Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Washington, D.C. got her beer back.

Christian Heurich BreweryThe Christian Heurich Brewing Company began brewing in Washington, D.C. in 1873.

Eighty-three years later, in 1956, it would be the only brewery to remain in the Nation's Capital. Recognizing the futility of competing against the much larger national breweries, Heurich's board would vote that year to close the brewery and sell the property. Shortly thereafter, the Heurich brewery buildings would be razed to make room for a bridge over the Potomac River and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

A 'mere' six-hundred and sixty-two month-long gap would intervene before another production brewery, albeit smaller, would open in the nation's capital. Per Lagerheads of the Washington City Paper, St. Patrick's Day 2011 was an auspicious day.

It's official. DC Brau is the first production brewery to operate inside the District of Columbia in more than 50 years. On Thursday [17 March 2011], founders Jeff Hancock and Brandon Skall received their Certificate of Occupancy... Today, [18 March 2011] the brewing begins.

DC Brau

Public Ale, the small craft brewery's pale ale, will be the first brew out of the tanks... Public Ale cans and kegs should be available throughout the Metro area by the second or third week of April.

This historic occasion follows another local brewing milestone. In February 2011, the Port City Brewing Company opened in Alexandria, Virginia, becoming the first production brewery to operate in that city —situated just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.— since the Robert Portner Brewing Company closed in 1916.

A Meeting of 2 Beer Minds
Brandon Skall (r) of DC Brau talks with Bill Butcher (l) of Port City Brewing.

The brewers at DC Brau have told me that "our first brew went well." A thirsty city waits!

UPDATE: Photos from the public release party, 15 April 2011, for the ianugural brew: The Public Pale Ale.

  • Heurich beers were again available in the greater Washington, D.C. area from 1986 until 2005. They were not brewed in the city, however, but in Utica, New York, by the F.X. Matt Brewing Company, under contract to Gary Heurich, Christian Heurich's grandson.
  • Three additional production breweries have announced plans to open within D.C. in 2011: 3 Stars, Chocolate City, and Black Squirrel. The Washington City Paper's Lagerheads has the story. A fifth brewery, Logan-Shaw Brewing Company, is in the planning stages.
  • At present, there are other breweries operating in Washington, D.C., but these are brewpubs, or restaurant-breweries. Capitol City Brewing Company, locally owned, was the first, opening in 1992, followed by the District Chophouse and Gordon-Biersch, both of which are franchise operations. A production brewery, by comparison, such as D.C. Brau, is not a restaurant; it produces its beer only for off-site sales, in bottles, cans, and/or kegs.

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