Photo by Franz Mahr
Photo by Franz Mahr

Snallygaster, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s (NRG) “Beastly Beer Jamboree,” returns Sept. 17. The robust suds soiree can leave festival-goers with a feeling of FOMO because there are so many quirky, cool beers to try and only so much sobriety to go around. The group’s beer director, Greg Engert, says Snallygaster participants are guaranteed to go home with a whale (super rare beer) ticked off their checklist.

Tickets cost $35 for general admission (includes 1 p.m. entry and 30 food and drink tickets) or $60 for VIP early admission (includes 11:30 a.m. entry and 30 food and drink tickets) and proceeds benefit Arcadia. Snallygaster runs until 6 p.m., and you can find the festival at 1st and N Streets SE.

Engert and other NRG employees are weighing in on what not to miss in order to ease that fear of missing out, especially because this year has the biggest beer list to date: 350 beers up from 305 at last year’s festival.

NRG Beer Director Greg Engert: Löwenbräu Buttenheim – Kellerbier

“Each fall we receive a handful of rubber-clad gravity kegs—each one filled with fresh, unfiltered lager from some of the smallest Franconian breweries—and we tap them en masse at Snallygaster. My favorite of the bunch is from Löwenbräu Buttenheim. It’s creamy and crisp, with a toasted malt palate, grassy aromatics, and a zesty hop kick in the finish.”

EatBar Bar Manager Paul Michel: Aslin Berliner Weisse – Mango & Passionfruit

“Aslin has consistently surprised me with their balanced but intensely flavorful approach to brewing. I’m excited to see what this young local upstart can do with a fruity Berliner Weisse. Plus, nothing goes better outdoors in warm weather with a grilled tube of meat than a refreshingly tart malt beverage.”

Red Apron Butcher Chef Nathan Anda: Firestone Walker – Imperial Smoked Walker’s Reserve

“At Snallygaster I spend the majority of my time slinging burgers, so I’m looking for beers that are gonna accompany what I’m preparing. I think it’s subtle smokiness and the caramel notes of the beer will pair excellently with the dry age flavor of our burgers. Doesn’t hurt that it comes in with an ABV of 10.5% and that its rich body will keep you going while you’re waiting in line or walking across the festival to try another beer.”

NRG Assistant Beer Director Tim Liu: J. Wakefield – Miami Madness

“In the south, they’ve coined the phrase ‘Florida Weisse,’ which is essentially a sour wheat beer brewed with tropical fruit. J. Wakefield uses mango, guava, and passionfruit in their version. I’m expecting it to be tart, fruity, and refreshing, which is perfect after a long day in the sun. Plus, it is relatively low in alcohol, which means I can drink a ton of them.”

The Sovereign Chef Peter Smith: Cantillon – Fou’ Foune

“There’s something exciting about having a lambic—my personal favorite style of beer—made with over a quarter pound of apricots per pint from the gold standard of lambic producers. If it’s anything like other Cantillon lambics I’ve had, this will be quite a treat.”

Other can’t-miss brews:

Allagash – Farm to Face

Get your hands on this sour blonde ale with roughly three pounds of peaches per gallon added, along with two strains of wild yeast. It’s aged for 10 months and then tapped to reveal a beer that’s almost like biting into a bright, juicy peach.

Prairie Artisan Ales – Bomb!

Since goods from this brewery don’t make it into D.C. often, be sure to try this stout that’s aged with espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chile peppers. The heat from the peppers make this beer distinct from other stouts.

Highland Brewing Company – Tasgall Ale

Highland has been brewing for more than 20 years, and they really excel at unique styles with a singular focus. This dark beer with roasted barley and chocolate malt is no exception. It’s named after the “Cauldron of the Gods” due to its increased hop level, a departure from traditional Scotch-style ales.

Bell’s Brewery – The Oracle

This take on a West Coast double IPA is citrusy with an aggressive bitterness and wildly floral aromatics.

Oskar Blues – Death By Coconut

This Irish-style porter brewed in collaboration with Shamrock Brewing Company is aged on desiccated coconut and dark chocolate. Expect a nearly black beer with big coconut flavor and a nice “roasty” aroma. This is one to try at the end of the festival: Think of it as dessert.