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The Beerbag – March 30, 2016

In the spirit of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, and being fans of Drew Magary’s weekly Deadspin mailbag, “The Funbag,” Jake and I thought we would take a shot at a DCBeer mailbag. Every week or two, we’ll answer your questions, beer-related or otherwise, to the best of our ability. Have a question? Email us at editor@dcbeer.com and you could see your question here or maybe even on our podcast when it returns from its long hiatus.

Here we go!

@bobby2700: under the radar beer bars in area. Something like galaxy hut. Places that get good stuff without much fanfare/maybe cost

We could write a whole post about this (and likely will). It depends on the neighborhood we’re talking about, but staying within the District, here a few that fly under the radar.

  • Jack Rose Dining Saloon: Jack Rose is obviously well-known for whiskey and cocktails, but Nahem Simon maintains an excellent beer program over there that doesn’t always get the love that it should. (They’ve often got collabs with breweries to whom they’ve lent spirits barrels.)
  • The Blaguard: Right next door to JRDS is The Blaguard, “a spirited chipper.” It may not look all that different from a typical pub, but they move a lot of beer and so are often on allocations for rarer offerings. Worth checking in to see if they’ve put something like Hopslam on for $6 a pint.
  • Comet Ping Pong: Way up on Connecticut Avenue is a bar/restaurant that I always forget that I like, until I get up there. Great food, live music, and a small but rotating tap selection (and a good selection of bottles).
  • Glen’s Garden Market/Whole Foods P Street: The idea of drinking beer in a grocery store may not satisfy the “beer bar” part of this question, but in terms of getting fresh, rotating beer in at affordable prices, these two can’t be beat. Glen’s has $4 beers, all the time, and the beers are all local, so they keep everything quite fresh. Whole Foods’ bar is small, and the selections are smaller (just four taps), but there’s usually something interesting on in the $4-5 for 10oz or more range.
  • Iron Gate: This satisfies the “get good stuff” part and the “without much fanfare” part, but not the “without cost” part. Dupont fine dining spot Iron Gate (part of the NRG network) has five rotating drafts, usually with Italian or other continental offerings/collabs. The bottle list is also pretty big and heavily laden with larger format bottles. Doesn’t have the “beer bar” atmosphere, but the bar area is separate from the restaurant, so it’s got that going for it.

@innerloop: Are there some beers that stay fresh longer than others? Which ones?

Some beers are definitely better consumed fresh than others. The rule of thumb I most often see is 90 days from bottling date for most IPAs. Lagers in the same window. Pretty much anything hop-forward, you’re going to want to drink as closely as possible to the bottling date (though, don’t believe the hype on Twitter, those who eschew drinking anything older than a month are taking it a little too far). Beers that rely more on hops for balance/bittering than for being hop-forward (witbiers, classic saisons, porters, brown ales) are good within a six month window, if need be. Higher gravity beers (old ales, barleywines, American strong ales) are meant to be put away, and drinking them “fresh” might actually result in a beer that’s got more alcohol “heat” than if it’s laid down for a few years.

Two related notes:

  1. Breweries should absolutely be putting date codes on their packaged offerings. Any brewery that doesn’t is really fucking up and doing themselves and consumers a big disservice.
  2. To keep that beer tasting fresh longer, keep it out of the sun, ideally in the refrigerator (or in an otherwise cool, dark place).

@jeffleedc: how will the AB marketing deal at Nats Park affect the craft beer selection?

The AB deal won’t affect the locals, and in fact District Drafts is adding Old Ox and Heritage to their line-up. Where we’ll really see the difference is in what was the Red Porch and is now the Budweiser Taphouse, which used to have Dogfish, Flying Dog, Ommegang, Heavy Seas…. You get the idea. Hopefully we’ll see Goose Island in the Taphouse; it’s probably wishful thinking to see AB-distributed craft beers like Victory, Troeg’s, and Devils Backbone, but a boy can dream. See more in The Washington Post’s article from yesterday (our emails on this topic went unanswered, which is a bummer. We love you, Washington Nationals, why do you spurn us so?).

@ArlVABeerGuy: How about predictions of new breweries coming into the market in 2016?

When you say “new breweries coming into the market,” I’ll assume you mean established breweries from elsewhere entering the DC distribution market, not brand new breweries coming on-line in the DC area (which is a different topic we’ll be posting about soon).

