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Washington, DC emerges as a beer city destination.

3 Stars Brewing Company co-founder Dave Coleman pours at the tap in Washington, DC
3 Stars Brewing Company co-founder Dave Coleman pours at the tap in Washington, DC
Photo by Charlie Papazian

Washington, DC has always been a fun city with plenty to do, see and enjoy. Now there’s a choice of beer.

Washington, DC area beer enthusiasts are devouring local craft brewer's beer
Photo by Charlie Papazian

It’s only recently that Washington, DC emerged out of the beer doldrums, resurfacing as a destination in which area brewers and beer drinkers are taking pride in their locally cultivated breweries. In five years there’s been a main street interest in craft beer and with that an increased selection offered by area restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, packaged stores and grocery stores. There are exceptions. As little as one year ago one high end seafood restaurant had taken what craft beers from craft brewers they had on offer – off their menu and replaced them with beers from only from one producer/brewer. I drank water. For every one step backwards there are numerous steps forward. Needless to say, I don’t even think about going back there. There are so many other great options throughout the city. And the beer drinker and where the places where they buy from are celebrating the coming of craft beer to the Nation’s capital.

Following on the initial re-emergence of craft beer have been a few local craft brewers who have taken the city with their beers and city pride. And the word on the street is there are more breweries on the way.

3 Stars Brewing Company is a small but quickly growing “microbrewery” co-founded by Mike McGarvey and Dave Coleman in August 2012. It’s located at 6400 Chillum Place NW, in the northwest corner of Washington, DC, whose city emblem is the 3 stars logo. The brewhouse came from a farmhouse brewery in Virginia that had suspended operation. 3 Stars Brewing also has DC’s only homebrew supply shop in a conveniently located adjoining room. It also serves as a tasting room for the brewery as well as a source of much appreciated volunteer help, especially much appreciated in the early days of the brewery. While visiting the brewery I had the pleasure of sampling several of their beers.

Peppercorn Saison, a 6.5% ale brewed with the subtle flavors of peppercorn that more definitively emerges with each post-beer burp. It’s a smooth tasting Saison and their most popular beer at the time of my visit in April.

Sea Change Pale, a 6.7% ale hopped with Centennial and Cascade in the kettle and dry hopped with Zythos.

Southern Belle, an 8.6% Imperial brown ale; smooth with the addition of 8 lbs. of pecans in their double batch 10 barrel brews.

Winter Madness, a 10.4% incredibly complex and fruity strong ale. In my opinion their most impressive beer. A relatively young beer when I enjoyed it. It was reminiscent of Belgian made St. Sixtus ABT 12; similar to a fine English style barley wine with complex fruity and toffee notes interwoven with a velvet palate.

Gose Rye, a low alcohol rye ale partially fermented with sour inducing lactobacillus. The addition of salt and coriander along with sour creates an impression of lime. A pleasant refresher.

Pandemic Porter, a 9.6% Imperial porter brewed with wheat created to portray a well-balanced mild fruity and roasted flavors and aromas.

3 Stars Brewing also offers limited releases of true English-style cask ales at selected locations in D.C.

Chocolate City Beer at 2810 8th St., NE has grown roots in an old Stone cutting building. Founder and brewer Ben Matz is at the helm on a full time basis. The brewery comes from the spoils of a brewery project stalled into oblivion. The brewhouse and fermenters were salvaged from 15-years storage. While visiting the brewery I enjoyed several of their beers.

Cerveza Nacional is their black lager/schwarzbier. It’s a smooth well balanced beer that has the character of a lager.

Cornerstone Copper Ale, a German-style Altbier

1814 ESB – a great essay on Brtish style Extra Special Bitter.

DC Brau at 3178-B Bladensburg Ave, NE is DC’s fastest growing brewery. Co-founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock have a lot to take pride in, but the thing that they appreciate most is their customers – not too different than most craft brewers I visit. Offering draft, barrel aged brews and more recently canning their beers for the local and regional markets, they’re having a tough time keeping up with demand. On a tour of the brewery I couldn’t help but notice on one of the top storage shelves a complete set for homebrewing 5 gallons as time. “That’s for weekend brewing sessions” and experimentation. Interesting observations revealed their new glassware resembling the form of their cans of beer. One can’t help but note the fantastic artwork covering the walls of the brewery, fermenting and storage rooms. Hurry on by for a visit before they get covered by increased inventory that comes as their popularity increases. While visiting the brewery with friends I enjoyed a bunch of their beers including: Coffee Doppelbock, Citizen Belgian Pale Ale, Corruption IPA, The Public American Pale Ale, Season in the Field Saison, Colliding Hemispheres Brown Ale, El Hefe Speaks Hefweizen, Penn Quarter Oaked Porter and On the Wings of Armagaddon Imperial IPA. Enough to mellow out and satisfy just about anyone’s thirst for beer.

Next: Heading south through Virginia


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