Thousands of beer industry insiders will descend on the city next week for the annual Craft Brewers Conference, which is being held in Washington for the first time. The conference brings the heavyweights of the national beer scene to dozens of unofficial happy hours and beer dinners open to everyone, and the following events should be on any beer-lover's calendar. Most are free, though you'll pay for your own beer. Space and some hard-to-find beers are limited, so arrive early.
Dogfish Head IPA Showcase
Dogfish Head brewer Jesse Prall brings a dozen of Dogfish's hoppy ales to a Smoke and Barrel meet-and-greet, including the new Sixty-One, which is brewed with syrah grape must, and rarities Firefly and Rhizing Bines.
The Craft Brewers Conference Beer & Food Experience
Birch & Barley chef Kyle Bailey will create a five-course tasting menu to pair with eight rare beers from Avery, Flying Dog, Firestone Walker, Cigar City, Surly, DC Brau, Maui and Bluejacket. Brewers, owners and founders of each brewery will be in attendance. Advance tickets are required. Can't make the dinner? Head upstairs to ChurchKey, where rare beers from all of the participating breweries will be on tap.
Great American Saison Drafts
Light, spicy Belgian saisons are the perfect beers for spring, but in recent years, some of the best versions of this style have come from America. A dozen breweries will join forces to offer 35 different saisons on tap at ChurchKey, including Stillwater, Saint Somewhere, Jolly Pumpkin and Jester King.
A Night of Extraordinary Ales
Most tap-takeovers feature one or two breweries, but the better events are set up like mini-festivals where you can taste beers from a variety of small producers. Sister restaurants Scion and Crios are team ing up to showcase more than 40 rare bottle and draft selections from Falling Sky, Foothills, Fullsteam, Funkwerks, Gigantic, Haymarket, Oakshire, Odell and Two Brothers.
Beer Hunter: The Movie
The late British beer writer Michael Jackson did more to introduce people to the world's best ales and lagers than any other author. His "World Guide to Beer" has been in print since 1977. Jackson, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, died in 2007. A documentary about his life will screen at RFD Washington on what would have been his 71st birthday. Proceeds benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Masters of the Craft Beer Universe
Smith Commons' four-night Masters of the Craft Beer Universe attracts everyone from beer bloggers to the owners of award-winning breweries. Beer celebrities appearing at Wednesday's party, sponsored by Draft Magazine, will include Bell's Brewery owners Larry and David Bell, Great Lakes Brewing Company co-founder Patrick Conway and Founders Brewing Company co-owner Dave Engbers. Ask at the bar about rare brews from all of the night's participants. Admission is free, but registration is required.
One of the few bands left standing from the ska craze of the 1990s, D.C.’s own Pietasters still tour and perform regularly. This Black Cat show, co-sponsored by the DC Brau and Ska breweries, doubles as a release party for the Pietasters’ official beer -- a coffee dopplebock called Taster's Choice.
Baltimore Beer Jam
Charm City comes to H Street for one night. Join brewers from Stillwater, the Brewer's Art, Oliver's and Union Craft Brewing for tastings of their beers at Boundary Road (5-9 p.m.) and the Pug (9 p.m.-2 a.m.).
Schlafly Tap Takeover
Schlafly Beer and the District of Pi both hail from the city of St. Louis, and they'll bring the Gateway to the West to F Street during the Craft Brewers Conference. This tap takeover features the chance to meet Schlafly staff and sample some new beers, including an IPA and the American Brown Ale.
Rocky Mountain Hops
Some of the country's freshest and most interesting beers come out of Colorado, and the Black Squirrel is devoting a night to beers from the Centennial State. Odell, New Belgium, Funkwerks, Avery, Breckenridge and Oskar Blues are each sending between six and eight kegs to the Black Squirrel for this event.
The California Craft Beer Extravaganza
California was the birthplace of the American craft beer movement, and the state still boasts some of the country's best breweries. ChurchKey honors California innovators at a special night featuring rare casks and drafts from Sierra Nevada, Stone, Green Flash, 21st Amendment and Lost Abbey. The six taps from Lost Abbey should generate the most interest. The award-winning brewery only distributes to two cities on the East Coast: Boston and Philadelphia.
Three Floyds Tap Takeovers
Indiana's cult Three Floyds Brewery will be taking over a portion of the taps at both D.C. branches of Pizzeria Paradiso on Thursday, March 28. Three Floyds will split the 16 taps at Birreria Paradiso with Washington state's Elysian Brewing, and share the dozen taps at Pizzeria Paradiso's Dupont Circle outpost with Minnesota's Surly Brewing Company.
Beer and Cheese with Oxbow and the Bruery
Forget wine: Nothing goes together like beer and cheese. At this tasting, led by Meridian Pint assistant beer director Tim Prendergast, five artisanal cheeses will be paired with aged and funky beers from both Oxbow and the Bruery. Oxbow brewer Tim Adams will offer his take at both sessions; Bruery founder Patrick Rue will attend the 6 p.m. session.
Twenty-four breweries, including Dogfish Head, Victory, Lost Abbey, Three Floyds and Stone, will pair one of their beers with "a piece of visual art that represents their brand or brewery." It's the only place to pair IPAs and original sculptures during the Craft Brewers Conference.
Hometown pride will be strong at Meridian Pint, where 20 breweries from the District, Maryland and Virginia will take over the bar's 28 draft beer lines, including four on the patio, and serve 24 cask-conditioned ales, each for $5. Devils Backbone, the Brewer's Art, 3 Stars and Mad Fox will pour special collaborations brewed with Meridian Pint's in-house beer experts.
Over the course of five nights, Smoke and Barrel expects to pour 82 different beers from more than a dozen breweries. Since you might not be able to attend every event, Smoke and Barrel's beer experts will helpfully save kegs of some of their favorite brews for a special end-of-the-week brunch.