New microbrewery and brewpub, City-State Brewing Co. wants to create a sense of place. A place with orange picnic tables, a chalkboard menu, garage doors that let the air in, trees that make it feel like a backyard and the sound of the metro going by. A place that is laid-back and exactly as City-State Brewery wants it, distinctly D.C.
“This place, this could exist nowhere else, but in [D.C.],” owner James Warner says.
The brewery opened in Edgewood on June 4 and offers D.C.-themed beers and non-alcoholic drinks. It joins a growing list of local breweries such as Atlas Brew Works, DC Brau, Right Proper Brewing Co. and Red Bear Brewing Co. Warner hopes the brewery will help people both learn about and connect with the city.
Warner, who is originally from Manhattan but has lived in the city for years, knows about connecting with the city. He was previously in the Peace Corps and worked on Capitol Hill. Opposite of his day job, he started homebrewing at his then Mount Pleasant group home and was even featured in an NPR episode about homebrewing.
His dream to open City-State Brewery — originally slated to launch in 2020 — was years in the making, Warner says. Then the pandemic happened, a time Warner describes as scary, bewildering and financially difficult for a small food and beverage business. Eventually, they got a lucky break from City First Bank, which helped them open the brewery in 2021.
“Oh, it’s amazing, and it’s that this, this thing, which has been a vision in my head and a shared vision with our investors,” Warner says about the opening.
Today, the brewpub has an experienced team, including head brewer Vince Falcone, who has 30 years of experience; lead brewer Eric Dollinger “with the dreadlocks”; and taproom and events manager Eugene Barnett, who “is kind of a legend” who previously worked at Solly’s on U Street.
The beer at City-State draws from Belgian, British and German brewing traditions and is approachable and sophisticated, according to Warner. The brewery does not add flavors in their beer, except culinary herbs, preferring instead to evoke natural flavors. Their 8 Wards IPA is also an independent pale ale and not an Indian pale ale, Warner says.
Each beer is inspired by a historic event and based on information Warner says he found in local history books, like “Chocolate City” by Chris Myers Asch. Lost Laws Pilsner, for example, was named after 1953 D.C. civil rights heroes using an 1873 law to end Jim Crow in public accommodations. Another upcoming beer, an Extra Stout, is inspired by Kingman Island in the Anacostia River, Warner says.
Days into opening, City-State Brewery is already eager to establish itself as a cultural institution in D.C. Warner says he wants to be a place for events, the arts, weird happenings, fringe festivals and job fairs.
“We are opening our arms to the city and saying bring us your ideas and the way that you’d like to come and work and use the space,” Warner says.
Until then, the brewery is open for business and their staff is excited and ready to pour beer. The metro is dashing by, the humidity is high and City-State is happily (and finally) a D.C. brewery.
“We really want people to see themselves in the brewery and in the space, it is a place where people can connect with the feeling of love for the district,” Warner says.
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