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Still from The Cowfoot Prince // Photo: courtesy of Bex Singelton

DC Shorts Returns With Impeccable Taste and International Flair

“We didn’t want to wait around for other people to let us do it.”

Actor, writer and director Mike Doyle, perhaps best known for his Law & Order: Special Victims Unit appearances, is telling me about his latest short film The Chase. Doyle is no stranger to feature films, adding that he has a romantic comedy making the rounds at festivals at this very moment. But there’s politics to producing a longform theatrical release – you need money, time and a prolonged story.

“The great thing about [short films] is that they’re distilled short stories that live in the span of six to 15 minutes,” Doyle continues. “I love that there’s a place like DC Shorts that promotes that kind of storytelling.”

The DC Shorts tagline is simply, “We champion short filmmaking.” Since 2003, the homegrown festival has proven Doyle’s sentiment correct, showcasing a variety of films in every genre from documentary to comedy to drama to action. This year’s International Film Festival & Screenplay Competition is no different, offering more than 156 films from 38 countries on September 19-28 around the city.

“It’s remarkable what you can tell in a short amount of time,” says Bex Singleton, director of short documentary The Cowfoot Prince. “It’s good for people to come away with questions they can explore on their own volition. I don’t think there’s any shame in leaving an audience wanting more.”

Singleton admittedly learned most of what she knows about shorts from film school; The Cowfoot Prince was her final project in college and made its international debut at DC Shorts. The documentary follows Usifu Jalloh, a storyteller from Sierra Leone, and his journey from his adopted home of London to the village where he was born.

The first-time director, who lived in Sierra Leone as a photographer, met Jalloh at a fundraising event. After being knocked sideways by his performance, she approached him with an offer to make him the main subject of her graduation film.

“The story is about the complexity of the relationship with the place you’re from and the place you live,” she says. “Sierra Leone changed the way I saw the U.K., and if you look at the source material that’s easy to access about Sierra Leone, it’s about war or disease. You don’t often see characters. Usifu is such a strong and interesting character.”

The documentary is about 28 minutes long, pushing the boundaries of a short, but Singleton acknowledges the struggles of even getting below 40 minutes. After seven weeks of shooting, both in the U.K. and Sierra Leone, Jalloh’s energy was captivating and worthy of an even longer feature-length documentary.

“He has more energy than anyone else I had ever met,” Singleton says of her film’s subject. “Actually, trying to have an emotional journey through the film and understand what an optimistic person he is – that felt like quite a delicate balancing act. I’m not that used to documentaries where there’s a lot of flipping through happiness to sadness to seriousness to lightness.”

While The Cowfoot Prince marked the first time Singleton and Jalloh had worked together, Doyle’s The Chase marked the latest of several collaborations between the director and scriptwriter Nick Jandl, who based the story on a personal experience where someone snatched his phone off of a restaurant table.

“He was out with his wife one night in Los Angeles and the phone was stolen from the table,” Doyle says. “His wife chased, and he followed. We wanted to fuse that with bigger stakes, more drama. Nick’s character, Tim, is ineffectual. His instinct is not to run after [her]. I wanted to make a road movie on foot.”

Upon reading the synopsis for The Chase, you’ll likely have little faith they can squeeze all it promises in the limited 11-minute runtime. In that short amount of time, the film features “a complex intersection of race, justice and self-discovery.”

“We’re living in a time of division and misconception of the other – from all sides,” Doyle says. “In telling this story about a white guy, a black guy and a mixed-race wife, it speaks to ultimately the good of human nature and how we can cast away some prejudgment and learn something about ourselves in the process.”

Doyle and the rest of the crew filmed the short over two night shoots. With a script of 15 pages, he knew he had to trim about five minutes of content for a better chance on the festival circuit. Luckily, the small-scale nature of the story lent itself to a compact runtime. But editing for tone proved to be the most creatively demanding aspect.

“The film walks a fine line between drama and comedy, and I wanted to make sure the comedic moments sprung from the drama and absurd elements,” he says. “I wanted to make sure we honored those moments.”

The short debuted earlier this year to applause and laughter in Los Angeles. While a premier for a film is always a bit nerve-wracking, the positive reception allowed Doyle to focus on how to market the piece going forward.

“DC Shorts was at the top of the list because I had such a great experience there previously,” Doyle says. “I think it’s a great showcase for stories such as these.”

The festival sticks out to him as a filmmaker because of its integrity and standards, and with films like The Chase and The Cowfoot Prince, this year’s selection is positioned to captivate audiences again and again.

“They just curate really well, so you’re getting the best of the best,” Doyle says. “It’s not just someone who slaps their iPhone out. They have impeccable taste.”

For more information regarding the two films, the entire DC Shorts schedule and ticket prices, visit www.dcshorts.com.

DC Shorts International Film Festival & Screenplay Competition: Various venues in DC; www.dcshorts.com

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.

Welcome Pavilion from South with Sedum Swoop // Photo: Richard Barnes

The Art + Architecture of The REACH

The Kennedy Center’s original building may be a box-like structure in its physical form, but it has truly grown into a space that cannot be boxed in. A monument, performing arts space, educational center and must-see stop on a list of tourist travel plans: these are all roles the space has held since opening in 1971. 

Naturally, as the Center’s roles have shifted, so have the needs of the community it serves. That’s where The REACH comes in. An expansion of the Center, its sprawling, subterranean layout and public art installations are just as integral to the vision of this new endeavor as the programming that will take place in it. 

The care and attention to detail invoked by those involved in designing the building and placing the art within provides another layer to the deep commitment of the Center – not only to the legacy of its namesake who cherished the arts so dearly, but for the community it will serve in the years to come. 

THE ARCHITECTURE

Chris McVoy, senior partner at Steven Holl Architects, says the selection of their firm to design The REACH was a once-in-a-lifetime commission – the kind of project that makes up an architect’s dream. 

With its serene, subterranean layout, exterior slopes made up of glistening white titanium concrete and lush greenery surrounding the grounds, McVoy says The REACH represents more than a stunning arts campus or extension of the institution the Center established with its original building.

“We had a chance to transform a 1970s notion of what a national performing arts center [is] into a 21st century vision,” he says. “It’s an expansion of an existing building that hasn’t really been touched since 1971.”

McVoy notes how the performing arts and the spaces that house them have changed since the Center opened, both in the District and nationally.

“This was a chance to take that 1971 model and completely transform it and open it up. In the original building, [the arts] are really now held within a box – a very large box. This was a chance to break that open, turn it inside out and open it up to the city.”

