On Tap: Touring the District Pint by Pint
George Washington loved beer, Thomas Jefferson brewed beer and Samuel Adams not only inherited a brewery from his father, but his name and likeness have helped launch today's craft beer movement.
America's founding fathers knew their brew, and frothy pints played a central role in their daily lives and on dinner tables throughout the 13 colonies and, eventually, the newly minted United States of America.
Visitors to this year's GAC can help celebrate America's malt-and-hops heritage by visiting any of Washington D.C.'s four micro breweries. Three are working breweries whose products are widely available throughout the district, the fourth a spectacular new brewpub whose beers have to be sampled to be believed. All are off the beaten tourist path, and that in itself is a good thing.
Astute imbibers may also uncover the credit union connections found in D.C.'s brewing industry. Cheers!
Atlas Brew Works
2052 W. Virginia Ave. NE #102, (202) 832-0420
One of the district's newest breweries – it opened for business last September in the Ivy City neighborhood – Atlas Brew Works is a no-frills working brewery with public hours on Thursdays from 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 – 4 p.m. Founded by Justin Cox and award-winning brewer Will Durgin, Atlas produces four distinct beers that cross a variety of styles.
Rowdy, a copper-hued dry-hopped rye beer, boasts a peppery characteristic to complement its bitterness and floral notes. District Common combines lager yeasts with ale fermentation techniques and Czech Saaz hops, producing a beer with crisp lager characteristics with fruity ale notes.
NSFW, an imperial double-black IPA, carries a serious pedigree, and with 9.2% alcohol by volume (ABV) and 100 international bittering units (IBU) it is not a beer with which to trifle. Le Saison Des Fêtes, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale, combines French hops, European malt and Belgian yeast into an interesting, approachable and eminently quaffable brew.
Credit union connection: Cox's wife, Lisa Cox, is vice president of events and education for NAFCU. Katie Marisic, an investor in the brewery who also works in the tasting room during public hours, is NAFCU's vice president of political affairs.
300 Tingey St. SE, (202) 524-4862
Well-anchored at the opposite end of the spectrum, Bluejacket Brewery is a three-floor microbrewery and restaurant that already has become a citywide draw in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.
Domiciled in what was known as the Boilermakers Shops, part of the Washington Navy Yard's ship and munitions manufacturing complex, Bluejacket offers an impressive array of beers under the direction of beer director Greg Engert and created by brewmaster Megan Parisi, who just recently left the brewery.
Open since October, Bluejacket's beer is only available on premise at The Arsenal, the brewery's pub. But the revolving array of 20 varieties and five different cask ales make it worth the trip.
There's no guarantee what may be on tap during your visit, but keep an eye out for Mexican Radio, a mole-inspired spiced sweet stout; Figure 8, a wee heavy scotch ale brewed with figs and spice and inspired by the restaurant's figgy-toffee pudding; Sticky Situation, a smoked bacon brown ale infused with rye barrel-aged maple syrup; and 9 Pound Hammer, an imperial IPA brewed with Simcoe, Centennial and Cascade hops and sporting name appropriate to its 8.2% ABV.
Credit union connection: Assistant general manager Anne Marisic is the sister of Atlas Brew Works’ Katie Marisic. Both women are the daughters of the late John Marisic, a former board member of Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, and have attended their fair shares of past GACs with their father.
DC Brau Brewing Co.
3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE, (202) 621-8890
Founded in 2009, DC Brau Brewing is Washington's oldest craft brewery and the first package brewery to operate within district limits since 1956. Founded by Brandon Skall and brewmaster Jeff Hancock, the brewery produces a variety of staples as well as some fairly off-the-wall beers that have earned it numerous awards.
DC Brau, once again, is a working brewery with Saturday business and tour hours from noon – 4 p.m. But its beers can be found throughout the metro area on tap and in cans largely because the brand has been embraced as Washington's trademark beer.
The easiest DC Brau beers to find may well be The Public Pale Ale, the brewery's most popular beer characterized by its grapefruit and citrus aromas; The Corruption IPA, patterned after Pacific Northwest style with a higher ABV and greater IBUs; and The Citizen Belgian Ale patterned designed in the familiar Belgian Tripel style.
For a kick, however, look for On the Wings of Armageddon, an imperial IPA that at 9.2% ABV lives up to its death's head logo.
3 Stars Brewing Co.
6400 Chillum Pl. NW, (202) 670-0333
For homebrewers Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey, opening a craft brewery was inevitable. After working with several area brewers, the pair opened 3 Stars Brewing Co. in Washington's Takoma Park neighborhood in August 2012.
Although the brewery does produce a few “session” beers (meaning they are lower in alcohol), 3 Stars specializes in bigger beers with higher ABV levels and skews toward Belgian saisons, or farmhouse style beers.
Born Sinner, a barrel-aged strong ale with 9.5% ABV, rides on a dark-roasted malt profile with hints of chocolate, bourbon and oak. Harvester of Sorrow is a saison that has been aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels and offers hints of pineapple, cocoanut and passion fruit thanks to its contact wit the wine-soaked oak.
The brewery also offers Two to the Dome, a double IPA with big, bold and juicy hop notes and an 8% ABV, and Southern Belle, an imperial brown ale with deep, rich malt flavors, subtle hints of roasted coffee and an 8.7% ABV. And there is so much more.
The rough and tumble brewery with its graffiti-and-skulls décor is open to the public on Thursday from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday afternoons for tours. Look for its beers on tap throughout the city.