Organizers Basking in the Glorious Oktoberfest Sun: Olivier le Ru (Brand Marketing Manager of Urban Adventures Companies – the parent company of Capitol City Brewing Co.), Kristi Griner (Brewmaster for Capitol City – she creates the recipes and oversees all the brewing at both the Arlington and Downtown locations), Matt Benkert (Food & Beverage director of Urban Adventures Companies), David Von Storch (founder and CEO of Urban Adventures Companies)
Oh, Joaquin…your infamously anti-climatic status as a “hurricane” was admittedly cute while it was threatening our commutes, but you crossed the line when you were to blame for postponing Capital City Brewing Company’s 16th Annual Oktoberfest a week. In Ze Deutschland, there is no greater offense than a lack of punctuality, so God help the entity responsible for making Germans late to their own event. Thanks to Capital City Brewing Company, the greater DC area was able to partake in their annual Oktoberfest in sunshine almost as golden as the brews. Sip on that Joaquin…..
The Chalice of the day: providing the progeny of local DMV brewers. Yummy.
I began the day with a minor aneurysm, where to begin? The vendors stretched down Campbell street and the assault of smells beckoning in all directions was enough to conflict the most focused of individuals. So many proud brewers standing by their products, so many beers to be tasted and only so much sober time. If I learned anything from growing up in Germany, it is that mothers always know best. So I was directed first to Three Notch’d Brewing Company’s tent by a hero of a woman sporting an occupied baby bjorn, a husband in one arm and a beer in the other. I was assured of her status as an idol amongst women when her suggestion was validated by one sip of their Pale Ale, lovingly termed “The Ghost.” Whilst sipping on this lightly hoppy brew, Taylor from Three Notch’d explained their barrel aging program lead by head brewer Dave Warwick. In collaboration with local coffee distributors and the Breckenridge Distillery in Colorado, Dave’s most recent creation is a testament to his ability to craft perfectly balanced, aged beers. While I wasn’t able to sample the rumored, coffee and oatmeal stout that is barrel aged to perfection, you can bet your first born I will soon enough.
Keeping true to all things German, Patrick Mullane, Co-Founder of Hellbender Brewing Company, gave me some scientific and technical background to the brewing process behind one of DC’s newest brewing companies. Uniquely, they have the only mash filter in the east coast, making their use of a highly protected Belgium style system unique not only for the area, but for the coast as well. Sporting a filter straight from Belgium, the guys at Hellbender are capable of producing their brews using 30% less water, 20% less grain and 15% less power. Their status as DC’s fourth brewing company, at a whopping 11 months old, makes them an up and coming entity in the city, especially those more conscious purveyors. They pride themselves on their efficiency, and I can verify that the beer was that much sweeter knowing that it was mindfully crafted. When asking Patrick about the catalyst to starting Hellbender, he explained that he and the head brewer Ben, a microbiologist by trade, recognized a gaping void in the DC beer market. Brewing was only allowed four short years ago and companies like DC Brau have bravely led the way, but Ben and Patrick at Hellbender have picked up the mantle and combining a mutual love for fine beer and backgrounds in science and business, they are aiming to bring a “DC made beer, to the people of DC.”
The perfect man is one who continually fills your glass with beer.
Maybe it was Derrick’s soft ginger beard, being over two hours into beer tasting, or the beautiful sun and the throngs of happy Oktoberfest-ers, but Old Ox Brewing Company was my personal favorite of the day. Somewhere between the Bourbon Barrel Black Ox Rye Porter and Derrick, the brand ambassador, there were nuances and innuendos flying left and right. The dark brew with hints of coffee and chocolate was beautifully balanced with the sweet oaken flavor of the six months it spent nestled in Old Ox’s twelve barrel casks. Bourbon was there, but no one had to say it or to quote
Derrick, “Bourbon is on the party bus, but not driving it.” Sipping my favorite beer of the day, Derrick explained the incestuous nature of small brewing companies and how that works to cultivate some outrageous and unheard of beers. Old Ox prides themselves on their bizarre flavors and the environment they have cultivated to help people like me get their kooky ideas in a tap. They are a think tank for brewing, and work with other companies, but also offer natives the unique opportunity to contribute to what they call the “Beers I Would Like To Try (BIWLTT)” list. If the idea catches the eye of the owners at Old Ox, your brew could find itself in one of their taps. With such beers such as Kristin’s Temper (Jalepeno IPA named after one of the owner’s wives), the Ox-cercist (Halloween-ready Pumpkin porter sporting sweet potato more than pumpkin and hints of nutmeg) and their Whole Foods-endorsed Raspberry Basil Saison, I believe the banter between Derrick and I was only half as entertaining as the beers being made at Old Ox.
Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company offered up two brews: the Schwartz Bier, a pale ale wheat beer with banana and the Trail Angel Weiss. The Schwartz Bier, besides paying homage in my mind to one of my favorite American Generals, boosted a dark color slightly surprising for a wheat beer and subtle notes of banana that were evasive enough to go unidentifiable until the secret ingredient was revealed a couple of sips in. It was smooth until the last drop and had no bitter notes on the end. Enjoyable for beer drinkers and newbies alike.
At Caboose Brewing Company, the first sip of the day belonged to their “Zoo Berliner Weiss,” a German style sour wheat ale. I was concerned that someone had switched my beer with a shandy. The 3.4% ABV makes it a perfect drink for summer days when beer disappears faster than water on asphalt. The light and tart front is reminiscent of acidic citrus fruits and makes it slightly deceiving as an ale, but the clean finish made it a perfect palate cleanser to move on to my favorite offering from Caboose. The “Cross Roads Lager” is a Vienna style lager with a rich dark caramel color with an equally complex aroma and flavor. It was ever so sweet, especially when compared to its earlier counterpart, with a crisp finish rare for such a rich brew. I would never have pegged it, but according to Caboose, this beer smells of bread and Werther’s originals…carb lovers rejoice. Speaking with Ian Gildea, a brewer at Caboose, I learned they are one of the only breweries in the country that has stacked serving tanks, making the keg an unnecessary aspect of getting their beer to their taps. Ian’s favorite beer offering at Caboose is the “KC Jones Rye Pale Ale” that features Zythos hops, creating a piney ale with spicy notes which is perfect for pairing with the bratwurst and pretzels of the day.
From Capital City Brewing Company: Al Chadsey, Bo Elliot, Travis Reynolds, Leon Harris, Julia Christie-Robin, Kristi Griner
Other notable brews of the day were: Mad Fox Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Saison, lovingly called “Stingy Jack’s,” that was a perfect kick starter to the beautiful fall day. Made from over 250 pounds of heirloom Cinderella pumpkins from Homestead Farms in Maryland, the pumpkin flavor was able to shine through without the overbearing taste of hops. I felt right at home drinking their Hitzig Frau Oktoberfest which has a delicate balance between malty taste and hoppy acidity, keeping the bready quality at bay. Brewed with imported malts and hops, it encapsulated the spirit of the day perfect.
The beauty of Oktoberfest is that beer is the most unifying social phenomena known to man and it was wonderfully evident at Capital City’s rendition. Every brewing company offered different takes on a core concept and united seemingly unrelated people on a shining Sunday afternoon, a projection of the fact that try as we may….we’re still Americans. Thank you, oh Motherland, Deutschland. But thank God for the American twist on this tradition that combined the malty flavors reminding me of home with kicks and twists that were undeniably local.
From Capital City Brewing Company: Travis Reynolds, Leon Harris, Julia Christie-Robin, Bo Elliot
Editors Note: We recently attended (and wrote about) a Three Notch’d beer dinner.