Each year for the past three years, the owners of Churchkey DC, Rustico and Bluejacket have hosted a massive beer festival in the shadow of Nationals’ Stadium in Washington, DC. This year there were something like 350 beers from a variety of breweries around the country. They specialize in finding beers that would otherwise be hard or impossible to get in the DC area. The main part of the festival starts at 1 and the whole shebang goes until 6. If you buy a VIP “Kraken” ticket, you get to come in 1 1/2 hours earlier and have 7 1/2 hours of drinking time. I opted for the VIP option, but left early. There are a number of food options, including booths and trucks. I had some awesome chicken fingers from GBD at a booth. There were also pizza, Vietnamese, burgers and all sorts of other options as well. They also have pretty decent bands playing on an outdoor stage for most of the day. For some reason I’ve gone the last two years and it’s rained each time. They don’t do a rain date, the festival goes rain or shine. I like this festival because it’s outdoors (even though it’s been rainy each time I’ve gone) and there is a good crowd of people who also love beer. I also like it because there are always some really good beers you just can’t get anywhere around here. The downsides are that once the gates open to general admission, it gets pretty crowded, even on a rainy day. The other downside, I’m not crazy about is that you get tickets to buy beer. 30 tickets come with your admission and if you want more you have to buy them, essentially at $1 each. Many of the beers that I am hunting are in the 8-12 ticket range, so it’s not long before I’m buying more tickets. The least expensive beers are 3 or 4 tickets. The majority are around 4-6. This is for about a 4 oz. taster. The whole cost can add up very quickly. Highlights for me were the Grey Monday from the Bruery. An Imperial Stout with a whopping 18.6% ABV and hazelnuts added to the beer as it ages in bourbon barrels, whoa! There was also the Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pecan Pie Porter from Clown Shoes, which rang it at a much lower 8% ABV, but was also very flavorful. And one I have chased for a long time and never been able to have – Lunch IPA from Maine Brewing Company. After chasing it for a long time, I was slightly underwhelmed. It tasted like IPAs I’ve had some other breweries before. Nothing too special. I also had the Bhakti Chai Brown Ale from Avery, which I had heard of before. I’ve had a Chai Milk Stout from Yak and Yeti in Denver and I’ve made a Chai Milk Stout myself, both of which I really like. This, however, wasn’t as great. Maybe it was the brown as a base. It was too thin in body to support the flavors, I thought. Not bad, but I’m not sure I would seek it out again. I also had the Gourd Standard from Flying Dog. My first pumpkin IPA. It was a decent IPA, but not a great pumpkin beer. Along the pumpkin lines, I also had a pumpkin sour from Allagash called Ghoulschip. It was a tad too sour my taste, alas. In any case, the festival was a hit. Hopefully next year it will be sunny. I rate it four out of five proper pints, only because of the ticket thing.