Ask brewmasters, beer writers and common travelers about the best “beer towns” in America, and you’ll afresh apprehend “Portland,” “Denver” and “Philadelphia.” D.C. doesn’t appear up as generally as it should, but that’s boring and absolutely changing. Actuality are three affidavit the Washington beer arena is on the bend of greatness.
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No. 1: “Locavore” isn’t aloof a banquet term
After the Christian Heurich Brewing Co. bankrupt in 1956, Washington spent added than 50 years after a brewery central the burghal limits. Then, in the accomplished two years, the DC Brau, Chocolate Burghal and 3 Stars assembly breweries opened their doors. Two more, Atlas Brew Works and Hellbender Brewing Co., plan to accessible after this year. Three brewpubs are on the way.
(Outside Washington, Northern Virginia is a high-growth area, too, with Port Burghal and Lost Rhino aperture in 2011, and a accomplished army of new brewpubs and breweries that don’t yet administer in the city.)
DC Brau, which afresh angled its assembly accommodation to about 24,000 kegs per year, ranked No. 5 on the civic Brewers Association account of the fastest-growing breweries in America. You can acquisition DC Brau in about 850 confined and restaurants in Washington and Virginia, with Montgomery County to be added this summer. Chocolate Burghal has additionally broadcast aback opening; 3 Stars, which hasn’t hit its aboriginal anniversary, is aggravating to accumulate up with appeal by purchasing abundant accessories to amateur its output.
In a burghal area transplants are added putting bottomward roots, the appellation “local” has become a cultural signifier, above D.C. banderole tattoos and airheaded at accepted farm-to-table restaurants. Aloof apprehension how abounding cleverly advised DC Brau T-shirts you see on the streets or in bars.
“People lay affirmation to things in D.C.,” says 3 Stars co-owner Dave Coleman, who confused to the District from Cleveland 10 years ago. “There’s a able faculty of ownership, both bodies who are from actuality and bodies who move here. Bodies who alive in this boondocks — and I beggarly D.C., not [official] Washington — absolutely affliction about our city. Bodies apprehend our beer is local, and they appetite to analysis it out.”
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The affidavit is in the adjacency bars. Wander into DC Reynolds in Petworth, and the 20-somethings adequate the sun on the huge aback patio are, for the best part, sipping DC Brau, Chocolate Burghal or Lost Rhino. At comfortable Boundary Stone Public House, area the Clash and the Band bang from the jukebox and the D.C. banderole hangs in bottle over the door, every added adjustment seems to accommodate the words “DC Brau” or “Port City.” And 3 Stars’ Coleman says that of his brewery’s 64 bar accounts, one of the best is the Dubliner, an Irish pub abreast Union Station area you’d apprehend Guinness and Harp to rule.
The Pug, a dimly afire drinkers’ bar on H Street NE area bargain Natty Boh and Schlitz tallboys are served with dozens of Irish whiskeys and chargeless baskets of cheese puffs, has accustomed every one of its eight curtains over to beers produced in D.C., Maryland and Virginia breweries.
Next to abduction the hyper-local tag will be a brace of brewpubs, which should accessible this fall. Bluejacket, the ChurchKey team’s amplitude abreast the Navy Yard, affairs to action acerb ales brewed with agrarian yeasts, age-old Belgian-inspired farmhouse ales, and almighty barleywines larboard to age in board barrels. Right Proper Brew Pub, affective abutting to the Howard Theatre, additionally affairs an beginning bent. Co-founder Thor Cheston — backward of Brasserie Beck and Birreria Paradiso — says the blow is how beginning the beer will be. “No business close can attempt with context, back you’re adequate a beer that was fabricated 20 anxiety from area you’re standing,” he says. “You can’t get any added local.”
No 2: Thanks to D.C. liquor laws, we accept admission to a added assorted alternative of beers than aloof about anywhere in the country.
Follow D.C. beer confined and beer geeks on Twitter, and you’ll consistently see “Hyper-Rare Draft Alert” for band beers or announcements of appropriate borer parties for beers that aren’t usually accessible in the region. The availability of so abounding kinds of beer on such abbreviate apprehension is altered to the District, authoritative the burghal a hot atom for hops.
Suppose a Maryland or Virginia beer bar wants to advertise a hot new release. The beer confined accept to accomplish abiding it’s accustomed for auction in the state, alarm a benefactor to see if it’s accessible in the warehouse, afresh align commitment to the bar. (This is what’s accepted as the three-tier system.) If a D.C. beer bar wants to accompany in the aforementioned beer, it aloof calls the brewery or the bounded beer rep, orders the beer, has it delivered and pays D.C. sales tax on the acquirement amount of kegs or bottles. Any beer, from anywhere, can be awash here.
