For the third year, we've taken it upon ourselves to sort out the massive list of beers at Snallygaster and power rank them! Snallygaster, the seven annual beer festival brought to you by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, is one of the best beer festivals in the United States and one of the crown jewels of our beer scene.
Your DCBeer editors (and some knowledgeable local folks) have sorted through the list and ranked them. Per usual, the standard is "what we've done here is think about what our predilections would be on the day of. Which beers would we be most likely to shell out tickets for? This takes into consideration a great number of things: the esteem in which we hold a brewery, our relative style preferences, our understanding of a given beer's reputation, ABV, cost, availability (we're not, by and large, going to Snallygaster to drink things we can typically get). In some cases, but not all, we've consulted rating sites like Untappd, Beer Advocate, and RateBeer [and we thank each of these sites for being great resources]. In some cases we've consulted the breweries' websites. What we've cobbled together is a rough approximation of our relative preference for the beers that will be available." Note that not all of us have had all of these beers. We make no claim to that effect (it would be extraordinary if we had). Instead, we're using the factors above and our preferences to make our own lists.
How did we go about doing this? There were two rounds of rankings. Each beer was ranked 1 to 4 according to each scorer's personal preference and predilection for ordering. We then produced a Round 1 average across all scorers, rounded that score to the nearest integer, and ranked beers again within each bucket for Round 2, 1-4. So each of the 4's from Round 1 was ranked 1-4 compared to the other 4's, then the same with 3's, 2's, 1's. We then averaged each beer's Round 2 scores and sorted descending by Round 1 and then Round 2 scores.
Because of rounding, the absolute position of a beer is probably less meaningful than its relative position in the list, so keep that in mind.
Big thanks to some folks whose expertise we relied on this year, three of whom are back for the second year running: Donnie Hatcher, Bruce Webster, and DC beer writer extraordinaire Phil Runco. Laura Lopez, marketing expert for Port City and local beer fan lent us her expertise this year for the first time. Your DCBeer team included yours truly and Jake Berg. It's a heavy lift to do the power rankings, but it's a labor of love for all of you. Obviously this is not scientific, so don't come beating down our Twitter accounts for not putting your favorite IPA at #57 instead of #55. Make your own power rankings. Want to chat rationally about what you think we got wrong or under- or overranked? Let us know on Twitter at @DCBeer! We'd love to hear from you.
A few last things before we finally get to it:
1. We've tried to be sensitive to last minute changes to the beer list, but exceptions and mistakes will occur. If there's something on here that doesn't make it to Snally, remember that it's just beer, there are at least 390 other options. We've listed all the beers at Snally we know don't appear in the rankings at the end of this post.
2. No hard feelings, breweries. It's not that we don't like you or your beers (generally, at least), this is the nature of power rankings.
3. Where you see commentary with multiple voices, you're looking at the internal discussion around that beer. In some cases commentary is tagged, in some cases, it's not. In any case it's some insight into our feelings on the beer. Enjoy!
4. There's a lot of snark in here, but the list at Snallygaster really is an embarassment of beer riches that we shouldn't take for granted. Kudos to Greg, Tim, and the NRG team for putting this together.
5. Want to join in the fun? Tickets are still available.
All that said, awaaaaaaaay we go! Have fun and be safe at Snally! Want to view this in Google Docs? You should, because our website frame makes this a horrible viewing experience!
Here's our Top 25:
- Jester King – 2017 SPON: Three Year Blend – Oak BA Wild Ale (Spontaneous) – Texas – 5.6%
Description: 2017 SPON — Three Year Blend is a blend of three different vintages — 2014, 2015 and 2016 — of 100% spontaneously fermented beer (CraftBeer.com)
Our Take: This was the only beer to average a "must-drink" across all of our reviewers. You know what to do. (BD)
- Jester King – Atrial Rubicite: Blend 8 – Oak BA Sour Ale (w/ Raspberries) – Texas – 5.5%
Description: Atrial Rubicite is our barrel-aged sour beer refermented with raspberries. For our 2018 blend, we racked 22 oak barrels of mature beer (about 1,320 gallons) onto 5,760 pounds of raspberries (4.4 pounds per gallon) in early April. After about six weeks of fruit refermentation, we packaged the beer and allowed it to naturally referment in bottles and kegs.
