Beautiful-good. This is the name ancient Sumerians gave to the delicious biochemical concoction we now call beer.
Beer brings people around a table, fosters conversation, and opens opportunity for communal fellowship centered around the shared experience of enjoying refreshing, satiating beverages together. Not to mention, this bubbly brew releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine, which makes these gatherings all the more jovial.
I imagine the ancient beer-creators of old speechless after their first ceramic bowl full, dodging yeast clumps and particles with bamboo straws, then exclaiming the two most flattering, celebratory adjectives they could think up to describe their new boozy discovery: “Beautiful! ….Good!”
Many of today’s leading breweries across the country respectfully use beer’s rich history as a foundational stepping stool to launch themselves toward more creative, modern takes on traditional recipes. With craft beer on the rise, more and more entrepreneurs and beer connoisseurs are building their own breweries and pubs, positioning their take on this ancient creation from a different and unique angle.
Here at Bellhops, we are scanning the country, seeking out the best breweries that capture beer’s potential and provide delicious brews to happy patrons (we’re a modern alternative to traditional Washington D.C. movers, by the way. City by city, we’re doing the work and investigation so that you can focus on enjoying your beer and the people around you.
Next up we’re sticking to the east side of the Potomac River and covering the small, packed land of Washington D.C. Turns out, there’s much more here than just monuments and museums. Check out our ranking below of the city’s breweries and pubs off D.C.’s beaten path.
A pub for the people, this brewery is simple, inclusive, and keeps a variety of their brews on tap, from darker beers like their smooth, malty Sam’s Stout to glowy goldens like their drinkable Cream Ale. The teeny taproom is decked with several small tables and chairs that hint at an 80s diner theme, each table topped with kitschy porcelain salt and pepper shakers in the shapes of different animals. You’ll feel like you’re visiting a friends house more than visiting a brewery, but this comfortable, casual take on their environment is actually what many of the locals enjoy about their visit. Settle in, say hey to the friendly staff, grab a board game, and…
Try this: Northern Nut Brown
This Amber brew leans a little sweet for its style but is balanced and malty.
In 1991, DC was still brewery-barren and holding onto the last strands of prohibition. Capitol City opened its doors and the world of craft beer in 1992 as the only brewpub in the city at the time. Their ‘merica theme shines through their branding, taproom, food menu, even can-art, and beer names. Capital City’s success rides on their four signature brews: Capitol Kolsch, Amber Waves Ale, Pale Rider Ale, and Prohibition Porter. Of these four, we suggest that you…
Try this: Prohibition Porter
A little hoppy, a little sweet, this dark English style ale tastes chocolatey, malty, and smooth.
Grab yourself a steakhouse classic, a beer brewed on-site and head over to the game. District Chophouse is located ½ a block from the Capital One Arena. Their ornate restaurant is glowy and warm with a 20’s vibe, and they serve up delicious dishes like their Classic Chophouse Sampler, a platter of onion rings, pancetta-wrapped shrimp, calamari, portobello, spinach & artichoke dip, or Chophouse classics like their center-cut Angus Filet Mignon and New York Strip.
Try this: Amber Ale
This malty brew will pair well with most red meat selections you may order throughout your night at District. The caramel malts in the brew will compliment the caramelization that occurs in browned meat. Its malty sweetness will carry the flavors of your dish, while its hoppy dryness will refresh your palate.
Bardo Beer could host two weddings at one time. This outdoor-only beer garden, stretching along the Potomac River, seats 750 at long wooden picnic tables. Bardo goes patch-quilt style, piecing together crowd-sourced recipes from great brewers around the country rather than hiring a head brewer of their own. Bardo, then, makes for a fitting stopping spot for any locals or visitors who love enjoying a variety of brews in the beautiful outdoors.
Try this: Marion Berry Lambic
This tart sipper has been fermented with loads of Marionberries for a sour, fruity treat.
Gordon Biersch features a stylish dining room that seats 226, an outdoor patio that seats 88, and a glass-enclosed brewery. Their food menu displays Gordon Biersch’s care for precise pairings and its full of eclectic American dishes that compliment the flavors and notes in their authentic German lagers and quality ales.
Try this: Festbier
This seasonal treasure sweetly offers its sipper notes of biscuit, toasted malt, and caramel. A true Munich-style Oktoberfest for the crispiest of fall days.
