Stars and Bars: Snallygaster 2016 @ Yards Park — 9/17/16

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Dave Coleman of 3 Stars Brewing Co. enjoys a beer in front of his tent in the Mothra section of Snallygaster 2016.

For its fifth year, Snallygaster rocked the beer drinkers of DC for its 2016 edition, held in its scenic recurring location in Yards Park.

Early in the day, my fellow blogger Jeremy headed straight for the excellent local brewery 3 Stars Brewing Co. (6400 Chillum Pl. NW, DC). There, he drank up a collaboration beer from 3 Stars and Charm City Meadworks, the Two Headed Unicorn, a barrel-aged sour blond ale, clocking in at ABV 6.5%, as he said he would.

After declaring it “excellent,” Jeremy and I said hello to 3 Stars Founder and Brewer Dave Coleman. Because that’s what you do on a sunny day at Snallygaster: You drink extremely interesting beers and then you greet the very people that make them.

And that’s really where the hard work of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and its chief beer honcho Greg Engert truly pays off. Snallygaster 2016 was a high-end beer festival, perfectly wrought for beer nerds like ourselves who wanted to drink good beer from all over the country and do so in the rarified company of the people who know those beers best — often the people who made them.

Some of the collected beers are extremely rare, and go very quickly, justifying the beer festival’s VIP experience, which grants you 90 minutes of “early” entry time to dash across Yards Park and grab a beer that you may never have seen, and may never yet see again. For example, Maine’s popular Allagash Brewing Company offered up its Ghoulschip, spontaneously fermented barrel-aged pumpkin ale, at a curiously punchy 6.9% ABV. But you had to be there quick to get it. It was easily gone within the half of the VIP time. And by gone, I mean out, done, empty.

Left to scour other breweries to get my pumpkin beer fix (’tis the season after all), I hit some favorites like the Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin, Baltimore’s fine 10% bourbon barrel-aged pumpkin ale. (This reminds me to visit Heavy Seas Arlington [1501 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.] to see if I can drink more!) The 2016 Great’er Pumpkin is a pretty good vintage, and it goes down well without being *too* boozy. Handily this year, Heavy Seas was located at Snallygaster right next to Boulevard Brewing Co., so I was able to easily enjoy a pour of their Boulevard Funky Pumpkin, a yummy pumpkin ale with Brettanomyces at 5.8% ABV.

It was the first time I enjoyed the Funky Pumpkin, but the beer of the festival for me was probably the Blue Mountain Spooky, which I also drank for the first time. At 8.2% ABV, this unique pumpkin ale is heavily flavored with chocolate by the brewery from Afton, Virginia, and it’s a winner indeed. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Fritz Hahn of the Washington Post picked it as his beer of the week in the week heading up to Snallygaster, and the Blue Mountain folks were understandably very proud of Fritz’s recommendation.

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And speaking of pumpkin beers, Jeremy sought out and drank the Avery Rumpkin, Avery’s 18.1% ABV barrel-aged pumpkin ale, getting a taster for a mere 12 tickets! (Or $12, as tickets are $1 each.) It seemed excessive to me, but he liked it quite a lot and said, no regrets! Cheers!

Snallygaster 2016 was a winner overall, and as many others have noted this was the first year were it didn’t rain. So we got to enjoy perfect beers on a perfectly sunny day. What more can you ask for?

Here are some more pictures of scenes from around Snallygaster 2016 on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. After these pictures, jump to a bit about the Snallygaster music program — and Speedy Ortiz!

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As in previous years, Snallygaster 2016 hosted a few bands to perform on a big stage set up at the festival. Honestly, I feel a little bit bad for both organizers and bands with regards for the music program for beverage festivals like Snallygaster. Beer and wine drinkers are going to focus intently on their imbibing options, and the crowd invariably will peak at the halfway point in a beer festival. Yet organizers have “music festival” mentality and schedule the headlining act for the end of the day, when most of the attendees are too unfocused or when they already have gone home.

Speedy Ortiz encountered such a situation at Snallygaster 2016, performing directly to a small crowd, albeit one very excited to see them. Frontwoman Sadie Dupuis had an appropriately “devil may care” attitude about the whole thing, and to the band’s credit, they were having fun. Still, it is a bit of an odd sight to see a band capable of selling out the main stage of the Black Cat to play to a sparse gathering of beer stragglers!

The Massachusetts noise pop quartet played a great set, however, and those of us there were grateful to hear it, and songs like “Taylor Swift,” “Raising the Skate,” and “The Graduates.”

Speedy Ortiz have three full-length albums under their belt, including last year’s Foil Deer, released via DC indie giant Carpark Records. In June, they released an EP, Foiled Again, a four-track record that includes two outtakes from Foil Deer. They aren’t on tour at the moment, but you should totally catch them the next time they come to DC.

Truly, all in all, Snallygaster 2016 was a big success, and this year’s festival has me counting down the months until next year’s edition, sure to be set at Yards Park again in September. It’s sincerely the top destination for beer aficionados in the DC metro region, hands down.

Here are a few pictures of Speedy Ortiz performing at Snallygaster 2016 on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016.

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