We’ve spoken to bar managers, brewers, beer directors and even distributors about how and why they’re connected to beer. This month, we wanted to talk to someone who spends a tremendous amount of time looking backward rather than forward. Mike Stein has written about beer – both journalistically and academically – and is currently a beer historian at DC Brau. He also helped found Lost Lagers, a title attached to numerous events around the city pertaining to historic brews. We got a chance to talk to Stein about his passion for beer, his connection to the craft and what’s next for Lost Lagers.
On Tap: You’re passionate enough about beer to have written an MFA thesis on the topic. Where does your excitement about beer stem from?
Mike Stein: My passion for beer springs from a deep spiritual well. For me, beer is more than a beverage. [It’s] a way to convene with the ancestors. It’s also an opportunity to taste history in a glass, especially when recreating beers with recipes from [hundreds of years ago]. My father was born in Prague, and the Czechs drink the most beer per person in the world. So, beer is part of the national identity. My father’s identity was half Catholic, half Jewish, so my passion for beer has evolved from a fascinating intersection of identity, religion and beer. For me, beer and identity are inseparable.
OT: When did you know you were more than a casual drinker, and when did you decide to diversify your tastes?
MS: I am still, for the most part, a casual drinker. I can turn off my hyper-analytical mind and put away my chattering monkey to simply enjoy the beverage in front of me. You might be surprised to find me enjoying some dry cider or a French rosé. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve begun to diversify my tastes for fermented beverages as I’ve branched into wine writing.
OT: As a historian, what are some of the most interesting things you’ve discovered about beer?
MS: I think the most interesting thing is how misled most of us have been by popular culture. Yes, Thomas Jefferson drank beer, but did you know his wife and daughter brewed a healthy portion of it? Or that James Hemings, older brother of Sally Hemings, was America’s first chef de cuisine and served dinner to both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton? Or that his younger brother Peter oversaw brewing operations at Monticello and was so impressive that Jefferson told James Madison to send someone to study with Hemings? Because brewing today is so pale and male, I think some of the most interesting times in American history [have been] when this paradigm was upset – and it’s so rarely discussed.
OT: Why is the DC area so conducive for good breweries, especially ones experimenting with new methods?
MS: Part of the DC area’s strength in being a hotbed of brewing action is that the scene is relatively young. Considering DC Brau is the first production brewery in DC since 1956, it shows how recently the trend of good drink and food has seen an uptick in the city. The rise of good food has allowed Brau to work with restaurants like All-Purpose [Pizzeria] and Maketto to produce amazing lagers like Full Count and Tuk Tuk, respectively. These pale lagers were designed specifically to suit the cuisines of those restaurants, and this is the kind of thoughtful work that the food makers and beer crafters are doing in unison to elevate the scene.
OT: You work for DC Brau and a few other places, but from a flavor perspective, who’s churning out beers that people should pay attention to?
MS: Obviously, I love DC Brau and our Brau Pils remains my favorite, though Oktoberfest is currently giving it a run for its money. Port City is also creating some fantastic, world-class lager with their lager series, so I’m always paying attention to them. The brewpubs in DC are typically cranking out quality product, [including] Bluejacket, District ChopHouse and Right Proper Brewing Company.
OT: Any Lost Lager events coming up this fall?
MS: [This year] is the 160th anniversary of the first lager being brewed in Alexandria. We may or may not be brewing a historic lager with Port City, and we may or may not be piloting a batch with [Lost Rhino’s] Favio Garcia at the newly-opened Dynasty Brewing in Ashburn. We may or may not be making several historic ales and lagers with Dynasty. However, we’re definitely leading our Historic Homebrewing: Porter from George Washington to Near Extinction class at the Hill Center just south of Eastern Market on November 18.
For tickets and more information on Stein’s historic homebrewing class, visit www.hillcenterdc.org/partner/lost-lagers.
Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3
Left Hand Brewing 25th Anniversary Beer Release
Join Left Hand Brewery at Dacha Beer Garden for their 25th anniversary beer release. In addition to the special anniversary brew, there will be Chai Milk Stout and Pixan Pepper Porter available on draft. 4-10:30 p.m. Free to attend. Dacha Beer Garden: 1600 7th St. NW, DC; www.dachadc.com
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4
The Great Lakes 30th Anniversary Celebration
Join as ChurchKey and Great Lakes Brewing Company celebrate with 14 beers from the Cleveland, Ohio brewery. The party includes an unbelievable list of beers including their hard-to-find keg of 30th Anniversary Imperial Oyster Stout. There will also be five different barrel-aged rarities from Great Lakes. 4-11 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5
Brewers Chili Throwdown
Join for the annual chili cook-off event where local breweries bring in their own chili recipes to compete in a heated contest of which brewery can craft the tastiest chili. Along with great beer, what more can you ask for? 5-8 p.m. Tickets $20. Tysons Biergarten: 8436 Leesburg Pike, Tysons, VA; www.tysonsbiergarten.com
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6
Join as Mad Fox turns the Market Square they call home into an Oktoberfest biergarden, where they’ll showcase a large selection of hoppy beers from some of Virginia’s finest breweries including traditional German Oktoberfest beers. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tickets available online. Mad Fox Brewery: 444 W. Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7
Love Beer Fest
Don’t miss the first annual Love Beer Fest, a celebration of great beer and the passionate people who brew it. Held in DC near Yards Park, this family-friendly event is open to all beer lovers at no cost. Explore and enjoy a curated selection of 100-plus beers from more than 15 breweries across the country. Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to sample limited edition and seasonal beers, some of which will be available for the first time on the DC market. Devils Backbone will debut a unique, extra dry, brut-style lager with a light body and dry finish brewed specially for the festival. Love Beer Fest: First and M Streets and New Jersey Avenue in SE, DC; www.lovebeerfest2018.com
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7
Pugs & Pints
Join the Pigs & Pugs Project for an afternoon of sipping locally made craft beers in the Denizens beer garden with your favorite pug for a good cause. Your $20 ticket includes a pint of beer, vegan treats for you (and your pup), lawn games, and a reusable Pigs & Pugs Project tote. All proceeds will go toward microgrants that support pug rescues in need. 1-3 p.m. $10-$20. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13
Snallygaster is making its triumphant return to DC for its seventh year as a rollicking salute to craft beer. Festivalgoers can expect an unbelievable array of no fewer than 350 small-batch, highly sought-after brews on draft from the finest American and international producers set against a backdrop of local food trucks and two stages of live music. 1:30-7 p.m. Tickets $40-$65. Snallygaster: 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in NW, DC; www.snallygasterdc.com
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16
Seabee OktoBEEfest DC
Gather your crew for an awesome evening at The Brig DC, including a dog-friendly atmosphere, cornhole, food, plenty of room to move and plenty of beers on tap. Those with an official SHF OktoBEEfest glass get extended happy hour pricing for drinks. 3-11:30 p.m. Tickets $10. The Brig DC: 1007 8th St. SE, DC; www.thebrigdc.com
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18
Pumpkin Carving with Devils Backbone
One ticket purchase will include one pumpkin and one beer from the Devils Backbone draft selection. The Embassy Row Hotel will provide all the essential tools and decorations you’ll need to create the best pumpkin in DC. The carving will commence around 6 p.m. on the patio of Station Kitchen and Cocktails. Tickets $12. The Embassy Row Hotel: 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.destinationhotel.com/embassy-row-hotel
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20
Shucktoberfest Beer and Oyster Festival
Calling all beer and oyster lovers. Don’t miss more than 40 local craft beer tents, food and vendor tents, and more right in Shirlington Village. The event is bringing all of your favorite Virginia breweries together in one place, so come sip your favorite brews, sample new ones and enjoy an array of fresh oysters. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets $30-$35. Village at Shirlington: 2700 Quincy St. Arlington, VA; www.shucktoberfestva.com
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27
Rock the Core Cider Fest
A celebration of cider, beer and great tunes, Rock the Core transports the orchard to your mug with more than 50-plus ciders and craft beers offered onsite. Sip on a Granny Smith, swig a sweet Golden Russet and discover untapped apple flavors while savoring local eats and live entertainment. 1-9 p.m. $50-$75. Akridge Lot at Buzzard Point: 1926 2nd St. SW, DC; www.rockthecorefest.com