In the past couple of years, the District has become a veritable beertown.
DC Brau Brewery started the wave of new microbrews in the District when it opened up its brewery last year. Chocolate City Beer soon followed suit, and today 3 Stars Brewing Company officially tapped its kegs in the Takoma neighborhood.
Before DC Brau, the District had been without a local brewery since 1956. That was the year when the iconic Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. shut its
It had been founded by German immigrant Christian Heurich (pronounced “Hi-rick”) in 1873 near Dupont Circle, and soon became the most successful brewery in town.
After numerous accidental fires, Heurich moved the operations to a modern (and fireproof) new facility in Foggy Bottom along the Potomac River.
At one point, Heurich was the largest local employer outside of the federal government. He presided over the company until his death in 1945 at the age of 102.
While it survived Prohibition (producing ice for the likes of Congress and the Supreme Court), it was not so lucky against a national wave of consolidation of local breweries.
Eventually the facilities were demolished to make way for the Kennedy Center and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
In the 1980s, a grandson of the original brewer, Gary Heurich, brought Foggy Bottom Lager and Foggy Bottom Ale to the District. It was brewed in Utica, NY, but tried to revive the memory of the old Heurich brand for a new generation of thirsty Washingtonians.
When I moved to D.C. it was still a staple in local bars, and you could always pick out its large Washington Monument-shaped tap handle.
Unfortunately it stopped production in 2006, with Gary Heurich bemoaning the District’s “lack of hometown spirit.”
Perhaps it was a bit before its time. Today is a much better climate for microbrews, both nationwide and in D.C.
The new brewing companies are all embracing their local heritage – literally wrapping themselves in the District flag – and more and more D.C. bars are carrying them on tap.
To sample the new generation of Washington beers, you can visit all three District breweries (and others nearby) on Saturdays for tastings and growler fills, with local food trucks also thrown into the mix.
And be sure to visit and tour the Heurich House Museum, a beautiful (and fireproof) mansion which has luckily managed to survive into the 21st Century.
Christian Heurich’s family home is also known as the Brewmaster’s Castle, and is one of the best preserved Victorian mansions in Dupont Circle.
You can relive Washington’s gilded age and its beer history at the same time.