Although the building is made of the aforementioned white titanium concrete, another material is an essential part of the building: natural light. McVoy says that Holl will always say natural light is his favorite material when asked what he prefers to work with.

That affinity followed Holl, McVoy and their team to The REACH in an especially effective way. The sweeping windows, skylights and frosted glass blur the lines between the natural and the manmade. When walking through The REACH, it’s easy to forget you’re in an urban space as you’re enveloped by sunshine and greenery throughout.

“[Natural light] is essential to your psychological sense of well-being,” McVoy continues. “You feel good when you have a connection to the outdoors. You know what the weather is like outside, you know what time of day it is, you know what season it is. When you put that in a rehearsal space or performance space, it gives the artists or the audience a critical connection to the outdoors. It’s inspiring. Often when you’re rehearsing, you’re there eight hours a day. To have this feeling of relief in the light gives a whole inspiration to the process of making art.”

McVoy and senior associate Garrick Ambrose felt inspired during the process of constructing The REACH, pioneering an internal design element with their team just for the space. Called crinkle concrete, it adorns the walls of the Justice Forum and other rehearsal spaces. And although the Justice Forum is the only room in the space without windows, the fluidity created by the design also emulates the same natural serenity as the rest of the building. Its crisp acoustics are also novel, as concrete is not necessarily known for creating purity of sound.

McVoy notes that his team had the idea to imprint the concrete with a texture that does the acoustical work of diffusing the sound.

“We did many studies of what kind of texture we could put into the form work of the concrete to create this diffusion. [Ambrose] was doing experiments and found this idea of a crinkle concrete, where by taking a sheet of aluminum and bending it and banging it up and then using that as the liner that the concrete is cast against, [it] creates the ideal acoustical texture to mitigate flutter echo and diffuse the sound in the space.”

Once perfected, the team took their creation to the rest of the rehearsal spaces. While they met their goal acoustically, the accomplishment is twofold. The fluidity provided by the crinkle concrete is not only aesthetically appealing but provides a metaphorical distinction of the fluidity in the arts that The REACH itself represents.

“When you see this texture, especially in the Justice Forum, it’s immaterial,” McVoy explains. “On the one hand, it [appears] carved out of solid rock. And then on the other hand, it seems as light as folded paper. And then, especially in the Justice Forum where we’re lighting it right along the surface – we’re just raking it with light – the textures [are] particularly pronounced and immaterial. In fact, it’s a concrete structural wall but it feels like a folded texture of light.”

Though the Center’s original space will always stand as the iconic monument to its namesake’s legacy and commitment to the arts, the fluid and flexible notions brought forth in The REACH – both in structure and ideology – surely show the creative future Kennedy advocated for as the catalyst of change in our modern times. 

THE ART

Longtime DC residents will be greeted by a familiar figure when entering the grounds of The REACH: Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstrokes, on loan from The Hirshhorn. The 1996 sculpture is just one of three outdoor sculptures that, along with many other pieces of art indoors, were selected with the help of Dr. Elizabeth Broun.

“I’ve been a longtime admirer of the Kennedy Center and the role they play – not just in Washington but across the country – to encourage the performing arts,” says Broun, The REACH’s visual arts advisor. “It’s an organization with a deep sense of mission and a real commitment to the idea that the arts can really express American life.”

Broun, who served for many years as the director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and retired in 2016, says her involvement in The REACH is a perfect way for her to stay engaged with the arts and work with one of the most prestigious, fabulous arts organizations in America.

She took Kennedy’s legacy as a powerful arts advocate to heart while working with artists, museums and donors to adorn the space. She notes that while a connection to the Kennedy administration was not a necessary requirement for inclusion, there are some beautiful connections to his life that make an appearance at The REACH – namely in the case of painter Sam Gilliam and sculptor Joel Shapiro.

Gilliam’s work, which Broun describes as “lyrical and musical,” drapes across the interior space. Shapiro’s sculpture almost appears to “pirouette” across the lawn, and she envisions it becoming something of an iconic symbol of The REACH due to its visibility from the river, the highway and within the landscape of the building.

“[Gilliam] is really the internationally acclaimed dean of Washington’s artists. He’s long been affiliated with Washington. He came to the city in 1962 during the Kennedy administration, so we liked that reference. We liked that Joel Shapiro was actually in the third cohort of Peace Corps volunteers in India. The Kennedy legacy really does live on and is a very active component in the arts.”

In working to bring this incredible array of American art to The REACH, Broun’s hopes lie in the idea that patrons will see the multidimensional impacts of the arts that harken back to the Kennedy legacy it so gracefully pays tribute to.

“People mostly don’t think of the Kennedy Center as being about art, except for maybe that great big bronze head of Kennedy that’s in the foyer. I hope it makes them sort of reflect a little bit that yes, this is a great center for all of the arts in America. It’s encouraging the arts of every type. It’s comprehensive in the same way that President Kennedy’s vision for the arts was to be a beacon and related to our democracy. It’s about public spaces and public art. I hope they respond to all of that.”

For more on the work of Chris McVoy and Steven Holl Architects, go to www.stevenholl.com. Visit www.reach.kennedy-center.org for continuing announcements about upcoming programming at The REACH. 

Photo: courtesy of Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia Brings Deeply Personal, Universally Relatable The New One to National Theatre

When Lin-Manuel Miranda calls your one-man show “As perfect a night as you’re gonna get,” it might seem like an it’s-all-downhill-from-here moment. But for Mike Birbiglia, there is no downhill, as the comic, actor, playwright and director’s personal projects continually supersede their predecessors. His latest one-man show, 2017’s The New One, which inspired Miranda’s sterling review, is also Birbiglia’s most honest and transparent performance to date. The show wrestles with Birbiglia’s initial opposition to having children, and how his thoughts on parenting rapidly shifted toward clichés such as, “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” While the story contains tons of jokes, he gets real about feeling like an intern in his own family and having bouts of jealousy toward his daughter. Known for his versatile storytelling, Birbiglia has made frequent stops on NPR’s This American Life, directed films Sleepwalk with Me and Don’t Think Twice (and starred in the former), and has appeared in several popular TV shows. Before he brings his Broadway show to National Theatre on September 24-29, we caught up with him about his process, writing about the personal and his first year as a dad.

