IMAGE: Beer. Photo by Bill Brown.
BEER: BY BILL BROWN
The September 24 annual Takoma Park Beer Fest featured twelve local and regional craft breweries. Following is a list of the attending brewers and a subjective account of the sampled beers. Apologies to any breweries or brews we missed or gave short-shrift to. There was a lot to take in, so to speak.
Most of these breweries have bars or tasting rooms where growlers can be filled. Some have canned beer for sale. A few have full-time, full-service restaurants. Some have limited hours and no food but visitors can bring their own. Sometimes a food truck is conveniently parked just outside. Check the websites.
At the Adroit Brewery stand, tasting room manager Caitlin Rossi, and Nick Ross volunteer, were pouring two strong drinks: Two Headed Calf (9.3% ABV), a farmhouse ale with honey and mango additives, and LUX Wheat Wine (9% ABV), a variation of barley wine. Both had the thick, warm mouth feel that high-alcohol drinks possess. Thankfully, the Two Headed Calf’s fruit and honey ingredients were almost undetectable. Dialing back the “fruits and nuts and spices queer*” is a widespread trend. If they must be in beer, at least they should be subtle.
Adrioit Theory Brewing is located in Percellville, VA
The DC Brau booth was staffed with sales manager Chris Wilson who was pouring The Public (6% ABV) pale ale, a big local favorite found on many bar taps.
DC Brau is a twenty minute drive from Takoma Park/Takoma DC, 3178-B Bladensburg Rd, NE, Washington, DC.
Denizens Brewing Company was represented by brewpub co-owner Julie Verratti. 115 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD. Denizens is the closest brewery to the venue, Julie could have walked there – if she didn’t also have to carry a couple of kegs. One was filled with their Born Bohemian Czech-style Pilsner (4.9% ABV), a light-colored, mildly hoppy, refreshing summer drink.
The other keg held Third Party Belgian-style Tripel (9.4% ABV), golden, heady, yeasty and as strong as the name suggests.
Yes they served 4.9% and 9.4% beers. Symmetry!
Mindy Pitts, Beer Ambassador (in photo above), was serving Du Claw beer.
Du Claw, located in Baltimore, offered a Blood Orange Neon Gypsy IPA (6.5% ABV). As in the other Fest beers made with fruit, honey and spices, the blood orange was subtle. That’s a good thing considering there are also seven hop varieties in the mix. The orange was just one of the many interesting tastes flashing by.
Their Funk (5% ABV) wheat ale has blueberry and lemon additives, worrisome since blueberry, along with pumpkin, was one of American microbrews’ first food adjuncts. It made the beer smell and taste like an artificially-flavored blueberry muffin.
But, Duclaw has pulled it off. The blueberry and lemon were barely detectable, just a hint in the taste-blend.
Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company is in Dover, Delaware. Dominion was a 1989 micro-brew pioneer in Virginia, Fordham came along 10 years later in Annapolis, MD. They merged in 2007. At this year’s Beer Fest they offered old favorite Oak Barrel Stout. It’s a stout even non-stout fans acclaim. Kevin Cratty, Vice President of Sales (in photo above) revealed that the unique ingredient that makes it so popular is vanilla. Nikki Varney, Market Manager (also in photo above) was not as traditionally garbed as Cratty.
Fordham & Dominion also had their more recent Double D Double IPA (8% ABV). It is a solid, full-bodied double IPA.
Cratty unknowingly took up the lederhosen for Christian Layke, Takoma Park resident and head brewer at the Rockville Gordon Biersch Brew Pub. Layke known for his authentic green lederhosen outfit, did not attend for the first time in several years.
Layke may not have attended, but Gordon Biersch beers were there, poured by Beer Fest volunteer Mike McCormick ( in photo above). On tap were a Belgian Dubbel, yeasty and double-strength, and Festbier (5.6% AVB), a lighter-colored, hoppier version of Octoberfest beer.
Flying Dog Brewery taps were flowing at the hands of a volunteer couple, John and Alice Richardson (in photo above).
They were serving a high-octane ale called “The Truth.” The quote “You can’t handle the truth” from the movie “A Few Good Men,” came up frequently.
Flying Dog also sent an Octoberfest marzen beer, and a quaffable session ale, Easy IPA.
Hellbender owner Patrick Mullane (on the left in photo) was rightly proud of the one-hundred percent wheat beer he was serving. Most other American-made wheat beers contain other grains. Hellbender’s does not and is made with equipment dedicated to only their wheat beer. The result is a tart-tasting, cloudy, ochre-yellow brew.
Hellbender also offered an IPA, which he described as an east-coast style IPA.
The Hellbender brewery is one of the three closest to Takoma Park, 5788 2nd Street, NE Washington D.C.
Port City Brewing Company beer guide Sean Malone and festival crew-member Rachel Poock (both in photo above) had a seasonally-appropriate Oktoberfest (5.5% ABV) and one of their standards, Optimal Wit (5.4% ABV), a Belgian-style wheat beer. As with most of their products, both were perfectly balanced and restrained. Port City takes traditional beer styles seriously. There’s a reason why traditional beers are traditional. The time-tested tastes are not improved with blueberries, bacon or seven more hop varieties.
Despite the number of new breweries in DC and the surrounding region, Port City’s Essential Pale Ale is still the best beer brewed in the metropolitan area. Sadly, they didn’t bring any to the Beer Fest.
Port City Brewing Company is located in Alexandria, VA.
Sales director Matt Dixon (in photo above) attended for 7 Locks Brewery, 12227 Wilkins Avenue, Rockville, MD. He offered Surrender Dorothy Rye ‘PA (6.6% ABV), This was a fine example of a hoppy rye ale, surprisingly the only rye ale at the fest. Perhaps the rye fad is fading.
7 Locks also had a Booze Creek Black Lager (5.5% ABV). It looked like a porter, but though it had dark-roasted malt the flavors were lighter than a porter – a summer porter?
Right Proper Brewer Chris Percello and volunteer Greg Gorman (in photo above) served Kellerbier Being There (5.3% ABV) and Raised by Wolves (5% ABV). The Kellerbier, “cellar-beer” is a very old German style. Raised By Wolves was an interesting complex, hoppy ale – but it would not be mistaken for an IPA.
Right Proper Brewing Company has two DC locations. The closest to Takoma Park is their Production House, a brewery with tasting and growler facilities at 920 Girard Street NE Washington, DC. Food is not served, but you can bring your own.
The older Brewpub, at 624 T Street, NW, Washington, DC, is a full-service restaurant.
The Takoma Park Beer Fest is an annual fundraising event for the Takoma Foundation.
*Among the most requested favors,
Please avoid exotic flavors.
Fruits and nuts and spices queer,
Have no place in honest beer.”
From the song “Beer That Tastes Like Beer” by Nick Robertshaw]