Sam on the Audacity of Hops (by Danny Harris)


Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.

Ed. Note:  Danny sends me these great stories directly, they are not hand selected by me.

“I grew up outside of Burlington, Vermont. When I was 19, I tried to convince my Dad to let me use his home beer brewing kit, but he said I was too young. Then, when I was 20, I bugged him again and he finally took it out and we brewed a brown ale together. In college, I grew to like beer more and brewed a new batch every couple of months for me and my friends. But, I really fell in love with beer when I moved to DC.

“I bought equipment down here and started making regular batches. DC is a political place and I like to make theme beers. You know, beer names are full of puns, that is why people like beer so much. I wanted to throw an election party and brew a cleverly named, themed beer. Four or five months before the election, which is probably more time than I spent preparing anything, including my senior thesis at college, I created the Audacity of Hops. I used victory malt and progress hops and coffee from Hawaii, Kenya, and Indonesia, which are Obama’s three homelands. It was 8% alcohol and made of half-light and half-dark malt. It was a very thought-out process. The election came and the party went over really well. People loved it and The City Paper even wrote about it. You know, I didn’t have a contingency plan had McCain won. I could have made a McCain beer I guess, but it would have been bitter, old, and dusty!

“For inauguration, I had another party and made 200 numbered Audacity of Hops beers. That was the most beers I had ever made in my life. I even kept a bottle of Audacity of Hops for the President. It is numbered 50 for the great State of Hawaii. I have tried to get it to him on a number of occasions, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen. But, if the President every wants it, even when he is no longer the President and just some dude living down the street and he wants to have a beer, it will always be waiting for him.

“Seeing and being involved with the beer culture in this city got me thinking about starting a brewery. One of my biggest questions is why there is not a real functioning DC microbrewery. Other major cities have multiple local breweries. Seeing the success of the Audacity of Hops and the success of my regular beer-tasting nights with friends, it is clear that people love beer here. But, the most local brew you can get here is from Delaware and Virginia.

“It has been 25 years since there was a microbrewery in the area. Before the Kennedy Center was built, that land once belonged to the Heurich brewery, built by a German immigrant in the 19th century. But, sometime in the 50’s or 60’s, he started contract brewing up in New York. That was really the last bottling brewery in DC. I would love to buy a DC beer that is brewed with DC water and takes pride in being from DC.”

33 Comment

  • “You know, beer names are full of puns, that is why people like beer so much.”

    Call me crazy, but whether I like a beer depends a lot more on the taste.

  • Agreed, we need a DC beer…and a vote while we’re asking for things.

  • That was the Heurich Brewery located where the Kennedy Center now sits.

  • Fabulous background story (but I question whether Sam is old enough to drink, he looks so young in the pic!)

  • Do the microbrew bars downtown not count? Capital City Brew Pub, etc? What do you think of Franklins in Hyattsville? They don’t bottle but you can get Growlers to go. I am not a huge fan of their beers but it does hit the spot on the way back into town from Ikea, REI, Community Forklift.

  • Seriously, that guy looks like a 12-year-old, just tall for his age.

  • “It has been 25 years since there was a microbrewery in the area.”

    Huh? How about Capitol City Brewing Company (downtown and Union Station locations) as well as District Chop House (downtown/Chinatown). For a beer authority, his knowledge seems lacking.

    Also, I’m guessing people love particular beers for the taste, not merely because “beer names are full of puns.”

  • This is a realy interesting post Danny. recently, I was seriously looking into starting a microbrewery also in DC. I spoke with DCRA and a bunch of other city officals about the laws and regualtions governing such a thing. Hey, if you want to discuss this offline, It would be my pleasure!

  • Gaithersburg has a brewery in old town where you can get growler’s too.

    Start selling your brew….Sell it out of your basement until you get enough cash to and move enough product to rent a building. I’d buy a building and rent it to you if I thought you’d stick with it. That’s how businesses start.

  • brewpub is not the same thing as a microbrewery.

    i think re: the puns, he meant the spirit of beer, and not literally the part of speech. beer advocates work pretty hard to cultivate a jolly, playful, don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously spirit (some would argue, debatably, the antithesis of wine culture).

    cheers to boys who grew up outside of burlington. my home sweet home.

  • Haters are always going to hate. Sam, keep doing your thing, man! Open a brewery for all of us here in DC.

  • Yes, Brewpubs are different that microbreweries. All DC has are brewpubs.

  • sam, you should definitely start a microbrew! that would be awesome.

    in terms of breweries (brewerys?), franklins in hyattsville is the closest bet, and flying dog is up in fredericksburg.

  • Thanks Ontarioroader. You’re right, it was the Heurich, not Heinrich brewery. This was my mistake, not Sam’s.

  • i do love a good pun!

  • Thanks WashingTRON, for clearing up that difference. Man it’s a tough crowd around here.
    Chin up Sam! Good luck.

  • “I would love to buy a DC beer that is brewed with DC water” — That’s why there is no microbrew in DC. Unless you can come up with a punny name about beer being brewed from lead.

  • All good – just trying to keep what little beer heritage there is left in DC alive 🙂

    Out in the ‘burbs there are a few still. Shenandoah Brewing in Alexandria used to make a few tasty house-branded beers for Dremo’s when it was around and Old Dominion in Loudon makes one of my favorites, Oak Barrel Stout. Old Dominion was partially bought out by Anheuser Bush a few years back but is doesn’t seem like they’ve meddled with the brews much.

