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By Fritz Hahn, Updated: Thursday, August 8, 1:21 PM E-mail the writer
Itís a great time to be a beer drinker in Washington: DC Beer Week, which begins Sunday, brings eight days packed with beer dinners, tap takeovers, meet-and-greets with brewers and chances to sample out-of-state ales.

Wait, is this deja vu?
In March, we had a week of similar events that coincided with the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington. May brought another week of tastings and gatherings around town in honor of American Craft Beer Week. Last month, there were parties and happy hours for Eat Local First Week.

When you add those events to the lineups of brewery events that draw crowds to ChurchKey, Pizzeria Paradiso, Scion and Meridian Pint year-round, I have to wonder whether the five-year-old DC Beer Week will get lost in the shuffle. I think the organizers have had the same thought, because this yearís flagship events are bigger than ever, including a craft beer tasting at Nationals Park and a concert with up-and-coming bands at the Howard Theatre. These are events designed to appeal to casual beer drinkers, not those of us who freak out about 26 English ales at ChurchKey on a random Wednesday.

That said, for every event that features Brooklyn, Boulevard or another brewery whose beers are easily found in Washington, thereís another that offers a chance to expand your palate or have fun while trying something new. Some of our top picks follow.


Educate yourself

More than just an evening of sipping, these events will actually teach you something.

Funky sour beers are all the rage, but creating one isnít as simple as tossing some Brettanomyces yeast in a barrel. Lauren Salazar, the sensory specialist for New Belgiumís sour beers, will lead classes on how itís done at the Black Squirrel on Thursday. Students will sample five wild ales before learning how to blend samples from four barrels into one balanced beer of their very own. Each session will last about two hours, and tickets are required.

All too often, people stick to what they know rather than try a beer theyíve never heard of. That wonít be an option at Scion and Crios. Two dozen IPAs will be on tap, but neither the name of the beer nor the brewery will be on the menu. Instead, guests will have to choose beers based on vague tasting notes. The beers come from 12 well-known breweries, including DC Brau, Flying Dog and Ballast Point, and there will be some brand-new beers in the mix, including Evolutionís Incubator #2 and Boulevardís Pop-Up IPA. Everyone gets to vote for their favorite beer of the night ó and only then will they learn what they were drinking. You may be in for a shock.

Sour Blending Workshop: Thursday at 6 and 9 p.m. The Black Squirrel, 2427 18th St. NW. 202-232-1011. www.blacksquirreldc.
com. $55.

Blind and Bitter: Hop Faceoff: Aug. 16, at 5 p.m. Scion, 2100 P St. NW. 202-833-8899. Crios Modern Mexican, 2120 P St. NW. 202-822-8800. www.dcbeer.com. Beers, $2 per four-ounce sample or $5 per pint.

beers from maine

The Pine Tree State is the place to be for beer: Both Meridian Pint and ChurchKey are hosting nights dedicated to Maine. ChurchKey is bringing down the team from Maine Beer Company on Tuesday and will feature nine draft beers, including collaborations brewed with Nogne O and Bluejacket. Meridian Pint is hosting its own party Wednesday, with Allagash, Oxbow and Maine Beer Company on tap. Look for selections from Bunker Brewing and Rising Tide, two breweries that donít usually send beer to D.C., as well as Maine hard cider.
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