On Tap: At what point did you know this story was a one-person show? What about the narrative lent itself to that kind of performance?
Mike Birbiglia: There was actually a gag order in my family about talking about the pregnancy or having a child for the first year, where I would tell [my wife] Jen [Stein] jokes I was working on and she’d say, “I don’t think you should talk about that.” At a certain point, I was in Nantucket at the film festival and they asked me to tell a story about jealousy. I said, “No, I don’t think I’m gonna tell a story.” My wife said, “Well, you’re jealous of Oona.” That’s our daughter. And I said, “That’s true.” On that trip, Jen and I started writing a story together about how I’m jealous of our daughter and that’s the seed of what became the show. Jen started sharing her writing with me and I started sharing my writing with her, and we got really honest about what had happened in that first year [as parents] and the things we had struggled with. That’s why ultimately the show is really funny and has a ton of jokes, but it’s also very close to the bone and I couldn’t have written it without Jen for that reason.

OT: With something so personal, it’s likely you weren’t necessarily planning on telling this story while you were living through it. How do you know when something you’re going through can become a story?
MB: Once you decide that you’re a storyteller of any kind, your whole life is forever looked at through the lens of, “Could that be used as a story?” No matter how happy or sad or weird or strange or cool, it does cross your mind. If a writer says it doesn’t cross their mind, they’re probably lying. My stories, they’re so personal. So, it was important to me that Jen and I were both on the same page about telling the story. Ultimately, the story is about change and how I never wanted to have a child and [how] I was so glad that we had a child. Really, it’s about transformation and the idea that the things we’re sometimes the most reluctant to do are the things that we need most.

OT: What was the toughest thing to admit and be honest about when writing about yourself?
MB: I think the toughest thing was admitting that I could have done better as a dad in that first year of my daughter’s life. I worked too many hours. I traveled too much. I say it in the show, but I was basically the intern of our family. I was the pudgy, milkless vice president. Huge title, no power, also oversees Congress. But if I’m being completely honest, I could have been a better intern.

OT: What’s the writing process for your one-man shows? How do you approach formulating the narrative?
MB: My director Seth Barrish and I have worked on four solo plays that have been off-Broadway: Sleepwalk with Me, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Thank God for Jokes and now The New One, which moved to Broadway. The way we work is when we arrive at what we believe to be the main event of the show, we work backwards. In other words, with Sleepwalk with Me, it was jumping through a second-story window. With My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, it was being in a car accident and deciding to get married. With Thank God for Jokes, it was telling an inappropriate joke at an awards show. And with this one, it was the moment I understand all the clichés people say about having children. All the things I made fun of and laughed about for all these years [suddenly] made sense to me. So, we really built backwards from that to understand what’s the most impactful way to arrive at that feeling.

OT: What does it mean to have had this performance on Broadway? Was that something you aspired to? How did that experience differ from your previous productions?
MB: Going to Broadway was something we had talked about with all three of the other shows. This one felt like it was the right thing because it was in some ways the most universal. It’s about having a child, but it’s also really just about change and deciding to be alive and what it means to be alive and why we choose to be alive. Plus, it was maybe the funniest of the shows. In terms of Broadway itself, I think what’s special about that is that you enter a community of people who you admire coming to your shows and you going to their shows. I went to Heidi Schreck’s show What the Constitution Means to Me and she came to my show. I went to Rachel Chavkin’s musical Hadestown and she came to my show. That kind of back-and-forth between being in a community of shows and supporting each other, I think that’s the most special part of it. For me, it’s not what street you’re on.

OT: You went to Georgetown University and had a stint at DC Improv. Does performing in DC feel like coming home at all?
MB: I think the most exciting thing about performing in DC is that I can invite Jake Tapper and Neal Katyal to come to the shows. The second most important thing is that I lived in DC and started doing comedy there. It’s very meaningful to me to think that when I was seating people and bringing nachos to tables at DC Improv, the idea that I would be performing my Broadway show at National Theatre down the street would be unfathomable. But in the same way, everything in your life is unfathomable. It’s just a matter of which type of unfathomable it ends up being.

Mike Birbiglia’s The New One runs at National Theatre from Tuesday, September 24 through Sunday, September 29. Tickets start at $39. For more about the one-man show and Birbiglia, visit www.birbigs.com.

National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; 202-628-6161; www.thenationaldc.com

Photo: Michael Stein

What’s On Tap: DC Beer Week 2019 Celebrates Collaborations, Comradery and Craft Beer

DC Beer Week is back with eight days of beer-themed festivities around the District, from September 8-15. From homebrew competitions and fun runs to comedy nights and crab feasts, the options are endless. We caught up with the creative minds behind Bluejacket and District ChopHouse’s beer menus about this year’s DC Beer Week lineup and the 2019 Solidarity Beer, a German kellerbier crafted at Bluejacket with nearly a dozen collaborating brewers.


Barrett Lauer
Head Brewer at District ChopHouse & Brewery

On Tap: What got you into brewing?
Barrett Lauer: I was working in the kitchen at The Wharf Rat [in Baltimore] and became friends with the brewer through our mutual love of beer and music. He offered me an apprenticeship, and I never looked back.

OT: What beers do you gravitate toward on a menu?
BL: I usually will start with a lighter, lower-ABV beer first. In the summer, I will start with a German pilsner, Vienna lager or Czech pils. If it’s chilly, I may want something more like a Scottish ale. I always like to try kellerbiers, especially at a brewery. Good, lighter beers are trickier to make because the flaws stick out.

OT: Do you sell any special bottles at District ChopHouse?
BL: We have some vintage beers that we sell. We also hold tasting events, like our upcoming cask event, where we serve some special beers from local breweries. We will also be serving the Solidarity Beer brewed for DC Beer Week.

OT: It seems like the beer industry is more collaborative than other types of businesses. Does that ring true for you?
BL: The local brewers all share the same goal of exposing more people to craft beer. If they try mine, they will go to Bluejacket, Atlas or one of the other local craft breweries and vice versa. Once you’ve had flavorful, fresh beer, it’s hard to go back.

OT: What special events do you have planned for DC Beer Week?
BL: We are hosting Cask [Day/Night] on September 6. We will line the perimeter of the brewers’ lounge with tables and patrons will be able to pour their own beers. There will be an assortment of ales and lagers and other beer styles. There will be Oktoberfest, dunkels (dark German lager), blond ale, hazy IPA and more. 

OT: What’s unique about cask ales?
BL: With a cask, after primary fermentation, it’s put in a vessel and then primed. Sometimes, you may add more hops. Some darker beers may have chocolate, toasted oak or coffee. The carbon dioxide produced by secondary fermentation is typically not as carbonated and is typically a softer texture than forced CO2.

