Tales of Snallygaster
Saturday wasn’t one of those brilliant, orange-and-red autumn days. It was windy, threatened rain and was one of the first chilly days Washington, D.C. has experienced this fall.
It was perfect weather for Snallygaster.
The beer festival (or “gargantuan beer jamboree,” as it was termed) on Oct. 19 took over the parking lot of Union Market in the city’s northeast and debuted the pumpkin beers, the Octoberfests and the dark lagers of the season. The fest was named after the mythical beast that supposedly ravaged this region centuries ago and its organizers fully embraced the theme: tents named after monsters, a massive mural of the beast on an empty wall. More than 200 different styles were on tap, at various ticket price points.
Sponsored by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which operates numerous well-known and well-liked restaurants in the region, Snallygaster benefited a food nonprofit, the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture.
Mostly full of 20-somethings (think: flannel, beards and skinny jeans) the festival was thoroughly attended, though comfortable enough to grab plenty of tastings, full mugs and gourmet tacos and turkey legs. The organizers paired with the car service Uber, allowing for discounts for first-time riders. Union Market, a gourmand’s playground, is relatively close to a Metro stop but otherwise easiest to get to via car. There were plenty of volunteers pouring drinks, numerous good options for food — some of the city’s favorite food trucks included — live music and relatively clean restrooms. Activities for children and literature on Arcadia’s mission rounded out the more wholesome aspects of the day. Overall, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group coordinated these important details well.
In terms of beer, I got there relatively early and did not have problems grabbing some of the more popular drinks. Washington has swiftly developed a taste for fine and exotic beer, driven in part by young, well-off people in the region. Sour beers and the wine barrel-aged were, unsurprisingly, popular hits. A brief sampling: The Saranac Tramonay Vineyard Saison (New York, 7.4 percent, draft) had a fruity depth that was not overpowering with sweetness. Fitting for the season, the Kulmbacher Eisbock (Germany, 9.2 percent, draft) definitely packed a distinctive punch and was meant for sipping, wandering around the tents.
One of the most drinkable beers of the day had to be the New Belgium and Cigar City Collaboration Ale (Colorado and Florida, 8.5 percent, draft) — this was the first time it was poured in the city. Paying homage to the local scene, the Star Hill Boxcar Pumpkin Porter (Virginia, 5.2 percent, draft) showed to be a drinkable pumpkin beer, without the divisive boldness that oftentimes characterizes the style.
After tastings and food truck pitas and kabobs, I was able to grab some flowers and bourbon from Union Market, then easily grab an Uber car home. Snallygaster was definitely a more refined beer fest, but it seemingly has found its niche in the city’s ever-expanding food, drink and brew scene.
For information on Snallygaster: http://www.snallygasterdc.com/documents/Snallygaster2013FAQ.pdf
For information on Arcadia: http://arcadiafood.org
For information on Union Market: http://unionmarketdc.com