On October 9, Snallygaster returned to the streets of D.C. in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. This was the ninth year for the east coast’s premier beer event and about 8000 beer lovers swarmed downtown after missing last year due to Covid. What most people don’t realize is that Snallygaster grew out of the Rustico Oktoberfest.
After five years in Alexandria, the event grew so large they needed to find a bigger space. They moved to D.C. and renamed it Snallygaster, after the legendary mythical monster that inhabits the D.C. area. Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) beverage director and Snallygaster coordinator Greg Engert explains the significance of the event for the local brewing community after watching it grow over the years.
“We, Neighborhood Restaurant Group — Bluejacket, Churchkey, Owen’s Ordinary, The Sovereign and more — are passionate about craft beer, service and hospitality, and throwing fantastic parties,” Engert says. “It’s just so incredible to have the opportunity to do this on Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the most beautiful settings for an outdoor beer festival I can think of.”
On Saturday, the Snallygaster monster was back with a vengeance, with 192 breweries from around the world bringing 438 unique and flagship drinks. It was impossible to try all of the beers, ciders and meads being served, though everyone seemed to give it their best go.
Among the diverse global beer offerings, the DMV was well represented by several local breweries.
“It is fantastic to be back out here again seeing the excitement and the bright looks on happy beer nerds faces,” Mike Tonsmeire from Sapwood Cellars in Columbia, Maryland says. “Being at festivals is a great way for us to meet people, to interact with other brewers, and to get to sample beers from breweries that we haven’t been able to make it to over the last year and a half. It’s nice to get back out again and talk to beer enthusiasts.”
Engert, who curates the participating breweries, explained his ethos behind why there was such a large selection of chosen beer featured.
“We feel you need to have a lot of beer because it does a number of things,” Engert says. “First, it’s just cool and amazing to showcase that many beers in one festival. Second, having more breweries allows us to spread people out, which means that you have to wait less time in line to get your beer.”
The organizers spent a lot of time working on the layout and placement of the breweries and food. The effort it takes to host this event was extensive — and evident. In addition to NRG and participating brewery staff, there were about 350 volunteers who helped make this event special. About 25% of the volunteers came from Pacers Running club who are always happy to help a worthy cause and drink quality beer.
And the volunteers are not alone; many self-proclaimed beer snobs love Snallygaster. It is also impressive to hear the high praise it gets from the industry. Compared to 2019, twice as many brewers attended in-person to help talk about and pour their beers. According to Brendan O’Leary, co-founder of True Respite Brewing Company in Rockville, Maryland, this is the second time they’ve poured at Snallygaster.
“As a beer lover, Snallygaster may very well boast the best beer list on the East Coast,” O’Leary says. “Every single beer is noteworthy in its own right and the breweries pouring have all earned accolades and respect for top quality. As a brewer, there is no single better experience than pouring here.”
Adrien Widman from Ocelot brewery by Dulles airport concurs.
“Snallygaster is one of the best beer events in the country,” Widman says. “Greg Engert puts on an amazing event, and the best brewers show up for it. We love it. I’m honored to be invited, every single time I come out.”
With the increasing acknowledgment from his peers and esteemed brewers, Engert does not take for granted the community support that got him to this point, nor loses sight of why the event was originally created.
“We have an incredible team that works tirelessly for months to set this thing up with precision,” Engert says. “All the volunteers and incredible brewers that come to us from all over — we feel lucky to be able to do it. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s our way to raise money for Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, which is the nonprofit we started back in 2011. This is the single biggest fundraiser for Arcadia every year, so it’s even better because of that.”
Snallygaster even sported two stages, which had a total of eight bands playing during the event to accompany festival-goers beer quest. Guests could stop and listen to the live performances while munching on street food and sipping beer, or just listen to it in the background when strolling from one brewer’s table to the next.
With its continued success and growing local and international enthusiasm, we are already waiting for its return next year.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.