District ChopHouse & Brewery: 509 7th St. #1, NW, DC; www.districtchophouse.com


Ro Guenzel
Director of Brewing Operations at Bluejacket

On Tap: How did you get started in brewing?
Ro Guenzel: I started as a homebrewer. My mom bought me a pale ale homebrew kit when I turned 21. My second homebrew was a German pils. They are my love. 

OT: What is one piece of advice you’d give to new beer drinkers?
RG: For most beers; drink fresh. The cellaring of beer introduces the unknown. 

OT: What inspired this year’s Solidarity Beer? What’s notable about a German kellerbier?
RG: The Solidarity kellerbier is a youngish lager beer [and] hazy amber in color. It is modestly bitter and balanced out with a touch of caramel malt. It has plenty of German hops in the flavor and nose.

OT: How did you decide on the style and recipe?
RG: When picking the beer, we try to pick something that fits in with the portfolio of the host brewery [and] that will get brewers excited, showcase what they make and be something that people will want to drink. We took the time of year into consideration. Kellerbiers are typically unfiltered, unpasteurized lagers from the German brewing tradition. The name translates directly to “cellar beer.” 

OT: Do you have any upcoming special releases or events?
RG: For DC Beer Week, we will be serving all of the collaborators’ beers at the kickoff party on September 8. Bluejacket will can about 50 cases of Solidarity Beer for sale out of the tasting room. This year for the first time, all the proceeds will be donated to the DC Brewers’ Guild. [At Snallygaster 2019 on October 12], there will be over 400 beers from 150 breweries around the world. Bluejacket will be serving cans as well as kegs. 

OT: What are you drinking now?
RG: All of this talk of German beers put me in the mood for a nice German festbier.

Don’t miss DC Beer Week from September 8-15 at various locations around DC. Visit www.dcbeerweek.net for the full lineup of events and learn more about Bluejacket and District ChopHouse below.

Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

Disclosure: Dan Rozman is an investor in several breweries and The Minister
of Membership for Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP).


DC Beer Week Events

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Porktober Fest
Mark your calendar! The second annual Old Ox Porktoberfest is happening the first day of September. Celebrate Labor Day Weekend with the release of Oxtober Bier, pretzels and pastries from The Baekehaus, a pig roast, and other delicious pork dishes from RESQ BBQ Catering. Enjoy live music from Felix Pickles and Rowdy Ace, a stein-lifting contest, and more. 4-9 p.m. Free to attend. Old Ox Brewery: 44652 Guilford Dr. Ashburn, VA; www.oldoxbrewery.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Brews Around the World: DC International Beer, Wine & Food Festival
Join this celebration of the very best of global beer and cuisine in our nation’s capital. You’ll get your own tasting glass for unlimited tastings of more than 80 carefully selected beers in a single session. Plus, two dozen amazing wines, 10+ ciders, hard sodas, gluten free options and more. There will be a DJ playing music all day and lots of outdoor games, arts and activities. 12:30-8 p.m. Tickets $20-$69. The Bullpen: 1201 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

The Area Two Experimental Brewing Showcase

Join The Sovereign as they celebrate DC Beer Week 2019 with the fine folks from Area Two Experimental Brewing. You’ll see six wild and funky beers from the brand new Connecticut brewery. Meet master brewer and co-founder Phil Markowski of Area Two, which is a sour, barrel-aging and experimental brewery from Two Roads Brewing Company. The offshoot brewery will produce a wide range of sour beers, including spontaneously fermented ales inspired by the legendary Lambics of Belgium. Headlining the list is the award-winning Hexotic 2019, a Lambic-inspired ale aged two years in oak barrels, then conditioned on mango, orange, passionfruit, guava, pineapple and guanabana. All Two Roads beers will be priced individually by the glass and in 4 oz. tasting pours. The menu is subject to change without notice. 5-11:30 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW; www.thesovereigndc.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Beer Yoga

Bring your own mat and flow through a flight of Right Proper Brewery favorites during this hour-long power yoga class. You’ll sip and stretch at Right Proper’s Production House in Brookland. Come for yoga, nama’stay for beer. One three-glass flight included in yoga class ticket purchase. Noon-1 p.m. Tickets $15. Right Proper Brewing Company Brookland Production House and Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

Heurich Oktoberfest: Senate Beer Style
This Heurich Oktoberfest celebration has a new twist: The Senate Beer revival will be fully available to the public for the first time, and some new partners will help celebrate. This Oktoberfest-style biergarten festival will take place in the Castle Garden and feature Senate Beer plus brews from Sankofa Beer Company, Red Bear Brewing Co., ANXO Cidery, Silver Branch Brewing Co., Supreme Core Cider, Crooked Run Brewing and Streetcar 82. Owners and representatives of these breweries and cideries will be onsite. All tickets include unlimited tastings and full-pours, a meal and one pretzel, all locally made. 1-4 p.m. $65-$85. Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

Oktoberfest Kick Off Party at Hops N Shine
Join Hops N Shine to celebrate the start of Oktoberfest! Participate in stein hoisting competitions, eating competitions and specials all Oktoberfest long. 2-5 p.m. Free to attend. Hops N Shine: 3410 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.hopsnshine.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

Pints & Paint Nite
Grab your friends and unleash your inner artist at the Original Paint Nite. You’ll go from a blank canvas to a masterpiece of your own, with plenty of laughs along the way. Guided by a talented and entertaining artist, you’ll be amazed at what you create, and how much fun you have doing it. Instruction is provided by an expert host, so no experience is required, and everything you need is supplied. Fill up on the many Solace brews on tap. 7 p.m. Tickets $35. Solace Brewing: 42615 Trade W Dr. #100, Sterling, VA; www.solacebrewing.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

5th Annual Make It Funky Wild Beer Festival
It’s Denizens Brewing Co.’s fifth annual ‘Make It Funky’ Wild Beer Festival, which celebrates the unique and mouth-watering style of wild and sour brews. Craft beer fans from all over the DMV will gather to sample funky beers from breweries around the region while listening to live music. This year’s focus is on mixed fermentation and barrel-aged beers only, so you’re guaranteed to get the best of this style from participating breweries. 12-5 p.m. Tickets $62. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 E W Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

