There have never been as many craft breweries in the United States as there now, and the Washington, DC area is no exception. However, America’s microbrewing history isn’t as a direct trajectory.
Prohibition and WWII left America’s beer choices in a bad state. In the late 1960s, regional breweries were merging and even closing, leaving in its wake weak, mass-produced, flavorless brews. By the mid-1980s there were only 83 breweries in the entire US. It was in that environment the real driving force behind the craft beer movement started.
Hobbyists around the country started brewing their own beer and the craft beer was reborn.
In the late ‘80s, the crossover from home brewing hobbyists into the mainstream began. This gave way to a wave of impressive growth. The first wave happened in 1999, just as the Dot-com bubble was imploding, throwing the US into a recession. By 2008, the recession was over and an even greater wave began; One we’re enjoying today.
We should expect the number of craft breweries to continue to rise. At the end of 2017, there were over 6000 licensed breweries in the US. To put that in context, there were only about 1,800 active breweries seven years prior in 2010.
We are lucky here in DC to have some of the finest breweries in the nation. Most are pet and family-friendly. Here are our five favorites to bring the kids and dog.
Hellbender Brewing Company
Don’t let the name fool you into thinking this place might not be a good fit for your clan. Hellbender boasts nine beers on tap and three more you can take out the door. Each crafted beer is as unique as the brewery’s namesake, the Hellbender Salamander.
The Hellbender Salamander is an endangered species that used to be plentiful in this area before mass sedimentation began to affect its habitat. This small creature inspired hellbender Brewing Company to be better at what they do, and in doing so they use less fresh water and have increased efficiency by using a mash filter.
The first to use a mash filter here on the east coast, this method means more fresh beer at a fraction of the time it takes other breweries to make the same amount of beer. Plenty of board games and sports on the many TVs to keep everyone entertained while sampling some of the best beer D.C. offers.
Atlas Brew Works
In Northeast D.C., Atlas is a neighborhood brewery producing 20-barrel batches of artisanal beer at their facility in Ivy City. 16 beers on tap make Atlas a one-stop-shop for exploring a range in beer expertise.
Talk about being off the grid while firmly entrenched within the grid of D.C., Atlas’ brewery is 100% solar powered. Better beer without the dependence of local power, that’s green forward thinking at its best.
A recent Google review summed up what you’ll find at Atlas Brew Works; “So many tap lines, it’s easy to sample a bunch and find some you like. Great friendly service and I like that they welcome dogs and babies.” Four-legged friends are not only permitted outside but inside as well… so are the babies.
3 Stars Brewing Company
If the success of a brewery is based on the number of distinctively different brews produced, then 3 Stars Brewing Company would win hands down with over 200 unique brews released to date. If those numbers don’t impress perhaps being named D.C.’s Best Local Brewery 3 times by Washington City Paper and named Rising Stars by Star Chefs Magazine in 2014.
Accolades will only get you so far; it’s the taste of the beer that will win you over at 3 Stars. Stop in and try the spookily named Ghost white IPA and bring some to share at your Halloween parties next month. If you are into home brewing, stop into their D.C. Home Brew Shop which can accommodate brewers of any level.
Want to drink in some history? Then make DC Brau a stop on your list.
Founded in 2009, it is the first brewery to operate inside the District of Columbia since 1956, when the Heurich Brewery closed. The brewery was founded by Brandon Skall, it’s business manager, and Jeff Hancock, its brewmaster.
This brewery crafts award-winning beer — utilizing a delicious and uniquely American blend of North American and European techniques and ingredients.
Great for families with music, tables, and games. Food trucks are on hand.
Right Proper Brewing Company
Two breweries in one–that’s what you get with Right Proper.
First, is the Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen located at 7th & T Street, NW in the historic Shaw neighborhood of D.C. From the website: “The smaller brewhouse & adjacent barrel room means the beer menu rotates frequently with many options available exclusively at the brewpub. The kitchen cooks up casual American fare with a nod to Southern comfort.”
Second is Brookland Production House & Tasting Room. From the website: “Our Brookland Production House & Tasting Room is located at 10th and Girard Street, NE. The tasting room offers a view of the brewery while sampling our latest offerings. Tours of the brewery are offered regularly on the weekends.”
Why two breweries? Right Proper Brewing Company has a vision that centers around DC as a hometown, with each neighborhood defined by a different culture. They want to create a local pub where you can have a mug of beer that is fresh, brewed on-premises, and without the high DC price tag. The bar would be a gathering place for family and community, one that evokes conversation by candlelight instead of TV screens.