October is synonymous with beer. While Oktoberfest tends to be the focus of the autumnal brews, there are many other seasonal options to explore in the D.C. area at the best brewpubs around. These are the top five places to find the best seasonal brews from around the world, perfect for celebrating all things fall this year.
2427 18th St. Northwest
Washington, DC 20009
Arguably the best draft selection in D.C., The Black Squirrel is the go-to bar when you’re looking for local, national and international microbrews. With three floors all featuring different taps, there’s a lot to choose from. The name black squirrel comes from a little known D.C. fact. Black squirrels from Canada were given to the National Zoo more than a century ago. In 1902, the squirrels escaped the zoo and bred into the local squirrel population. They are now seen all over the D.C. area. Known for its draft selection and being up on beer trends, its seasonal draft list includes Oktoberfest beers including the Houfbrau Marzen served in a one-liter stein or the local Frederick brewery Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest. One of the hottest trends in fall seasonal beers is pumpkin beer. Black Squirrel offers around 20 pumpkin beers on draft in October. These include the Southern Tier Pumking beer, an imperial pumpkin ale with a 8.6-percent ABV that tastes like a pumpkin pie dessert. With only four or five kegs in D.C., get it before its gone. Another rarity on the menu is the Hoppin Frog’s Double Pumpkin Ale. This beer is usually available in the bottle only, but it’s found a home on Black Squirrel’s taps.
1337 14th St. Northwest
Washington, DC 20005
Up the stairs from the popular Birch and Barley, Churchkey is a trendy bar with a massive, constantly changing draft list. Continuing with its themed beer menu that offers seven profiles, these four selections have their own personalities. Crisp: Hochzeitsbier Von 1810 – Brauerei Hofstetten-Krammer from Austria is a throwback to what the Bavarians were drinking in the early days of Oktoberfest. Hofstetten’s version is unfiltered and unpasteurized, as well as darker and stronger than contemporary versions. Enjoy a rich, spicy malt with a bright, herbal German hop dryness. Hop: Sierra Nevada Estate Harvest Ale 2012 from California is an annual ode to the Pacific Northwest, and one to please the most discerning hopoholics. When the harvest is booming, it’s time to brew. Sierra Nevada’s own harvest reflects the unique terroir of Chico, where the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges converge. Roast: Oyster Stout by 21st Amendment & Ninkasi from California and Oregon. San Francisco-based brewery 21st Amendment has created a rich and roasty Oatmeal Stout. Brewed with both the brine and the shells of San Francisco bay Hog Island Oysters, this seasonal lends itself to the perfect pairing of oysters and beer. Smoke: Oxtoberfest by Oxbow Brewing Company in Maine. The innovation of Oxbow is a palpable fall flavor that reinvents the Oktoberfest tradition. Its Oxtoberfest is not only fermented with Belgian saison yeast, for grassy and peppery aromatics, but also brewed with some smoked malt for a meaty, almost savory effect.
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3400 11th St. Northwest
Washington, DC 20010
The cozy atmosphere of reclaimed wood that cocoons Meridian Pint makes it the go-to local bar in Columbia Heights. The bartenders offer a wealth of knowledge for choosing the right microbrew for you. In October, Meridian Pint will offer Wet Hop Ale by 3 Stars Brewing Company. This seasonal local beer promises a unique experience. In the Northern Hemisphere, the hop plant is harvested in September, making it the only time of the year that brewers can get fresh, wet hops that haven’t been dried for preservation. This lends the pale ales and IPAs to a more grassy taste than the dry-hop brews.
1100 New York Ave. Northwest
Washington, DC 20005
Capitol City Brewing Company is most well known in D.C. for being the first brewpub to open in Washington since prohibition. It offers a wide range of beers including seasonal options on tap in its D.C. and Arlington locations. For the fall, it features two popular beers: Oktoberfest and the Pumpkinator. The Oktoberfest is a filtered, medium bodied lager closely resembling the German-style brews — in fact, it uses German hops. With its complex, but balanced, maltiness and a dry finish, the D.C.-based brew rivals that of German beers with 6.1 percent ABV. If you’re in the mood for pumpkin pie in the fall, check out its Pumpkinator. It’s an unfiltered, medium-bodied ale with caramel and Vienna malts that are spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice to create a veritable bouquet of flavors.
1219 9th St. Northwest
Washington, DC 20001
Old Dominion Brewhouse is the retail brewpub of the Old Dominion Brewing Company. It features seasonal, national favorites such as the Sam Adams Octoberfest with its caramel-red color and five roasts of malt. It’s a richer sweeter beer that is perfect for cooler autumn nights. Old Dominion also adds its own Dominion Octoberfest, which earned the Gold Medal at the 2011 Cap City Oktoberfest in Shirlington, Va. Inspired by the German Maerzen, the beer is a three-hop amber lager with eight malts at a 6-percent ABV.