July in DC is always special. Screen On The Green is around the corner, every day feels like we’re on the surface of Mercury, and Friends of the National Zoo presents Brew At The Zoo. This was the 6th installment of the event, showcasing 30 breweries all present in the name of “support(ing) animal care, conservation science, education, and sustainability at the National Zoo.” As the event’s logo suggests (or hopes to suggest), some percentage of the proceeds will go towards the new Asian Elephant Trail, which is slated to open in 2011.
Brew At The Zoo (BATZ from here on out) brings to the masses a sampling of the best in American mirco and craft brewing. A roster of mostly East Coast breweries, with solid representation coming from as far as Colorado, shows that American beer is more diverse than the Big Three (that didn’t stop Miller and Anheuser-Busch from showing up to look awkward and ridiculous. Seriously, you brought MILLER LITE?!) and can be as intricate and compelling as anything Belgian.
Craft brewing is also the testing ground for beer. Some ideas take some time to cultivate, and some styles offer themselves up for refinement and interpretation. Let’s review some of the ideas floating around BATZ.
Magic Hat’s Wacko Summer Ale (reviewed recently by Derek) and Boulder Brewing Co’s Blueberry Wheat Ale were among those fruit-infused beers that bring true fruit flavor without the stereotypical Jolly Rancher aftertaste. There are a good number of fruit-infused beers that have a nose/palate/aftertaste of a Mike’s Hard, and that is a shame. Real flavor needs to shine through.
Gordon Biersch’s Social Kölsch was an interesting offering, due to the difficulty in brewing a German-style beer that is very light and delicate in appearance but packs the fuller flavor of most lagers. More breweries were offering up their own version of the hefeweizen, all with promising results. District Chophouse presented a still bitter but more toned-down and sweeter hefe; Capitol City Brewery was sharp and dry; Southampton went traditional and citrusy. Same style, different takes, all well done.
Seeing Samuel Adams did not carry the shock that it did at last year’s BATZ. Arguably the biggest “commercial craft” brewer in the country, SA still holds to the craft creativity roots that inspired its first batch of Boston Lager. In addition to their commercial samples, Sample A and Sample B were available. Entrants into the latest Sam Adams Beer Lover’s Choice contest were an (A) Belgian-style IPA and (B) American Rye Ale. The winning style becomes the newest addition to the SA family of beers. What’s so great about this promotion is that the new beer will not be a “lite” with some goofy flavor. This is beer, real beer, with mad scientist appeal. Here’s hoping the Rye wins. Find your tasting event here.
Entertainment for the night came from The Sheilds Brothers. Cover band, beer drinking music. Eh, they were there.
Because we here at TPG encourage you to explore the world of beer, here are the Top 5 beers from the 6th annual FONZ BATZ (in no particular order):
- Disctrict Chophouse & Brewery Hefeweizen (see review above)
- Holy Brew Brewing Co. Liquid Confession – light, mellow summery pilsner but HAS flavor
- Old Dominion Brewing Co Oak Barrel Stout – dry-hopping with vanilla beans and oak chips creates this sweet and creamy stout
- Boulder Brewing Co Blueberry Wheat Ale – English-inspired American wheat ale is smooth with the most subtle hint of real blueberry
- Goose Island Brewing Co Summertime – the best-executed kölsch style at BATZ, another fare that is light enough for summer but pack strong flavor
The success of BATZ cannot be attributed to just one particular influence (TPG thinks it’s the free stickers and coasters, but we digress). People who brew good beer will always find people who love to drink good beer. Brewers who see people lined up 50-deep to sample their beer will always be beamingly happy to quench the thirt of the masses. Even if it’s free.
And a happy brewer leads to a happy beer drinker.
Complete TPG BATZ gallery here.