I thought it peculiar that the nation's capital's first operating brewpub since Prohibition was not present at the local brewery winter beer tasting at RFD last week. There was neither beer nor representative from Capitol City Brewing Company. Now, I know why.
I can confirm, sadly, that Mike McCarthy —10 year-long brewer for Cap City, 8 years its executive brewer— has resigned his position, and, in his words, is "exploring other options." McCarthy began at Capitol City in 2002, and became executive brewer in 2004. Under his stewardship, the brewpub won numerous awards. The outdoor Oktoberfest celebration he would organize annually grew to become the area's largest.
When Capitol City opened its doors in 1992, it was the first brewery to operate (even if a brewpub) in the city since 1956. Martin Virga, now with Gunpowder Falls Brewing in Pennsylvania was the first brewer, brewing at the original location on 11th and H St., NW. That location is still open, but no longer brewing. (Several of the original fermenting tanks are in use now at Vintage 50 in Leesburg, Virginia).
Under Bill Madden —who succeeded Virga and would be executive brewer for over 9 years (and is now president/brewmaster of Mad Fox Brewing)— Capitol City would open three more locations: one in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, one in the National Post Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and one in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Inner Harbor. The last two would eventually be closed. The Shirlington location remains open; McCarthy oversaw a major expansion of its production size.
I stopped into the pub on Sunday for a pint and a growler. The pint was a cask-conditioned ESB: brilliant in clarity, firm in malt, with an earthy nose and finish. Delicious.
The growler was filled with a newly-released German-style Pilsner, which I'll serve with Christmas Eve dinner. Both beers would have been two of the last brewed under McCarthy's supervision.
- UPDATE (1 March 2013): Mike McCarthy, past head brewer of Capitol City Brewing, to take the head brewer position at startup brewery J Dub's, in Sarasota, Florida. Via Ticket Sarasota.
- UPDATE (7 January 2013): The Washington Post interviews Mike McCarthy, and reports that long-time assistant brewer Travis Tedrow will also be leaving, to open a Gordon-Biersch brewpub near Washington Nationals Park.
- UPDATE (9 January 2013): Mike McCarthy, in his own words.
- UPDATE (November 2013): In the peripatetic world that is 'craft' brewing, McCarthy has returned to the D.C. area citing philosophical differences with the J. Dubs ownership group. He reports that he is happily brewing for DC Brau.