Oktoberfest Outdoor Party at Port City
Port City’s most popular limited release beer, Oktoberfest, deserves its own party. There will be games, prizes, competitions such as stein hoisting and costumes, music, food and plenty of beer. Don’t miss out on their biggest event of the year. Enjoy food from Pizzeria Paradiso, Village Brauhaus, Borinquen Lunch Box Kitchen and Daddy G’s Craft Salsas. Noon-10 p.m. Port City: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

DC Beer Week Fun Run
Kick-start DC Beer Week 2019 by participating in the inaugural DC Beer Week Fun Run. Registered participants will receive a free beer at the starting point Right Proper Brookland Production House, and then a free beer at the end of the run at Red Bear Brewing Co. Race proceeds benefit the DC Brewers’ Guild. All are welcome for this 2-mile course down the Metropolitan Branch Trail between Right Proper and Red Bear. Register in advance or at the starting point at Right Proper. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets $10-$25. Right Proper Brewing Company Brookland Production House and Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC;  www.dcbeerweek.net

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

3 Stars Home Brew Extravaganza
Celebrate DC Beer Week by competing in this year’s 3 Stars Brewing Homebrew Extravaganza. Clone this year’s Solidarity Beer – a kellerbier, Double IPA and wild American sour beer. Entries are due no later than 9 p.m. Monday, September 2. Visit dcbeerweek.net for awards and category details. 6-9 p.m. $5 per entry. 3 Stars Brewing: 6400 Chillum Pl.NW, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10

DC Total Tap Takeover at ChurchKey
ChurchKey will once again devote all 55 of its draft and cask lines to beers brewed right here in the District for the fifth straight year. A true tribute to the collective greatness of DC’s brewing scene, they’re showcasing a wide array of one-offs and rarities, both on cask and on draft. Birch & Barley will feature executive chef Jarrad Silver’s four-course tasting flights paired exclusively with DC-brewed beers. All beers will be priced individually by the glass and in 4 oz. tasting pours. 4-11:30 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

Women in Beer at Red Bear Brewing
Celebrate women in the craft beer industry with a panel discussion of all things beer, why the brewery industry is a great place for women to work and more. The event will also include a special beer release, brewed in collaboration with the Pink Boots Society – a Belgian blonde. Proceeds of beer sold benefit the local DC Pink Boots Chapter. You’ll hear speakers Leah Cheston from Right Proper, Melissa Ramano from Pink Boots, Katie Marisic from the DC Brewers Association and more. 6-8 p.m. Red Bear Brewing Company: 209 M St. NE, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

Yacht Rockin’ & Brau Poppin’ DC Beer Week Sunset Beer Cruise
Sail into the final weekend of DC Beer Week on the Potomac Riverboat Company’s Miss Mallory for the inaugural Brau Poppin’ & Yacht Rockin’ sunset cruise. Ride along the Potomac sipping on DC Brau and listening to yacht rock curated by the Brothers Brau. Ticket includes a two-hour sunset cruise departing from The Wharf’s Transit Pier in Southwest DC, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a DC Brau. Additional beer and other beverages will be available for purchase on board. For the full details on tickets, visit www.potomacriverboatco.com. 6-8 p.m. Tickets $75. The Wharf: 970 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Brewers On The Block
Brewers On The Block is back for its sixth annual cele-BREW-tion. Sponsored by DCBeer.com, join the fun as Suburbia hosts 40+ local brewers at Union Market, where hopheads and brewers can meet and drink. You’ll hear live music from Big Bad JuJu. General admission includes unlimited tastings, conversations with local brewers, souvenir tasting glass and live music starting at 3 p.m. The VIP ticket includes hour ahead event access, extra face-to-face time with the brewers, UNICORN beers and frozen hoptails from Suburbia. 2-6 p.m. Tickets $55-$75. Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.dcbeerweek.net

Lavender's Matt Wright, Emily Carlson, Alli Vega and Trent Burns // Photo: Zoe Hannah

Lavender Talks New Music, Friendship and the Best Show They’ve Ever Played

Two original songs, a Black Keys cover and a Battle of the Bands competition make up the beginnings of Lavender. Formed originally as a one-time thing between friends and ardent music lovers at American University, their intention was not to get to the level of notoriety they currently possess on the local music circuit. Nevertheless, the band is well-loved for their anthemic indie-pop sound and the affinity they possess for one another, both creatively and personally, that translates beautifully into their music.

The four-piece band, made up of Emily Carlson (bass/vocals), Alli Vega (guitar/backup vocals), Matt Wright (drums) and Trent Burns (guitar), has come a long way since their supposedly one-night-only gig. They caught up with On Tap about their influences, new music, the support the city has given to them and more.  

On Tap: At the beginning, you were all living in a house together. How did that help or hinder your musical process?
Matt Wright: Band practice was super easy [all laugh]. One of us would just go into the extra room that we converted into a practice room and yell for the others, or I would just play the drums. Everyone would come down. It was a different kind of way to experience music, with us all living together.
OT: It seems that your incredible closeness to one another is a hallmark of your band. How do you work to translate this to your music?
MW: I think it has helped the songwriting process a little bit because it’s gotten to the point where we can read each other super easily. And so when one of us has an idea, it just takes a look from Alli to know, “We’re not gonna do that.”
Alli Vega: [Laughs] I literally knew you were going to say that. I’m the one who can’t hide feelings, ever. So if I like or don’t like an idea, it’s very apparent. 

OT: You list a ton of influences on your social media. With four band members and diverse tastes, how do you incorporate everything that inspires you into Lavender’s music?
Trent Burns: Something that I really appreciate about the band is that I think we all also have various genres or artists that we’re into that are outside of each other’s wheelhouses. I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for indie pop through Alli and Emily’s tastes.
AV: I am constantly surprised by what Matt listens to. Matt, you have such eclectic taste in music. Who is that guy from YouTube who is kind of a joke but really talented at piano?
MW: Oh, Lewis Cole. He’s a hilarious multi-instrumentalist but he’s also just a bizarre person. I sort of pride myself on my ability to send Alli strange things and say, “Hey, we should do something like this.” 

OT: You’ve played alongside some incredible local and national acts in a ton of different area venues. Any favorite experiences?
All in unison: Opening for Wolf Alice.
AV: It was so random. I think that was Trent’s second show with us. We got a phone call that was like, “Hey, Wolf Alice wants you to open!” And Wolf Alice is one of my favorite bands. So going into the venue and it being sold out and for one of my favorite bands – and they were so nice to us – like all of that. I was like, “This is what I want. I want this forever.”
Emily Carlson: There’s a small moment that stuck with me. I think it was a Songbyrd show where a father came up to me and he had a little girl with him who was maybe 9 or 10, and she looked so shy and he was like, “This is her first concert ever and she’s just amazed.” I was like, “Wait a minute, I can do that for someone?” That was such a cool moment of like, “Oh yeah, we do music for us. But we do music because it’s impactful.”

