
Josh Whisenant: I don’t think we have a specific “every fall we produce this beer” apart from The Bruery’s flagship beer, which is called Black Tuesday and comes out every October.

OT: What is your favorite fall beer crafted by The Bruery?
JW: We have so many different beers that come in every month. I really do like Autumn Maple; I think it’s a wonderful beer. It’s easy to drink and it’s not super heavy.
SM: I would probably go for the So Happens It’s Tuesday or [something] with coffee. It’s just a heavier, darker style that kind of gives you that fall feeling. But don’t get me wrong – you can drink it year-round.

The Bruery: 513 Morse St. NE, DC; www.thebruery.com

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Tristan Walton
Store manager, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill

On Tap: What are some hot sellers for fall?
Tristan Walton: I’m always a big fan of the traditional German Oktoberfest – Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner. Those are always the biggest sellers for me, the traditional styles.

OT: What about the best summer-to-fall flavor transition?
TW: You can do like a nice amber, like Chin Music from Center of the Universe [Brewing Company] is a good one. So, [beers] keeping in the amber themes.

OT: Your personal fall favorite?
TW: During the fall, I always enjoy a good Schlafly pumpkin [ale].

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

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Shawntel Pike
Assistant manager, Total Wine Alexandria

On Tap: Tell us about your favorite fall seasonals.
Shawntel Pike: I like a lot of the more Belgian-style dark beers. Hardywood will start putting out some really nice stuff [for fall]. They do some nice Belgian-style, and they will start doing some barrel-aged, darker stuff in the fall, but they’re still on the lighter side now. I like their peach one now. I like fruity flavors for fall; I don’t think people really look for them, but I like them. Blackbeard’s Breakfast by Heavy Seas is really good – it’s very dark and boozy.

OT: What are some of your best-selling beers?
SP: I know we do really well with the pumpkin beers. They’re really popular, but those will die off around Thanksgiving. As far as the rest of the fall beers, they’re just all over the place depending on what people are looking for. Schlafly flies out of here.

OT: What do you feature in the growler station during the fall?
SP: I try to feature different beers all the time because we don’t want to do the same beers over and over – people get burnt out that way. We tend to have a couple of IPAs on tap. We’ll have a couple of darker beers like a stout or a porter. We normally keep a sour on tap, and we’ll do a couple of pale, golden wheat-style ales.

Total Wine Alexandria: 6240 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria, VA; www.totalwine.com