A week of tastings, samplings and holiday-themed events means Christmas is coming early for beer lovers. Here’s what you need to put on your calendar: You need advance tickets for the events at Birch & Barley, R.F.D. and Smoke and Barrel.
Sunday, Dec. 11
One of the brewing industry’s favorite trends in recent years: Beers aged in bourbon barrels. Brewers from Allagash to D.C. Brau have tried leaving beers in wooden barrels that formerly held maturing bourbon, allowing the brews to absorb the mellow vanilla, spice and char that the booze left behind. These beers are richer and sweeter than usual, making them perfect for a winter evening.
Sunday, Bourbon’s Bourbon Beer Barrel Tasting offers draft beers that were aged in bourbon barrels. The one to get excited about is local: soon-to-open 3 Stars and Baltimore’s Oliver Breweries collaborated on a blend of rye pale ale and rye porter, which was aged in Hudson Rye Whiskey barrels. (You can see the full lineup here.)
There will also be bourbon-aged beers in bottles, and you can get $2 off any pint when you order a shot of Buffalo Trace, Bookers or Hudson Rye Whiskey.
Monday, Dec. 12
Birch & Barley and ChurchKey turns a joint holiday beer-tasting into a fundraiser for Martha’s Table. Birch & Barley chef Kyle Bailey pairs seven hard-to-find seasonal beers with seven small bites in the main floor restaurant. Tickets cost $45, and dinner begins at 7. Call 202-567-2576 to reserve a spot.
Upstairs, ChurchKey is putting 24 holiday beers on tap and one on cask, and the list is loaded with names that will make beer-lovers salivate, such as Mikkeller and De Struise. And it includes all seven Christmas beers from England’s Ridgeway Brewing Company, which progress from Bad Elf to Seriously Bad Elf to Criminally Bad Elf. Click to our full listing to see all the beers that will be available, and a portion of all sales will be donated to Martha’s Table.
Monday, Dec. 12 and Wednesday, Dec. 14
The Brickskeller may be history, but its annual Winter Holidaze winter beer tasting remains the best way to sample holiday beers from the region’s breweries and brewpubs without logging a lot of miles on the car and begging friends to play designated driver.
Held at sister bar R.F.D., the two-night tasting features a Q&A with the brewmasters who made what’s in your glass. Brewers bring different beers each night, so check the schedule to see if there’s something you’re particularly interested in trying. Tickets are $40 per night, or $70 for both, from the R.F.D. Web site.
The full list of draft beers is here. Monday highlights include the spiced Happy Trails Christmas Ale from Sweetwater Tavern, while Wednesday night includes Mad Fox’s Festivus and Rock Bottom Bethesda’s strong 15th Anniversary Ale.
Thursday, Dec. 15
This year we’ve seen the debuts of DC Brau, Chocolate City, Lost Rhino and 3 Stars, plus the growth of Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company. Catch up with them all at Smoke and Barrel’s first-ever beer dinner, 5x5, which features two beers from each brewery paired with a five-course meal. Dinner begins at 7 p.m., and it costs $50 plus tax and gratuity. Seats are limited; Get tickets from the Smoke and Barrel site.
Monday, Dec. 19 and Tuesday, Dec. 20
Rustico’s annual Festivus celebration of seasonal beers has expanded to two parties over two nights at two locations, with a dozen taps at each bar. This means you’ll have to travel if you want to sample … well, every Christmas beer you’d want to sample, probably.
Monday’s event in Ballston features the Bruery’s Four Calling Birds on cask and draft, plus Einbecker’s traditional German Winter-Bock and the New Holland Cabin Fever. (The full list of beers is here.)
The following night in Alexandria, there are 12 more beers to try, glassware giveaways and a raffle for anyone who attends both nights.