We’ll be taking a quick detour from wrapping up our series focusing on Belgium this week to take a look at one of the best and most important topics pertaining to beer right now: local breweries.
While our area has always been a haven for beer fans supporting craft domestic and imports, until recently there was a noticeable lack of local DC, Maryland and Virginia breweries. This has often been the first piece of evidence when arguing the DC area’s lack of status or respect as a ‘beer town’. The past ten years however has seen a rise of local brewers planting their flags and brewing up world-class beer all over the region. Today, amid the continuing economic uncertainty and the spread of corporate box stores and restaurants into seemingly every available space, your local breweries are places of hope, providing employment and investing in our communities.
That’s not to say all chains are necessarily bad. If you live close enough to a Cap City Brewpub, Rock Bottom Brewpub, Gordon Biersch, or Sweetwater Tavern go check out what they’re doing. These chain restaurants/brewpubs are a seemingly endless stream of up-and-coming talent; many of the brewmasters helming new breweries came up through this ‘farm system’, and it’s always nice to be able to say “I knew them when…”
Making a big impact in their first year of operation was Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company. Located off Duke Street near the intersection with Quaker Lane, Port City’s beers are balanced and smart, showing complexity and bold flavor without succumbing to ‘big beer syndrome’. I’m a little partial to their Pale Ale and Porter myself. Look for their Oyster Stout to be released later this spring. Lost Rhino rose from the ashes of Dominion’s operation being moved up into Delaware; after spending the last couple of years occupying draft lines around the area, bottled versions of their beers are hitting shelves and each is better than the last. Try New River Pale Ale and Ice Breaker Imperial IPA.
DC Brau made quite a bit of noise last year, and has created a lot of the craft beer excitement within the District. While we’ve only managed to see their The Public Pale Ale a couple of times at retail in Virginia, their beers can be found on tap at bars and restaurants around the area. Ranging from the hoppy and classic to the experimental, we’re looking forward to seeing more of DC Brau’s offerings as we get further into 2012. While in the city, keep an eye out for beers from Three Stars Brewery and Chocolate City Brewing Company, who have also recently come online. Baseball fans, look for Bluejacket, slated to open sometime in 2013 at the Boilermaker Shops down at the Yards.
If I had to choose a favorite local brewpub, it would have to be the Mad Fox Brewpub in Falls Church. Brewer Bill Madden leads a team in concocting some of the most well-thought and carefully made beers on the East Coast. His Kolsch is arguably the best made in America, and I try not to suffer much argument about the Kellerbier version. With a broad selection ranging from a delightful sessionable English Common to the super-hoppy Orange Whip IPA and Tupper’s India Ink Black IPA, there’s a beer for everyone at Mad Fox. Usually there’s at least one beer available on cask too, for that true pub experience. Not that you’ll spend the entirety of your visit waxing poetic over the beer; the food at Mad Fox is fantastic as well. From great pizza to joyful special offerings, there’s not much to dislike at the Fox.
If you’re in Maryland, Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Brewery has been turning out outstanding craft beer since the 90’s and they’re only getting better; try to make it by Brewer’s Art or one of the DuClaw locations if you can as well. If you’re driving about the area, don’t miss out on Fredericksburg’s Battlefield Brewing Company and Blue and Gray Brewing Company. Further south you’ll find the excellent brews of Legend’s Brewery (Richmond), Williamsburg AleWerks (who are starting to get on a serious roll), Devil’s Backbone and Blue Mountain (whose stuff I’m hopeful we’ll be seeing more of our shelves very soon).
All things considered, drinking local is a simple way to support independent neighborhood businesses that in turn add color to our communities and give us a place to all get together. Also you get to drink beer while doing this. So why wouldn’t you?