by October 24, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,245 1 Comment


Snallygaster brings beers to DC this fall. (Photo credit: Brian Hussein Stanton)

From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]

On a beautifully crisp Saturday afternoon, clear rays of sun shone over Yards Park, east of Nationals stadium. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group, (owner of Borderstan’s Churchkey and Birch and Barley, and the group’s forthcoming brewery Bluejacket) picked the perfect fall day to host Snallygaster, a true beer festival.

Beer styles that exemplify the autumn season (which I’ve written about here and here and here), such as Oktoberfests, Pumpkin Ales and Fresh or wet-hop beers were free flowing. Attendees also sought to quell their hunger with items such as the standard yet extraordinary Churchkey tater tots or more unusual fare such as fried pig tail. I, however, indulged with an old-fashioned roasted turkey leg.


A variety of food was served at this year’s Snallygaster beer festival. (Photo credit: Brian Hussein Stanton)


To say that Snallygaster provided enough competent beer choices would be a gross understatement. Because of my predisposition towards beers with substantial hop character, the inimitable Founders Harvest Ale, served on cask, was an obvious first choice. Once my hand had warmed the beer somewhat, an aroma of peach and sweet melon virtually leaped out of the glass. Couple that with the sting of pine needles washed with grapefruit (some of the world’s best hoppy beers exhibit this character) and I had the perfect accompaniment to the pleasant briskness of the autumn air; it was one of those ephemeral moments worthy of thorough enjoyment.

After my first beer, I had trouble picking my next target – this is not a bad problem to have. Fresh D.C. upstarts 3 Stars Brewing provided the other pleasant surprise in the hop category. The brand’s eponymous Harvest Ale proved to be on equal footing with the Founders example. Brewed exclusively with Citra hops, this 6.6 percent aromatic behemoth burst with tropical fruit sweetness and musky grass with a pleasingly dry finish; most definitely a beer which I would like to have more of.


Having too many beer choices is a good problem. (Photo credit: Brian Hussein Stanton)

As of this writing, this to-be-cherished local tipple can be found in Borderstan on draft at the venerable Pizzeria Paradiso at 2003 P Street NW.  Perhaps this speaks to the quality of the event, but after making my beer selection, I had another other, equally “good” problem – that of complete relaxation.

My final beer choice transported me back to Munich. Mad Fox Brewing Company and Bluejacket had just released a collaborative Weizenbock (much in the vein of this beer, in my opinion) dubbed “Mad Jacket,” and it did not disappoint.

Tangy sourdough from the malted wheat seamlessly combined with banana-laden esters, along with just enough body and heft to help me finish out the day. Perhaps Bluejacket could make a full production run of this gem once they open in early 2013? Either way, Snallygaster was a wonderful way to spend a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon and already got me thinking about how to prepare for next year’s festivities.

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by October 10, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,809 0


Homegrown Cascade Hops. (Brian Hussein Stanton)

From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]

No longer relegated to a niche market, the popularity of prominent hop flavor in American beer has lovingly mutated from the crisp bitterness and note of grapefruit pith found in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to pine forest and tropical fruit practically written in the biology of Russian River Pliny the Elder.”Wet-hop” ales are perhaps the latest iteration of the insatiable hop craze let loose on the American craft beer landscape.

What is “Wet-Hopping?”

“Wet-hopping” as a phrase refers to the use of unprocessed, un-kilned (and therefore un-dried) hops in the brewing process. Much in the shape of a pine cone, the spine or strig of the cone is flanked on either side by bracts, the leaf-like outer covering of the hop flower. Lurking underneath the bracts are the lupulin glands — school bus yellow in color, these glands contain a multitude of acids, resins and volatile essential oils directly responsible for providing bitterness, flavor and aroma in beer.

