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The Beerbag – May 19, 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.

Aside from DCBeer.com, what websites (and writers) would recommend for DMV beer coverage / profiles / event listings? It's hard to keep track of everything out there.

Fritz Hahn (@fritzhahn) has been killing it over at The Washington Post. Read his articles and tweets, join his Thursday chats….

Shameless plug: DCBeer.com relies on your submissions to our calendar. Tell your local publican/brewery/whatever to submit events. The more we can consolidate here, the easier for you. – Jake

Agreed, WaPo’s Going Out Guide does a nice job of highlighting big events, but it isn’t comprehensive. The Washington City Paper doesn’t maintain a beer calendar anymore, so ours is almost certainly the most comprehensive at any given time. (Prove me wrong, other bloggers.)

I’d also add in Liz Murphy of Naptown Pint, who operates out of Annapolis but has great insights on the area beer scene. Tom Cizauskas said he was getting out of the blogging game, but has been going strong as ever, which is great to see. Wealth of knowledge and a longtime standard bearer for beer writing in this area. Barred in DC also does some great coverage, especially on ABRA-type things, openings, happy hours, etc. Finally, I’d also suggest checking out Cheers VA!, which has closed down its site, but is still going strong on Twitter. – Bill

Why are pale ales so dominant right now? (Or is that begging the question?) I don't like them!

I’d say that hops are having a moment, but this moment has lasted five-plus years now. Luckily there are so many styles out there, as breweries try to differentiate themselves from the competition. You can easily avoid the hoppier beers if you’d like. Locally that includes Port City’s Wit and Porter, Atlas’ Common, Brau’s Citizen and El Hefe, any number of Right Proper beers, and 3 Stars Raspberry Dissonance, to name a few. – Jake

Pale ales have a lot of things going on for them: balance, approachability, familiarity, not totally resource-intensive. They’re workhorses for a brewery. Consumers can put down 3-4 of them. And, as Jake mentions, they have hops, which are always going to sell. I don’t actually think traditional APAs are doing super well, to be honest. Today’s APAs (e.g., Union Duckpin, Right Proper Raised by Wolves) would’ve been firmly in the IPA category a few years ago. There’s some style creep here, and it’s creeping toward more hops. – Bill

Do you want to come to Austria and try all the beers?

Um. Sure? Are you paying for us? Do you have a rich benefactor? Will this be a junket that we can dutifully disclose on our blog so we don't get roped into a pages long discussion on Beer Twitter? – Bill

Who has a better beer culture, DC or Baltimore?

This is a trollish question I’d like to squash real quick: it’s Baltimore. Easily. Here’s why.

  1. The “craft” brewing tradition in DC extends back all of five years (happy anniversary, DC Brau!). (With no disrespect to the Heurichs, who last made beer in DC in the 1950s.) Baltimore’s allegiance to their local contract brew, Natty Boh, goes back far longer, while Heavy Seas has been running the cask ale game in the mid-Atlantic since the 1990s. There is an actual neighborhood in Baltimore named Brewers Hill. For every Brau and Atlas they can match with a Union and a Full Tilt. While Max’s can’t compete on food with ChurchKey, it, too, is a great beer bar.
  2. Baltimore has, or had, industry: people made things there, including beer. DC is known for making, or not making as it were, laws. I hope that’s changing, but it is what it is.
  3. The costs of doing business are much lower in Baltimore in terms of rent and the lack of ANCs, DCRA, ABRA,… which results in a cheaper pintS in bars and restaurants compared to DC. It’s easier to make and drink beer in Baltimore.
  4. This really isn’t a competition. Brau and Union have collaborated. So have 3 Stars and Oliver Ale. It’s great being a 50-minute MARC train ride from Baltimore. Make a day of it.

Culture isn’t made overnight. DC’s on its way, but the answer to this question was, is, and will be, for the foreseeable future, Baltimore. – Jake

I would love to argue with Jake here, but I really can’t. Baltimore has DC beat right now, although both cities are certainly formidable compared to places like New York City, which is just now probably discovering that there is a difference between ale and lager yeasts. Baltimore has Max’s, The Brewer’s Art, Alewife, Of Love and Regret, Pratt Street, etc. DC has the Pints, The Black Squirrel, Jack Rose, Sovereign, etc. Great options in both cities. But in terms of where I’d rather drink on a given day? The answer is Baltimore. Drinking in Baltimore is like being at your friend’s laidback, very comfortable, unpretentious, affordable house.