    That said, Alexandria and Loudon aren’t DC, and it would be great to have an actual DC beer, just please don’t use our water unless you purify the hell out of it.

  • @ontarioroader

    “Old Dominion was partially bought out by Anheuser Bush a few years back but is doesn’t seem like they’ve meddled with the brews much.”

    I beg to differ. Oak Barrel really isn’t the same. Not by a long shot. There was a post on dcbeer a while back on exactly what changed, and it was firmly on the side of “less expensive to produce”. Since they don’t have to support casks at the brewpub any more I think they stopped actually using oak chips for the aging and switched to some extract for the flavoring (to be fair they used some combination in the past, but now there is not more trace of the “artisinal” aspect of that beer).

    I know it’s cliched to blame the big bad corporate entity for ruining a local independent institution, but in this case it’s not far from the truth.

  • I guess John Harvard’s is a brewpub, not a microbrewery? And Dogfish doesn’t count because it’s farther away than Shenandoah or Old Dominion…Wish someone would please make a microbrew that isn’t so darned hoppy. I like a good IPA as much as the next person but too much hops gives my husband a headache for some reason. Dogfish brews are almost all very hoppy. Same reason we never buy Sierra Nevada (from Calif., MY home sweet home state, the land of 1000 microbrews (and wines for that matter.) Try Boont Amber Ale sometime, from the Anderson Valley, mmmmmm, good stuff.

  • Oh, and Shenahdoah still bottles and sells at the BOP in Alexandria and some retail outlets. If the rumors of Dremo’s return to Clarendon are to be believed they might give that a boost! I think Shenandoah was in some financial straights recently (they were trying to sell the place off, not sure what happened there). The Bardo/Ningaloo/Dremo brewpub way out in wherever-the-hell-it-was Virginia was a trip to visit.

  • Jay-O, I love to home brew and have been toying with a microbrewery business plan (I stress toying, at this stage). I’d love to get a download on what you learned from DCRA. PoP, anyway to facilitate this without publishing an email address to the masses? Thanks.

  • @Sleepy: surprisingly, dc tap doesn’t affect beer quality. A few dozen batches and I haven’t noticed any off flavors. He, maybe yeast thrives on lead.

    @Ragged Dog: Unfortunately, zoning would prohibit selling from your basement. Anything over 100/200gal/year, or if you want to sell, you need to be in a real, commercial/industrial space. You have to be properly metered so you can pay excise (fed & local) tax, etc… If only it were as easy as make something, pay sales tax, be done w/ it… If you start, maybe the urban version of nascar will result 😉

  • Re: Old Dominion:

    Sadly, the brewery and brewpub out near Ashburn have both been closed for over a year now. I believe their products are now brewed in Delaware by the Fordham folks, who I believe own 51% of Dominion (A-B owns the other 49%). I miss their Oak Barrel Stout (which was always tastiest when you brought it home from the brewery in a growler), and their long-gone contract brews, Tupper’s Hop Pocket and New River Pale Ale.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Truxton K and Jay’O if you both email me directly I can connect you guys that way.

  • I’d love a DC brewery. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to drink locally where ever I go. But I come home and can’t do the same. Set up a brewery in DC proper, create some local blue collar jobs, add to the tax base and make a half decent product and I’ll drink it exclusively.

  • Its relatively common to hear that starting a business is really hard in DC due to the problematic permit process (also known as the shakedown) and general incompetence of the various DC agencies that need to be involved, and doubly hard if your skin is the wrong color or you speak with a non-DC accent. I’d say margins are thin enough on microbreweries that no one wants to combine that risk with the long term delays offered by DC government. You need high profit margins to justify opening a business in DC, especially one facing regular renewals and inspections. So, we get carry outs, liquor stores as those are relatively low input and high cost ($4 for a 12 cent piece of burger) and then the high end shops and restaurants that can aren’t living paycheck to paycheck so to speak and dealing with a richer clientele.

    Just a thought, please do tell me if I’m wrong.

  • Jay’O if you need someone to taste test, it would be my pleasure.

    Pennywise, I can fake the accent, I’ll be your skin color for a reasonable slice of profit.

  • And they say things have gotten better… used to be, throw some money at a barry charity and everything was good.

  • Being from the NW, I think there could be a much greater presence of microbreweries and micropubs in DC. I am not a big fan of Cap City..

    My girlfriend has been prodding me to look into starting a business, and PoP, I too would be interested in conversations with people who would at least want to look into this.

  • That guy looks like an Eric Stoltz clone circa 1984

  • I, too, was totally on board until I read “brewed with DC water”…perhaps if you also add assisted by the best water filtration technology has to offer.

    But I think it’s a great idea. It seems that DC has very pricey land and not much in the way of developable industrial areas…except for all along the Anacostia. I could see a beer along the lines of some made in Cleveland celebrating a river turning around for the better–there I drank a beer called “Burning River Pale Ale,” after the unfortunate problem Cleveland used to have of their very oily polluted river bursting into flames.

    Anyone for Hoppin’ Fort Totten? A CSO Stout (CSO=Combined Sewer Overflows OK, yuck, but someone more clever than me can come up w/ something good I’m sure 😉

  • I love these weekly profiles. Way to go, Danny Harris. They really humanize DC and make the city a far more interesting and textured place than I ever imagined.

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