Although the nation’s capital was slow to embrace locally brewed beer when the first wave of microbreweries swept over other parts of the country in the 1980s and ’90s, a recent shift has created a flourishing beer culture.
At Birch & Barley in Washington DC, chef Kyle Bailey blends the decadent flavors of house-cured foie gras with seasonal fruits from local farms and peppery greens grown in the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
As a homebrewer, Nathan Zeender made his bones propagating the dregs of wild and sour beers he enjoyed, aged batches in wine and spirit barrels, and blended the results. Right Proper, the DC brewpub Zeender helped launch, is also far outside the brewing mainstream.
As smaller, independent breweries have steadily chipped away at the market share held by larger national or multinational competition, they’ve also found ways to move into spaces formerly controlled by Big Beer—like Major League stadiums.
With style lines blurred and Old World notions increasingly irrelevant, it appears the new era of craft beer will be defined by drinking whatever the consumer pleases at any given moment. And this is all positive in the sense that it means craft brewers and their advocates have won the larger battle.
With a few loans and the support of a community that was clamoring for a local brewery, the Port City team took over an old warehouse just outside the nation’s capital to build one of the DC area’s most successful breweries.
After 10 years of homebrewing, Megan Parisi went back to school. Her big break came from Cambridge Brewing Co. in Massachusetts, where she won five GABF medals. Now, Parisi is helming Bluejacket, the newest venture from DC-based Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
As a working city, DC is full of politicians and journalists, not to mention influence-peddlers, rich foreigners, bureaucrats, students and the service workers who cater to them all. Which is to say that this town has a wicked thirst.