Snallygaster is back: Best breweries to try at DC’s Beer Fest

Snallygaster

After a year off, the Snallygaster Beer Festival returns to Pennsylvania Avenue this Saturday. Organized by the team behind Bluejacket Brewery, Churchkey and The Sovereign, the massive event brings together 450 draft beers sourced from hundreds of producers across the United States and around the world. It truly is a beer nerd’s paradise showcasing flagship IPAs and lagers along with unique and rare slopes like barrel-aged stouts and fruit acids.

Each admission card includes unlimited sample slopes, and the options can feel overwhelming even for the most savvy beer drinker. Fortunately, the large selection of expected beers and breweries means you really can’t go wrong, and we’ve researched a handful of donations to get your must-try list started.

Beersel, Belgium
Lambic is one of the oldest styles of beer dating back to the 13th century. So it is worth visiting 3 Fonteinen on Saturday to experience its traditional Belgian brewing. Selections include a lambic with raspberries and a variation using cherries stored in peat sherry barrels.

Alesong Brewing and Blending
Alesong Brewing and Blending

Eugene, Oregon
Each Alesong beer is stored in barrels before distribution, resulting in a complex and nuanced finished product. Save room for a pour of Double Barrel Maple Rhino Suit, a delicious stout stored for 18 months inside both bourbon and maple syrup barrels. Be warned: Its ABV is high 13.9%.

Monterey, California
Classic American IPAs seem to be harder to find these days, crowded with their more dangerous cousins. For fans of the former, look for some Mai Tai PA, a three-time Great American Beer Festival winner. The beer pours a golden color with tropical and hop aromas along with balanced bitterness.

Denver, Colorado
While a majority of craft breweries focus on hoppy ales, this Colorado brewery uses the tradition of classic German lagers. Bierstadt’s amber Oktoberfest march is autumn feeling in a glass. For something unique, go to the Golden Tiger Polotmavý 13 ° zoigl, a Czech-inspired collaboration with Heater Allen Brewing out of Oregon.

Laaber, Germany
Celebrate the season with an authentic lager from this historic German brewery. Given that it was founded in 1617, it is a sure bet to nail the style. Swing by for samples of its Heller Weizenbock or the darker Dunkler Weizenbock.

Bissell Brothers brews three rivers
Bissell Brothers brews three rivers

Portland, Maine
Snallygaster’s menu is on par with New England – style IPAs, and the Bissell Brothers make some of the best there is. Go big with Nothing Gold, a misty double IPA brewed with Eukanot, Citra, Sultana and Amarillo hops.

Washington DC
Washingtonians probably know Hellbender’s core lineup of beers, including its well-made Kolsch and IPA. But Snallygaster offers a good opportunity to try its lesser known Social Rice-Olation, a farm beer made by fermenting purple rice wort with Trappist yeast and Brettanomyces.

Hatfield, Pennsylvania
For something adventurous, visit this brewery in Pennsylvania for three riffs on its Schmoojee fruit acid. Flavors include peach popsicle candy, pumpkin roll s’mores and strawberry fudge sundae.

Miami, Florida
Originating in Miami’s colorful Wynwood neighborhood, J. Wakefield marries traditional styles with new ingredients and flavors. That’s what you get with Sneaker Sharks, a Russian imperial stout brewed with banana, almond and vanilla and aged in rye whiskey barrels. If 14% ABV seems too high, the brewery will also pour a few other choices, including an easy-drinking German lager.

Herefordshire, England
Take a break from beer and take a filling of pear cider (traditionally called “perry”) from this British producer. Fruit comes from the local county of Herefordshire and the surrounding area — certainly far from DC. It will also have some lubrication, the store’s traditional apple-based cider.

Baltimore, Maryland
Union excels at making everyday beers, but this workhouse brewery also has some tricks up its sleeve. Visit its Snallygaster booth for a sip of its Older Pro Mezcal, an enhanced version of the easy-drinking Old Pro gose. Stored in mezcal barrels, its swollen ABV stands at 7.0%.

Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery
Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery

Waterford, Virginia
This brewery in Loudoun County is a product of local agriculture that grows its own grains (a portion comes from elsewhere in Virginia) and uses real estate spring water in its beers. It pours a few beers over the weekend, including the Merveille du Terroire, a farmhouse made with wild yeast, 100% regional cereals and Old World hops. The beer was openly fermented before it was barrel and bottle conditioned for a total of four months.

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Travis Mitchell is a DC-based food and beverage writer. Follow his travels and dining adventures on Twitter at @travisjmitchell and Instagram at @_travisjmitchell.

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