The rain stopped just as the sold-out Novemberfest block party began. On Saturday, November 13, local beer and wine enthusiasts descended to Evening Star Cafe in Alexandria, Virginia for the annual festival. Evening Star Cafe was a new location for the Neighborhood Restaurant Groups’ (NRG) popular event, which is part of the festival’s mission: to spotlight and support local sustainable companies.
NRG Beer Director Greg Engert explained this event predated and led to Snallygaster, D.C. area’s premier beer event also hosted by NRG. Hence Novemberfest is often nicknamed as Snallygaster Jr.
For this event, Engert curated a selection of both local and highly sought out national breweries for a total of 34 selected beers. In addition, Novemberfest also featured a great selection of wine and spirits. Erin Dudley, the wine director for the NRG was responsible for choosing 20 wines for the event.
When explaining her ethos, Dudley said she included, “some of my favorite local wines. We have the amazing opportunity to live close to one of the biggest up-and-coming wine regions of the country.”
Participants were lucky to have such a great selection to sample at Novemberfest, indeed. Beyond selecting just for taste, NRG is committed to celebrating wineries focused on sustainable organic and biodynamic agriculture.
“We want to make sure that all of the wine we’re selecting is responsibly sourced,” Dudley said. “We are showcasing a lot of small-batch wineries from around the country who are being responsible in their ecological and labor footprint. Our goal is to bring [together] amazing local and domestic wine farmers that are really contributing to their communities.”
In keeping with the local theme, the spirits director for NRG, Nick Farrell, highlighted 16 different whiskies, six of which from Virginia, “as well as some very well-known really rare stuff.”
For those who preferred cocktails, there were several keg cocktails and a couple of hot cocktails. Farrell’s favorite was the Acorn Old Fashioned (bourbon, simple, Virginia acorn bitters from Artemisia). People could also be seen enjoying the hot cocktails which were a perfect complement to the brisk afternoon.
There was truly something for everyone, including foodies. Chef and butcher Nathan Anda of Red Apron and Hi/Fi Taco provided a food sampling, and jambalaya, mac n cheese, muffuletta, and chili were also offered from other vendors. Pastry Chef Allie Cheppa of Buzz Bakeshop and State Fair had plenty of seasonal sweets including pumpkin whoopie pies, soft pretzels and more.
One of the food vendors, Sapidus Farms, raises oysters in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Farmer and Founder Mike Manyak got up early Saturday morning to grab some oysters before hitting the road to set up shop at Novemberfest. Having worked with NRG for years, he was excited to serve us his “Happy Oysters.”
While enjoying freshly shucked briny oysters, Manyak explained how oyster farms help the local environment.
“A single adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day,” Manyak said. “We have calculated that our oyster farm is filtering billions of gallons of water every year, which helps improve the overall water quality of the bay and makes it a more habitable place for the rest of the species there. So we’re cleaning the water and providing a delicious product. It’s a win-win.”
While walking around or sitting to eat and drink, attendees were treated to games and local musicians. Despite the morning scare of rain, festival-goers enjoyed what turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.
Plus there was an added bonus: As with other NRG events, a portion of the proceeds will benefit Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, the local nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area.
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