I think I’ve mentioned before that I love beer. I’m a sucker for a craft beer, and especially sour beers, which have been popular for the last year or so, but I loved them before, because I’m a sour beer hipster who loves a mouth-puckering brew. Unfortunately, most breweries still churn out a lot of IPAs, and not all of my friends and family are as obsessed with these tart temptations as I am. So I usually have to wait for beer festivals to try what’s new and fun, and even then, they don’t usually have a lot of what I’m looking for.
But this year I got to return to my FAVORITE beer festival – Snallygaster. I wasn’t able to go last year because I was on vacation (cry me a river!), but this year, things were perfect. The girls didn’t need to stay with us, so the Boy and I would be free to sample as many beers as we would like.
But before we get into all that – what the heck is a Snallygaster? Apparently it’s a mythical dragon-like beast that used to roam the hills between Frederick, MD and Washington, DC back when Teddy Roosevelt was still president. Now it is one of the largest craft beer festivals in the area, featuring more than 350 beers, and the best part is that they’re not your normal festival beers. The “beer geeks” from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (which is behind Bluejacket and Churchkey, among others) hand-selects all the beers that are coming to the festival, so this way you get varieties that haven’t visited Washington DC before, or special cask versions. You also just get things that are different from your every day picks – they select beers with the goal of having a little bit of everything they’re interested in at a particular time. And all the proceeds from tickets and admission go to Arcadia, a local charity dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the DC area.
So – this year’s event. It was the fifth edition of Snallygaster overall, my second time attending, and apparently the best weather they’ve had in years. They say “Rain or Shine” on the website, and they do mean that – when I attended two years ago (and also when they boy was there last year), it POURED. Just, heavens opening, and people keeping their hands over their mugs so as not to water down their beverage. But in my opinion, this year was perfect. It was overcast and seemed to threaten rain, but not one drop fell. It was warm, but not too hot (though the times that the sun broke through it did get a little muggy).
I drank 10 amazing sour beers, and the only sad part about that is my beers cost nearly two times as much on average for tastings as did the Boy’s or his friends that we hung out with during the festival (Example: I am not sure I paid below 5 tickets for a a beer, with most being 6-9. They regularly got beers for 3 or 4). Perhaps these sours were in smaller supply, or were more popular or something, but dang. I spent all my tickets AND had to go back and get more – TWICE. But it was still all good, and I had to remind myself “it’s going to a good cause!” If you’re interested in seeing what I tasted, visit my Untappd profile. I managed to record all my beers, and a couple of the Boy’s, even if I forgot to keep of his beers as the day got later. Whoops.
There was a lot of terrific live music on two stages, though the headliner act didn’t go on until right at the time that we were leaving, so we didn’t get to enjoy them. And perhaps it was where we were standing, but the music was also really loud. So loud that sometimes it was difficult to hear a conversation, and this is sort of surprising considering we were out in an open parking lot, and not in a walled-off space like a stadium.
On the upside, we had some delicious food from the food trucks nearby. The boy and I munched on some empanadas for a while (though I wish there were more adventurous options and not quite as cheese-focused). When we moved to the parking lot on the north side, we got ice cream that was cornbread flavored. It was AMAZING. And even later on we split a couple of margarita pizzas that were just terrific, and satisfied the hunger that comes with sampling a dozen or so beers.
It was such a terrific experience. The organizers do a terrific job of letting you know what beers will be there and where to find them, so that if you’re a crazy person like me, you can put together a color-coded spreadsheet and know exactly where to go to find that rauchbier your boyfriend is interested in. They had large, obvious signage, and even sub-signs within the general areas. There were large vats of free water, which is necessary when you’re drinking so much beer. The ticket lines were well located, and moved fairly quickly, though like most festivals, I would recommend bringing cash, since it’s a much faster transaction. There were so many porta-potties that I didn’t really see a line, which at an event where lots of liquids are consumed is pretty impressive. And finally, they had a shop set up where people could buy Snallygaster-branded tee shirts or other paraphernalia, along with tees from breweries which had sent their logo’d shirts as well!
It’s an annual event that I will continue to patronize as long as it makes sense for me. It’s so much fun, it’s for a great cause, and it’s really the best run beer festival in the DC area. If you are given the opportunity to attend in the future and wondering if you should, the answer is an emphatic, “YES.”
Details: Snallygaster, held annually each September in SE Washington, DC. Follow them on facebook or twitter for updates.