As Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song asserted in 1994: “Hanukkah is the festival of lights / Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights,” and so for these nights, I’ve compiled a list of 8 local brews I hope will brighten your December 18 to December 26. If you find yourself thinking of your old pal Stein, relax, don’t worry, have a lager, light a candle.
1) Atlas Brew Works – Bullpen Pilsner, 4.7% ABV
The first local lager for the first night I plan to drink on the Sunday before Christmas is Atlas’ Bullpen Pilsner. What can I say about this lager that has brought home DC’s first Great American Beer Festival medal in the American Pilsner category? A prickly carbonation yields a marvelous foam. A mildly bitter beer complimented by a background of wonderful Saaz hops and a perceived fruitiness from Mt. Hood hops. This beer has been around for years and in my humble opinion, it’s never been better.
2–5) DC Brau Brewing Company – Wake Up in the Future Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, 13.5-15.5% ABV, 16 ounce can vertical 4-pack
In November I was visiting my friend Martin, a former DC Homebrewers Club President, and was tasked with bringing a side, or a desert. Before venturing over to his house I decided to rummage through the cellar (closet under the stairs) and found DC Brau’s Wake Up in the Future Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts from 2019 and 2020. You see, hops are typically green, like a salad, and salad is a side. And barley is a carb and many sides are carbs – crisps, chips, potato skins, and the like. As we opened the stouts, I was grateful to have saved these beers for two and three years respectively, as they drank like liquid desert. Sides be damned, these beers presented wonderful barrel character. The 2020 stout was sweeter than the 2019, but by no means did the 2019 Wake Up in the Future taste thin. Per the brewery, “Once these mix packs sell out, we will be out of 2019 variants. Get this pack while you can!” DC Brau is lucky to have wonderful people working for them like taproom manager Paulette Palacios, go show DC’s oldest production brewery some love.
6) Bluejacket – Stars and Stripes German Pilsner, 5% ABV
This pale lager wallops the palate with a refreshing bitterness and aromatic explosion of German grown Tettnang hops. The small-lot hops that Bluejacket (as well as other small brewers) gets really elevate the German-style Pilsners and similar beers they are brewing; looking at you Dunkel. Sure, this is a bitter Pilsner, and maybe you think Pilsners shouldn’t be this bitter. But if you truly think Pilsners should not be bitter, you are not embracing a change mindset that Pilsner can be both bitter AND aromatic. Thanks to Director of Brewing Operations, Ro Guenzel, we know that good Pilsner can be both bitter and aromatic and wallop you with Bavarian character while being brewed at 300 Tingey Street, SE.
7) Denizens Brewing Company – Doppelbock, 7.6% ABV
For whatever reason over the years I’ve favored Denizen’s darker lagers over their pale beers. Jeff Ramirez, chief beer officer and founder, has long made stellar lager and years ago, I convinced Jeff to brew an American Bock, Bock to the Future, with flaked rice. After the brewday I remember toasting many Buena Onda, an amber lager, a wonderful beer with Vienna malt, Saaz hops, corn, and neutral lager yeast and thinking ‘this is as good as it gets.’ Then I had the Rauchbier. And all of these were better than Bock to the Future. But as they say, a brewer’s harshest critic is often themself, and so with that I encourage you to enjoy Denizens Doppelbock. This beer is big but drinks easy. It’s got a faint bouquet of pumpernickel and freshly baked bread and it’s malty aroma gives way to a deep palate of stone fruit like figs and plums and the warming glow from a bottle and the ease in which it goes down is a testament to the brewer’s art. In my opinion, this is the perfect beer for a seventh night of candle lighting.
8) Other Half and Halfway Crooks, Monotonous Miles, Belgian-style Pilsner, 5.1% ABV
The 8th beer for 8 nights of light, is fittingly a beer that was lagered for 8 weeks.
Reading Michael Twitty’s most recent book, Koshersoul, (paperback pre order!) I came across a wonderful saying that I’d heard years ago. “’Two Jews, three opinions,’ we say. We are more than the answer; we are the arguments that lead there,” Twitty writes.
And so I ask these questions: Was Other Half DC’s most recent lager the longest lagering time for a lager from the facility ever? Was this beer lagered for two months? Does this beer make Halfway Crooks and Other Half proud? Ultimately, these are not my questions to answer, simply mine to ask.
“8 weeks was the longest [lagering],” says Other Half DC’s head brewer Daniel Terrones. “And that was Monotonous Miles with our good friends over at Halfway Crooks… that beer was an 8 week lager time.”
With hops grown in Belgium (Saaz and Cascade) by Forrest Farm, there are also German grown (Select, Tettananger, and Hersbrucker) hops in the Belgian-inspired Pilsner.
Terrones has been making DC proud with the lagers he’s been brewing over the last two years. He’s managed DC’s biggest brewery well and with beers like Poetry Snaps, Pivo Snaps, and Boxcar Helles Lager, he’s certainly earned the praise of DC’s premier beverage research firm, Lost Lagers.
Crack any of these over the next week, and pair them with your favorite fried foods. Long may our lights last!