- Hill Farmstead – Convivial Suaréz – Saison (Mixed Culture; w/ Hibiscus & Lemon) – Vermont – 6.0%
Our Take: This will be gone very quickly. The two breweries collaborating on it are too hypey for it not to. (BD)
- Maine – Son of Sapping Mammoth – IPA – Maine – 6.5%
Description: The friendship between Half Acre and Maine Beer Company and the good times we've shared have become as legendary as the Sapping Mammoth featured in our first collaboration. Expanding on this partnership, we felt it was time for the story to continue with the Son of Sapping Mammoth. For this beer we brewed an IPA featuring Midwest-grown grain as a tribute to our Chicago friends. We hope you enjoy! (Untappd)
Our Take: Maine Beer Company does good, clean IPAs better than anybody. They have four here, but this is one you won't normally see so get after it. (BD)
- Perennial – La Cosecha – Oak BA Saison (w/ Peaches; Mixed Culture) – Missouri – 6.2%
Description: We invited our good friend Ron Jeffries from Jolly Pumpkin down to brew a beer with us that encompasses the Missouri Peach harvest. Brewed with Vienna malt, unmalted wheat and flaked oats, this beer went through primary fermentation in stainless steel with a classic Belgian yeast strain. It was then racked into French Oak barrels with a house blend of bacteria and yeast and aged for 9 months. We then racked the mature beer onto 1500 pounds of fresh Missouri Peaches where it rested for 3 additional months, and finally was conditioned naturally in this bottle.
- The Lost Abbey – Citrus Sin – Oak BA Sour Ale (w/ Blood Oranges) – California – 6.0%
Description: Beginning with a base wild ale that evolved in Oak Foeders for over a year, Citrus Sin was then transferred to freshly-emptied wine barrels where it matured for six more months. The barrel-aged brew was then combined with a fresh golden ale, with an amazing amount of Blood Oranges added to the blend. (Brewbound)
- Suarez Family – Saunter – Mild Ale – New York – 4.5%
- Monkish – Swap Meets – Hazy Double IPA – California – 8.3%
Description: Double IPA brewed with Nelson, Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy hops (BeerAdvocate)
Our Take: Pretty excited to finally try something from Monkish. Does this make me a hypelord or a hazebro or both? (BD)
- Toppling Goliath – King Sue – Hazy Double IPA – Iowa – 7.8%
Description: This lusciously hazy double IPA gains its hints of mango, orange, and pineapple from the use of the delicious Citra hop.
- Jester King – Aurastone – White Wine BA Sour Ale (w/ Peaches, Apricots, Lime Leaf & Salt) – Texas – 4.9%
Description: a beer brewed with a heavy amount of oats and spelt, refermented with peaches and apricots from 2016 分 桃 (Fēn Táo) and Aurelian Lure, aged in chardonnay and sauvignon blanc barrels for 18 months, and finished with powdered lime leaf and pink sea salt!
- Foam – …Like Clockwork – Hazy Double IPA – Vermont – 8.2%
- The Rare Barrel –Mellifluent – Oak BA Sour Ale (w/ Strawberries, Peaches & Mango) – California – 6.6%
- Hill Farmstead – Brother Soigné – Saison (Mixed Culture; w/ Hibiscus & Blood Orange) – Vermont – 5.0%
Description: A tart, refreshing ale brewed with our dear friend Luc Bim Lafontaine, formerly of Dieu du Ciel! Lime, hibiscus and blood orange in a mixed fermentation.
- Casey – Saison – Oak BA Saison (Mixed Fermentation) – Colorado – 5.5%
Description: Farmhouse ale fermented and aged in neutral oak wine barrels for 3-5 months.
- Allagash – Saison Gratis – Dry-Hopped Saison (Coolship) – Maine – 7.2%
Description: This saison-style ale is set apart by the fact that we added hops—Calista, Grundgeist, and Strisselspalt—while it rested in our coolship and then open fermented it with saison yeast. Esters hinting at everything from orange, to pineapple, to clove spring from this beer’s nose. Its flavor spreads across the palate with the slightest hint of citrus and finishes with a balance of fruit, hops, and a dry mouthfeel.
Our Take: It's an Allagash coolship beer. This is basically fry-shut-up-and-take-my-money.gif. There's no one doing spontaneous fermentation in a more delicate, interesting, downright beautiful way than Allagash. (BD)
- Great Raft Brewing – Farmhouse Slang: Batch 003 – Dry-Hopped Saison (w/ Brettanomyces) – Louisiana – 7.0%
Description: Farmhouse Slang is the mainstay mixed fermentation saison in our Belgian program. Similar to Oceans Between Us and You, Me and Everyone We Know, this beer will get a different treatment with each release. The whole idea with our Belgian program is to allow for flexibility and creativity without the restriction and consistency requirements our clean beer requires.
- Cantillon – Saint Lamvinus – Lambic (w/ Wine Grapes) – Belgium – 5.0%
Description: Beer or wine? St. Lamvinus is a two-year-old Cantillon lambic fermented in oak casks along with wine grapes from France, and siphoned directly into 750 ml champagne bottles. The type of grapes used, and the winery in France that supplies them, are different every year. (Shelton Bros.)
