The outdoor festival season begins in earnest this weekend with dueling Oktoberfests.
Das Best Oktoberfest unfolds this Saturday and Sunday at National Harbor. The tentative drinks menu lists more than 60 beers, including a few newcomers like the limited-edition Gordon Biersch Imperial Pilsner Brau and Duckpin Pale Ale as well as the Balt Altbier from the recently opened Union Craft Brewing Co. in Baltimore.
Mad Fox Brewing Co. in Falls Church celebrates the harvest with a biergarten at Market Square on Sunday. Executive brewer/owner Bill Madden will tap casks of his Hitzig Frau Oktoberfest and Kellerbier, served via the traditional gravity-dispense method, but otherwise the celebration will feature an IPA-centric lineup with hoppy ales from about a half-dozen area breweries. Among the selections will be Mad Fox’s Orange Whip IPA, with its distinctive tangerinelike flavor from Citra hops, and Dingo IPA, hopped with Galaxy, Citra’s Australian cousin.
“We wanted to do a stand-alone IPA festival,” said brewer Charlie Buettner, “but with all of our beer dinners, it kind of worked out in collaboration with our Oktoberfest.”
Looking ahead, the Capitol City Oktoberfest, the area’s longest-running craft beer festival (now in its 13th year), is set to take place right on Oct. 6, the Saturday before Columbus Day, at Shirlington Village in Arlington. The outdoor celebration with a distinctly German flavor will feature about 100 beers from 50 breweries.
A new event to watch for is the Snallygaster Craft Beer Festival that the Neighborhood Restaurant Group will stage on Oct. 13 at Yards Park at Third and Water streets SE. The event is named after a legendary creature (Snallygaster means “fast ghost” in German) said to haunt Maryland’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Basically, this is a continuation of the Oktoberfest that Rustico previously held outside its Alexandria location.
“It was insanity,” said NRG beer director Greg Engert of last year’s cheek-to-jowl crowd of more than 5,000. The new venue, he promises, will be able to accommodate twice as many people and boost the beer selection from 50 to more than 100.
Although the lineup will include a good number of Oktoberfest lagers and pumpkin ales (including a spontaneously fermented Belgian pumpkin beer called Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus), Engert will aim to offer a wide selection of styles. Look for the Strawberry Short Weiss from Smuttynose Brewing Co. — a light, tart ale in the Berliner weisse style with a brisk carbonation, a delicate berry aroma and a bready, citrusy flavor. A real pink champagne of beers.
The Takoma Park Beerfest, also set for Oct. 13 (but unfolding from 4 to 8 p.m.), promises to be “nuclear-free and hops-powered,” showcasing mostly local operations like 3 Stars Brewing Co., Baying Hound Aleworks, Growlers, Franklin’s and District ChopHouse & Brewery. Neighborhood restaurants will supply victuals. It might not have quite the selection that some of the other fests have, but it’s a more relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, with the $35 admission offering unlimited access to drink and food.
Usually, the Northern Virginia Brewfest at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville (Oct. 20 and 21) brings the outdoor festival season to a close for area beer lovers. However, Engert is planning an outdoor beer-and-food festival for early November outside the Rustico in Alexandria. Stay tuned for more information.