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A Look Back at Some Highlights of DC Beer Week 2014

DC Beer Week 2014 is over, and we're finally recovered. Thanks to the DCBW Planning Committee for bringing us a great week of events, flagships, and educational opportunites. Below check out some recaps/thoughts on events we were able to cover during the week! Have feedback about DC Beer Week 2014? Let us know via Twitter or in the comments below!

Sunday, August 17

Homebrew Demo at Smith Public Trust
Chris Van Orden

So many people turned out to learn how to brew that Smith Public Trust's back patio was filled to capacity.  While members of DC Homebrewers and HOPS DC led the crowd through a basic extract recipe – using ingredients generously donated by the DC Homebrew Shop – attendees put back pints of the DCBW Solidarity beer and 3 Stars Peppercorn Saison.  The event was so popular that another class, perhaps a Homebrew 201, can’t be far off.

Brewery Ommegang and Boulevard DCBW Kick-Off Odyssey Cruise
Josh "JP" Perry
 
Billed as the Brewery Ommegang and Boulevard DCBW Kick-Off Odyssey Cruise for the start of  DC Beer Week 2014, this flagship event has always been a personal favorite. A time when various brewers, representatives, and assorted industry folks gather on the deck with DC's finest malt libations and crack "I'm on a boat" jokes while getting to see a rare view of the District and outlying areas. There is good food, plenty of beer, and the occasional break dancing competition and raiding of the Cantina Marina. While this is normally a great time to catch up with folks you see on the other side of the bar or shoveling grain, this year was remarkably different. The years past of a decently sold-out excursion was replaced with 100 tickets sold and elevator music overshadowing an empty dance floor.

The cruise, if you ask anyone involved in DCBW, has been a challenge from the start and one of the week's most anticipated events. This year, the Odyssey Cruise line was in charge of selling and promoting the tickets, while Duvel provided the beer. In the event description, no beers were indicated and no other details were provided other than times, address, and sponsors. In talking with other passengers, most were out for a dinner cruise and discovered the option of craft beer. Few folks came for just the DCBW event and out of those, many were involved in the planning of the week.

At this point, a reader might believe this is a negative post of an event that did not get much traction or that I'm insinuating that success is defined by attendance. I would refute that and go on to say that the event was executed superbly. Once we boarded the vessel, two of the newest Boulevard releases were offered; Entwined, formally Grape Nelson Test Saison, that was first debuted last year at the Homebrewers BBQ and the Hibiscus Gose. Two fine examples of quintessential summer beers! While both were sessionable, Entwined was quite fruity with a tang of white wine and the gose was perfectly balanced while allowing the hibiscus to give it the acid and bitter profile with outbeing overwhelming. Next was the 2014 Saison-Brett station, that may have left people with cut gums a la Barney Gumble as it kicked. It's still a top five saison.

The other standouts were the Ommegang Glimmerglass, a wonderful pear- and citrus-nuanced saison and the Fleur De Houblon, a Belgian-style ale with a pleasant earthy hop palate, floral aroma, and a bit of spice on the finish. Rounding out the evening was the 12% ABV Boulevard Smokestack Rye on Rye. Warm, mellow, and spicy sweetness of the Templeton barrels, this was the way to end the night.

From a beer and community standpoint, this was a success, and the offerings showed those not accustomed to craft beer that these beers are not all hop bombs. The response from the crowd was overwhelmingly positive and many could not believe that "this was beer." I applaud Duvel and Boulevard for showing that their recent merger was a positive move for the community. With that said, there's a bit of disappointment that the "kickoff" event did not have a rep from every brewery participating in DCBW on-board and that other events were going on at this time detracting from the event. There are logistic and financial challenges associated with the cruise, and those are calculated in this review. One hope is that next year's kickoff will be the cruise with full attendance and backing of the participants, or another event that will have that support. Overall though, for this year, a nice time was had and new wonderful beers were consumed.

Monday, August 18
 
Industry Draft Quality Training at Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Chris Van Orden

Before running to their own DCBW events, about two dozen beer industry types devoted a few afternoon hours to a draft quality training at Jack RoseNahem Simon kicked things off with a hands-on tour of draft line systems: guests inspected the different types of couplers, broke down faucets, and learned easy ways to remedy the most common draft issues.  Ryan Curley of Premium Distributors then led an off-flavor tasting, a valuable experience for people selling beers all day.  Everyone was happy to end the training with a clean beer. 

