Posts

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

Founder Tristan Wright // Photo: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria

Lost Boy Cider Plants Itself in Alexandria

When former banker Tristan Wright was diagnosed with a severe soy allergy a few years ago, he realized he wanted to make some changes in his life.

“I had spent 16 years in the industry,” he says. “And one day when looking in the mirror, I realized I was doing something that I didn’t love and wasn’t passionate about any longer. A lot of that had to do with that diagnosis. As you get older, you begin to hear that ticking clock and think more about your mortality. I didn’t want to wake up in a hospital room one day and not be able to say I had done something in life that was worth the risk.”

Wright had recently started drinking cider because he needed to give up whiskey and beer. He researched what was out there, and couldn’t find too many ciders that he wanted to drink. Like kismet, he was sitting on the couch one day watching a ballgame when a commercial for Angry Orchard cider came on, and he had a light bulb moment.

“It was almost like someone was telling me I should start a cider company. I was looking for something to do, and here was an opportunity to do something really cool.”

A month later, he found himself at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon sitting in a cider production class led by cider professionals from the Pacific Northwest.

“I immediately connected with those in the room and spent a couple of weeks out there going through 19 different cideries,” he says. “From there, I enrolled in Cornell’s viticulture and enology [the study of grape cultivation and the study of wines, respectively] program, studying yeast cultures they use in wine and the science behind the craft.”

His business plan was finally on its way. On June 8, Wright opened Lost Boy Cider – the first cidery in Northern Virginia – in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. His cidery produces a variety of traditional and innovative hard ciders, with almost 100 percent of their sourced apples grown in Virginia.

“Our ciders are all bone-dry with no residual sugars. They are in the 6.9 percent range. Our belief is you can go and source very good apples, hand ferment them and introduce dry cider the way it should be.”

For now, the cider is coming from trees on Glaize Apples’ properties in the Shenandoah Valley. The process involves Lost Boy fermenting the squeezed apple juice and then crafting the liquid into one of the cidery’s signature ciders. The menu features Bottle Rocket, made with jalapeños; Spicoli, made with pineapple; and Slasher, made with raspberries.

Lost Boy Cider has an apple orchard onsite adjacent to its tasting room with semi-Dwarf Golden Delicious varieties from Stark Bro’s, a Mississippi Delta-based company. Once fully grown to roughly nine feet, the apple trees will produce nearly 80 gallons of juice. The first harvest is planned for fall of 2020.

“We are licensed in the state as a farm winery and you cannot do that in the state without controlling land where 65 percent of your product comes from,” Wright explains. “You must control an orchard in continuous or adjacent space to where your tasting room operates from.”
Lost Boy Cider will also receive a $60,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) program grant.

“We’re incredibly grateful for it, and we’ll use that money to build out and deepen our laboratory area so we can continue to understand what type of ciders we are making. The money comes in waves and it requires me to utilize Virginia resources, which we planned on doing anyway. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The theme of the Lost Boy logo is to motivate people to explore the opportunities they are presented with.

“It’s not about being lost, but really about being found.”

Lost Boy’s instant popularity at the grand opening last month proved to Wright this is a place people wanted to see.

“I knew our cider was good and we worked very, very hard on it, but I had no idea that the community would support us in the way that they did. I opened the doors at noon and by 12:04, we had exceeded our occupancy load. There was a line of 80 people outside and throughout the day, people were waiting up to 45 minutes in line to get in.”

About 1,400 people came through the doors by day’s end, and cider was flying off the shelves.

“It was just incredible and we’re looking forward to more. It feels really good to know the hard work we have put in the last couple of years is hopefully going to pay off.”

Lost Boy Cider: 317 Hooffs Run Dr. Alexandria, VA; 703-868-4865; www.lostboycider.com

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Fifteen Years Later, Lake Street Dive Is Still Evolving

Boston-based Lake Street Dive has been a band for an impressive 15 years as of this May, and their unique conglomeration of pop, soul, bluegrass and more has made them a fast favorite for listeners of many genres.

While at first glance, their crossover appeal would seemingly make them an instant hit, the band has slowly and steadily climbed to the top 10 of the Billboard 200, received critical acclaim from a whole host of outlets and toured internationally in support of 2018’s Free Yourself Up.

Rachael Price (vocals), Mike Olson (trumpet, guitar), Bridget Kearney (upright bass), Mike Calabrese (drums) and Akie Bermiss (keyboards) decided to forego any outside help and self-produce their most recent record, making it a true reflection of the band’s dynamic and skill.

Kearney explains that after being a band for that long, they looked at self-production as a way to challenge each other in a way they hadn’t before in their career.

“It was intimidating in some ways because you always rely on a producer as someone outside the band to make little decisions about the technical aspects of the record,” she elaborates. “But also, big picture elements of the record like what songs are going to be on it and what the general thrust of the album [is]. Those are often times the producer’s role. Not having a person to be the definitive decision maker was scary.”

The group surprised themselves, though, embracing the change in dynamic and each other when the going got tough.

