Coming Soon to DC Micro (Nano) Brewery – Chocolate City Beer


Chocolate City Beer Headquarters in Brookland

There’s been a bit of chatter about a new DC Microbrewery. Many have heard of DC Brau but there is a second slightly smaller Brewery that is also poised to hit DC. They are called Chocolate City Beer. I sat down for a chat with two of the three partners at Looking Glass Lounge last week.


Ben Matz (left) Jay Irizarry (right) third partner not pictured is Brian Flanagan

Ed. Note: Sorry for the cell phone pic. Many may recognize Jay Irizarry as a Manager and Bartender from Wonderland and Looking Glass Lounge. Matz and Irizarry have been friends for years and have had a passion for brewing beers for just as long. What started as just a backyard experiment has turned into a legitimate brewery after lots of planning and a bit of luck. Both couldn’t understand why DC didn’t have a micro brewery (DC last had an active brewery in approx. 1958). Not only was DC missing an active brewery but they also noted nearby Philadelphia had around 20 successful ones. So why not DC?

While it is a passion for both, Matz, 28 has professional experience and has been a brewer for Gordon Biersch and Wild Goose Brewery up in Baltimore. Matz has perfected a few recipes while experimenting at Jay’s Capitol Hill home. To start, Chocolate City Beer will be offering two varieties to about 15 different bars/restaurants around town. They will be offering an IPA and are deciding between Dussledorf Altbier or ESB for their second variety. In the beginning they will only be offering these two types in kegs but expect to expand gradually over time.

They have recently secured a HQ in Brookland (see photo above). Their HQ is about 1300 square feet and will produce around 150 kegs a month in the beginning. They hope to start distributing their kegs around late Dec. pending permit approvals. For those who share a passion for brewing and want to start their own microbrewery, in addition to expertise, start up costs can easily run up to $200,000. But they welcome the competition, believing DC will see 4 or 5 more microbreweries pop up in the coming months.

Now for the name – Chocolate City Beer. It is an homage to the District of Columbia based on DC’s nickname from back in the day. Furthermore, their first IPA is going to be called Big Chair IPA in tribute to the Big Chair in Anacostia. They almost had the HQ in Anacostia but the spaces were too large. The recipe for Big Chair IPA was developed over a two and a half year period.

I’ll be sure to update when distribution gets started for one of DC’s first new microbrews. I know I’m looking forward to tasting a Big Chair IPA.

Lots more photos of Chocolate City Beer HQ after the jump. You can see a few touch ups are needed…

126 Comment

  • This is awesome. I hope they’ll have a drive-thru or small seating area for passers-by. It’s right on the Met Branch Trail and I, for one, would stop often for a post-work brew.

  • Very cool, just not a big fan of the name. Nawlins owns the name Chocolate City now.

  • Two White guys running a brewery named choclate city is ridiculous. I get they wanna pay homage to the city, but that’s awful.

    • +1. Besides the whole racist factor it’s not that catchy. If they just want to sling beer to dc’s hipsters then fine. But if they want to ever compete on a national level they need to change the name asap.

      • What do you know about competing on a national level?

        • Well. I’m no marketing guru per se. But this advice comes free: Check out the comments here in this thread. This is a sampling of what you should be thinking of as your “target demographic” and I’m not seeing a lot of love for the name.
          I know it was a p funk album paying homage to DC but the name sounds racist. The nick name was coined when blacks started migrating to dc in record numbers as whites were fleeing. Now the circumstances are quite the opposite as blacks are pushed out of DC due to Gentrification. And now two white guys opening a brewery here name it Chocolate City? It’s ironic, slightly racist, not all that catchy.

          • “racist”? is that really the term you’re looking for?

            seems to me that term is overused, which is a shame because you are crying wolf on actual racism.

    • Terrible, vulgar, embarrassing name. And “nearby Philadelphia”???? I don’t think so. Balmer is hardly even nearyby.

    • Yep. There’s no way I will be ordering a “Chocolate City”. I just wouldn’t say that. Imagining a bar full of white hipsters drinking chocolate city gives me he heebie jeebies.