Public Off-Flavor Tasting at City Tap House
Chris Van Orden

After a clean pint or two, thirty some odd students moved from the City Tap House bar to a private room to hear Kysela’s Tim Prendergast talk about off-flavors in beer. The lively discussion ranged from ways brewers can ensure DMS reabsorption to the varied scents of putrefaction in infected beer.  After nearly two hours of pinpointing just how and why a handful of spiked samples were so awful, the audience (including several DCBeer writers) appreciated the ensuing untainted bottles all the more.

The Craft of Comedy at The Big Hunt
Bill DeBaun

For the second beer week in a row (the first being this year's SAVOR), The Big Hunt put together a stand-up comedy event with the help of some brewery friends. This event featured Ommegang, Flying Dog, Lagunitas, and Atlas Brew Works. It's a nice respite, something out of the ordinary for a typical beer event. Tasty beers, good people, and fun and games from the comedians. If you haven't checked out the Big Hunt's open mic nights for stand-up, be sure to give those a go.

Tuesday, August 19

Sam Adams 30 Years for 30 Beers
Bill DeBaun

Sam Adams is a flag bearer in the craft beer industry. No news there. For a long time, they were the most ubiquitous craft offering in DC before we got the proliferation we have now. This birthday party of sorts enlisted 30 different area restaurants to each pair a dish with a different beer from the Sam Adams lineup. As a judge who was charged with trying to sort out the best pairings, I have to say I would have been just as happy if the Boston Beer Company was turning 15. 30 dishes and beers is just too many, especially when many of them are sliders. With that said, some dishes really did stand out: Granville Moore's beef and blue cheese tartare with Hazelnut Brown Ale, Art and Soul's pig head, chorizo, and bacon empanada with Double Agent IPL, and Pearl Dive's smoked oyster chowder with The Sphinx were standouts, but ultimately Bar Pilar's very worthy pairing of smoked lamb belly with bone marrow apple butter, Thai chili apple relish, lamb molases glace, and crispy shallots paired with Stony Brook Red walked away with first place. A delicious birthday indeed.

Thursday, August 21

Solidarity Session IPA Tasting at Gordon Biersch
Emily Snoek

DCBeer, Scion, and Crios present the 2nd Annual Blind and Bitter
Bill DeBaun

Friday, August 22

2nd Annual Old Ebbitt BrewHaHa
Mike Stein

Friday night’s event at the Old Ebbitt BrewHaHa was a smash hit. While last year’s event took place on Saturday, the electricity was still palpable in the atrium. Many of DC, Maryland, and Virginia's best chefs and innovative, highly decorated brewers were in attendance or working the event. Nine area breweries, many with GABF hardware and pristine pedigrees, paired themselves with area restaurants. As we made our way inside the atrium, we began our evening with an easy going pairing of Devils Backbone Striped Bass pale, and their Schwarz Bier. From there it was on to the Full Tilt Berger Cookie Chocolate Stout, which came highly recommended by DC Brau President and Head Brewer Jeff Hancock. Lastly, we got to enjoy what one of the last kegs of Home Rule, Atlas Brew Works' India Pale Lager. Head Brewer Will Durgin, indulged in a conversation on American hops and saisons. Honorable mention goes to Heritage Brewing's Scotch Ale, a lovely take on the style. Overall, the crowd favorites were DC Brau's Solidarity Session IPA, Full Tilt's Berger Cookie Chocolate Stout, and 3 Stars Pandemic Porter.

Sunday, August 24

Suburbia Brewers on the Block at Union Market
Jake Berg

Suburbia: A celebratory end to DC Beer Week, Suburbia featured local brewers pouring their wares next to the farmers market outside Union Market on an unseasonably gorgeous summer day. The atmosphere was jovial and relaxed, brewers and aficionados chatted, sampled, and poured each other's beer. People wandered in and out of shops and restaurants, searching for the perfect pairing, or opted for one of Red Apron's hot dogs. Local favorites included Mad Fox's Orange Whip Citra IPA, Flying Dog's Old Bay beer Dead Rise, and the Beer Week collaboration Solidarity Session IPA, among others. 

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