Jeff Alworth's terrific new book, The Beer Bible, is not written with geeks--or bearded middle-aged men in sandals--in mind: "I definitely didn’t write it to cater to people who are really deep into the nerdy stuff," he says in a phone conversation. "I did hope it would be a book that could translate some of that stuff into information that could be useful for the general public."
The next Atlas Brew Works beer you drink might be made with something besides hops, yeast, and water. The two-year-old DC brewery, best known for its District Common and Rowdy Rye ales, is about to become the first in the Washington region—and possibly a much wider radius—to draw 100 percent of its energy from the sun.
Atlas is preparing to activate a set of 270 solar panels that were installed on the roof earlier this month, which will eventually harness enough light to power the production facility year-round. Making beer is an energy-intensive process, and switching to solar will enable Atlas to cut its power costs by 30 percent from what it currently pays Pepco, says Justin Cox, the brewery's chief executive.
"Breweries in general are huge energy sucks," Cox says, standing on top of Atlas's Ivy City plant on West Virginia Avenue, Northeast. "We spend all day heating stuff up and cooling it down and keeping it cool. Brewing is full of environmentally conscious people but it's not a very environmentally-friendly business. Us and ski slopes get a pass."
Chris Burns, the president of Ashburn-based Old Ox Brewery, says Red Bull is giving his young business "one hell of a corporate wedgie" in the form of a complaint with the US Patent and Trademark Office that claims Burns's company is ripping off the ubiquitous energy drink. Red Bull last week filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board its official opposition to Old Ox's name and trademarks, arguing that "an 'ox' and a 'bull' both fall within the same class of 'bovine' animals and are virtually indistinguishable to most consumers."
Red Bull GmbH is an Austrian conglomerate that sold $6.5 billion worth of energy drinks in 2012. Old Ox is a brand-new brewery that shipped its first beers to Northern Virginia bars and restaurants last July. But the bullying started a few months before. Burns tells Washingtonian he was first approached by Red Bull's representatives about ten months ago when Old Ox was still formulating its recipes and testing out logos.
"They basically called us with what were, at the time, minor concerns about the logo and some things they had seen on our temporary website," Burns says. "We didn’t think it was a big deal. Part of our temporary logo was 'No-Bull Beer.' We didn’t really like the slogan."
But Burns says Red Bull came back a month later with a host of other, more unreasonable demands. "They wanted us to sign an agreement that we would limit the use of our brand, like not using the color red," he says.
Red Bull also demanded that Old Ox not produce any soft drinks, like root beer, which is a fairly regular thing for small-batch brewers to make. (Another Ashburn brewery, Old Dominion, makes a well-regarded root beer using locally harvested honey.)
"That's not something we were willing to do," Burns says.
Martin R. Greenstein, a California-based lawyer representing Red Bull, declined to comment for this article.
In its notice of opposition, filed January 28, Red Bull's biggest sticking point is the supposed ox-bull confusion, hinging on the fact that an ox is just a bull that's been castrated. Perhaps that's something Red Bull aficionados think about while they're guzzling their sickly sweet and liberally caffeinated energy drinks, but claiming the entire Bovinae subfamily, as Red Bull appears to be doing, is a stretch.
"Apparently Red Bull has little faith in the ability of consumers to distinguish between various classes of bovine animals," writes Tim Sitzmann, a trademark attorney at the Minnesota law firm Winthrop & Weinstine. "That would include cows, bulls, oxen, yaks, bison, buffalo, steer, longhorns, and apparently antelopes."
Old Ox's lineup of eight beers, ranging from its flagship Belgian ale and rye porter to seasonal India pale ales, is currently available only in a handful of bars across Northern Virginia, like Alexandria's Virtue Feed and Grain. (The beers will start running on draught lines in the District in a few weeks.) But even if Red Bull thinks dimly of its customers, Burns trusts his to see the difference between the energy drink's logo of clashing bulls against a yellow sun, and his beer, which is marked by black-and-blue lettering.
"We have a text-based logo," Burns says. "It has an 'o' and an 'x.'" Moreover, bovines did not figure into the company strategy when Burns and his partners were starting up. Old Ox Brewery takes its name from Old Ox Road, a segment of Virginia Route 606 running between Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
There is one area Burns is willing to concede to Red Bull without question: "We are absolutely not producing energy drinks. We have zero interest in producing energy drinks."
