“O’zapft is!”A lighter more subtle take on the traditional Oktoberfest Marzen. Only here through October!
A mild sour beer with a citric lemon juice twang that slowly fades into a wheat beer base.
The perfect Flanders red ale, with a rich smattering of white wine, rooibos, cherry, and almost jammy notes hidden among a central tartness that is apparent without even tasting.
By Nick Reifschneider
“The terrible twos are a normal stage in a toddler’s development characterized by mood changes, temper tantrums and use of the word “no.” The terrible twos typically occur when toddlers begin to struggle between their reliance on adults and their desire for independence,” the Mayo Clinic.
So, Dacha is turning two. But, of course, this is a happy time! No force feeding of broccoli here; and provided one keep the Vitus and Straffe Hendrik to a reasonable amount, little chance of vomit.
As is custom with pieces like this, we look to the many changes Dacha has made on route to current form, but must also remember the many ways it has stayed the same. The idea was a simple one: build an outdoor beer garden in DC’s Shaw neighborhood and show the city’s residents the simple pleasure of good beer enjoyed with friends and family under the sun or stars.
What started as a single front bar and patio now wraps around 270-degrees- the taps and selection multiplying. On hot summer days a cooling vapor may descends from newly installed misters on the awning above; given DC summers, a welcome relief and perfect foil to the skin kissing sunlight and muggy air. On September 3, 2013 when Dacha first opened food had to be brought in. Now, after taking over the space next door, a full menu and weekend brunch (Brunch!) are an order away from the kitchen. And, although it a bit crass to mention in such close proximity, the new bathrooms are impressive (not a joke, they’re really cool).
Over the past 750-days, yes, many changes have been made. There have been guest beer nights by local brewers, a World Cup, Pride Parades, and many parties, but enduring always is the earnest sense of welcome and cheer cultivated by the staff. An uncertain gaze down at the menu is sure to provoke a helpful query from behind the bar asking what you like in a beer from someone happy and ready to explain the tastes and merits of each on tap. Or, maybe you come often and upon entering are asked, “You’re doing Pilsner today, right?” glass already half poured.
One may have a solitary drink at home and be alright, but add the smiles, the company, and meticulously nurtured atmosphere of this “second home,” and then you have something truly special. Dacha is, has been and remains a place where to celebrate, relax, and genuinely feel contented.
So, maybe not so much the terrible two’s, but rather, “you’ve come a long way baby.”
Happy birthday Dacha. Here’s to many more. Cheers.
by Rafi Bortnick,
Bartender and Cicerone
You’ve probably heard this already or noticed the trend by now. I’m not here to talk about why they’re great or terrible—ok, that’s a lie. I’m here to talk about why they’re great!
The first sour beer I ever tasted was a bottle of Professor Fritz Breim’s 1809 Berliner Weisse over at what was then still the Brickskeller. It was tart and funky and it opened up a whole world of beer flavors I previously didn’t know existed. My wife described it as sweaty socks. “I know, isn’t it great!” was my reply. Obviously we were on different wavelengths there.
Since then, I’ve fallen farther and farther down the rabbithole beers full of acid. The bright, juicy, tart flavors meld with funky notes, both produced by “wild” yeast and bacteria usually reserved for wine spoilage, yogurt and vinegar making—yum! In beer they find their true calling. The lady of the house has even started to enjoy a few (restrained) examples.
So when Dmitri told me we were getting a keg of 1809 on at Dacha I was ecstatic: I was getting back to my sour roots. We’ve rotated in a few other world class examples since then including the Bayerisch Banhof Leipziger Gose and a Berliner Weisse dry hopped with Bavarian Mandarin hops.
The Gose was much more subtle than most of the American versions I’ve tasted, many of which are still delicious, but bracingly tart and sometimes one-dimensionally sour. This one was tart, but not overwhelmingly so. The mineral quality was pleasant and not overly “salty,” and the traditional addition of coriander shined through on the backend. It was crisp and refreshing.
The Berliner Weisse lived up to style expectations as very tart and a little funky with a corny grain flavor from the minimal boil required for stylistic authenticity. The addition of the Mandarina dry hops created a sensation I’ve often found with dry hopped berliner weisse beers of drinking fresh raspberry juice—I grew-up with raspberries in my backyard and I always picked the super tart slightly underripe ones. The flavors of the Leipziger were more along the lines of sour cherries and ripe mandarin oranges.
We’re have the Leipziger berlinner Weisse and the Dogfish Head Festina Peche and I’m as excited as ever.
When people come to the bar and ask what my favorite beer is, I’m always happy to give them a sample of these puckering pleasures. I love watching the reactions. Sometimes their eyes go wide and there’s no question about what they’ll order. Other times the smiles fade like a reverse Cheshire Cat and they look like babies eating lemons for the first time.
I don’t know the scientific reasons for why my brain gravitates toward sours, but I do know that it does. Maybe it has something to do with the promise of Vitamin C to ward off scurvy and absorb iron. For me it’s just a new avenue to explore in the complex world of beer.
by Sean Simmons
Bartender, Dacha Beer Garden & Owner, Mobius Meadery
Aug. 1st was National Mead Day. This may have left many wondering…
What is mead?
