Better known for three-martini power lunches, the nation’s capital region was without a production brewery for the past half-century. Suddenly, there are six different local microbreweries newly opened or on deck.
By Brendan Spiegel
1. The first District shop to get a beer out, DC Brau launched in April with three year-round brews, including its flagship, an easy-drinking pale ale called The Public. It’s already a frequent find around town, both on tap and in cans. The 15-barrel brewhouse (helmed by former Flying Dog brewer Jeff Hancock) will debut a more inventive line of seasonals like a double bock and Norwegian spruce ale later this year, and plans to add tastings at its Northeast D.C. facility soon.
2. An upstart collaboration between an IT professional/beer geek and the GM/beer director of popular local beer bar The Big Hunt, 3 Stars Brewing Co. (named for the D.C. flag) plans to release its first beers by the end of the year. In addition to the District, a smooth American IPA, and Statehood Saison, a farmhouse ale, 3 Stars plans a specialty Illuminati line with creative offerings like Pandemic Breakfast Porter, made with rolled oats and cold-steeped espresso.
3. The District’s smallest new upstart is Chocolate City Beer, a nanobrewery by two homebrewing pals turning out 30 kegs a week. Its draft beers—which include an IPA, a copper ale, a British-style ESB and a dark Vienna lager—are just turning up at select bars and restaurants around D.C. Look for 750mL bottles (including a cider made from heirloom Maryland apples) at local stores by year’s end.
4. Just outside the District line, Rockville, Md.’s Baying Hound Aleworks debuted its first beers last fall. Brewed by a former chef and designed to pair with food, offerings include far-out seasonals like Marmageddon Porter, a dark winter beer the brewery calls “reminiscent of warm toast and chocolate hazelnut spread.” Baying Hound beers are available in 22-ounce bottles at restaurants and stores around D.C., and in growlers at the brewery.
5. On the other side of the Potomac River, Port City Brewing launched earlier this year in Alexandria, Va. Led by Jonathan Reeves, a five-time GABF gold medalist, Port City beers like Optimal Wit, brewed with coriander, dried Spanish orange peel and grains of paradise, are already on 140 tap handles around D.C. and northern Virginia. The brewery’s first seasonal, an Oktoberfest, debuts this fall.
6. Finally, The Black Squirrel Bar in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood is branching out with Black Squirrel Brewing. Bar manager/ brewer Hollie Stephenson traveled to the U.K.’s Brewlab to bone up on technique and is currently experimenting one keg at a time. Black Squirrel hopes to put its first beers on tap by early 2012; for now, swing by the bar and ask to help taste-test its in-the-works brews.