Although reportedly boasting some of the most enthusiastic drinkers in the country, the District has a history of hostility toward alcohol comsumption. Subject to Congressionally-imposed prohibitory laws before and after they were levied at the national level, DC still boasts lingering, hotly-contested blue laws today. However, there’s a growing brew culture and a string of small breweries are bringing local beer back to the DC metro area. The first of them, founded by Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock and christened DC Brau, became the District’s first local brewery in over 50 years.
Although I’ve been a fan of their beers for a while now, the DC Brau Brewery has been on my “to do” list for far too long. Z and I finally headed out there this week to check it out. Too far out there for a Capital Bikeshare ride and nowhere near an acessible Metro stop, we used Car2Go. We ran into a few wrinkles — the car wouldn’t lock so we had to end our rental while we were in the brewery and hope for the best — but I’ll need to try it once or twice more for a better estimate.
The brewery is around back of a strip mall and not very well marked signage-wise. But, look for people walking through the parking lot with growlers and you know you’ve come to the right spot.
Tours are free, and they’ll walk you though and you get four tickets for beer tastings just for making the trip — and to help you decide what to bring home, of course. Come early if you want to enjoy your drinks before the tour, and before the crowds show up.
They’ve also got glasses, t-shirts and other merchandise (DC brau briefs anyone?) that you can pick up if you’re so inclined. But what struck me most was that, with everyone, staff included, standing around chatting beer-in-hand, the whole visit felt like a super casual open house.
Although you can buy their canned beers at an increasing number of stores and bars in the city, they’re a few bucks cheaper at the brewery. In cans, you can buy the Public, an american pale ale; the Corruption, a Pacific Northwest IPA; and my personal favorite, the Citizen, a Belgian-style ale. All are available in six-packs ($10) and most can be taken home in growlers too (64 oz or 4 pints for $13 plus a one-time $6 fee for the reuseable jug).
But what really makes the trip out here worth it are beers on special, to taste and take home in growlers ($16) or bombers (22 oz, from $5.99 to $9.99). Z gave the Penn Quarter Porter a thumbs up — the weather was a little too warm for me to get on board with that one. I loved the El Hefe Speaks, a really refreshing wheat beer. (I admit, I used my ticket that would have let me taste the porter to “taste” it again.)
We both loved the Brainless Corruption, the result of a collaboration between DC Brau and Salt Lake City’s Epic Brewing, a hoppified version of Epic’s Brainless Belgian Golden Ale. Nicely balanced, it’s hoppy enough to feel complex with a nice lingering bitterness without feeling like a kick to the mouth. We walked away with two growlers of it and a few bombers of the El Hefe Speaks.
Although you can find these beers on tap in the better-tapped bars around town — The Big Hunt (1345 Connecticut Avenue NW, 20036) was recently offering Brainless Corruption — heading out to the brewery is the best way to guarantee you get to see (and taste) what these guys can do.
DC Brau Brewery
3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE, Washington DC 20018
Brewery hours: 1-4pm on Saturdays with tours at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30.
Check them out on Twitter, @DCBrau, or on Facebook to stay updated on changes and other happenings.
If you’re interested in reading more about Prohibition in the District, check out Prohibition in Washington, DC: How Dry We Weren’t, by Garrett Peck.