    • How do you know they are white guys? I have friends who look like this and have black parents, grandparents

    • Gotta +1 on this.
      Love the idea. Hate the name. I don’t think it would be a good name even if either or both of these guys was black. And from a marketing perspective, using a “black” name connotes targeting a black audience. I’m sure these guys are reaching farther than that.
      Don’t get me wrong. If or when I come across their brews, I will try them. I just think the choice of name is a poor one.

      • It’s certainly an evocative name. I think the ultimate reception by any audience all depends on taste — is it good beer?

        I mean, if it’s delicious, the detractors will give it a pass, and the unforgettable name will be a plus to the brand. What’s the name of that other DC micro-brewery again?

        If it’s swill, forget it.

        Kind of like the rule about wine: the more interesting the name and/or story on the bottle, the worse it is — usually. It’s a gimmick to compensate for quality. Question is, whether these guys can deliver the taste.

    • Two white guys and two African-Americans make up the ownership of this brewery…probably best to have all the facts.

  • I agree – good idea – bad name….my previous local fave was Hemp n Ale from the Frederick Brewery.

  • Brookland Brewery has a nice sound

    • As does Brooklyn Brewery…

    • A “Brookland Ale” could never sell outside DC. It’d confuse the non- Washingtonians. These guys are trying to be the original — Oreo, not Hydrox.

      Choc City IPA is way more marketable. Can’t you see the hipster guzzling potential? And those shirts? Hipster ready.

      So it’s two white guys. It’s kinda like when you found out some of your favorite episodes of The Wire were written by a bespectacled white guy, but you still love it anyway.

  • don’t they brew beer at captial city next to union station?

    • nope–all of cap city’s beer is brewed in shirlington, I believe.

      • i checking out the website (and i screwed up on the spelling—it’s capitol, not capital, city—and their 11th and H location was their original. since that was the first, they must have started brewing there. can’t find any documentation that says whether they do or not at any location for certain.

      • What are all those big tanks then?

    • they do brew beer at cap city, chop house, and gordon biersch.
      but they are brew pubs, not breweries.

  • Great work guys- rather than criticize the endeavor, we should be thanking them for the hard work they’re doing while we sit behind our computers.

    That building is badass! Can’t think of a better brewery building.

  • I think some interesting names could come out of the DC Beers concept. Adams Morgan Ale, District Dark, Petworth Pilsner, Logan Circle Lager, Rhode Island Avenue Red (maybe even redline lager?), Friendship Heights Something(this is obviously the alcohol free one), Eye Street IPA, Mt. Pleasant Mocha Porter, Anacostia amber, etc. The appeal would be totally local, but i’d be interested to see what beers would be associated with which neighborhoods.

  • Just the usual white guys stealing black culture to sell a product. Why not call it wonder bread?

    • Sorry lulu and jamal, I’m black and I have friends who look like this with a parent and/or grandparents who are black. What makes you think you can assume?

  • It is great to see this upswing in professional brewing within city limits. This is a great building, but I am amazed it will be ready to turn out kegs in 4 months.

    If they organize a clean up day at the site, I’d be there…and I bet a number of others would too.

  • with that name, they should most definitely make a chocolate stout

  • I too wish that they’d pay homage to Brookland in their name, but that aside, this ROCKS!

  • Table taps?

  • Love that building, love the name , sounds great can’t wait to try to try it

    But technically that is Edgewood not Brookland, it’s just down the street from Dance Place.

    • yup. west of the tracks.

      • good god … I used to live at 8th and Irving in the mid 90’s. The was the original hood. Great place for a brewery though! Let’s hope they do well, could mean quite a few jobs for the locals!! Enough with the Debbie downers already … hmm, Debbie Downer Doppel Bock; now that has a ring to it!

    • Exciting news – that building has been overdue for a makeover.

  • Glad to see another brewery start up. Although it appears they have swiped a number of ideas from DC Brau. Well hopefully they won’t necessarily be in competition with each other, but in competition with the big names of beer. Chocolate City is a pretty lame name in my opinion. It would make me not want to order it on first glance because I would be afraid of ordering some dark rich chocolately beer. yuck!

