The Family Guide to Local Breweries
March 1, 2022 @ 10:00am
If they didn’t want us there, they wouldn’t offer Goldfish crackers.
Before I was a parent, I frequented bars and I rarely saw families there.
After becoming a parent, I rarely frequent bars. Instead, I regularly visit breweries. More often than not, there are more families present than people of legal drinking age.
Do breweries want this? Did brewers envision their workplaces as modern, way better versions of Chuck E. Cheese? Sort of.
An “All Are Welcome” Mentality
Before the pandemic, when I was a new parent, places like Atlas Brew Works were a great place to meet up with other parents and kids. The adults could drink, the kids could sleep on us or eat their snacks or drink their milk.
According to Atlas Founder and CEO Justin Cox, I was not alone.
“Pretty much from the get-go we started hosting lots of one and two-year-old’s birthday parties and it worked out great,” Cox says. “The parents can sip on a beer or two while the kids play.”
Since the pandemic, meeting up with other parents at breweries has become even more useful. Nearly every brewery in D.C. has a kid-friendly atmosphere. The city’s newest brewery City-State may have the best setup for parents. In addition to offering Goldfish crackers and apple juice, there are items specifically for kids.
Regional sales manager Eugene Barnett told us, “I have kids, James (Warner) the owner of the brewery just had his first kid — we wanted to make a space welcoming to kids, too. We have games, books, toys, sidewalk chalk, coloring books, crayons and more so when parents come out they can relax and kids have something to do.”
Something the brewery didn’t exactly provide — but is definitely worth mentioning — is its location. Somewhat hidden in Edgewood, their location is right off the Metropolitan Branch Trail and faces the Red Line. Kids can use City-State’s toys and sidewalk chalk while watching bikers, runners and trains. Parents don’t have to worry about safety since there’s a very tall fence making sure little ones can’t access the tracks. It’s difficult to find a better atmosphere for a toddler.
Across the train tracks, Right Proper is just as friendly to all ages. According to co-founder Thor Cheston, the brewery definitely appreciates the patronage from all ages.
“We love kids — I have two,” Cheston says. “We are located in a great neighborhood with a ton of families and we love it. Kids are welcome here all the time. It’s a super small space inside and because of Covid-19 we have been keeping the toys outside.”
If you have a toddler who loves big dump trucks, they’ll happily spend hours scooping and dumping the pebbles that make up the patio. But toys aren’t enough to make the brewery a good place for families — it’s the amenities that make them enticing.
Atlas’ Justin Cox says, “We have always had an ‘all are welcome’ mentality. Shortly after opening the new Tap Room in 2016, my wife and I were expecting our first child. That changes your perspective on a lot of things. Looking at our taproom with my new parent eyes, we made some modifications to make it more friendly for those with kids, like installing changing tables in the bathrooms.”
I can attest to the usefulness of a brewery’s changing table. I changed my first diaper outside the house at 3 Stars.
Communal Covid Workaround
Getting out of your house is important. Getting your kid out of your house is extremely important.
The deadly airborne virus has made every decision a bit more difficult. All of the aforementioned breweries have outdoor seating. While most everyone over the age of five can receive the Covid vaccine, those under five still cannot.
Frequenting breweries with other families with kids under the age of five has been a godsend over the last two years. Even meeting up with childless folks has been great to-do at breweries. Everyone’s comfort level is different, but an outdoor setting remains best for everyone, regardless of their vaccination status.
Breweries are popular with families for obvious reasons (Yes, parents enjoy beer and breweries have beer). But it’s all the non-beer reasons that make a weekend afternoon visit to a brewery a fine option for most families. Regardless of when kids can get the shot, it’s unlikely my family will cease our brewery patronage.
For the Family Who…
1. Loves Toys
City-State Brewing Co.: 705 Edgewood St. NE, DC; citystatebrewing.com //
Right Proper Brewing Co.’s Brookland Production House + Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; rightproperbrewing.com // @rightproperbeer
2. Loves Garbage Trucks
3 Stars Brewing Company: 6400 Chillum Pl. NW, DC; 3starsbrewing.com // @3starsbrewing
Note: Tenleytown Trash’s headquarters are next door.
[Ed. Note: 3 Stars Brewing Company is now closed as of July 10, 2022.]
3. Doesn’t Mind Fire Pits
Hellbender Brewing Company: 5788 2nd St. NE, DC; hellbenderbeer.com //
4. Will Drive for Outdoor Space
Manor Hill Brewing: 4411 Manor Ln. Ellicott City, MD; manorhillbrewing.com // @manorhillbrew
5. Wants a Brewery Crawl
Astro Lab Co.: 8216 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring, MD; astrolabbrewing.com //
Atlas Brew Works’ Ivy City Brewery & Tap Room: 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; atlasbrewworks.com // @atlasbrewworks
Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; denizensbrewingco.com //
Other Half Brewing: 1401 Okie St.NE, DC; otherhalfbrewing.com // @otherhalfdc
Silver Branch Brewing Co.: 8401 Colesville Rd. #150, Silver Spring, MD; silverbranchbrewing.com //
Family Brewery Etiquette
Every brewery is different and every family is different. That being said, there are some obvious, and some unspoken, rules of etiquette families should abide by when bringing the kids to an establishment meant for adults.
Leave before the brewery turns into a bar.
Unlike bars, most breweries do not serve brunch, which means earlier is better. Atlas told us to get there as early as possible before their taproom gets busy. City-State advised leaving between 5 and 7 p.m. In other words, leave before the place feels like a bar.
Close your tab.
You may or may not know your kid’s limit. Close your tab whenever ordering. It may be a slight annoyance for the staff but it’s way better than running off with an open tab because your kid ran away.
Bring enough toys for a friend.
Some breweries have toys. Most kids want what other kids have. So even if the brewery has toys, you still want to bring some so your kid can make a new friend.
Most breweries offer kid-friendly food. Most food requires a wait. Better to have something you know they typically eat.
Order fries or whatever food you know your kid eats, too.
It takes way longer to eat an order of fries, grilled cheese, chicken tacos or whatever kid-friendly option is available than the kid-friendly snack you brought. Also, your kid isn’t drinking so consider this their donation to the brewery or local food truck.
Don’t let them climb on tables.
I didn’t think I needed to mention this until Other Half’s chief operating officer Andrew Burman pointed out what should be obvious: “Parents need to pay attention to their children while they are enjoying the spaces and offerings. Please, no climbing on tables!” They will try to climb tables. Do your best to keep kids off tables. We’re all just trying to do our best.
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