OT: I noticed your Instagram bio is “We swear there’s new music coming.” Was that in response to people asking about new music?
AV: The song we’ve been working on, we’ve been working on for well over a year now. We had all these songs we’ve been playing live that were originally recorded last fall to help our friend’s capstone project. I work at a music venue and fall is a busy time of year and Emily’s a teacher, so things kept getting pushed back. All these songs that were new at the time are like a year old and still not out. People who come to our shows are like, “So do you have a recording?” And we’re like, “Yes.” Now we actually do. We have a release date. There’s a single coming out September 6. It’s going to be great. We’re finally there. [The Instagram bio] is mostly for [us] to be honest. We’re holding ourselves accountable.

Lavender’s new single “Head in the Clouds” will be released on September 6 with an EP to follow. Celebrate its release at Pie Shop with the band on October 20. Tickets are $12, doors are at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. For more on Lavender, visit www.lavenderdc.bandcamp.com.

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

Alysia Lee and Ty Defoe // Photo: Tony Powell

The REACH’s Opening Festival

The inside spaces of the Kennedy Center’s The REACH are spacious and cavernous, like an underground college building with rooms ripe for seminars, classes, performances, films and whatever other kind of programming the Center offers, which is to say almost anything. The outside buildings are equally stunning, standing tall not in an intimidation, but a reassurance.

The facility had yet to open when we walked through the grounds in mid-July, but it was easy to close your eyes and imagine a swath of people congregating in one of the spacious fields for a concert or a movie projected directly on the side of their sloping creations. Soon, there won’t be much left to the imagination as the Center is set to unleash every kind of installation you can think of – big name to small name, hip-hop to opera, dance to painting, sculpture to DJs.

“We’ll achieve a vision in people’s minds,” says Robert van Leer, the Kennedy Center’s senior vice president of artistic planning. “And I mean everyone: artists, staff, visitors, civic leaders. When you open a new building, there’s a process that comes up with that vision, but it’s important to start with what it can be.”

From Saturday, September 7 through Sunday, September 22, the Kennedy Center’s The REACH Opening Festival will feature close to 500 free events inviting people to explore the space, participate in workshops, and see headlining acts such as Robert Glasper, Bootsy Collins, The Second City, Thievery Corporation and so much more.

“It’s a great way to illustrate what The REACH can do,” van Leer continues. “It’s a combination of all of those things and a chance to learn with the artists to see what the future opportunities can be.”

Artists Ty Defoe and Alysia Lee are perfect examples of the diverse range of creative talent participating in the festivities. Both will travel from different East Coast cities – Baltimore and NYC, respectively – to support The REACH and take part in the public’s first invitation to the campus.

“I like the word festival,” Defoe says. “I like the word joy and I like the word connection. I feel like among those words, it reminds me that we’re at a time right now where the arts are a place of healing, celebration and activation. The arts not only change people’s minds, but people’s hearts. I feel like we’re in a time where that is very necessary right now.”

Defoe is an interdisciplinary artist from New York slated to participate in two events: a panel titled “The New Contemporary in Native American Art” and an interactive participatory hoop dance. The latter is only allotted 15 minutes, but despite this expedited runtime, the movement has several different layers all geared toward a unique experience.

“I’ve been working on this since I was 7 years old,” Defoe says. “It gets at a lot of intersections that I like to operate in, which is contemporary indigenous culture, community, spectacle, and utilizing spaces [both] indoors and outdoors. Also, [knowing] this festival will have all these amazing people of culture coming together in that circle, there was no other thing in my mind that came up besides this.”

The dance starts off with a story about finding a way through fighting and warring as a community, but it’s not all spoken. For some, the narrative is better understood through a series of physical steps, hence the hoop dance.

“I’ll weave myself in and out of these hoops to make different shapes – things you’d see in nature like trees, plants, flowers and animals – to pay honor to the equity of all living things,” Defoe continues. “The interactive part breaks down the multigenerational part because as adults, we are sometimes living in our heads and not able to feel. No matter who you are – shape, size, color – you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with your friend or relative.”

While Defoe’s interactive performance welcomes all people in attendance to gather around and dance, Lee’s workshop about protest songs will focus on inspiring middle school children to express themselves in tune. As a Kennedy Center 2019-2020 Citizen Arts Fellow and multifaceted vocalist, Lee is an obvious choice to lead an educational workshop for the opening festival.

“I really want to have something where kids walk away with something they created,” Lee says. “I want collaboration and sharing, and something where there will be high incentive and high reward to move quickly together.”

Lee came up with the activity upon learning that a majority of 60s protest songs were parodies of oldies from the 40s and 50s. The format took form when she thought of using modern pop music to help kids write their own pieces.

“What do we care about and how can we use music as a way to voice our opinions? The accessibility of these protest songs is super cool because you can get kids to take their favorite hits and use them for social change.”

Lee feels confident that the children participating will be up for protesting, whether it be concerns about global warming or requests for more snack machines.

“Kids nowadays are so in tune because of social media,” she says. “They’re so in touch with the world in a way that I wasn’t. Kids really feel very strongly and passionately about things that are beyond them. They feel more connected to the global society.”

The REACH is also slated to feature a number of DC-based artists as part of the festival’s lineup. GIRLAAA Collective Founder Dominique Wells has coordinated a full slate of curation on opening day with a panel of female DJs – including Mane Squeeze, Ayes Cold and Niara Sterling – followed by a performance.

“We want to discuss women in the music industry and how they’re doing more than just following contemporary trends – they’re breaking barriers,” Wells says. “I feel like what they’re doing is important and monumental and necessary.”

The DC native sees The REACH as an opportunity for the Kennedy Center to better serve the underprivileged in the community by introducing them to art by way of free workshops and performances, much like the programming for the festival.

“It’s about what’s happening beyond their main space,” Wells says. “I think The REACH is going to offer a lot of people who otherwise might not come there an opportunity to experience something inclusive and diverse. They have a great team of people who are working really hard, and they’re listening to people.”

From local to national, big to small, contemporary to classical, the Kennedy Center’s The REACH Opening Festival is a multi-dimensional playground for patrons of the arts from any background. Van Leer says there are no plans to make this an annual tentpole event, so you will definitely want to revel in it while you can.

