by April 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

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


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 March 13, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

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


CBC at the Washington Convention Center. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The Craft Brewers Conference (dubbed “CBC” for short) is an annual gathering of breweries, brewpubs, restaurant managers/beer directors/cicerones, as well as those who manufacture brew kettles, draft systems and kegs, amongst other things. Thankfully, CBC is being held in our fair city this year at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center March 26-29.

Although it’s specifically for brewing industry professionals, that doesn’t mean that us regular folks are prohibited from indulging in the vast array of events happening during that week.

Given there are so many events in and throughout the city, some of my must-go-to-or-else-you-should-relinquish-your-human-sanctity type of events are not in Borderstan proper.  In no particular order, here are my top three choices for CBC 2013.

Tuesday, March 26, 5 pm

Where and What: Smoke and BarrelFirestone Walker and Ballast Point featuring Beer Cocktails with BeerAdvocate.

For this event, Firestone Walker is bringing a formidable lineup of barrel-aged rarities (one of which I’ve written about here) such as Parabola (barrel-aged imperial stout), Sucaba (barrel aged barleywine), and Velvet Merkin on nitro (barrel-aged oatmeal stout).  If you’re more hop-inclined, Ballast Point will be slinging their inimitable Sculpin, both on draft and on cask.  This is an event not to be missed.

Thursday, March 28, 4 pm

Where and What: Churchkey: The California Craft Beer Extravaganza.

Quite naturally, Churchkey has some of the best events for all of CBC week and Thursday’s will be particularly burdensome on the palate (in a good way, of course).  Although the specific beer list has yet to be released, I already know I’m going to be here.

The list of breweries currently includes The Lost Abbey, Stone Brewing Company, Green Flash Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and 21st Amendment — that list alone should be sufficient to convince you to make an appearance.

Friday, March 29, 1 pm

Where and What: Meridian Pint: Drink Local! Sponsored by BeerAdvocate.

Although CBC is really about bringing craft brewers from across the country together in one place, I would be remiss to not mention what’s looking to be the best event surrounding local beer. Twenty local breweries from Maryland, the District and Virginia will occupy all tap lines in addition to 20 different gravity-fed casks.

Although the beer list has yet to be released, look for not only Meridian Pint collaborations with some of the breweries, but also for standalone offerings from the likes of DC Brau Brewing Company, Flying Dog Brewery and Port City Brewing, just to name a few.

I want to stress that this is just a minute smidgen of the entire week; comrades in arms and fellow beer lovers at DC Beer have done a wonderful job of cataloguing the wide spectrum CBC events — please check out their webpage here. Cheers!

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