With a driving force to help conserve the earth and its inhabitants, Hellbender centers their branding and brew-style around environmental sustainability. The hellbender – a 2-foot long ancient salamander breed, dating back two millennia that is now endangered – boldly claims this brewing company’s name and logo. And its story inspired the brewery to find a better way to brew beer more efficiently. Their Belgian-made mash filter does the trick, allowing Hellbender to brew the same amount of beer but with 15% less grain, 20% less energy, and 30% less water.
Try this: Sunbreaker Hefeweizen
This bold and complex Bavarian-style wheat beer sits at 5.3% for a drinkable Heff. Look for notes of ripe fruit, clove, and banana.
3 Stars brews classic styles with tasty additions and twists, from White IPAs to Cranberry Saisons to Imperial Porters. Their team started with the two-man duo, Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey who, like many other craft brewery founders, got their start and discovered their love for beer through a simple homebrew kit. Now they are operating with a team of 28 people, and pump brew after brew to the locals’ delight.
Try this: Peppercorn Saison
This Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale billows with sweet fruity and floral aromas. It’s smooth with a slight bitterness and a crisp, dry finish.
Rarely do breweries put in much effort to make their brewery sustainable. Some have added a few solar panels and recycle their waste. Atlas Brew Works managed, in August 2015, to transfer their entire brewery solely to solar-power. This transition has not held them back in the slightest in their ability to create a hefty tap list of delicious brews in a cornucopia of colorful styles. Visit their taproom for Tuesday Trivia and Game Nights. Atlas also hosts frequent Metal Shows featuring local metal bands so that you can mosh while the brewers mash.
Try this: Ugly and Stoned
Atlas soured this delicious bubbly treat, and heavy-loaded it with the reclaimed battered and bruised peaches, plums and nectarines donated by MOM’s Organic Market in an effort to lower food waste. Who knew that ugly fruit could taste so beautiful.
Bluejacket’s broad range of styles provides beers that pair well with all different palates and all different plates. Their rotating tap list of twenty beers and five cask ales, brewed with locally sourced ingredients include tasty sippers like their Mexican Radio, a sweet stout brewed with vanilla beans, ancho chili peppers and cinnamon, or their Kicked it in the Sun, a tart apricot sour ale. Located in a gorgeous 1919 industrial building, with towering, airy ceilings and foot after foot of old, paned windows, Bluejacket’s taproom settles perfectly within this historical city.
Try this: Goldfinch
This dry as a bone Belgian blond ale gives generous notes of sweet lemon and spices. Pair it with Bluejacket’s Diver Scallops, softly seared and placed atop warm quinoa, portobello mushrooms, chickpeas, corn, and basil pesto.
About a decade ago, Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock paired up together to build a brewery, despite the legislative barriers at the time. Throughout the planning process, the two “wrote legislation to create a tasting permit for manufacturers, legalized growler sales, and were later involved with legislation to legalize on-premise brewing pint sales. Their changes in D.C. became pivotal” to the success of craft breweries in the city. Opening in 2011 with a low budget and a DIY tasting room didn’t keep people from noticing and respecting D.C. Brau’s delicious brews. Since then, the brewery has continued to grow in popularity and importance throughout the city.
Jameson Whiskey’s partnering with D.C. Brau placed them even bolder on the craft brewers map, and this collaboration has resulted in two limited edition brews, an imperial Belgian stout, and an imperial coffee milk stout, both aged in whiskey barrels from the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, Ireland.
Try this: The Incurable Sadness
Brau’s classic Irish Stout is boldly black in color and tastes roasty and bitter.
Right Proper pumps tasty brews from two locations: the Brookland Production House on the northeast side of the city and the Shaw Brewpub in the northwest corner. In both spots, you can feel their passion and care for creating an inviting environment, where locals can enjoy the marriage of food and beer, and community can spread. Right Proper steeps their taproom in the each area’s local history, and a mural painted over the old brick wall features musician Duke Ellington, who learned to play jazz as a teenager in the building next door.
Their emphasis on yeast rather than hops sets them apart from other craft breweries today. They allow the whims of the yeast and multiple, layered fermentation to dictate their brews rather than the strict qualities of a specific style. But you’ll still find a variety of taste-bud tantalizers on their tap list. Malty, funky, bready, and hoppy, Right Proper makes ‘em all and makes ‘em good.
Try this: Ornette
This light, crisp farmhouse wheat ale was named after jazz player Ornette Coleman. And it’s just as bright, clean and complex as the dancing notes of Coleman’s sweet saxophone.
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