“In the end, it was a really great flow for us. We found that working in that way, especially as a collaborative unit, was really fun. [There were] several of us on board to make democratic decisions, or at times to pass the producer hat around to another person in the band and say, ‘Look, I’m exhausted and I can’t tell which guitar part I should use. It’s your day to decide!’”

The resulting album deals with interpersonal relationships, gender dynamics and ever-so-subtly, but still effectively, politics. The songs are so catchy it’s easy to skim over the convictions present, but Kearney confirms their inclusion and lyrical subject matter were a conscious choice as they set out to create an album in the world post-2016 election.

“We were just shocked and devastated by the results of the 2016 election and the ensuing chaos,” Kearney says of the political lilt present in songs like “Shame, Shame, Shame,” for one. “At the same time, I always want to take some genuine feeling and inspiration and make it into a song that can be not just for people right here, right now, but for people that might hear it 20 years from now and are in a completely different situation – be it political or interpersonal. You want to leave some elements up to the listener to interpret the song as they would like.”

In keeping with the band’s ethos of diverse influences both lyrically and systematically, Lake Street Dive drew on an impressive list of influences on Free Yourself Up. Kearney recalls how they were able to use the collective sorrow surrounding the deaths of iconic musicians as a way to explore genres they may have otherwise not considered.

“[We said], ‘David Bowie just passed away – let’s check out his music and what he was doing.’  Tom Petty also passed away while we were in the studio, so we were listening to [his] records in the studio and going ‘Whoa, this thing is super cool that he was doing.’ It was little things, like the way the rhythm guitar was being played on a track or an improvised ambient foundation we hadn’t tried before.”

The small improvisational energies that make Free Yourself Up such a compelling record will be evident as the band embarks on a summer tour in support of the record, including the band’s stop at Wolf Trap on June 8. Kearney notes that she’s anticipating getting back on the road with The Wood Brothers, and even plans to showcase some special collaborations with the band onstage.

“They’re a really amazing band and they have an incredible bass player, Chris Wood, who I am excited –  as a bass player – to get to listen to every night. I think we have six or eight shows with them, so we were like, ‘We should take some time to get some extra special things together for those shows.’”

Whether in the studio or on the road, the band’s willingness to evolve and create together is evident in all they do. Catch them at Wolf Trap on Saturday, June 8. Tickets begin at $40 and gates open at 6 p.m. For more on Lake Street Dive, visit www.lakestreetdive.com.

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1900; www.wolftrap.org

Photo: Michael Andrade

The Sundry Shades of RDGLDGRN

“We put a song on the Internet and it spiraled from there, but we thought it was justified because we had something unique that stood out.”

Marcus Parham, one-third of RDGLDGRN (pronounced Red Gold Green), tells me the backstory behind the success of the band’s 2011 hit “I Love Lamp” while on the road to Raleigh, North Carolina for a show later that evening. The guitarist (RD) and his bandmates, bassist Andrei Busuioceanu (GLD) and vocalist Pierre Desrosier (GRN), continued to gain popularity following the release of the track, even collaborating with Pharrell and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.

The Reston-based, multi-genre trio actually played together as another band before RDGLDGRN, with a fourth member identified only as Blue. Even though their partnership spans nearly a decade, Parham says the three are just scratching the surface.

“We’ve just created so many memories,” he says. “We went to Europe a bunch of times, and we’ve played cruises and stuff. It’s all these different things. It’s all growth.”

RDGLDGRN brought a unique blend of different genres to the music scene when they first hit airwaves, combining elements of hip-hop, rock and go-go music to concoct an original sound. Their backgrounds play a part in the diverse sounds of their musical style.All three artists hailed from other parts of the world before settling in the DC area.

“We have so many different influences, so it makes sense that our music is always changing,” Parham elaborates.

Going back to their initial self-titled LP, the focus was almost entirely on the band’s use of rock and hip-hop. On the releases that followed, including the band’s most recent drop Red Gold Green 3, they slowly set out to reveal their entire repertoire. For instance, the last record shifted away from their heavier guitar riffs and established a more electronic sound as the album’s foundation. Parham says he feels like the band is still just making an extended version of their first album.

“We’ve [always] shown more of our palette. [We’ve] shown all the things we can do from day one. It’s not that we’ve gotten bored of a sound and evolved per se; it’s just us giving our fans a taste of everything we do.”

Not much has changed for the group apart from their music, including their process. The guitarist says they still record songs in their parents’ basements when in the DMV. Of course, they make use of professional studios as well, but they want to maintain the same authenticity that put them on the map.

“We never lost that. We haven’t changed; that’s just who we are. We record whenever we have a thought or idea, and the beauty of technology is we can do it wherever.”

The name on their albums remains the same, too. The group decided to repeat the title a la Led Zeppelin 2 and 3 in an effort to get the name’s phonetic pronunciation stuck in people’s heads.

“Our band name looks like gibberish, so it’s not something that people remember instantly,” Parham says candidly. “To make it easier, we decided to stick to our brand.”

Even with Red Gold Green 3’s February release and their busy touring schedule, he says the band is set to drop more music throughout the year.

