PoP Preview – DC Brau Brewery

Whenever I have complications running the site I think back to days like this visit and remember how lucky I really am. Last Thursday I was able to check out the soon to be in production DC Brau Brewery on Bladensburg Rd in NE. Some may recall that previously I also was able to visit the Chocolate City Beer nanobrewery in Brookland/Edgewood. Considering the craft beer bar scene has recently taken off in DC it is no wonder that, after an absence of 50 years, the return of DC’s local breweries isn’t far behind.

I hitched a ride with the crew from Meridian Pint and a bartender from Red Derby over to DC Brau’s warehouse. We were given a tour by CEO Brandon Skall and President/Head Brewer Jeff Hancock. Ed. Note: I find the first the question I ask people I meet is “what neighborhood do you live in?” – Skall lives in Bloomingdale and Hancock lives in Columbia Heights. After taking a tour we learned that DC Brau will initially be producing 3 beers starting with the Public Ale.

According to their Web site:

The Public™ is a delicious easy drinking pale ale made from a simple recipe of quality grain and top notch American hops. Tawny hues of caramel and amber are a trademark of the Public ale as well as a delicious spruce crispness resulting from a beautiful abundance of hops! This beer will be produced throughout the year and serves as the foundation of our product line.

Coming soon:
The Citizen™ (a Belgian-style pale ale) and the The Corruption™ (our IPA)

DC Brau already has 38 written letters of intent from bars to serve their beer and over 100 verbal requests from bars in DC and northern Virginia. While hesitant to give an exact date, Skall and Hancock, expect that Public Ale will be available in both stores and bars around the end of April.

A bit more background is also provided on their Web site:

Enter Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock, two D.C. residents who, as music fans, avid bar goers, and enthusiastic men-about-town, are acutely aware of the empty tap handle or store shelf where a local beer ought to be found. These two men, sharing years of experience in both brewing and beverage distribution, are uniquely equipped to fill this void and thus have decided to combine their knowledge and passion to found the DC Brau Brewing Company. With extensive experience in restaurant management and the beverage industry, Brandon will handle sales duties and the business of the brewery. With extensive experience in the commercial brewing industry, Jeff will be the Brewmaster. Since serving an apprenticeship at Franklin’s Restaurant and Brewery in Hyattsville, Maryland, Jeff has brewed at Grizzly Peak Brewing and Arbor Brewing companies, both in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland. With their individual talents and a shared love for the city, Brandon and Jeff form a perfect team to bring a delicious, locally brewed beer to the consumers of D.C.

I gotta say I don’t know a whole lot about the science behind brewing beer but to the layperson, the warehouse looks awesome (lots more photos after the jump.) It is around 7,000 square feet and at first will soon be producing 400 kegs a month (not to mention the cans). And while I don’t know a lot about the beer production process (besides consuming it) the folks from Meridian Pint and Red Derby who do know a lot were equally excited and enthusiastic. After talking to Skall and Hancock, it is clear that DC Brau is much more than just a business idea – it is their passion. And if there’s anything I’ve learned after observing and talking with some of DC’s entrepreneurs – it is that the truly passionate ones are almost always the successful ones.

Keep your eyes peeled for DC Brau in your neighborhood grocery/corner stores as well as bars around the end of April.

Full Disclosure: Meridian Pint is a PoP advertiser and the folks from DC Brau gave me a t-shirt.

Lots more photos after the jump.

DC Brau CEO, Brandon Skall left, President and Head Brewer Jeff Hancock middle, with Meridian Pint Manager Drew

DC Brau CEO, Brandon Skall, simulates how the caning machine works.

Control panel

Best part of control panel

Awesome mural obscured a bit by a more awesome sight – hundreds of DC Brau cans

Meridian Pint Brewmaster, Sam, takes a peek

Future tasting room

Not affiliated with DC Brau but from the same parking lot, and well, I just wanted to share this sweet city sign.

58 Comment

  • Great news!

    Now, I have a serious question. How come no microbreweries make a clean clear german pilsner? ever? is it hard to do or something? It’s always dark brown this and belgian that. I prefer crisp, refreshing beer after mowing the grass or sledgehammering–some of my favorite activities.

