Four DC Beer Tastemakers on the Worst Trends, Local Favorites and More
Here's what brewers and tasting room managers are drinking at home
Beer has been a part of D.C.’s history since long before the craft boom began — and, for that matter, since long before it was the nation’s capital. From Andrew Wales’s brewery in Alexandria, founded in 1770, to Foggy Bottom’s Washington Brewery, founded in 1796, the D.C. area played host to a veritable panoply of beer-brewing establishments early in its history. Its reputation only grew from there: Robert Portner Brewing Company’s main brewery, which opened in 1869, soon became the largest south of the Mason-Dixon line…until Prohibition, anyway.
While the 18th Amendment certainly put a damper on things — and engendered some odd holdovers, like a ban on brewpubs until 1991 — pioneers like Capitol City Brewing Company, which opened a year later, and DC Brau, which was the first packaging brewery to brew within city limits since the ‘50s, have ushered D.C. into its current status as a thriving beer scene.
Like many other cities across the U.S., beer in D.C. works in waves. We chatted with four prominent local brewers in the area to see what they’re most excited about these days…as well as what trends they wish would just go away. From less alcohol to more fruit, from fewer hazies to more lagers, here’s what they’re loving (and drinking) these days.
The Beer Trend They’re Most Into
“Lower-ABV beers! For a while there, it felt like you couldn’t find an IPA under 7.5% and although the beers were delicious, that kind of limits the number you can try in a single sitting.” —Wes Schoeb, Head Brewer at Dirt Farm Brewing
“Renewed interest in lagers. Not just American lager, but more niche styles like Czech dark lager, schwarzbier, maibock, Franconian lagers, Japanese-style lagers, etc. We even brew a wet-hopped lager during hop harvest season, which is not something you come across too often.” —Chris Smith, Co-Founder and Managing Member at Virginia Beer Company
“The return of session beers. I love seeing full-flavored beer without the punch of the high-octane brews.” —Rob Rodriguez, Director of Brewing Operations at DC Brau
“I feel like there has been a large push towards more session beers, and not just IPAs. Many flavorful, lower-alcohol beers have become more widely available, while revitalizing many forgotten styles.” —Tim Quintyn, Tasting Room General Manager at Port City Brewing
The Beer Trend They’re Tired Of
“Although I truly enjoy them, the hazy beers can be a little much sometimes. Especially when you go to a beer festival and 80-plus percent of the brands that are represented are hazy.” —Schoeb
“High ABV beer. Consumers in both the taproom and at festivals often order strictly based on ABV, and we’ve generally seen that higher-ABV beers tend to sell faster and be rated higher on beer-rating apps (that’s a whole different issue).” —Smith
“Lactose in everything and fruit smoothie whatever. I like Jamba Juice, but I’ll go there for my fruit smoothie.” —Rodriguez
“Big dark beers with way too many adjuncts in them. I don’t think you need a laundry list of additional ingredients to make a great imperial stout. Sometimes less is more.” —Quintyn
The Beer Style They Can’t Get Enough Of
“Not technically a style, but any beer that incorporates fresh fruit. As a farm brewery, we utilize many of the fruits that are grown on our farm, and I know how much time and effort goes into getting that fruit in the beer. Although they are delicious, they can be a pain to make.” —Schoeb
“Italian-style pilsner. This answer hasn’t changed in two years! It checks all of my beer boxes: a great malt backbone complemented by a nice touch of bitterness, which is then accented with a dry hop that imparts the best floral/spicy/herbal notes from German noble hops.” —Smith
“IPA — West Coast, East Coast, English, session. I love a good malty IPA with balanced bitterness and hoppiness and bursting with flavor.” —Rodriguez
“Schwarzbier. I think this is such a versatile beer that should be enjoyed year-round. It’s my perfect grilling companion.” —Quintyn
What They’re Drinking at Home
“Tucher Dunkles Hefe Weizen. I love that it’s a maltier beer that is still very light. It’s great to drink on hot summer days but still enjoyable when you’re in the dead of winter.” —Schoeb
“Provisional Kölsch, our clean, crisp, German-style Kölsch. The 5.1% ABV is right for me, and it has a great, crackery pilsner malt base. It’s also hopped with just enough Adeena hops to provide a floral bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt.” —Smith
“I’ve been turning to our El Hefe Speaks, which is great — banana-forward with balanced clove notes and a touch of bubblegum. It’s great to help beat the swampy heat of the DMV.” —Rodriguez
“I’ve been finding myself drinking our Mexican Dark Lager more than ever before. Nice caramel notes without being too sweet, a playful nuttiness leading to a crisp smooth finish.” —Quintyn
Their Favorite Local Brew (That They Don’t Make)
“I’m a big fan of Tröegs beers. It’s hard for me to go into a store that carries their Perpetual IPA and not buy a six-pack.” —Schoeb
“Port City. The quality is top notch, and the beers themselves are beautifully made. I love that they still produce classic styles that are just timeless — like Port City Porter, a personal favorite.” —Smith
“Dogfish Head. This is the brewery that got me into homebrewing.” —Rodriguez
“Virginia Beer Company. When I was first introduced to them, I could only find their IPAs, but now I see they have a very wide range: IPAs, lagers, sours — all done very well.” —Quintyn
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