- The Lost Abbey – Framboise de Amorosa – Red Wine BA Dubbel (w/ Raspberries) – California – 8.5%
Description: Framboise de Amorosa is our first foray into the world of raspberry beers. It begins as Lost and Found ale and is sent into freshly emptied red wine barrels. The beer spends over a year in the wood during which time it is spiked with three additions of raspberries. An overstated French Raspberry nose invites you to the glass. Amorosa beckons from the first splash in the glass. She is juicy fruit from the vine. The first sip is a sweet start with a long drawn out sour finish. Some of the sweetness from the raspberries comes out before smooth acidic notes join the mix. On the back end, the beer has a nice smoothing oak character which keeps it from becoming dull.
- Crooked Run – Fleur – Saison (Coolship) – Virginia – 5.0%
- Horus – Sievers – Red Wine BA Sour Ale (w/ Nectarines) – California – 7.7%
Our Take: I didn't know anything about Horus, and I can't comment on the beers, so here's some info about them: Horus Aged Ales is a 100% barrel aged brewery located in Oceanside, California. We believe in pushing the boundaries on how much beer can evolve through resting in oak by using a variety of different wine and spirit barrels, adding exotic fruits, and fermenting spontaneously. The complexity of the beer portrays our passion for experimentation and patience required to produce such a unique beverage. Horus has been a decade-long dream that is finally coming true and we look forward to introducing our exclusive beer to the fine people of San Diego County. (BD)
- Hill Farmstead – Anna – Saison (Mixed Culture; w/ Honey) – Vermont – 6.4%
Description: Anna (1902-1993) was our grandfather’s sister; Hill Farmstead Brewery rest upon the land that was once home to her and her 13 siblings. In her honor, this honey Farmstead® ale is crafted from American malted barley, European and American hops, Vermont wildflower honey, our distinctive farmhouse yeast and water from our well. Unfiltered and naturally carbonated, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Anna.
- Hill Farmstead – Arthur – Saison (Mixed Culture) – Vermont – 6.0%
Description: Arthur (1922-2005) was our grandfather’s youngest brother; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his 13 siblings. In his honor, this Farmstead® ale is crafted from American malted barley, American and European hops, our distinctive farmhouse yeast and water from our well. Unfiltered and naturally carbonated, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Arthur.
- Burial – Fresh Hop Shadowclock – Fresh Hop Pilsner – North Carolina – 5.5%
Description: Time. Its story is often lost in the depiction of its result. Basking in the rays of the sun, the clock casts a new shadow and ushers in refreshing new life. What was once here has cured, transformed and grown fuller. And the story of its emergence is paved with untold patience. The Pilsner is the almighty gift of time. Never filtered, the presence of hops provide an aroma suggestive of wildflower, honey and lemon. Keep your palate clean, revel in your beverage. (BeerAdvocate)
- The Alchemist – Heady Topper – Hazy Double IPA – Vermont – 8.0%
Description: We love hops – that’s why our flagship Double IPA, Heady Topper, is packed full of them. Heady Topper was designed to showcase the complex flavors and aromas these flowers produce. The Alchemist has been brewing Heady Topper since 2003. This Double IPA is not intended to be the strongest or most bitter DIPA. It is brewed to give you wave after wave of hop flavor without any astringent bitterness. We brew Heady Topper with a proprietary blend of six hops – each imparting its own unique flavor and aroma. Take a big sip of Heady and see what hop flavors you can pick out. Orange? Tropical Fruit? Pink Grapefruit? Pine? Spice? There is just enough malt to give this beer some backbone, but not enough to take the hops away from the center stage. (Untappd)
- Modern Times – New Atlantis: Pineapple, Blood Orange & Guava – Sour Ale (w/ Pineapple, Blood Orange & Guava) – California – 7.0%
We know the following beers don't appear in the rankings. Apologies!
- Bluejacket – Driven to Tears – Sour Ale (w/ Blueberries & Blackberries) – Washington, DC – 4.8%
- Commonwealth – Kalevala – Hazy IPA – Virginia – 7.0%
- Maine – Dinner – Double IPA – Maine – 8.2%
- Triple Crossing – Fest Bier – Märzen – Virginia – 5.2%
- Triple Crossing – Night Lands Imperial – Stout (w/ Coffee & Chocolate) – Virginia – 9.0%
- Triple Crossing – Waxing Poetic: Passionfruit & Dragonfruit – Berliner Weisse (w/ Passionfruit & Dragonfruit) – Virginia – 4.0%