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
At Oktoberfest’s oompah-blasting, sausage-sizzling festivals, local brewers try their hand at the traditional Bavarian lagers known as Märzen, a balance of subtle hops with smooth, sweet malts that goes down easy between rounds of boisterous song. Here are some of our favorites and where to find them.
Lost Rhino Brewing, Ashburn
This gold-medal winner at last year’s Great American Beer Festival in Colorado hews to traditional Oktoberfest style, with warm notes of toasted malts and a crisp finish. At Lovettsville Oktoberfest and Northern Virginia Fall Brewfest.
Mad Fox Brewing, Falls Church
This light-bodied, less filling Märzen leaves lots of room for bratwurst and sauerkraut. At Hoppy Oktoberfest, Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, and Northern Virginia Fall Brewfest.
Port City Brewing, Alexandria
Port City uses only German malts and hops and leaves its beer unfiltered, lending it a hazy complexion, full body, and deep flavors. At Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest and Northern Virginia Fall Brewfest.
Corcoran Brewing, Purcellville
This brew from the owners of Corcoran Vineyards is a winemaker’s bright, floral take on beer’s hoppiness. For festivals, see facebook.com/corcoranbrewing.
Capitol City Brewing, DC and Arlington
Märzen meets smoky Rauchbier in this innovative brew that bursts with campfire flavor. At Hoppy Oktoberfest and Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest.
This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
The newest addition to DC's beer scene is now open: Brookland Pint, a bar/restaurant from Meridian Pint and Smoke & Barrel's John Andrade, poured its first drafts for the public on Monday. The rustic, 118-seat watering hole lies close to the Brookland Metro station and Catholic University, and stands ready to serve the neighborhood with craft brews and an eclectic lineup of dishes from chef Rebecca Hassell. Here's what you need to know.
The vibe: Casually hip (hey, it's Brookland). Community tables are fashioned from wood reclaimed from Maryland tobacco barns, works from different local artists will rotate on the walls, and there's a 48-seat patio for hanging with your four-legged friends.
The beer: Two dozen craft drafts, plus some unusual bottles. Familiar faces such as DC Brau and Flying Dog are joined by less common finds like AleSmith Speedway Stout. The rarest stuff can be sipped from large-format bottles, which are stocked in a glass-enclosed refrigeration unit for you to browse.
The connectivity: USB ports and electrical outlets adorn the bar and nearly every table, which will come in handy for lunching with your laptop when afternoon service begins (or documenting an epic evening). Rather connect face to face? The restaurant's large windows open onto the patio, allowing those inside to chat with outdoor pals.
The food (vegan/vegetarian): Similar to Andrade's other spots, the meat-free crowd have plenty of options when it comes to eating. The eclectic menu includes vegetarian and vegan items in nearly every category, from black bean and goat cheese quesadillas (available with vegan Daiya cheese) to veggie curry and lentil-barley burgers.
The food (animal-inspired): That said, beer goes pretty well with meat and cheese. Look for a number of Southern dishes, such as deviled eggs, barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches, and pimiento spread with toasted ciabatta. Less cohesive are a global range of items, from pita with marinated feta and grilled lamb kebabs to Puerto Rican mofongo (smashed plantains with optional crispy pork).
The happy hour: Dollar-off drafts, select wines, and house liquor from 5 to 7 Monday through Friday.
On the horizon: More time at Brookland Pint. Look for lunch and weekend brunch to start soon, as well as reservations.
Brookland Pint. 716 Monroe St., NE; 202-758-2757. Current hours: Monday to Thursday 5 to 2, Friday and Saturday 5 to 3, Sunday 5 to 2. Lunch and brunch coming soon.
The farm-to-table trend is great—if you like vegetables. But what if beer’s more your thing? Starting in August, Thanksgiving Farms in Adamstown, Maryland, will offer one of the country’s first community-supported breweries. Like members of community-supported-agriculture cooperatives known as CSAs, CSB participants will be able to fill their two-liter growlers 20 times in a five-month season. Half shares are also available.
Brian Roberts, an infectious-disease specialist whose in-laws own the farm, began growing hops about seven years ago, mixing in the produce grown outside his door to make seasonal beers such as Strawberry Blonde and Cherry Stout for friends. After Maryland licensed farmers to sell self-produced beer in 2012, he decided to take his to market by launching Mad Science Brewing Company.
