2011 is winding down. You’re probably on the last page of your 2011 calendar, but don’t toss it. Save it as a memento of what will be remembered as a huge year for the craft beer community in the DC metro area. On January 1, 2011, there were no local production breweries with beers in the DC metro area; by December 31, 2011, six different breweries will have launched beers, and four more are in the works. Cherish that 2011 calendar, but look happily to the future; 2012 will be even bigger, better and beerier. Here’s a run-down of both the breweries that are here now and those that will be here soon. Cheers!
Port City Brewing Company
The eldest of the suddenly numerous production breweries in the immediate DC metro area, Port City Brewing Company will celebrate its first birthday in January of 2012. Situated in Alexandria, Virginia, PCBC’s lineup continues to boast its four launch beers: Porter, Monumental IPA, Essential Pale Ale and Optimal Wit, but two seasonal releases joined the party late this year: a Märzen (just in time for Oktoberfest!) and Tidings, a seasonal ale that has been described as a “spiced superwitbier.” PCBC remains a popular destination for tours, tastings and beer pick-ups, so much so that the tap room now boasts a dedicated express lane for growler fills.
Since launching at Meridian Pint in March, DC Brau has enjoyed a busy and successful year. Three beers comprise their regular line-up: their flagship The Public (an extremely hoppy pale ale), The Corruption (an IPA) and The Citizen (a Belgian pale ale). The Penn Quarter Porter and a hefeweizen have joined this line-up intermittently, as have two collaborations, an Imperial Pumpkin Porter with Utah’s Epic Brewing Company and NATAS, a Belgian stout with Stillwater Artisanal Ales. Their canned beers, which have been hard to find on retail shelves at times, should become more prevalent in 2012. DC Brau’s year was most recently punctuated by the purchase and installation of additional fermenters, which will greatly expand brewing capacity.
Lost Rhino Brewing Company
Brewing out of Ashburn since this past summer, Lost Rhino Brewing company has three beers in its regular rotation: New River Pale Ale, Face Plant IPA and Rhino Chasers Pils. Lost Rhino was started by Matt Hagerman and Favio Garcia, former shift brewers from the now-in-Delaware-and-not-a-brewpub Old Dominion brewpub that was just down the road from where they are now. The duo augments their line-up with other Rhino-themed beers like RhinO’fest (an Oktoberfest) and Rhinoel (a dubbel). Lost Rhino does a rousing growler business for the locals but has also established a significant draft line presence in Northern Virginia and the District.
Chocolate City Brewing Company
Before opening, Chocolate City thought its brand would lean on its projected flagship, the Big Chair IPA, but since launching at RFD in August, the brewery has found success in some unexpected styles. Vienna lagers and ESBs aren’t the styles that usually come to mind when talking about young breweries, but brewer Ben Matz’s Cerveza Nacional de la Capital and 1814 ESB are two of the four beers in the brewery’s rotation. They’re joined by the Big Chair and the Cornerstone Copper Ale, which most closely resembles the also infrequently seen Dusseldorf Altbier style, a malty German ale with lots of noble hops. Chocolate City recently started growler sales out of its Brookland neighborhood location.
3 Stars Brewing Company
For a brewery that hasn’t officially launched yet and won’t actually do so until early 2012, 3 Stars Brewing Company has had a busy year. While crowdsourcing labor from the local craft beer community to get the brewery in Northeast DC ready to open, Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey still got four beers into DC this year. They did this by pairing with Delaware’s Evolution Craft Brewing Company and Baltimore’s Oliver Ales to produce the Syndicate Sasion (with Evolution, brewed with a peppercorn melange) and three beers in the “B.W. Rye” series, an IPA, a porter and a barrel-aged blend of the two (brewed with Oliver Ales).
Baying Hound Aleworks
Paul Rinehart, owner and head brewer at Baying Hound Aleworks, brews and innovates at the nanobrewery level at his Rockville, Maryland location. Brewing small batches has allowed Baying Hound to try all kinds of new combinations, for example, a smoked juniper sage porter and a hibiscus saison. Three beers comprise the regular line-up: Sarvará Black IPA, Long Snout Stout and Lord Wimsey’s Mild Pale Ale. For some of the more obscure offerings, head up to the brewery Friday through Sunday and have a look around!
Low Brau DC
Brewing under the motto “Embracing Simplicity,” owner/brewer Steven Sorrell is turning his back on the bigger is better trend of American craft brewing and looking toward German beer styles to provide the DC area with “crisp, refreshing session style beers.” Sorrell believes brewing on the nano-scale will help to emphasize quality over quantity. Low Brau hasn’t found a physical location yet, but is in the process of searching for one in Northeast DC.
Beltway Brewing Company
Sten Sellier, Beltway Brewing’s founder, wants to brew up possibilities “for those who cannot build or expand their own breweries.” This innovative business model will let Beltway Brewing Company team up with established breweries who temporarily need more brewing space, with those who want to experiment on a smaller scale or with restaurants who want their own high-quality private label beers in-house.
Hellbender Brewing Company
Named after the largest salamander in North America, which is emblematic of its “environmentally safe brewing practices and waste disposal,” Hellbender is the most recently announced brewery in the DC metro area. Started by Ben Evans and Patrick Mullane, two experienced homebrewers, Hellbender doesn’t have a physical location yet, but the pair is actively looking for an appropriate site. The brewery will eventually launch with three flagship beers: a Kölsch, a red ale and an IPA.