Much to many a beer snob’s dismay, Washington, D.C. has never really been a beer town—according to the Kojo Nnamdi show, “It’s been more than 50 years since a production brewery operated inside D.C.” Sure, there are plenty of beer bars and a smashing Beer Week, but we haven’t had beer to call our own in most DC residents’ lifetimes. Until now. In the past several months, both Chocolate City Beer (opened in August) and DC Brau Brewing Company (opened in April) have started up within the District, and DC Brau has opened its doors to tours, a tasting room, and the chance to meet the brewmasters.
I should note here that there are some great breweries very close to DC, such as Port City Brewing in Alexandria and Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick. Also, there are some excellent brewpubs in the area, like Franklin’s brewery and restaurant in Hyattsville (which we covered previously) and Capitol City and Gordon Biersch with various locations. These are restaurants and brewpubs rather than production facilities.
DC Brau is located off of Bladensburg Road in northeast DC. It is in tucked away in an unassuming strip mall, and the unlabeled entrance is approached from the back. The doors enter into a small tasting room, with tables, couches, and plenty of beer-related schwag. When I toured, three beers were on tap to sample and fill grolwers—a pale ale, a stout, and a Belgian white. Currently only 6-packs of the pale ale are being sold, but the staff told me they hope to expand that selection by the end of the year.
Tours, which are held only on select Saturdays, last approximately 20 minutes and are led by one of the handful of DC Brau employees. This means that you’ll get a true first-hand take at what running a brewery looks like on a day-to-day basis. Our tour guide literally went through his day, starting at 9am, showing us exactly what he does every hour.
On the tour you will see machines for heating up water and beer, adding hops and other ingredients, and cooling down the beer once it has boiled. Also interesting is the canning machine—DC Brau is using cans for its 6-packs rather than glass bottles for environmental, fiscal, and quality of taste reasons. If you’re lucky, the staffer giving your tour will show new experiments that the brewmasters are undertaking, such as a bourbon stout fermenting in wine barrels.
Touring DC Brau was great fun, and felt very personal. It’s places like this that make DC feel small, and that you are very much a part of something new and exciting.
To visit: 3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE, 202-621-8890. Open most Saturdays 1-4pm, tours at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30. Best with a car or maneuver the B2, B8, B9, or H6 buses.