Next week is the biggest week of the year for Washington's beer lovers. The catalyst is the annual Savor craft beer festival, which brings 76 of the country's top breweries to the National Building Museum on Friday and Saturday nights for tastings and seminars. All tickets for Savor sold out in around 30 minutes back in March, but if you didn't get them, don't worry: The real fun is found at the happy hours, brewer meet-and-greets and rare-beer events that spring up at D.C. beer bars. This is your chance meet Brooklyn Brewery founder Garrett Oliver or Sam Adams founder Jim Koch; try numerous rare beers from Founders or Stone; or sample Odell, Cigar City and other breweries that don't regularly show up on taps in this region.
Starting Monday, we'll have a daily post with a rundown of the day's must-do beer tastings and events, most of which are free and require no reservations. But if you're planning ahead, some big events do require tickets. Here are six you might want to book now.
The Ultimate Funkwerks Beer & Food Experience
Where and when: May 5 at Birch & Barley, beginning at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $70. Call 202-567-2576 to make a reservation.
Funkwerks has won awards for its flavorful and funky saisons and strong Belgian-style ales, but most Washingtonians have never tried beers from the Fort Collins, Colo., brewery, which only officially distributes its products in Colorado, Nebraska and Arizona. (Some Funkwerks beers occasionally show up in D.C., but they're rare.) Funkwerks co-founder Brad Lincoln is hosting the brewery's first-ever beer dinner in Washington at Birch and Barley, pouring nine different beers paired with five courses.
Founders Beer Brunch
Where and when: May 8 at Meridian Pint, beginning at 3 p.m. (Doors open at 2:15 p.m.)
Tickets: $65, available from Eventbrite.
Only in the beer world does "brunch" begin at 3 p.m. on a Thursday. But for fans of Michigan's acclaimed Founders Brewing Company, this is a perfect excuse to take the day off. Five courses of French toast, braised pork belly and stuffed poblano peppers will be paired with four-ounce pours of nine Founders beers, including the famous bourbon-barrel-aged Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Backwoods Bastard, the triple IPA Devil Dancer, huge and malty Curmudgeon Old Ale and the tropical-spiced Mango Magnifico. (If you haven't had enough to drink at the end of the meal, full pours will be available at the bar.)
Belgium on the Beltway
Where and when: May 10 at the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Fairfax, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets: $30, available from the Dogfish Head website.
One of the few Savor events outside of D.C. proper, this event features small pours of 16 different Belgian-influenced beers from Dogfish Head, Brooklyn, Allagash, New Belgium, Boulevard, DC Brau and Sierra Nevada. You sample any time between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. – there will be live music all day – but the prime time is between noon and 2 p.m., when brewers will host a meet-and-greet and answer questions. All-inclusive tickets are $30.
Third Annual Brewers Brunch
Where and when: May 10 at Birch & Barley, beginning at 11 a.m.
Tickets: $55. Call 202-567-2576 to make a reservation.
A ritual of Savor weekend, this brunch is the best reason to drag yourself out of bed after a night of beer sampling. Birch & Barley's chefs prepare a special multi-course menu of entrees and pastries paired with ales from participating Savor breweries, and it's also a chance to hobnob with some of the biggest names in the brewing world, including Garret Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery, Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium, Steve Grossman of Sierra Nevada and Phil Wymore of Perennial Artisan Ales. This event sells out every year, and for good reason – don't wait to make your reservation.
Maine Beer Company Clam Bake
Where and when: May 10 at Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont Circle, from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
Tickets: $40, available from Eventbrite.
The Maine Beer Company is becoming a cult favorite in Washington, especially for Lunch, a wonderfully balanced IPA. Brewer and owner Dan Kleban hosts a special "Clam Bake" lunch at Paradiso, which includes a Maine blueberry salad and a personal-sized pizza topped with lobster, clams, corn and potatoes. The food is paired with small pours of nine Maine Beer Company beers, including Lunch and two other IPAs. If you want to try the beers without food, they can be purchased a la carte at the bar, but space is limited.
All 'Ale the Ladies Meet-and-Greet
Where and when: May 11 at the Black Squirrel from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15, available from Eventbrite.
Though the brewing industry is becoming more diverse, Savor can still feel like a boys' club. Helping to change that is the annual All 'Ale the Ladies happy hour and meet-and-greet, organized by local beer writer Tammy Tuck. The party appeals to women in the industry as well as those who just love craft beer. Speakers this year include New Belgium co-founder Kim Jordan, All About Beer magazine co-owner (and former editor) Julie Johnson, "Cooking With Beer" author Lucy Saunders, and Brewers Association Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz. Confirmed attendees include a number of female brewers, beer writers and distributors. Tickets include beers selected by the speakers and paired with food.