“You see all the cross-pollination that’s occurring,” Lee says of the festival programming. “It’s really inspiring and makes me think about the through-line of creativity and how things can speak. I love that the festival is a place for that. It’s hard to even fathom missing one day of it.”

To peruse the comprehensive list of events at The REACH’s Opening Festival, visit https://cms.kennedy-center.org/festivals/reach. For announcements about upcoming programming at The REACH, go to www.reach.kennedy-center.org.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph// Photo: Tony Powell)

The Vision of The REACH

“Listen man, Q-Tip is one of my heroes.”

I’m going to venture an educated guess that the first image that comes to mind when someone mentions the Kennedy Center isn’t a Haitian-American playwright and spoken-word poet choking back tears as he describes what 90s hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest means to him. And yet, here we are.

I’m sitting next to Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the Kennedy Center’s vice president and artistic director of social impact, in a state-of-the-art, subterranean studio space having a deeply personal conversation about how hip-hop shaped his formative years and how he now gets to work alongside one of his idols for one of the world’s most renowned arts organizations. It is at this exact moment that the driving force behind the Center’s highly anticipated expansion of its campus – The REACH – clicks into place for me.

The three sloping structures opening to the public this month were built upon the pillars of inclusivity, accessibility and interactivity as spaces to facilitate shared artistic experiences for the community. And while the Center’s leadership has invested years of strategic planning and creative thinking behind how to make the spaces as innovative as possible, they ultimately exist as a platform for artists and the community to connect on their own terms.

“We’re inaugurating a way of being in public space,” Joseph says. “People make place. While there’s been an incredible investment in the built capital of these three interconnected pavilions, there has to continue to be investment in the social capital and the social possibility that is made through the creative enterprise.”

Though the Center’s chairman of the board of trustees, David Rubenstein, had a vision for launching The REACH in 2017 to celebrate John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday, Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter says she believes the space is opening now because it is the right time to unveil it and share it with the world.

“It’s a time in our society where people crave authentic experiences they can share with others,” she says. “There is a thirst for a sense of community and inclusivity, and The REACH gives us a place for those kinds of experiences.”

Rutter likens The REACH to her own analog version of the Internet.

“I don’t believe that the only way to learn about art is through YouTube or a Google search – no matter how extensive – but rather by experiencing it firsthand. There is no question that the desire to have a shared performance experience is really high, and whatever we can do to promote that is really important.”

The spaces have garnered most of their buzz thus far surrounding The REACH’s opening festival from September 7-22 with nearly 500 events, but Rutter assures that the project will only gain forward momentum with nonstop programming from day one. The REACH will operate as both an education center and public incubator, while offering rehearsal and studio spaces where artists can practice, create, collaborate and perform.

Rutter notes she’s quite proud of the artistic programming behind projects like Studio K’s (the other two studios are Studio J and Studio F, a clever acronym for the space’s namesake) transformation into a cross-genre club and destination for locals to hang out and hear jazz or pop music or spoken word. She also credits the education team for planning curriculum for “maker space” Moonshot Studio (named for “Kennedy’s call for America to think big and travel to the moon”) that’s universally relevant and ties back to programming taking place in the Center’s main hall.

The artistic and education teams behind The REACH are integral to driving its mission forward through immersive programming, and Joseph in particular is invaluable to both sides of the house as he’s uniquely equipped to ride the fine line between artist and administrator.

“To have an artist on staff is so reassuring,” Rutter says. “It’s really helpful because it helps our administrators think about their work through that lens as well. Each of our administrators works with artists in a variety of different ways but to have one as a peer, [and as] somebody who is so enormously articulate to provide the connective tissue between ideas and programming, is invaluable.”

The Center’s president gives a great example in Dear Evan Hansen.While the marketing team is interested in sharing the date and time of the next performance with the public, Joseph is focusing his attention on how the Center can communicate that this work debates and explores difficult emotional ideas of what’s happening with young people today. Both are critical pieces of information, but with very different messaging.

“That piece for me is why it’s so important for the Kennedy Center to do this work around mission, which is to hold a mirror up to our society, to talk about the good, bad and ugly in our everyday lives, and to use art to have greater understanding of who we are,” Rutter continues. “And Marc is the kind of guy who has the capacity to do that on a huge range of topics. He [joins] a team who is so proud and excited to have somebody who can help them take great work to the next level.”

Joseph remains humble during our conversation, saying he doesn’t see a delineation between the two roles – they blur together in everything he does.

“I make culture,” he says. “Some of us, we make dances. Some of us, we make plays. Some of us, we make spreadsheets. But I work with others to make culture. I don’t segment or even bifurcate this notion of administrator and artist. Artists are entrepreneurs and administrators. There isn’t so much of a fixed economy for us.”

He notes that he’s a first-generation American who comes from struggle, and “that never leaves.” In many ways, it’s shaped his professional and creative ideology.

“In terms of my artistic practice and in terms of my administrative practice, there’s a commitment to a kind of equity – a kind of inspired, inclusive and expansive community – that I have to adhere to. What makes sense for me is culture: an inspired, collaborative, expansive, inclusive, loving culture. Anything I can do to make that happen, whether it’s making poems or making programs, I’m gonna do.”

Joseph speaks of a culture of invitation being born through The REACH, where he and his colleagues continue to shine light on culture makers of all stripes. He’s aiming to achieve this in the short-term through the Culture Caucus, a group of 35 artist organizations and individuals handpicked by the Center’s leadership because of their contributions to DC’s broad cultural landscape. He describes them as “community-facing artists-in-residence at work and at play” within The REACH’s walls.

Within the next six months, Joseph and his peers will initiate an impact band of programming to include discussion groups where instead of trying to get people to engage culture on the Center’s terms, they’ll be trying to resource artists whose work amplifies what’s happening in the local community.

“I think that the level of access to culture is different than the level of access to the Kennedy Center and I think that the Kennedy Center – and quite frankly, most arts institutions – have to see themselves as organic citizens within the body politic in a different kind of way,” he says. “It’s a reorientation of the institutional psychology. This is not something that’s just going to happen, but certainly something I’m committed to is recognizing the broad ecosystem of culture makers where they are, resourcing programs where they happen and thinking about the same thing on a national scale.”

He breaks it down for me in simpler terms. Joseph isn’t who you go to for discounted tickets to productions at the Kennedy Center. He’s who you tap when you want to amplify the artistic work being done around the city.