  • You have got to be kidding me. A business that isn’t a liquor store, Chinese takeout, or check cashing/lottery ticket outlet opens in a neighborhood that could definitely use the boost, and you all are beefing about the name?

    • Yes, because the name is lame (and arguably offensive). I don’t think anybody is suggesting that the brewery shouldn’t open… in fact I think most of the comments are excited about it. But the name is lame.

  • Firstly, Big freakin’ lovely bravo. Best of luck.

    Secondly, that HQ building is gorgeous.

    Thirdly, while I agree with many of the comments on the name, hell, call it Porcelain George Slugwater, who gives a rat’s anus what it’s called; the energy seems genuine and I hope it goes well.

    Fourthly, here’s hoping it’s not another overly IPA-laden small brewery. Give us blokes a dark ale to play with and I’ll love you forever.

  • that building is cool as hell.
    i hope we’re all trying their beer soon.

  • Boycott these jerks. The name is disgusting and offensive. There is, and has been, nothing chocolate about Washington, DC. The term should be offensive to ALL citizens of Washington. It was a short-lived, no-class, misguided attempt at pride. Anybody who wants to call me chocolate better bring a lot of tissues for their bloody nose.

  • yummmmmm

  • They better be prepared for the wrath of Gigi Ransom.

  • I also find it offensive and co-oping to use a raised red clinched fist as if their lame ass piss is on some front of social revolution.

  • the only way naming this Chocolate City Brewery is acceptable to me (not that I matter any more than the next person) is if they play Chocolate City on repeat and have a George Clinton mural 🙂

  • This is amazing news. If the owners are reading this, please pay no heed to the reactionary dissenters. This is HUGE and is a great thing for the city and the city’s beer-drinkers.

    Also, since when do hipsters drink craft beer — I thought they were focused on PBRs and High Lifes…or has that changed?

    This is a good thing for all of DC.

  • Chocolate comes in white, milk, and dark varieties, so what’s the big deal? Beer is good people, especially micro-brew.

  • White chocolate isn’t technically chocolate. It cream and sugar. No cocoa.
    Just sayin’ … you know somebody else was thinking it, too.

    • White chocolate contains cocoa butter.

    • Honestly. White chocolate has cocoa butter in it, from the cocoa bean.

      I think this is a GREAT idea! The space rocks.

      It’s a fine name. Who’s saying it’s racist for two white guys to honor DC with it? It’s intent people, not color, that matters. Nice concern but let’s get some perspective.

      Thanks for doing this – I hope you sell samples when you open, I’ll be there regularly!! I’m putting in a request for sours now.

  • From the Wiki:
    Chocolate City is a 1975 album by the funk band Parliament

    The album takes its name from the term “Chocolate City,” which had been used to describe Washington, D.C. where blacks had been becoming a majority through migration (as explained in the cover notes included with one recent CD release of the album). The term had been used by Washington’s black AM radio stations WOL-AM and WOOK-AM since the early 1970s to refer to the city. Bobby “The Mighty Burner” Bennett, a DJ on WOL, told the Washington Post in 1998 “Chocolate City for me was the expression of D.C.’s classy funk and confident blackness.”

    Why must this be racist and negative?

    • It’s only racist and negative to the multitudes of reactionary imbeciles in this town who have nothing better to do than go poking around, looking for something that they can whine about being offended by.

    • that’s why i posted the above comment re: george clinton and the album. 1. The album is awesome, 2. it would be awesome to pay homage to G. Clinton and 3. as a black man I really am not offended. If anything I feel it’s recognizing DC’s history and racial makeup… if it were a black owned business you would hear no complaints.

  • Although I think CC Beer sounds fine, for all the haters out there, howabout we come up with some alternative names?

    Can’t you creative Don Draper types come up with something cool that starts with District, Columbia, Capital, Brookland, or so forth?

  • There seems to be a lot of “white guilt” in the comments section. Those of you who are non-white and don’t appreciate the name, well, it appears you have a problem appreciating local history. No matter who you are, deal.

  • I can see both sides on the naming issue. I applaud these guys for their concept, and just LOVE the HQ building. I would really hate for them to lose or never obtain business due to the company name though.