Wet-Hops and Their Use in the Brew-house

While on the vine, hops retain roughly 80 percent of their weight in water. After harvest, hops are typically kiln-dried then compressed into bales and, finally, refrigerated. Wet-hops are harvested then almost immediately used, typically within days. By utilizing wet-hops, craft brewers attempt to capture the raw essence of the hop in its purest form, seeking to retain the aromatic compounds normally driven off during the boil.  Moreover, the use of wet-hops maximizes hop flavor, inducing an intermingling perfume of everything from herbaceous grass to peachy stone fruit to pine needles, to tangerine and other citrus fruits. It’s tantalizing just thinking about the breadth of flavor lodged in this wonderful flowering perennial.

The Most Important Part: Where to Find Wet-Hopped Beer

Luckily, you and I can gladly indulge in a proud example of a wet-hopped beer, the beauty which we’re reminded of on an annual basis as we drink the autumn harvest. Below are three favorites, all can be found at your better Borderstan beer stores such as Connecticut Avenue Wine and Liquor (1529 Connecticut Avenue NW) and the Logan Circle Whole Foods (1440 P Street NW).

  1. Founders Harvest Ale (Grand Rapids, MI)
  2. Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale (Chico, CA)
  3. Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale (Denver, CO)

If you’re already busy this weekend, I suggest ditching your current plans and heading to Snallygaster. Although a bit outside Borderstan (near Nats Park), this event will likely prove to be the preeminent celebration of craft beer in our area this autumn. Look for an in-depth review of the event in the coming weeks — cheers!

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by September 26, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,765 0


Time for pumpkin beer! (Photo courtesy of Brian Hussein Stanton)

From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]

As we have seen with Oktoberfest beers, Autumn swiftly ushers in sensations of harvest, and within the American craft beer paradigm, a generalized style (deemed “Pumpkin Ale”) reigns supreme.

The History of Pumpkin Ale

Unlike Oktoberfest beers, pumpkin ales are as uniquely American as a beer style can get. Indigenous to North America, pumpkins for purposes of brewing were an alternative source of nutrients compared to barley, a more expensive alternative. As a result, pumpkins made their way into the beer and wine of colonists as a result of their relative cheapness and their abundance of starch, which enzymes eventually turn into sugar for yeast to feast upon.

Fast forward several centuries and Pumpkin Ale is arguably the most ubiquitous fall seasonal in our country today. In my opinion, modern craft interpretations are not as concerned with the essence of raw pumpkin flavor so much are they are with emulating pumpkin pie in liquid form. More assertive examples of the style will infiltrate the nostrils with a potpourri of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger.

Generally speaking, beer can often be reminiscent of spices due to the individuality of the yeast strain used. In the case of Pumpkin Ales, you actually do smell some, or perhaps all, of the aforementioned spices due to their purposeful inclusion in the beer.

Best Choices for Pumpkin Ale, Where to Find Them

With fall officially upon us, there is no better time to seek out a burgeoning American classic. And while taste and perception of flavor is inherently subjective, the intensity of flavor of these beers begs to be paired with the substantial fall fare. The production of pumpkin ales has more or less kept pace with their increasing popularity, but it’s still wise to seek them out sooner rather than later.

  • Southern  Tier Pumking – 8.6% ABV
  • Elysian The Great Pumpkin – 8.1% ABV
  • Schlafly Pumpkin Ale – 8% ABV

Fortunately, all of these beers and more can be found at Borderstan watering holes such as The Big Hunt or Churchkey, and your better beer stores like Connecticut Avenue Wine and Liquor (1529 Connecticut Avenue NW) and the Logan Circle Whole Foods (1440 P Street NW). More importantly, beers across the spectrum of the harvest season can be found at P Street location of Pizzeria Paradiso during their annual Autumnfest celebration.

Of even more profound size is arguably the cannot-miss event of the season put on by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (which famously owns Churchkey in Borderstan) dubbed Snallygaster, which can allow you the enjoyment of nearly 100 beers via draft, cask and wood-clad gravity-fed keg. I’ll see you there.

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