He hopes to experiment with the broad array of goods available at the farm, which runs its own CSA. “I’ll try to use as much as I can seasonally,” Roberts says. Expect beers flavored with white peaches, blackberries, blueberries, and even squash in the fall.
To expand to the 16 barrels he’ll need for the CSB, Roberts will use the vats at Barley and Hops Grill & Microbrewery in Frederick. Once the CSB has gained traction with customers—and more capital—Roberts hopes to build his own brewing facilities at the farm.
His day job developing vaccines for a biotechnology firm in Frederick and his training—“things like batch records, data-capture forms, and process improvements,” he explains—inform his approach to brewing.
We know vegetables are good for you, but it sounds as if Roberts’s beer might be good for what ails you.
This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
DC’s king of Spanish cuisine is embarking on yet another food adventure: beer.
Last week, José Andrés announced via Twitter his partnership with Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery to release a line of beer called “Zarabanda,” referring to a Spanish dance.
The term loosely means fun, enjoyment, and party. Brewed with spices, the light beer is meant to remind drinkers of Spain’s relaxed lifestyle.
Zarabanda was born out of a collaboration between Andrés and Gary Fish, founder and CEO of Deschutes. The pair’s 15-year friendship bloomed after Andrés began cooking at the brewery’s charity events. They conceived the idea for a new beer at one such fundraiser back in 2010.
“It was fun for all of us to work on this beer and bring two of our passions together: beer and food,” says Fish. “We crafted this spiced saison to accompany great cuisine.”
The duo wanted to feature flavors that Andrés loves and uses in his cooking, such as lemon verbena, pink peppercorns, sumac, and dried lime. The body features a mixture of Vienna and spelt malts, tastes minimally hoppy, and clocks in at 6.1 percent ABV (Alcohol By Volume); your average Bud is only five percent by comparison.
Unfortunately, the 22-ounce bottles won’t be sitting alongside José Andrés Foods potato chips and olive oils at Whole Foods quite yet.
Marie Melsheimer, spokesperson for Deschutes, says the beer won’t be available until the fall, and then only at locations within Deschutes’ distribution zone, which doesn’t include much of the East Coast. The brewery is exploring online availability, and perhaps Andrés might pour Zarabanda drafts in his restaurants. Stay tuned for details closer to the release.
Just in time for your summer drinking needs, the aptly-named Glover Park Beer Garden opens on Wednesday. The summer-long pop-up takes over the outdoor patio of the Savoy Suites Hotel at 2505 Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest, and will serve a range of brews and German-style eats.
Those who remember the long-gone Deck may recognize the surroundings. Though you won’t find tiki accents, it’s housed in a similar place as the once-popular (and often-rowdy) prep bar. Roughly 20 brews will run the gamut from generic bottles of Corona and Bud Light to craft drafts such as New Belgium Fat Tire, DC Brau Corruption IPA, and Atlas Rowdy Rye. A smallish food menu includes pretzel rolls, brats with kraut, and bacon grilled cheese. Those looking to catch a game will find two 50-inch televisions.
Perhaps as a preventative measure against noise complaints—rumored to have shut down the Deck—the al fresco watering hole will close at 11 daily, opening at 5 Monday through Friday and at noon Saturday and Sunday.
Long-awaited, ambitious brewery Bluejacket makes its grand debut on Tuesday at 4. The Navy Yard beer factory, bar, and restaurant combines the talents of Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Greg Engert with brewer Megan Parisi. There’s also a restaurant—the Arsenal—from Birch & Barley chef Kyle Bailey; Dan Hahndorf is chef de cuisine.
Every year around this time, our enthusiasm for beer reaches a fever pitch. You can celebrate the season with Oktoberfest events, of course, or just stock up on all those pumpkin beers on the market. Alternatively, you can take a local approach and tour a nearby brewery. Here’s the skinny on six Washington-area beer-making facilities open to the public.
3178-B Bladensburg Rd., NE; 202-621-8890
Free tours and tastings most Saturdays (call ahead) noon to 4.
“Growler hours” coincide with tours of this Northeast production brewery—fill up 32- or 64-ounce containers of beers.