    Can DC Brau make some of this? Like miller lite but better and with a cooler bottle maybe? I understand the rifle-necked bottle is kinda hard to beat though.

    Just a wish. Best of luck to them. And keep it affordable, cause I get a case of beck’s for $20 and that’s hard to argue with.

    • Literally every single beer is better than Miller lite. I give this trolling 6/10.

    • Capital City Brewing used to have a decent Czech style pilsner. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it there.

      Will they be offering brewery tours? I love touring breweries, especially at the end when you get to sample what they make.

    • Several actually do. Being a fan of said beast I can recommend the following very highly:

      Sly Fox Pikeland Pils (in cans!)
      Victory Prima Pils
      Brooklyn Pilsner

      The first two are very much in the Northern German style, so they’re hop forward but still very German in approach. The Brooklyn is a bit softer and maltier.

      I would love DC Brau to do something like this but lagers do take more time and space. They tend to be fermenter hogs.

      • This. The lagering process can literally double the production time of a beer. When you are a small brewery starting off that is product using up tank space and costing you money (in that it is consuming brewery resources for a longer period of time that could be used to produce even more beer). Hopefully when one of these new DC breweries gets established they can switch over to producing a local, session-able lager.

        The late, lamented Baltimore Brewing Company produced knock out German lagers, bocks, and weiss beers but they specialized in them so the whole production process was geared towards it.

    • Stoudt’s Gold and Stoudt’s Pils: http://www.stoudtsbeer.com

    • Actually, those crisp German and Czech pilsners really are harder to do right. And with the American tendency to over-hop everything, including beer styles like pilsners which should be much more subtly hopped, they usually don’t taste like you’d want them to taste anyway.

      One exception that’s available around town is North Coast’s Scrimshaw Pilsner. Very tasty.

      • agree 100% about Scrimshaw. it’s extremely drinkable – crisp and clean. first had it upstairs at Bourbon (AdMo) in a bottle, they was thrilled to find it on draft at American Ice & BBQ. not as easy to find at a grocery though.

    • “How come no microbreweries make a clean clear german pilsner? ever? is it hard to do or something?”

      Yes. Because there’s no place to hide if isn’t ‘right’. Heavy/dark/hoppy beers tend to be much more intense on the palate. With light golden beers (Lager or Ale), any slight permutation or variable introduced during the brewing process can throw off the taste. Also, large breweries make large batches so a slight difference in the quality of the ingredients gets averaged over a larger production output: i.e. Small batches are also less tolerant of variables in the brewing process. Heavy malt or hop intensities mask these variations. Also, as pointed out above, Lagers simply take longer to ferment/age making them less financially viable for a small/new brewery.

  • Lagers and Pillseners require cooler temperatures to ferment. Ales can ferment at room temperature, so they’re easier to make. It’s also why homebrewers make lots of ales, stouts, wheats, and browns…and tend not to make lagers or pilseners.

  • just FYI, a “hot liquor tank” is nothing more than a vessel holding water at a controlled temperature for sparging the grains…no booze in that tank.

    as for why you don’t see more american craft breweries making pilsners (and there are some), i would speculate that this has to do with the chemical and mineral composition of the water source. pilsen, where pilsners get their name, has famously soft water (low concentrations of calcium, magnesium, etc). most US water is quite hard by comparison, and this affects the conversion of starches to sugars when the grains are mashed. so for the same reason you don’t see many pilsen-type lagers coming from british breweries (burton-on-trent is a famous for its very hard water, which helps produce some of those great malty pale ales and bitters). you can treat the water to soften it, but at the scale that most craft breweries operate this is likely not very cost-efficient.

    while lager yeast needs to be fermented at cooler temperatures than ale yeast, any craft brewery (or even homebrewer) worth a damn has the technology and ability to do this (most ales are ideally fermented between 60-70 degrees, so some temperature control is required for those as well).

  • A DC brewery tour would be awesome!

  • American micro/craft breweries making German Pilseners is not uncommon and are widely available in the DC Metro area. Check out:
    Tuppers’ Keller Pils
    Victory Prima Pils
    North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner
    Tröegs Sunshine Pils (seasonal)
    Stoudt’s Pils

    You can also find a lot of Czech-style Pilseners like Samuel Adams Noble Pils, Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, Lagunitas PILS, and Sierra Nevada Summerfest (seasonal).

