Any D.C. native will tell you how dramatically different this city was a decade ago. Admittedly, I don’t quite recognize my hometown sometimes. New real estate developments pop up left and right to meet demand for the hundreds of transplants who flock to the area faster than you can say “gentrification.” If someone told me there would be a Lululemon and a SoulCycle on 14th Street 10 years ago, I would have spit out my beer mid-sip. Yet, a decade ago, local beer might not have been very good by today’s artisanal standards. It wouldn’t be made locally, either. The craft beer renaissance didn’t hit the District until DC Brau opened its doors in 2011, making it the first brewery in D.C. since 1956. Dozens of brewpubs and craft breweries followed, sparking one of the most locally loved yet nationally overlooked trades in the area. District Fray spoke with various industry professionals in and around the area to get their take on why beer is such a unifying force. Read on to get the local beer industry’s take on why their love for D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia fuels their businesses and fosters local culture and camaraderie.
Red Bear Brewing Co. Taproom Manager
On local craft breweries in the community
Local craft beer has a substantial impact on communities across the country, and D.C. is definitely a part of that. Breweries have become notable “third places” for communities to gather outside of work and home. Red Bear definitely encompasses that role in NoMa and beyond. The brewing world is moving away from big production breweries [toward] the local, corner brewpub model centered on community.
Trends to watch in 2020
We’re making a seltzer [called] Woof, which will be released in early March. I asked this question to our Women in Beer panel back in September and Allison Lange said she was excited for craft beer to take over hard seltzer and “make it better.”
There are so many different ways to make craft beer. Collaboration brews are definitely more and more popular [and] of course, we want to hang out with our friends and brew beer. We released a brut kolsch people could not get enough of in the warm months. I’m curious to see what happens with nitro beers as well.
Red Bear Brewing Co.: 209 M St. NE, DC; www.redbear.beer
Aslin Brewing Co. Brand Manager
On Aslin and the NoVA community
We are extremely excited to focus more on our social impact within our community. We recently had the honor of making a beer with the voice of the Washington Capitals, Craig Laughlin, with proceeds benefiting The Laughlin Family Foundation. Not only were we ecstatic to work with a local legend, but to aid his foundation, which funds research and care for rare forms of cancer. We are also partnering on events and a beer release for Pride Week with Rainbow Families, a nonprofit that provides support, advocacy and education for LGBTQ+ families, prospective parents and allies.
On popular 2020 varietals
We’re looking at more options for people whether it be lower ABVs or lagers. Health and wellness is on everyone’s radar more than ever. People are concerned about calorie intake and we’d like to offer something low in sugar, low in calorie. We’re entertaining seltzer options. We’re still going to do what we do best but we also want to have things people are obviously looking for.
Aslin Brewing Company: 847 South Pickett St. Alexandria, VA; www.aslinbeer.com
City-State Brewing Co. Founder
On D.C. beer, history + culture
I want to bring more hometown pride. It seemed like the District was short on hometown, placemaking brands. Hometown brands like National Bohemian in Baltimore are part of the city’s identity, even though it’s not made there anymore. City-State will highlight everything from the music that’s made here to the struggle for [political] rights (we have a beer called Self-Determinator). We take the history and culture of the District as our inspiration. One of the beers I’m developing right now is Lost Laws Pilsner, inspired by [Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital], a book about D.C.’s history from 1605 onward. It changed the way I saw the city.
On City-State Brewing’s opening year
We just signed a lease on a 13,000 square-foot facility. We’ll potentially be open late summer or early fall. We’re going to have a dual brewhouse so we can do some interesting flavor development and experiments, but also be able to make short-run things. We can make limited releases and stuff at scale. We’re also going to have a D.C. Wall of Fame at the brewery with a rotating cast of notable people from all parts of D.C. history. We’d like to change that, and we think beer can be a great way of doing that.
For updates on City-State Brewing Co.’s beers and location, visit www.citystatebrewing.com.
Silver Branch Brewing Company
On what’s new with Silver Branch this year
We’re not even a year old, and we have additional tanks arriving [and] we are expanding our capacity. The fact we are having success and growing as fast as we are is a pleasant surprise. Beyond that we’re getting ready to re-release stuff we put out last year. We’re going to bring back our kolsch in the summertime and our weizenbach.
On the potential of coffee
We’re interested in exploring other beverages. We rolled out a morning coffee program, which is pretty unique for a brewery. We’re experimenting with this whole pop-up coffee shop inside the brewery, Black & Silver Coffee Company. We’ve always viewed ourselves as a brewery first but also as a beverage company.
Silver Branch Brewing Company: 8401 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.silverbranchbrewing.com
DC Metro Girls Pint Out Chapter Head
On the DMV as a beer destination
D.C. is awesome. We’re really lucky to have a lot of great breweries that do different things, yet work with each other. Whenever there are competitions between breweries it’s always really friendly. I don’t know another beer market like D.C. But I also don’t think that a lot of people in other “beer areas,” like Boston or Colorado, understand that we have that type of thing. We get a sampling of the entire country without having to leave.
Girl Scout Cookie beer pairing
We have our Girl Scout Cookie and beer pairing with Roofer’s Union on March 24. I’m super excited because the beer director [Dave Delaplaine] at Roofer’s is awesome. He’s the biggest beer geek I know. He came up with this idea of asking breweries to create a new beer for our pairing. We know the breweries and we know the cookies they selected to work with, but we have no idea what the beers are. DC Brau, Manor Hill Brewing and Union Craft Brewing are participating.
To learn more about DMV Girls Pint Out at www.girlspintout.org or on Twitter @dmvgirlspintout.
Denizens Brewing Co. Co-Founder
On 2020 beer trends
While the scene that flocks to limited releases still exists, there is a broader scene of craft beer drinkers who are starting to lock in on their go-tos when it comes to on-the-shelf beers. Brands they know, love and can trust, both in taste and quality. We’ll likely see less gambling on a pricey DIPA (double IPA) that looks good on the shelf. For us, it has been important to develop our flagship beers and we put a ton of effort and care into those.
What’s new with Denizens
This will be a busy and exciting year for us. First is our incredibly popular Animal Hazy IPA hitting cans in March, joining our year-round lineup, on shelves throughout Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia. We’ve begun bottling some of our most in-demand beers, Chapless Horseman and Call Waiting. This marks the start of the bottling program at Denizens and fans can expect a number of beers [including] barrel-aged to mixed-fermentation sours. We recently released a Suffragette Stout in collaboration with the Brewer’s Association and women representing 10 Maryland breweries. We have a super tasty Brut IPA in collaboration with ANXO that is on tap starting in March, and our Pink Boots collaboration is due in April.