“Any time you get music from us, it’s more of who we are. We have two EPs and another album that are already far along in the process.”

The band is set to return to its de facto hometown for ShamrockFest at RFK Stadium on Saturday, March 23. While fans can expect popular hits, Parham assures there will be some DC flair added to their set.

“Different people from the area [will] come and play songs with us,” Parham says. “We’re definitely from different places, but we’re DC at heart.”

ShamrockFest is from 12-8 p.m. on Saturday, March 23. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at www.shamrockfest.com. For more information about RDGLDGRN, visit www.rgldgrn.com.

RFK Stadium: 2400 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.shamrockfest.com

Photos: Lauren Melanie Brown

District of Den-Mate: Indelible Force Jules Hale Embraces DC Music Scene

Den-Mate began roughly five years ago as a literal bedroom pop project. Frontwoman Jules Hale’s music might not be in the bedroom pop genre, but she did use music to express herself by self-releasing early recordings via sites like Tumblr and SoundCloud while hanging out at home.

Through the power of the World Wide Web, she caught the attention of DC’s homegrown Babe City Records and the Virginia native struck up a fierce friendship with the people behind the label before meeting any of them in person.

Two-thirds of Den-Mate’s current lineup – Jon Weiss, Peter Lillis and the singer/songwriter herself – now run the independent record label, with Jonah Welt and Rick Irby rounding out the five-person band.

The electro-meets-dream-pop band has been a stronghold in the DC scene for several years now, playing a host of the best venues, opening for national acts and headlining cathartic, transformative shows. This year marked a new chapter for Hale, one she says was several years in the making. Babe City released Den-Mate’s first album, Loceke, an evocative and lush record that’s as personal as it is relatable. And since the 24-year-old artist now has a hand in running the label, she has nothing but forward momentum as an indelible force in the DC creative scene.

“As the process of Loceke happened, which took about four years to complete, I became best friends with the scene,” she explains to On Tap over a cup of La Colombe coffee in Blagden Alley. “I was just thinking, ‘I have to be a part of this. I love this.’ They welcomed me with open arms.”

DC has been Hale’s safe haven to express herself through music for awhile, but the release of Loceke found her sharing herself and collaborating with others at a greater intensity.

“At first when I expressed the process, there were parts of me that felt hesitant,” she tells us earnestly of sharing her music and by proxy, her personal experiences with others. “But if I don’t say it, then I’m not being honest about where my music is coming from. If I’m sacrificing myself and saying personal things, maybe it will inspire someone who’s not doing so well. They can be like, ‘Hey, this person went through this shit, they didn’t think they were going to get out, but they did.’ I hope that me doing that is going to eventually possibly help someone else.”

Hale’s passion for music as a whole is evident as our conversation continues.

“Music is super mystical – the way it’s able to control people, change people’s perceptions, change how you feel with no actual action. It’s magic.”

She’s one of those artists who makes music because music has had a profound effect on her life, a kind of intensity that lays the framework for everything she does – her music, discovering other local bands through Babe City and even her live performances.

“Performing is my favorite thing, aside from creating. I want to play the most energetic songs. I want to play the most dancy songs. I want to play songs that are chill but that I can translate into being energetic.”

One of Den-Mate’s biggest strengths is the band’s ability to take what’s on record to an otherworldly and raucous live performance.

“There are a few different dimensions of Den-Mate and I think that if people like the music, they should go to the show because you’re going to get a whole other sense of it. Sometimes people listen to a song and think, ‘Oh this is super chill! I’m going to put this on my bedtime playlist.’ And then they get to the show and they’re like, ‘Holy shit, who is this person?’”

Every aspect of Den-Mate is a well-thought-out form of creative expression. Imagery and visuals play an important part too, as Hale tells us her sights are set on eventually creating a visual album to further explore those outlets. But for now, Hale and her bandmates are gearing up for a tour to support Loceke this month. Hale says she’s lucky to be surrounded by and contributing to the strength of the creative world in the District, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I feel like sometimes the odds are stacked against us in DC, but we’re able to use that to our advantage. People don’t think a lot of things are happening here, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. DC is flourishing with artistic creatives and I think that’s what sets us apart. In DC, people think of the city as being political or monotone, but some of my favorite artists are right here. I think that’s our secret weapon. It’s so hidden.”

What’s not hidden, though, is that Hale’s future is filled with opportunity to shine light on her talent and those of her peers in the District. The release of Loceke and tour dates across the country will surely bring with it more fans and growth beyond what Hale has already accomplished. No matter where that talent takes her, DC will continue to welcome the artist back home with open arms just as before.

Den-Mate will embark on a tour beginning with a stop at Baltimore’s Metro Gallery on Wednesday, November 7. Doors are at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10. Check the band’s social media for updates on local shows. For more on Jules Hale and Den-Mate, follow @imdenmate on Instagram and Twitter. For more on Babe City Records, visit www.babecityrecords.com.

Metro Gallery: 1700 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD; 410-244-0899; www.themetrogallery.net

den-mate.4