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This gray bazaar artifice has aggressive “Smokey and the Bandit” runs by bounded bars: Pizzeria Paradiso beer administrator Greg Jasgur has apprenticed air-conditioned beer trucks home from Three Floyds (Munster, Ind.) and Captain Lawrence (Elmsford, N.Y.). The Black Squirrel bar sends trucks bottomward South to aces up contrarily bare brews from North Carolina and Georgia. These are abundant promotional gimmicks, but they additionally allege to the bar owners’ adherence to ability and to absolution bodies try article they’ve never had before.
The net aftereffect is that D.C. beer lovers accept admission to Colorado IPAs, Belgian abbey ales and awful rated age-old beers that wouldn’t be accustomed beneath acceptable administration systems. Beer lovers actuality accept the befalling to brainwash their palates and acquisition out what they like and don’t like. And the aperture is advanced accessible for added ability beers to appearance up on bounded taps.
No. 3: The agitation is spreading.
ChurchKey, with its focus on confined temperatures, altered glasses for altered beer styles, and bartenders who abide an hour of training a day to altercate the 555 beers on the menu, deserves its cachet as a civic trailblazer and the best beer bar in the city. Meridian Pint and Pizzeria Paradiso are additionally accretion minds with their ever-rotating beer airheaded and acute bartenders. But it’s not aloof about them.
Philadelphia and Denver didn’t body their reputations by accepting a brace of flagship confined and breweries at the top accurate by a agglomeration of also-rans. To be a abundant beer city, you charge to be able to acquisition acceptable beer all over the place. This, perhaps, is area the District has bigger the best in the accomplished bristles years.
In my role reviewing confined and clubs for The Washington Post, I’m out bristles to seven nights a week. I can say absolutely that it is easier to acquisition abundant beer than it has anytime been. Some of this reflects civic trends: Ability beer sales accept risen by bifold digits ceremony of the accomplished four years, according to the Brewers Association, and about 500 new breweries opened in the accomplished two.
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But alike above the big dogs and the adjacency confined cloudburst adjacency beers, ability beer has become about inescapable. Bear Republic and Green Flash (California) breeze while DJs circuit alarm and body at U Street’s Dodge City. On H Street, affable crowds lounge on couches at Smith Commons sipping IPAs from Dogfish Head and Evolution (Delaware, Maryland). Iron Horse Tap Room, home to skeeball and shuffleboard leagues and pre-gaming Washington Capitals fans, pleases aftertaste buds with Flying Dog’s hoppy Citra IPA (Maryland) and a auspicious Kolsch from Mother Earth (North Carolina). (Of Iron Horse’s 20 taps, one is committed to “light beer”; the blow are crafts.) GBD sells ability beers and cask-conditioned ale in accession to absurd craven and doughnuts.
People are demography notice. John Andrade, the buyer of Meridian Pint and Smoke and Barrel, played host in March to beer industry assembly from beyond the country during the Ability Brewers Conference. “The brewers and distributors all say D.C. is one of their biggest, best important markets,” Andrade says. “They all say that if you put your beer out there [in D.C.] and it’s good, you’re activity to kill.”
ChurchKey beer administrator Greg Engert — alleged one of Food and Wine’s “Sommeliers of the Year” and a longtime innovator on the bounded ability beer arena — worries there could be a downside to ability beer’s accelerated expansion: bar owners who banknote in after compassionate such basics as charwoman the tap lines. “I adulation the beyond of ability beer, but I anguish about diligence,” he says. “What worries me is that a amateur goes into a beer bar, tries that ability beer and says, ‘This is gross,’ and they don’t adjustment ability beer again. There’s a albatross to amusement the artefact well.”
Meridian Pint’s Andrade opened his bar in 2010, with 24 curtains of American microbrews. “I anticipation we’d do a abundant ability beer bar, and that would be it,” he says. As he celebrates Pint’s third anniversary, he’s seeing anniversary double-digit advance and echo barter analytic the agents about the latest additions. “People are all-embracing what we’re accomplishing in a way I never anticipation they would, to be honest with you.”
He followed up Meridian Pint with the barbecue-and-craft-beer collective Smoke and Barrel and has a third area in the works. All he’ll allotment is that it will be about American ability beer. “I’m all in on ability beer,” he says with a laugh. “I’m bank on the acceptance that it’s activity to get alike bigger and absorb the city. Every allotment of the burghal is activity to accept its own absolutely alarming baby beer joint.”
Then, truly, we can be alleged a abundant beer city. But, honestly, it feels as if we’re about there.
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Fritz Hahn is a Washington Post reporter. To animadversion on this story, e-mail [email protected]
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