  • This is awesome! I’m so glad that the DC brewery scene is coming to life! Congrats on the adventure guys.

  • One of the major points here is, for whatever reason, DC hasn’t had a native brewery in ages. So if all the kneejerk wheezing whiners out there bitching about the name just pool their money and launch their own brewery with a “better” name, we’d all benefit. There’s clearly room in this town for TWO such businesses. So how ’bout it, wheezers? Make me some beer PRONTO.

    • saf

      I’d be happy to provide you with some homebrew, but have nothing on a larger small. (Gomez could have some too.)

  • love the concept, love the building, and love the name! thanks, gents, and best of luck!

  • “free your mind, and your ass will follow” George Clinton

  • I love it when white hiptsers get bent out of shape over a name of a brewery when in two years they will be wearing the t-shirt. I have heard the term “chocolate city” for years about DC and no one white or black seemed remotely offended. Wanna change it to “gentrification city”? Best of luck to the owners, don’t change the name. Look how many people you have talking about it already!! You don’t even have to pay for that publicity!

  • Pile of Rocks! Only some will understand this….

  • For all the ‘jump street’ haters, there are 4 partners, 1 white, 1 hispanic, 2 black. picture shows the original two founding members. I know them. Nothing racist about Chocolate City, time to grow up and get over your hypersensitivety. Bring on the beer.

  • When I first heard of this brewery coming to DC, I never gave the name a thought. What does it matter? If they make a good product, I’ll drink it. What’s in name? A beer by any other name would taste as good. I suppose none of the name-haters would ever drink a Dogfish Head beer just because the name may ‘not be catchy’ or ‘sound lame’. Have a beer and settle down. I don’t see it as being racist either. What if these guys just like George Clinton and the P Funk All-Stars? [After all, who doesn’t?] I don’t understand where you come up with this stuff.

  • How about “Big Bear Brewery”?

  • “| LeDroit/Bloomingdale Resident Said:

    Glad to see another brewery start up. Although it appears they have swiped a number of ideas from DC Brau.”——–

    Can you explain this?? What ideas? Looking at their respective websites, they seem different. Beer styles? Everybody makes IPAs. The idea of brewing in the first place?

  • love the name, love the beer. way to go guys, good luck!

  • All these new micro breweries actually makes me wish I drank beer. Congrats! Starting a new biz is a daunting task. Good Luck!

  • Kudos for starting up a new business in a tough climate, particularly in a neighborhood that is lacking. And what an amazing building … I really hope they open it to the public for tours, tastings, maybe a small pub, as it is a potentially spectacular space (from the pictures, anyway). I love the sound of Brookland Brewery, but yeah, probably a bit too close to Brooklyn Brewery for comfort from a trademark perspective ..

  • I’m not sure how this is a wonderful heaven-sent gift to Brookland. It doesn’t appear that they will be serving their beer…only producing. How many folks do they need to employ to turn out 150kegs/month?

    • You sound like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Any investment in Brookland is beneficial, and frankly, in this economy it’s not wise to denigrate all the small instances of entrepreneurship that will collectively push things back up again. If they create 5 jobs, that’s awesome.

    • From the looks of that building, if they manage to make it less of a blighted eyesore it will be a huge gift to Edgewood. Agree that it’s not much of a gift to Brookland.

  • It takes a rare kind of bravery to take a stand against racial injustice with a two sentence toss-off about a fledgling microbrewery you know nothing about. I myself did a Pavlovian double-take on the name, but then I realized that people from DC, regardless of color, have a right and a half to be proud of living in Hot Chocolate City.

  • Wankers.

  • Chocolate City Beer is gonna be awesome.

  • seriously, the name isn’t perfect, but who gives a shit. If it gives dc a craft beer to call our own, if it creates jobs, and if it tastes good, then i’m all about it. Best of luck, Gentlemen!

  • Brandon and Jeff form a “perfect team” (and have extensive experience), but “Brau” is also a derogatory word, meant to remind Germans of their distinct German heritage. That’s racialist to me.

