The 2017 Snallygaster, the self-described “Beastly Beer Jamboree,” was bigger than ever with over 400 beers. It seems like every year there are more and better beers, because there are. The participating breweries really brought their A-games with a host of extremely rare beers. Several gems weren’t even listed ahead of time and had to be discovered by exploring or talking to fellow craft-beer fans.
As usual, I had a game plan in-hand with my printed out color-coded spreadsheets on thick cardstock paper. Using the ratings on the popular beer crowd-reviewing app Untappd, a friend (Doug) and I worked dutifully together to procure as many amazing rare and delicious beers as possible. After four hours, we had sampled 27 beers. The quality of those 27 beers was completely incomparable to any other beer festival I’ve ever attended. Of the 27 beers, I gave 26 of them at least a 4 (on a 5-point scale) and an astounding 10 beers a score of 4.5 or higher (generally I don’t award 10 beers a score of 4.5 a year). We ended up tasting 9 of the top 12 rated beers (we didn’t taste the other three because one had a foam issue and I have the other two in my cellar). Those top 12 rated beers definitely deserved their lofty scores. Here’s the top 10 beers I tasted at the 2017 Snallygaster:
Quick Points on the Top Beers
- J. Wakefield – Miami Madness – Upon the first sip of this beer I told Doug, “I think I may have had a better sour, but I can’t remember one being better than this.” Just an amazing sour that was rich, flavorful but not overly sweet, and it was easy to drink. None of that back-end acid bite on the throat that sometimes occurs with sours.
- Perennial – Barrel-Aged Abraxas – This was my #1 target and from what I saw, it was the most sought-after beer. The line is pictured above and was about 20 minutes long. Miraculously, I got the very last pour of it. I’ve been a big fan of Perennial for years and their beers rarely disappoint. This beer is everything everyone says it is. Smooth, rich, and somehow delicate at 11%. Pure and simple, this is a tour de force of beer making.
- The Answer – Diablo’s Brunch – When Doug tried this beer, I swear his pupils dilated rapidly as he quietly uttered, “yyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeesssss” as he exhaled. I’m a big fan of stouts and the flavors of maple syrup, coffee, vanilla and cinnamon. I’ve had a lot of beers with those ingredients over the years, but this beer somehow takes all those delicious flavors and is better than the sum of the parts. No one or two notes overpower the others as usually occurs in these stouts. Instead they do a magical dance together that makes Dancing With the Stars resemble a mosh pit (is that show still on?).
- Burley Oak – Phantom of the Oak: Blueberry – There are a few blueberry beers out there. Most of them are too sweet or artificial tasting. In fact, most blueberry drinks in general are like that. Doug gave me a skeptical look when I told him to try “this awesome blueberry beer.” He was not disappointed. Burley Oak has been turning out some really good beers and they just keep getting better!
- Westbrook – Mexican Cake: Bourbon Barrel – I’ve been trying to trade for this beer to no avail for a couple of years. This was my #2 target of Snallygaster and now I really need to get a couple of bottles of it to have on hand (you know in case we find out a giant asteroid is headed towards Earth or Armageddon arrives). The little nip of habanero slowly builds at the end offering a delightful little bite. Granted, I like pepper beers more than 98% of population.
Overall, Snallygaster was great. Doug and I have already been discussing with others how we are going to have a better game plan for 2018 Snallygaster so we can taste more of the amazing beers that will be present.
If you didn’t go this year, make sure you attend Snallygaster next year, and get the early entry ticket. It is now the preeminent craft beer festival in DC and the Neighborhood Restaurant Group sure puts on a hell of a beer jamboree.