The easy one to predict is Asheville’s Wicked Weed. On the industry side it’s an open secret that they’ll be in DC sooner rather than later. With a production facility that has them aiming to produce 50,000 BBLs a year, they’ll have enough volume to make it out of North Carolina and into the DC Distribution Thunderdome.

Cigar City is another brewery I suspect we’ll see soon enough, and with nine months left in 2016, I’ll go ahead and say it could happen this year. With a new infusion of private equity cash, and an existing relationship with Brown Distributing in Richmond, it isn’t too much further to come up 95 and enter the DC market. Cigar City is already sporadically available in NoVa (Jai Alai IPA, Maduro Brown, Weisse, and Helles six-packs are out there), but we’ll see it with more regularity and perhaps large format bottles.

I’ll round this out by saying that I think you’ll start seeing more Jester King and Tired Hands in the market. They started dipping their toes in through connections at NRG, but Jester King has been spotted at other craft-forward venues like The Black Squirrel. Now that Tired Hands is canning, I fully expect to see them here soon.

@phillytapfinder: why do w coast breweries build breweries on e coast & not vice versa? Gotta be a good explanation.

I have two theories here. One, the west coast of the United States is running out of water. Thanks, global warming! As such, it would be foolish to invest in a brewery, or anything water-intensive, in the Pacific time zone when the future of the Sierra snowpack is in doubt and El Niño fluctuates. As Manor Hill brewmaster Ben Little told us on Twitter, “water supply and waste water restrictions.  Lowers cost of biz AND no caps on water use in general.”

Second, I have heard that it’s often easier, and cheaper, to ship from the east coast to the west coast than the opposite, but of course I have no source for this. There’s also the matter of it being cheaper to ship to European markets (which are thirsty for American craft) from the east coast. Anyone want to chime in in the comments?

Finally, the right coast is the right coast, and don’t you forget it.

@ajs0889: A business spotlight would be fascinating. (Ops/balance sheets, not acquisitions.) For instance, profits on-site vs retail vs bar.

This is a good question that we’ll have to track down some more information on. That might take a while. For now, to satisfy your beer business curiosity, we hope this will be a nice amuse bouche. From our friends at American Craft Beer, “What Breweries Are Buying.

@jonbmetz: visiting San Diego ATM. Why does all IPA taste like a competition for who can make the most citrusy beer devoid of any other flavor? IPAs have become the norm, but they are all tasting exactly the same. It's become the most uncreative style.

Asking why so many IPAs taste ultra-citrusy is kind of like asking why people rob banks (it’s where the money is).  It has become a competition because that’s what people are buying. The market dictates what breweries, broadly, produce, and with IPAs that taste like this flying off the shelf, where’s the economic incentive to go against the grain? Beyond that, so many hop varietals are citrus-forward that it’s kind of hard to get away from it. There are the southern hemisphere hops and varietals like Citra that get away from citrus notes, but for the most part Centennial, Cascade, Citrus, and Amarillo remain incredibly popular. – Bill

I’m going to take a different track to answer this question, focusing not just on hop varieties, but on brewing techniques. A trend in IPAs is to lessen the amount of hops in the boil, which would add bitterness, and instead use the hops Bill mentions at the end of, or after, the boil. That is, hop-bursting and dry-hopping, which impart aroma instead of bitterness. This results in beer that is citrusy, juicy, and floral, but not at all bitter. So-called New England IPAs use hop-bursting to create beers that taste, and often look, like orange juice. A great many session IPAs also use these techniques.

If you’re sick of these kinds of beer, please do pick up a fresh sixer of Evolution’s Lot Six, Union’s Double Duckpin, Heavy Sea’s Loose Cannon, or DC Brau’s The Corruption. – Jake

Anonymous: What do you think about SAVOR ticket sales seeming to be slow this year?

We saw this last year, too, with a few tickets available for a week or two after sales opened up. It’s possible that familiarity breeds a bit of fatigue, but we’re also confident that SAVOR will sell out. Looking at the brewery line-up this year, it’s relatively “whale-free,” which makes for a more interesting weekend, but the lack of an obvious “gotta have it” brewery (previous SAVOR’s have brought Surly and 3 Floyds to the event, for example) to draw people in may play a role. We’re confident once we start posting our glorious SAVOR profiles, those remaining tickets will get snapped up.

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