If November has you thinking about politics and planning a journey into the eye of the electoral storm, you’re in for an added bonus: All the pundits agree that the nation’s capital has emerged as a frontrunner among booming U.S. beer destinations—largely thanks to recent changes in growler and production brewery taproom laws.
Five years ago, DC Brau became the first packaging brewery to operate within D.C. proper since 1956. Its core brass are like expertly crafted comfort food: Sometimes you just want a solid, balanced pale like the alternatingly citrusy/caramelly The Public in the context of a clubhouse like tasting room where you can bond with new friends on bingo and trivia nights.
3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, dcbrau.com
Right Proper Brewing Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen
The Shaw neighborhood was a musicians’ mecca 80 years ago (Duke Ellington lived there) and the space the brewpub occupies was once where jazz greats shot pool. It’s fitting, since co-owner/ head brewer Nathan Zeender gravitates toward wild and tart (and sessional) rustic farmhouse brews. The list changes daily, but there’s always plenty of funk to match the wedges among the 25-plus options on the artisanal cheese menu.
624 T St.NW, rightproperbrewing.com
Atlas Brew Works
Visit the new 2,600-square-foot taproom (now open seven days a week), and if it’s a typically mild fall day, enjoy a pint of the citrusy, hop-forward rye ale Rowdy on the patio. If the food truck du jour doesn’t appeal, a local deli stocks the taproom vending machine with fresh sandwiches like braised pork banh mi, and you can’t buy better Halloween ambiance than the huge cemetery across the street provides.
2052 West Virginia Ave. NE #102, atlasbrewworks.com
Hellbender Brewing Co.
A production brewery that seems keen on not being found, Hellbender hides in a drab commercial building with minimal signage on the edge of a quasi-suburban neighborhood. The tasting room is outfitted with decorative barrels and tables made from repurposed wooden cable spools. The North by Northeast Coffee Stout, reminiscent of a macchiato, is a great game beer, whether it’s for the shelf full of nostalgic diversions like Boggle and Connect Four or for watching the MLB playoffs on the flatscreens.
5788 2nd St. NE, hellbenderbeer.com
3 Stars Brewing Co.
Barely a mile from Hellbender in even less-inviting industrial environs, 3 Stars’ tasting room lowers the lights for a more chill vibe. Its ABVs vary wildly, but the brewery knows its way around an imperial. The 9.6% Pandemic porter evokes dark chocolate mousse garnished with deep-roast coffee beans. If you’re inspired to try to make it yourself, you’re in luck; 3 Stars operates an adjacent home-brew supply shop.
6400 Chillum Place NW, 3starsbrewing.com
Few have been as instrumental in shaping D.C.’s contemporary beer scene as Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s beer director Greg Engert. The group’s brewery, Bluejacket, is designed to inspire awe, from its boundless approach to brewing to the building itself. A century-old former naval boilermaker shop, the atrium-style structure showcases equipment, so grab your glass of Forbidden Planet dry hopped kölsch, wander around and stare up at the vessels that loom over the bar/restaurant within the brewery.
300 Tingey St. SE, bluejacketdc.com
We can’t mention D.C. beer without a shoutout to another treasure in Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s portfolio. Locals credit the loft like ChurchKey (one flight of stairs up from sister restaurant Birch & Barley) with elevating the beer experience through proper cellaring, rigorous draft line maintenance, style-specific glassware and temperature optimization for 50 taps (including exclusive kegs) and 500 bottles.
1337 14th St. NW, churchkeydc.com
Bier Baron Tavern
When the venerable Brickskeller closed in 2010, Bier Baron moved into the cavernous, exposed-brick space. Bier Baron retained the hundreds of vintage flattop cans and stubbies on display, as well as the dictionary-length beer list. And where else will you find live comedy and burlesque, 600 beers and breweriana under one roof? (Brickskeller lives on, in a sense, at beer bar RFD; the former’s owners opened the latter before Brickskeller shuttered.)
1523 22nd St. NW, inlovewithbier.com
Beer is an art, and in that context, Brookland Pint (sister bar of Meridian Pint) fits right in. Its patio sits on the Arts Walk, a promenade that bisects the Monroe St. Market artisan shops and studios. Two dozen local and cross-country taps provide plenty to sip after browsing through handmade fashion, painting, pottery and more.
716 Monroe St. NE, brooklandpint.com
Right Proper Brewing Brookland Tasting Room & Production
The brewpub’s success prompted Right Proper to open a production brewery late last year in the residential Brookline neighborhood. Buy a locally smoked pastrami sandwich at nearby Brookline Pint and enjoy it with Right Proper’s dry-hopped, elderflower-enhanced and oddly—yet appealingly— sauerkrautlike Berliner weirs called Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne at the tasting room’s reclaimed cherry wood bar.
920 Girard St. NE, rightproperbrewing.com
The Original Bier Baron
The late 19th century castlelike mansion Heurich House underscores just how lucrative D.C. brewing was just over a century ago. It was the home of Christian Heurich, a German immigrant who went on to build a local brewing empire—Chr. Heurich Brewing Co.—that made him incredibly wealthy. See the Dupont Circle mansion’s opulent late-Victorian decor and carved wood furnishings during public tours Thursday through Saturday.
HUNT THESE TAPS:
Pizzeria Paradiso and 3 Stars Brewing have released the latest in their collaborative series: Paradiso: Mars, a wine barrel-aged bière de mars. Right Proper goes wild with the fruity, earthy Astral Weeks, a dry-hopped, federated, mixed-yeast farmhouse ale. Ocelot Brewing’s Talking Backwards Triple IPA is a collaboration with Meridian Pint. Atlas Brew Works teamed up with the Washington Nationals on The 1500 South Cap, a German-style helles available at games. Pumpkin season is upon us; Old Ox Brewery’s The Oxorcist should haunt area taps.