Last week brought news of two more milestones for D.C. brewing.
On May 3, the D.C. Council finally passed legislation that will enable packaging breweries to serve samples to tour groups. The law was to go into effect in 10 days. Look for Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock of DC Brau to post a schedule during the coming weeks. As of deadline, they were planning to open their Bladensburg Road facility to visitors from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
Meanwhile, Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey of 3 Stars Brewing Co., one of two other incipient D.C. microbreweries, have brewed their maiden batch.
No, they don’t have a physical plant yet, although Coleman hopes to “lock down a spot” in D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood by mid-May. What they did was journey to Delmar, Del., where they collaborated with the brew crew of Evolution Brewing Co. to craft what Coleman describes as “a peppercorn saison.”
The saison style is based on rustic, Belgian-style farmhouse ales that were once offered to famished farmhands, although modern versions tend to be stronger beers than you’d normally give a guy operating heavy machinery. (The 3 Stars/Evolution effort, dubbed Syndicate Ale, will clock in at about 6 percent alcohol by volume.)
“We sat down for 7 to 8 hours and discussed what characteristics we wanted in the beer,” says Coleman of his prep work with Evolution’s Tom Knorr, Joe Lemnah and Geoff DeBisschop. “It’ll be June in D.C . when we release it and about 150 degrees outside, so we wanted to give people something thirst-quenching.”
They’re using two yeast strains to ferment the beer. One of them is the Saison Dupont yeast that Coleman expects to impart complex earthy and grassy notes to complement the spiciness of the beer. That yeast, however, has a bad habit of stopping mid-fermentation, so Coleman and team are using a second, flavor-neutral strain to carry the brew through.
Brew day was April 29. Coleman plans to have the beer ready for SAVOR week in early June. A limited quantity of about 15 half-barrel kegs will make their way to The Big Hunt, where Coleman works as beer manager, as well as other D.C. taprooms.
In the meantime, the action shifts to the north and west, as Frederick prepares to host its inaugural Beer Week. It’s a truncated week, lasting five days (Tuesday through Saturday, May 14), but the calendar listed 16 events as of last week.
The kickoff event at Volt restaurant tomorrow will see the premiere of Backyard Ale, a lightly smoked amber ale that sounds perfect for barbecue, which Flying Dog Brewery crafted in consultation with chef Bryan Voltaggio. That same evening, Frederick brewpub Barley & Hops will host The Battle of the Bubbles, a homebrew competition open to the public. The winning recipe, says Frederick Beer Week coordinator Kevin Smith, will be scaled up in a professional brewhouse and served prominently at next year’s Beer Week.
The week culminates on Saturday with a festival feting Maryland beers at Stillpoint Farm in nearby Mt. Airy. The family-friendly event will feature three local bluegrass bands and hayrides for the kids. Visitors might also get a look at farmer Tom Barse’s hop crop as the bines wend their way skyward.
Attendance will be capped at 500, says Smith. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased online.