    • Good list. The OP should also try a Koelsch next time that’s on a menu somewhere (I think Cap City still makes theres). It’s a very light German ale.

      And yes, they are harder to make. Believe it or not, it’s hard to make a light beer while using quality ingredients. Miller/Coors, and AB (Inbev) only gets that fizzy yellow color because they use rice and other adjuncts instead of malted barley.

      • You’ll have to visit the suburbs but there’s an excellent Kolsch at the Mad Fox brewpub in Falls Church. Mad Fox owner Bill Madden formulated Cap City’s award-winning version way back when.

    • saf

      All hop bombs. A real not over-hopped pilsner or lager would be nice.

      • Is there a reason why american micro-brews are so in love with hoppy beer?

        • Because there’s a market for those extreme hop bombs that can actually be easier to make than a more subtle lager. They make money for the breweries, and commerce sometimes comes before art.

        • because the american micro brew movement was inspired by the watered down week lagers prevalent in post wwII usa. they wanted thick, flavorful, powerful, dirty beers, something as far away from the typical americans lagers that were about the only thing available up through the 80’s. hoppy ales became the hallmark of that.

          at least, that’s my guess.

          • +1

            That’s exactly what drew me to Sam Adams in the mid 90s as I developed my taste in beer!

      • scrimshaw is only like 22 ibus. Def not a “hop bomb,” and I think it’s part of the mounting evidence that the best beer of any style is made in the US. Anyone who thinks good American beer is only about hops needs to keep trying.

        • saf

          OK, I will admit to that being the one on the list I have not had. I was assuming, based on the company it is keeping there, and could easily be wrong.

    • agreed with the spot-on comments of those above, and PJ’s list.

      i agree with the OP, though, in that i would love to see one of the new local brewers eventually step up to the challenge of a pils since this is a style best enjoyed fresh.

      I dig those homp bombs (mmmm prima pils) but would be excited to see something more subtle as well.

      go dc brau! can’t wait to try

  • If they aren’t selling beer yet are they selling those hoodies? They are sweet.

    • Their hoodies and shirts have been on sale through their website for a while. They might be out now though. I was lucky enough to get one a few months back.

  • i saw some of the DC Brau cans on display at meridian pint and was seriously confused… those cans are cool!

  • Anyone know the status of the Brewery Tasting bill that was submitted to council (feb 16th I think)? Im not much of a beer drinker but I think it would be awesome for them to have tastings onsite. What do we need to do to get this approved (if it hasn’t been already)? Support LOCAL BUSINESS!

  • Has anybody seen Tennant’s anywhere in the DC area, either in a store or bar?

  • ptown,

    The Bill is working its way through the system, we are hoping for it to be rushed through. The best thing you could do to help ensure its success is call or email your local council member AND Jim Graham! Graham heads the committee that overseas ABC issues. Thanks for the support

  • saf

    “I gotta say I don’t know a whole lot about the science behind brewing beer ”

    If you’re interested in an up close and personal experience, I have 2 suggestions.

    First, go to homebrew night a Meridian Pint and talk to the homebrewers.

    Second, I live with a homebrewer, and I bet we would arrange for you to come over and brew a batch of beer.

    • As a bartender in DC, I just can’t wait to offer someone a quality local beer. I am sick of saying “the closest thing I have to a local beer is from Baltimore.”

  • The release of DC Brau will be huge for the city and its beer drinkers. Jeff and Brandon are dedicated to its success and the science of their beers. This truly is their passion and I think everyone will be impressed by its flavor when it hits the shelves. These two are out to pursue their life long dream of creating something that the public at large can enjoy. Congrats to the progress they have made thus far as real trail blazers for beer in DC. Maybe they should even be dubbed Godfathers of DC Beer in the 21st century.

  • Weren’t they opening a bar on Rhode Island Ave in Bloomingdale??

  • thanks PoP! I hadn’t heard of this at all, and I’m a big beer fan. Totally pumped – just ordered a tshirt too!

  • I suspect I will be drinking many gallons of this

  • LOVE canned beer, and hoppy stuff. DEElighted by this place.

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