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D.C.’s Biggest Beer Festival Makes a Comeback After Skipping 2020

Snallygaster, which hosted 8,000 people downtown in 2019, has set a date for October 9

A look at a packed Snallygaster from the past
A look at a packed Snallygaster from the past
Neighborhood Restaurant Group [official]

Snallygaster, the massive fall beer festival that Neighborhood Restaurant Group has organized in some form or fashion since 2007, is returning to D.C. this fall after sitting out 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beer-centric hospitality company behind Bluejacket Brewery, the Roost food hall, and bars like Shelter, Churchkey, and the Sovereign has received approval to reserve a space on Pennsylvania Avenue NW (between Third and Sixth Streets NW) for Saturday, October 9, NRG beer director Greg Engert says. Tickets ($60 for general admission to $120 for VIP) are now on-sale here. An FAQ posted to the Snallygaster website says capacity will be capped at 50 percent, and attendees can expect contactless concessions and merchandise. Anyone not vaccinated must wear a mask when not actively eating and drinking.

The event has traditionally been monstrous both in name — a reference to a mythical Mid-Atlantic dragon — and in the scope of drinkers, brewers, and food vendors it attracted to D.C. In 2019, Engert says, the event offered more than 400 beers from 150 breweries to a crowd of 8,000. Engert calls it “by far” the biggest beer festival in the city, and one of the largest in the country. All that gulping goes to a good cause: raising money for Arcadia’s nonprofit endeavors supporting sustainable and equitable farming practices.

Two years ago, Snallygaster switched from a pay-as-you-go format to a flat price offering customers all they could drink. Engert says the flat-priced ticket will definitely return, but other details are scarce, because NRG is still looking for breweries to participate, and it’s impossible to know what the public health guidelines will be five months from now. A return to from would include multiple stages with live music and vendors for food, wine, cider, and cocktails, in addition to a huge variety of beer.

“The best I can say it is that our goal is to keep everyone safe, happy, and healthy, while providing as close to the 2019 experience as possible,” Engert tells Eater.

Snallygaster grew out of a 2007 Oktoberfest celebration held at NRG’s Rustico restaurant. Its first iteration under its current name took place at the Navy Yard construction site for Bluejacket in 2012, and it moved downtown a few years ago. As the craft beer scene has grown, Engert says it’s important to showcase a full scope of brewing styles available on the East Coast. NRG is “making sure that we’re not just bringing in one hazy IPA after another,” although there will be plenty of those. At its latest bar venture, Shelter, the company puts an emphasis on low-ABV beers with lots of German lagers and Czech pilsners.

Update: Friday, June 25, 12:10 p.m. This story has been updated with tickeing information and health and safety protocols for Snallygaster