“Resource that and attach commitments of documentation or education or pedagogical support like this. We [as an organization] are a node, but we recognize that there are many, many spokes and many, many stars in this constellation.”

Thinking in broader terms across the nation, Joseph says the next iteration of engagement for arts organizations should be thinking about empowerment, the creative imagination and inspiration as a democratic ideal.

“I’ve been brought in [to The REACH] to infuse the institutional psychology and institutional DNA with a different way of thinking about what is sublime in the arts.”

The sense of openness at the Center lends itself to Joseph’s vision for the future, and Rutter has much to do with it. In the past five years, she’s placed giving DC a seat at the table among more traditional arts & culture hubs like New York and L.A. at the top of her list. Rutter has watched the city experience tangible changes on this front, and although she won’t give herself the credit she most certainly deserves, she along with the leaders of other influential arts institutions has helped break the stereotype of DC as a straight-laced government town. Together, DC’s arts leadership is offering a wave of cultural experiences that are both approachable and accessible to our city’s diverse community.

“I really believe that the DNA of the city has changed in a lot of different ways and that which was already of interest to the people of the city has now been able to be fully embraced,” she says. “If we can demonstrate that really exciting, interesting stuff is happening in Washington, DC and that we are bringing the country together through the arts, then we can change how people think about the importance of arts in our day-to-day life. That’s why it’s really important that as the national cultural center, we invite everybody to be here – from our elected officials to the people who can’t afford to buy tickets to the people who are avid arts lovers.”

While Rutter and Joseph agree that change is gradual, they’re both committed to the baby steps we as a city need to take. In the short-term, they’re both looking forward to this month’s opening festival and the reverberations of the its creative energy. Joseph says the hip-hop block party with headliners De La Soul on September 14 will be “off the chain” but he’s equally amped up about former Wailer (of Bob Marley and The Wailers) Junior Marvin’s DC Lovers Rock on September 22.

“I’m excited about that because love is a thing. Love is not a four-letter word. I want to center love in what it is that we do and how it is that we identify and so doing a reggae-driven ode to love at the close of summer on the river – the romantic in me just loves that.”

Rutter, on the other hand, chooses not to pinpoint just one or two events. Instead, she says she’s most excited about the juxtaposition of different kinds of activities happening simultaneously – a jazz opera going on at the same time as a dance program or taking in a Lichtenstein sculpture and then wandering over to the river pavilion and playing on the brand-new Sing for Hope Piano.

At the end of the day, her goal both for the festival and The REACH as a whole is to invite all of the other cultural organizations in our community and from around the world to share and experience the art being created and explored at the Center’s many spaces. She’s especially looking forward to seeing artists collaborate in-studio and appreciate each other’s work through The REACH’s open spaces.

“I really believe that art and artists hold a mirror up to who we are as a society and if we [act as a] facilitator, we can see into the process and understand why and how that story is being told. That’s the magic that we can do through places like this. We can’t force those new relationships, but we’re excited about creating a space where that can happen.”

Learn more about everything Deborah Rutter, Marc Bamuthi Joseph and the rest of their creative, committed colleagues have in store at The REACH by visiting www.reach.kennedy-center.org.

The REACH at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.reach.kennedy-center.org

Photo: Josiah Everly

Aslin Beer Taps Into Wider DMV Market

If you wanted to get your hands on the highly sought-after cans of beer from Aslin Brewing Company prior to this summer, you had to get in the car and make the pilgrimage to a humble strip mall in Herndon, Virginia. Beer aficionados have been camping out in line outside Aslin in the hopes of snagging a few cans since 2015, like New York City tourists waiting for a cronut outside of Dominique Ansel Bakery. Coming up on their fourth anniversary, it seems Aslin’s brews have earned a reputation as the cronut of the beer industry.

This July, beer drinkers across the DMV welcomed Aslin’s long-awaited new outpost in Alexandria with open arms and empty growlers. Gone are the days of trekking out to Herndon solely for beer to-go.

“[Because] people [can] come in and drink a few beers and get their cans, there’s rarely much of a line,” says Aslin Brand Manager Erik Raines.

The “real test,” he says, will be what the wait is like on the day of a major stout release. Though enjoying a beer onsite in the Herndon space is not allowed, Aslin has an extremely committed following. On one particular beer release day, Alexandria resident Justin Booth got in line two hours before they opened.

“People will post pictures on social media with line updates,” Booth says. “I waited for about 30 minutes after they opened, so it was about two-and-a-half hours.”

Raines says being go-to for the last few years created quite a trek for some Aslin fans.

“I get it,” he says. “I get having to schlep all the way out [to Herndon] just to get some cans and get right back into your car and get back on 66. We’ve gotten feedback from guests who are so pumped to have us five or 10 minutes from their house now.”

When Alexandria city planners reached out to Aslin about coming to their neck of the woods, the company found the 25,000-square-foot warehouse space was more than big enough to offer them the growth they needed. One of the hardest parts, Raines mentions, was trying to decide how to utilize all that wall space with four years’ worth of beer can art by artist Mike Van Hall, who has been instrumental in helping to define their brand.

“It’s just such a luxury to have someone like [Van Hall] that you can give minimal direction to and just know that he’s going to completely knock it out of the park,” Raines notes.

With endless wall space to fill, the team at Aslin set out looking for someone to incorporate Van Hall’s art into the taproom. They enlisted their new neighbors across the street, CSI Printing & Graphics, to make his beer can art come to life – literally from floor-to-ceiling.

“We got so lucky,” Raines says.

The resulting partnership brought colorful, minimalistic wall designs practically begging to be posted on Instagram. While art is a core component of their brand, Aslin’s focus continues to be on making beer people are willing to wait for – even if the waiting part isn’t as much of a commitment as it once was.

Aslin plans to make its beer even more accessible in the near future. They are expanding their reach beyond Alexandria and Herndon and recently signed with DC-based distributor Hop & Wine Beverage. They expect to begin distributing Aslin beer across the wider Northern Virginia area this fall. In the meantime, Aslin’s new Alexandria taproom is open daily and family-friendly until 7 p.m.

“After 7 p.m., ‘Adult Swim’ is in effect and patrons must be 21 and over,” states their website.

Purchase tickets to Aslin’s four-year anniversary party on Saturday, September 14 on Eventbrite; tickets start at $65. For more information about Aslin’s new Alexandria space, visit www.aslinbeer.com.

Aslin Brewing Company: 847 South Pickett St. Alexandria, VA; 703-787-5766; www.aslinbeer.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