One distinguishing piece that Jake didn’t mention is the beer week. Baltimore’s has DC beat for the moment in terms of scale and organization, although pound for pound I think I would put DC Beer Week’s best events up against Baltimore’s.

“If we love it so much, why don’t we just fucking move there?” you ask. Joke’s on you, maybe we will. – Bill

Let's say you were a free agent to cover any US city aside from DC. Which city would you choose and why?

Given all the good stuff going on just south of us, one could certainly make a case for Richmond or Charlottesville, but I’ll go with Portland, Maine. You’ve got one of the best breweries anywhere in Allagash. You’ve got the underrated Rising Tide and Liquid Riot, the properly-rated Oxbow, up-and-comers like Bissel and Foundation that refuse to make bright beer, and at least a dozen more I haven’t mentioned. There’s a burgeoning farm-to-table scene that’s robust enough to supply Allagash with all the ingredients for a year-round beer in Sixteen Counties, including a local maltster, and the food scene is excellent, too. And all this is served in good beer bars like Novare Res and Pai Men Miyaki’s counter. Bonus points for being a very walkable city. – Jake

With the caveat that I’ve yet to actually go there, I’ll go ahead and say Detroit. Certainly I’ve missed the leading edge of the renaissance taking place there, but I know there is a lot going on to appreciate, especially in the brewing scene (with Atwater and Kuhnhenn just to name two). Cheap real estate and a chance to help build out a beer scene and gain it some notoriety and attention through coverage/a blog would be two key reasons. The increasing number of innovative restaurateurs and bartenders certainly wouldn’t hurt. Plus it puts me within easy distance of a whole bevy of cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Kansas City. – Bill

What is the fastest land mammal? How many hit points does an Orc have?

At short distances, a cheetah. If an Orc has more than 10 hit points you need a new dungeon master. – Jake

The fastest land mammal is the average beer geek within hearing distance of a KBS Rare tap about to kick. For your orc-related questions, please consult the following. – Bill

When will/why doesn't DC have a brewery that gets the props you see elsewhere (i.e. Trillium, Tired Hands, Holy Mtn, etc.)?

Aslin Beer Company in Herndon and Ocelot Brewing Company near Dulles both already have quite solid reputations among the BeerAdvocate lurker set (and beyond, in Ocelot’s case). Aslin is making beer on a very small scale in a style that’s very popular among the whale hunters (very hazy, slurry-looking, juicy IPA). That scarcity is certainly driving up their popularity (as is the purported tastiness of their beer, I haven’t had it) and I hear they’ll be expanding soon. Ocelot is operating on a larger scale and also producing big, bruising malty beers and sour styles in addition to exceedingly hoppy brews. They brew their beers as one-offs, which means there’s always something new, which also drives interest and demand.

With no disrespect intended to either of the aforementioned, here’s my question for you in turn: did you know that Port City already has eight GABF medals? Anyone can get their hands on Port City. It’s exceedingly high quality and egalitarian. I don’t have much interest in the “you can’t have it, so I think it’s good” model of beer distribution, personally. I think they should be getting more “props” than they do, yet they’re often curiously absent on a number of the tap lists of the area’s top beer bars. Bewildering.

Bluejacket and Right Proper have both received a fair bit of attention from trade magazines (and beyond) for their innovative styles as well. Expect the same to happen for 3 Stars when the beers currently fermenting in the Funkerdome eventually see the light of day. DC Brau’s expansion continues to put their award-winning beers in as many fridges as can hold them. Lost Rhino is killing the lager game in a way that is totally undervalued. The other area production breweries are certainly no slouches either.

I’m not losing sleep about our area not having a prominent place to which people are driving for hours and at which they can wait hours in line to get a few growlers. You shouldn’t be either. – Bill

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