by Borderstan.com April 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

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


Smith Commons did a great job hosting a Craft Beer Universe event. (Luis Gomez Photos)

I hope some of you were able to attend at least one beer event during the week of Craft Brewers Conference. Hopefully a few of you got to more than one and, no, I will not disclose the frequency with which I attended these events (insert clever euphemistic phrase to disguise that I can’t drink as much as used to do, etc.).

If I learned anything throughout it all, it was that craft beer and its people lived up to what I conceive of as its reputation: A willingness to betray style classification, a strict focus on artisanship and an overwhelming sense of community and collectivity — all of which were on display Wednesday, March 27, at the venerable Smith Commons on H Street NE.

Upon entry, I whisked myself up a staircase along the left wall to the upstairs bar. After a quick turn right, I’m greeted by a large gorgeous window which occupies the entire second floor façade, allowing wonderful views for several blocks down H Street.

Having heard much fanfare about Smith Commons (I can now say it’s warranted), I was rather excited as it was my first time there. Past the bar to the left was a comfortable patio area fully stocked with a bartender and portable kegerator — if my mind wasn’t at ease before, it certainly was then.

Around 6:15 pm, things weren’t too crowded despite the “gravity” of the event itself. In the house were 3 Stars, Bells Brewing Company, Founders Brewing Company, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Company and Oskar Blues Brewery — just to name a few, easily giving way to inordinate amounts of craft beer depravity. From my unequivocally eidetic memory (yeah, right), these two were the best beers of the night:

  • Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout, 9.5% – I battled heroically against conventional wisdom by selecting this as my first beer of the night. The regular iteration of Blackout Stout is not nearly as laden with roast as other imperial stouts which allowed its particular flavor profile to meld seamlessly with the vanilla, caramel and oaky toast of the bourbon barrel treatment. Generally speaking, Great Lakes beers showcase an intensity of flavor while maintaining harmony and balance, and this beer was certainly no exception.
  • Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale with Coffee, 8.7% – Although I may or may not have written about this beer previously, Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale continues to beguile and to stretch its versatility. Pleasing aromatic waves of fresh coffee leap from the glass, subduing much of the hop aroma which would otherwise be present. This beer has ample dark roasted character to establish the proper foundation for the inclusion of coffee and it didn’t miss a beat, much like its bitter chocolate and orange brethren discussed here.

Big ups to Smith Commons for putting on such a wonderful event and big ups to the Craft Brewers Conference for coming to our fair city this year;  I can only hope we made you proud! Cheers!

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by Borderstan.com March 14, 2013 at 9:00 am 0


Local aficionados enjoy beer at DC Reynolds on Sunday. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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

Craft beer shares a cultural affinity with the slow food movement in that it celebrates beer as artisanal, and most importantly, local. Craft beer in general would not be where it is today without that.

Ultimately, that sentiment goes beyond the cultural realm; craft beer really started in the kitchens and backyards of homebrewers such as Jim Koch of Sam Adams and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada. Regardless of the size of those breweries now, their current tie to the homebrewing world remains inextricable, and is in my opinion part of the reasoning behind their wild success.

Third Annual Homebrew Competiton


Rob Fink takes Best of Show Runner-up for his Belgian IPA. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Yours truly had the opportunity to participate in the third annual homebrew competition at the sponsored by the Neighborhood Farm Initiative, a wonderful, local organization that provides urban gardening education throughout the DC area.

This year, the event was held at the Petworth watering hole DC Reynolds, and I was fortunate enough to snag Best of Show Runner-up for my Belgian IPA. However, the best part of my day was actually talking to fellow homebrewers and others who were genuinely interested in good beer at the most local of levels.

It’s a source of happiness to be surrounded by such wonderful and interesting people because homebrewers are representative of everyone — with doctors, lawyers, retirees, bartenders (and the occasional grad school student) among them. Big ups to my fellow homebrewing comrades and those who just display a genuine interest in good beer, and most importantly, cheers!

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by Borderstan.com October 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm 1,589 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 


DC’s Beerathon has a course map of 26 DC restaurants and bars, including Nellie’s Sports Bar at 9th and U NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The first DC Beerathon is Saturday, November 10 at 26 different bars and restaurants throughout Northwest DC — and it’s bringing a whole new meaning to “beer run.”

With successes in Boston and New York, the event’s organizers are bringing the craft beer (and charity-centric) festival to the District. Tickets are $65 (this includes access to the 26 bars) and can be purchased online. Beerathon has a discount code through October 10 that will save you $10 on the ticket. The discount code is earlybirdDC. 

Information on the Beerathon course is available on the event’s Facebook page. El Centro D.F., James Hoban’s, Nellie’s and The Reef are the check-in locations for the day-long event.

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by Borderstan.com August 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,341 0


Brian explains craft beer. (Brian Hussein Stanton)

From Rob Fink. Email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.

Since its popularization, craft beer has been and continues to be a phenomenon which eludes precise definition. In the broadest sense, it’s a simple categorization of style; meaning a full-flavored beer utilizing both traditional brewing methods and ingredients for its production.

The Brewers Association, the largest trade group in the country representing brewers, craft or otherwise, also defines a “craft” brewery as one which produces no more than 6,000,000 barrels of beer, or around 186,000,000 million gallons. Interestingly, total beer production (including Anheuser Busch-InBev as well as SABMiller, the world’s largest “breweries” respectively) in the United States in 2010 hovered around 200 million barrels. Conversely, craft beer only accounted for about 5% of that total amount, or roughly 10 million barrels.

Although its definition may vary, craft beer has an ethos which cultivates a sharp sense of community involvement. For example, spent grain used in the brewing process typically becomes feed for local farmers. Beer itself has become an integral component of other agricultural products, as is the case with Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, Vermont which sometimes sends its wort (unfermented beer) to Jasper Hill Farms (also in Greensboro) in order to wash their cheeses. Between different breweries releasing collaboration beers to breweries that use 100% solar power (as is the case with these folks) the possibilities truly are endless, but why is craft beer important to Borderstan?

Not only can you get a great beer in Borderstan, at places like Saint-Ex or at the wonderful worn-in Stoney’s on P Street NW you can also experience places which pride themselves on the inextricable relationship between the two. Beguiling combinations abound at establishments such as Birch and Barley in Logan Circle and Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle.

Each establishment routinely hosts dinners based on anything from a certain style to a certain brewery paired with menus tailored to specific beers. Additionally, the ubiquitous presence of a brewmaster or brewery representative at these dinners reflects an adherence to the cultivation of community which pulsates throughout the entire craft beer world.

No matter how you feel about craft beer generally, you’ll do yourself a service by visiting any of the aforementioned spots. Go to a beer dinner at Birch and Barley or a meet and greet with a brewmaster at Pizzeria Paradiso or simply sit down with something like a Bell’s Two Hearted at Stoney’s – you’ll be glad you did.

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by Borderstan.com August 1, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,457 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

Seasonal Pantry

Seasonal Pantry hosts two cheese classes, August 20 and 27. Both classes pair seasonal cheeses with craft beers. (Luis Gomez Photos)

For those who agree that the dog days of summer are best left to craft beer and cheese, listen up.

On Monday, August 20th and 27th, the Seasonal Pantry (1314 9th Street NW) will host cheese and beer pairings at the market’s Cheese Course classes.

The intimate class delves into six different cheeses and three different craft beers, along with housemade accompaniments by Seasonal Pantry’s Dan O’Brien.

Each class is $49 and is limited to 12 participants. For more information and tickets, visit the event’s websiteSpread the word!

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