This week is beer week here in Washington DC. Although it certainly isn’t surprising to have a week dedicated to beer in a
major city, I would like to think that DC has been improving by leaps and bounds when it comes to craft beer in the past few years. It wasn’t long ago that Port City, the first craft brewer outside the city limits, opened up. Then, not long after that, the first brewery inside the DC limits opened as well: DC Brau. There are now multiple brewers you can find both inside and outside of the city limits. Chocolate City has been slowly building steam, Lost Rhino can be found not too far into VA, and both 3 Stars and Bluejacket premiered this week. With quite a few different pretty good beer bars in the city now, I think it’s safe to say DC is becoming a beer destination. Maybe we aren’t a Portland, Oregon, but we are doing alright for ourselves over here.
Of course I had to hit up an event or two for DC Beer Week. How could I stay home when this is the very topic I love to discuss? The unfortunate part to all of this is trying to fit these events in with a busy schedule. I started back to school this week, so I have some responsibilities arising again. Additionally, I’m at my own restaurant three times a week, so I can’t skip work to try the rare and special brews offered at more beer-centric establishments. Finally, we are also buying a house, so we had to do some house hunting and paperwork for an offer as well. It’s quite possibly the worst week for it to be beer week for me. Thankfully, I did manage to get over to Smith Commons Wednesday night to enjoy a few beers from some breweries that are a little harder to find in our area.
Smith Commons isn’t necessarily my number one choice when it comes to seeking out craft beer in the district. Don’t get me wrong, they have a great space on H Street. It’s clean, good-looking, and slightly expensive. Yeah you picked up on that last note right? Anyway, like in years past, they broke up their week into areas of the country for their tastings. Wednesday night they tapped some beers from the West Coast. There are many different breweries from the West Coast I would have loved to see there, but the three-tiered distribution problem must prevent them from getting Russian River stuff. While a little disappointed that a few breweries weren’t represented, I was quite pleased to see a few that are just slightly more infrequent. The breweries they were featuring on this particular night were Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Stone Brewing Co., Epic Brewing Company, Black Diamond Brewing Company, Anchor Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Maui Brewing Co., Anderson Valley Brewing Company, and The Bruery. It’s quite a lot of different options, and I actually enjoy all of these. Getting over there around 8 pm, I quickly got to the bar to examine the options I had from each of these breweries.
This was the first of a few little let downs. During beer week, I’m hopeful to find beers I can’t normally find. This however seemed to be an opportunity for many of those who have yet to delve into the craft beer scene to try some of the most prominent products from these companies. For instance, I would have liked to see Stone 16 year Anniversary IPA on tap. Instead my choices were Arrogant Bastard ale and Ruination. They are both great beers, but I’ve had them many times before. This was pretty much the case for most of these, and although I can blame some of it on having a little more experience than your typical DC resident, I went there really excited that there would be something there I hadn’t had before. The other disappointment was that there wasn’t actually anything from The Bruery there. I have had one or two things from them, but they are a company I simply haven’t fully explored as of yet.
I managed to pull together two beers to taste. The first beer I tackled was Black Diamond’s Brandy Barrel Grand Cru. I’ve had one beer out of Black Diamond before, Peak XV, and I remember not being overly impressed with the offering. However, after viewing the fairly disappointing list, this one stood out as sounding somewhat unique. I wouldn’t say it was perfect for a warm summer night, but it was certainly a good beer. I’ve had many different beers that have been aged in many different devices, but I don’t think I’ve ever had this particular combo before. It was certainly a Belgian beer, but the brandy barrels added a lot of taste and booze. My wife complained she could smell it across the table. The second, and last, beer I went with was Maui Brewing Co’s Coconut Porter. This is a beer that I can certainly get in the area, but I’ve delayed quite a bit in picking it up, so I was happy to get a chance to give it a try. I really enjoyed the use of coconut in this brew. I’m a very big coconut fan, but it was once again a little heavy for a night on the pack porch in August.
There were a few other bottles I would have picked up, but I was ready to head home at this point. I thought about grabbing one of the ones I’d had before ( Lagunitas – Lil Sumpin Wild, Sierra Nevada – Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada – Hoptimum, or Firestone-Walker -15th Anniversary), but I was done for the night. It was a great line up of beers, but I was a little upset I couldn’t find more I had never had before. At $5 a draught, it was certainly a good deal, but I may have to head back down tonight for Northeast night or tomorrow for Mid-Atlantic Brewers. Either way, I would like to get to one more event before I have to wait till next year.