Prior to 2009, the last time Washington, DC could claim a native production brewery was way back in 1956. A lot happened in that 53-year period – we landed on the moon, the USSR crumbled, skinny ties went out of style, skinny ties came back into style, and Al Gore invented this internet thing we're all so fond of. Luckily for us, when Jeff Hancock and Brandon Skall started their brewery in Northeast DC, they ended the 50+ year brewery drought and put the nation's capital back in its rightful place as a beer producing pseudo-State of the Union (eat your heart out Guam).
Jeff Hancock and Brandon Skall with ACB's Founder Tom Bobak
We met up with Jeff and Brandon, who graciously showed us their operation and gave us a firsthand take on what DC Brau is all about. It was clear in talking to them that representing the nation's capital was a fundamental motivation behind starting their brewery. They realized DC was missing from the craft beer scene, and they were the right people to fill the void.
Geography aside, the city's spirit underscores their philosophy in other ways. "We want to represent the different aspects of DC," Brandon explained. On one hand, the district has an active nightlife, great bars and restaurants, and plenty to do for fun. At the same time, it carries the seriousness appropriate for the home of our nation's government. This duality not only permeates the DC Brau brand, but it's also a metaphor for the two owners themselves. Brandon was an adept promoter who came from a background in wine and liquor sales and was active in the music scene, while Jeff was an experienced brewer, having brewed professionally for (among others) Flying Dog.
But the two owners are motivated by more than just representing the nation's capital in the craft beer industry. For them, it's about great beer, good people, and doing good things for the community. Aside from being beer makers, they're damn good members of society. They've been active in improving local legislation to undo archaic laws that put a damper on other breweries, they work with local farmers to provide their used grain as animal feed, they hire local artists and promote music events, and they were recently awarded the 2013 Irish Innkeeper award by the Emerald Society Firefighters of Washington for their charitable donations, partnerships, and community involvement.
Located in a commercial space that used to be a newspaper distribution center for the Washington Times, DC Brau produced roughly 5,800 barrels last year. They have plans in place to reach 12,000 next year with their three flagship beers as well as some great limited release beers. We were lucky enough to try their Penn Quarter Porter, a beer aged in bourbon barrels, and a Grand Cru that was serendipitously soured and downright awesome.
So, if you're in DC or live nearby, nurture your fun-loving side and look for DC Brau when you're out enjoying the nightlife. Or, stop by their brewery for a tasting, brewery tour, or to get a growler filled – after all, all work and no play makes you a... well, you know the rest.