Most of us have heard the word ‘mead’ at some point – but have you ever had any? Being most commonly associated with such things as viking lore, the Renaissance Festival, or more recently Game of Thrones, it’s easy to see why people think it’s some unattainable ambrosia reserved only for those fantasies. Fortunately for all of us, this is not the case. Mead is currently enjoying its own renaissance, and several varieties are readily available for your tasting pleasure at Dacha Beer Garden.
With its origins predating that of grape wine and beer, mead has been regarded as the oldest fermented beverage enjoyed by humans. Before our ancestors were harvesting grapes or grain, they were foraging for honey (for at least 20,000 years, as depicted by rock paintings in Central Sahara, Zimbabwe, and South Africa). Even before they knew how to fire pottery or weave baskets, they were using animal skins to hold liquids for transportation. If you put some honey in a bag and dilute it with water, wild yeast will be more than happy to make you some mead.
As civilizations progressed, and agriculture replaced the need to forage for honey, beer and wine became a much more economically efficient way to produce booze. As agriculture developed, it rendered honey wine as a commodity reserved for only those who could afford it. Luckily, the art of making mead survived through the centuries especially in areas where vine fruits were not so abundant.
Why do I care?
Mead making almost died out in the Middle Ages because candles made from beeswax became a more popular commodity than the honey within. Today, it accounts for the smallest, but fasting growing segment of the booze industry. Meaderies like B. Nektar in Michigan, Superstition Meadery in Arizona, and Moonstruck Meadery in Nebraska, have been leading the way in marketing and innovation; transforming how the United States views mead, while also pushing further the boundaries of the drink’s potential. Take B. Nektar’s ‘Electric Blue’ for example. It’s made with orange blossom honey and blue raspberry Kool Aid, which shines bright florescent blue. While that might not be a good example of how mead has the potential to reach the prestige obtained by producers of more popular alcoholic beverages, it’s a breath of fresh air from the current offerings of the craft beer scene.
What does it taste like?
Mead can be bone dry, or cloyingly sweet. It can be sour, or it can be bitter. It really has the potential to be just about anything the meadmaker wants it to be, however, the true beauty of mead lies in its limitations. Beer is always made from grain, which can be roasted, smoked, caramelized, etc., which changes its flavor slightly or dramatically. Mead is made from just one fermentable: honey. For this reason, it’s rare to see a craft meadery offering a show mead, a mead which is strictly honey, water, and yeast. That gets a little boring. The craft of fine mead making requires seamless, or otherwise explorative, infusions of fruit, herb, and spice. Geographical influence, just as in the world of grapes, is also important. A mead made with Virginia wildflower honey can taste vastly different than a mead made with Arizona wildflower honey. Mixing honey varietals bring endless possibilities. For example, has anyone ever combined Arizona Mesquite and German forest honey? If not, therein lies an opportunity for future experimentation.
What should I do now!?
Drink mead! Dacha Beer Garden has two awesome meads tapped, B. Nektar’s Necromangocon, and Charm City Meadworks’ Basil Lemongrass. If you can’t find mead at your favorite beer bar, tell the bartender that you are after some.
By Rafi Bortnick
Bartender, Dacha Beer Garden
With all the summer rain we’ve been getting, saving water in D.C. seems like, well, a bit of a waste of time. I’m thinking of my friends out in California and I wish I could send these storms their way. As it is, we’re stuck with with thunder and lighting while they’re stuck listening to the dry crackle of the Golden State grass turning a little more brown with each passing day.
Still, even with what seems to be a constant downpour, I’m proud of our water conservation efforts at Dacha. Every guy who’s checked-out the Men’s room has seen our awesome Latvian urinals with the attached handwashing sink to act as the flushing mechanism. So incredulous is the response to this commonsensical facility that I often hear and see patrons excitedly rushing to discuss with their friends, male and female, and show them what they found. To be fair, most of the extremely excited people have nearly empty boots of beer in their hands, which is probably why they were in the bathroom in the first place. Regardless, it’s a regular occurrence that always brightens my rainy days.
Not that they need much brightening. I love working outside, even—and especially—when an average day turns into an adventure of the elements. Maybe it stems from growing-up in a place that very, very rarely got lightning, but I revel in the rain. When I was a kid, at the sound of thunder, my sisters and I would jump into our rubber boots to play and splash around outside in the flooding streets. I still get excited at extreme weather. I don’t know if it’s the deafening of the city soundscape, making me feel like I’m in my own little bubble, or the beauty of a turbulent sky turned into a majestic sunset, or even just the smell of the flowers opening up to receive the water, but whenever it pours I feel that twinge of awe at the power of nature.
So next time the sky gets dark at 4:00 in the afternoon, instead of feeling gloomy, come join me for a pint—or a boot—some hot food, and awesome water saving toilets at Dacha. It’ll be dry under the tent and I’ll be happy to pour you lots of samples from our rotating line-up.