    • Brandon and Jeff form a “perfect team” (and have extensive experience), but “Brau” is also a derogatory word, meant to remind Germans of their distinct German heritage. That’s racialist to me.

      ^ Are you serious? Gimme a break

    • @La Fin du Mond

      Because “DC Lernen Sie Deutsch sprechen!” apparently wouldn’t fit on a can, jackass.

  • I miss Foggy Bottom Brewery.

  • I’m confused. What’s the issue here? The name?

    When this beer goes beyond DC, will people outside of the DMV area actually even know what that means?

  • Also I’m stoked for there to be TWO breweries in DC. More local brews the better!

  • Glad to see a new business coming to the Edgewood Community!

  • I commute on the met branch and would pretty much have my paycheck direct deposited to them if they have a tasting room or place to pick up a growler. God bless them if/when they start filling growlers.

    Oh, and I vote for ESB for their second beer. It is great and you don’t see enough of them around.

  • The name “Chocolate City Brewery” is a little odd, but to call it offensive is ridiculous. I hope the owners don’t change their plans based on the opinions of a bunch of soulless net-dwellers who never heard of Parliament.

    It might even make African-Americans more willing to come in than in most new hipster establishments — it’s strange how few people find it disturbing that so many new bars/restaurants in DC’s majority-black neighborhoods are almost exclusively white in terms of clientele.

    Can’t wait for the Wonkette review — the review of Meridian Pint was hilarious and spot-on!

  • Some of you obviously didn’t grow up around here. Pumped for this…

  • How bout White Mans Burden Brewery may be more relevant, that will surely “make African-Americans more willing to come in than in most new hipster establishments”. (Beertaster)

    i dont see it as overtly racist; its just more typical pandering to something as a hypster-marketing 101 ploy, by branding something/product with part of a belief or movement, other folks’ community or culture, in which the business venture has not real connection to. its just korny.

    Where do you folks come from, really you look to a p-funk album to give ‘creds to this name is hilarious (hopefully newark, l.a. and the other cities wont get jealous). maybe after downing a few pints you know what its like to be part of chocolate city, you’ll get all old skool and even put on some trouble funk. it reminds me of all those kids in suburbia or the middle of nowhere listening to gangster rap, just living it…

    i certainly applaud the entrepreneurship for sure & getting a new business off the ground in this state is not easy feat. breweries are nothing new to dc, they were here from the get go, even the not so hypster thomas jefferson was homebrewing & producing malt liquor back in the day. we can only hope to be like portland, or (15 years ago) with the most micro – nanos around…i do remember the %

  • Newark is Brick City ^

  • love that they have Big Chair IPA. do not love that they couldn’t find a good space in the costia. dayyamn.

  • Wow! this thread of comments alone is an interesting read… I only wanted to share that I chuckled at the nostalgia that the writer hadn’t forgotten Trouble Funk…..where is Big Tony today?

    Oh and the Brewery name is perfectly right on time….just hope it isn’t branded solely to lure the last dollar out of the pockets of our poorest black men…..like Malt liquor did using Billy D. back in the 70’s.

  • If the investors are scrolling past the nonsense and see this note…I am curious as to what size bbl system you would be starting up on. Also, where would you try to obtain accounts at?

  • hi everyone. just fyi: that warehouse was used by chad during the show “weapon masters” on the military channel. from http://military.discovery.com/tv/weapon-masters/bios/bios.html, it states that “…Chad inhabits a ramshackle but uber-equipped shop”. that’s the place, right under the franklin st. bridge. PLEASE tell me there will be seating/pub/food options, or at the very least that we can pick up growlers of the beer….HOORAY FOR NEW BUSINESS IN THE PETWORTH/BROOKLAND AREA!!!!!!!

  • This is great news! Good luck, guys. I’ve always loved that building and love what you’re planning to do with it. Maybe a little outdoor space catering to folks coming by on the bike trail!

  • The humble beginnings of Ben’s brewing actually began in the kitchen, and after the first batch of mash created a, how you say, PROLONGED odor throughout the house, the experiment moved outdoors for all the neighbors to enjoy.

Comments are closed.