Originally posted by Hanna Raskin
Back in the early days of beer-making, brewers were largely stuck producing light, quick-fermenting beers in summertime because they didn’t have access to the fresh hops and cooling systems needed for deeper, darker ales. Nowadays, brewers are free to flout tradition and make a malty stout in mid-July, but the seasonal nature of brewing persists: Turns out that crisp, low-alcohol beers are perfectly suited to hot days of boating and beach volleyball.
Every season has its beers, but the beers of summer are especially popular with the American drinking public. According to Time Magazine, the volume of summer seasonal beers sold nationwide is about double the volume of winter- and spring-specific brews. Sales tend to surge on Memorial Day and July Fourth, a holiday that’s notorious for depleting summer seasonal inventories.
Here, a guide to a few of the styles that are freshly emerging from local taps:
- Session IPA: Fans of hoppy beers are loath to give up their beloved bitter flavors when summer comes knocking, so sympathetic brewers have lately developed a class of complex, low-alcohol beers. “The brewer’s challenge here is twofold,” Stone Brewing’s Mitch Steele, who wrote a book about IPAs, told CraftBeer.com. “First is achieving a good flavor balance in a beer that is so low in alcohol that there isn’t much else to balance the hop character with, and second, ensuring that the dry hop character doesn’t become overly vegetal, due to the lower alcohol content of the beer.” (Pinata Pirate, COAST Brewing Company)
- Fruit beer: “If you publicly drink a fruit beer, there’s a 20 to 30 percent chance that your fellow bros will tease you about it,” Slate’s beer writer warned last summer. “Don’t stand for it.” Instead, he recommended popping open a bottle of something “carefree and cheerful” freshened up by raspberries, watermelon or cherries. (Grapefruit Bitter Blonde, Freehouse Brewing)
- American wheat: Hefeweizen’s American cousin, the domestic wheat is typically grainy, clean and pale gold in color (because craft brewers are an iconoclastic bunch, trust that there’s an exception to every style rule.) The banana and clove notes that characterize German wheats are absent, but the beer often sports a lemon wedge “which many either find to be a flavorful snap … or an insult and something that damages the beer’s taste,” Beer Advocate says. (Cucumber Thyme, Frothy Beard Brewing Company)
- Munich helles lager: Angst is so firmly associated with Germany that English speakers never bothered to translate the word. But in the mid-1800s, Munich brewers really had reason to worry: Drinkers were suddenly expressing a preference for pilsners from Bohemia. To keep their customers happy, the beer makers developed a spicy-sweet beer that ran nearly clear by Bavarian standards. Helles, which does require translation, means “bright.” (Old Man Helles, Holy City Brewing)
- Gose: The clearest evidence that obsessives are driving the craft beer bus comes from gose, former Esquire editor Joe Keohane argued in a Thrillist essay published earlier this year. “The revolution has run out of ideas,” he wrote. “If Gose was worthy of so much excitement and attention, we simply would have gotten to it by now.” Yet for devotees of sour beer, gose was worth the wait: The Leipzig invention is distinguished by sharpness and salt. (Gose, Westbrook Brewing Company)
- American blonde ale: Craft brewers in the U.S. have unearthed scores of forgotten and neglected beer styles, but they’ve also come up with a few of their own. Based on kolsch, a German beer, American blondes were invented to serve as a gateway beer for drinkers hooked on mass-produced lagers. Generally, American blondes are a little fruity, a little toasty and sweet. The Beer Judge Certification Program describes it as “lawnmower beer.” (Mechanics Ale, Tradesman Brewing Company)
- American pale ale: Eric Asimov of The New York Times has suggested that a Mount Rushmore of craft beer should feature Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewery, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Bert Grant of Yakima Brewing, all of whom started their careers with pale ales. Derived from a classic British style, American pale ale is supposed to be citrusy, zesty and refreshing. (Pale ale, Palmetto Brewing Company)
Originally posted by Jessica Sidman,
Dacha Beer Garden has come a long way from the days when guests used porta-potties and brought Chinese food from the carryout next door. When it reopened this season, the Shaw spot had real restrooms and real food. And beginning this weekend, Dacha will also offer brunch.
Every Saturday and Sunday, the beer garden will serve dishes like Belgian waffles with fruit, house-smoked salmon, and a spread of sausages. Poland-born chef Michal Matejczuk is also serving a bagel sandwich stacked with a sunny-side up egg, bacon, fried green tomato, and pimento cheese on one side; and a lentil-barley pancake, caramelized onions, and beer cheese spread on the other. The beer garden will serve beer cocktails and mead mimosas in addition to its usual brews.
Dacha will also be opening a cafe and market on the first floor of the building it took over next door, formerly China Express. Co-owner Dmitri Chekaldin says it’s expected to open by the end of June. The cafe will serve coffee, pastries, and sandwiches as well as sell groceries like milk, bread, and local produce. The owners plan to convert the building’s upper two floors into a bar and restaurant over the next couple years.
Summer’s (almost) here, and the time is right for… letting Thrillist make sure you make the most of it. Pull out your calendars (or phones, more likely), because the next few months are going to be full of whole-hog BBQ, all-you-can-eat crabs, pool parties, and beer. SO MUCH beer.
When you’re not at dacha enjoying a cold boot, explore these great things to do in DC this summer.
Originally posted on Thrillist.com