Mid Atlantic Brewing News April/May 2017 : Page 1
Story and photos by the Brews Brothers ashington, DC’s Metro offers a tour of three unique and creative breweries within two stops of its Red Line. The Rhode Island Ave./Brentwood station is a short hop from Hellbender Brewing, and Brookland/CUA will drop you off in easy walking distance from Right Proper Brewing. 3 Stars is about a 20-minute stroll from Hellbender, although brewery co-founder Mike McGarvey says that most visitors arrive by Uber or Lyft. By Martin Morse Wooster KIND OF BLUE . Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, samples one of Bluejacket’s beers. Below-Bluejacket’s spacious interior includes a brewery capable of producing 5,000 bbl a year, plus the “Arsenal,” a 200-seat restaurant. he Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) operates many interesting beer bars: ChurchKey/Birch and Barley, Rustico, The Sovereign (for Belgian beers), Owens Ordinary (to show that it’s possible to have a 50-tap bar in heavily regulated Montgomery County, Maryland). But Bluejacket is, so far, the group’s only brewery. Bluejacket is not a brewpub. It’s a brewery that produced 2,000 barrels in 2016 A Yeast-Focused Brewery Right Proper co-owners Nathan Zeender and Thor Cheston opened their production facility and taproom at 920 Girard St. in DC’s Brookland neighborhood in December 2016. Like Right Proper’s T PHOTOS COURTESY OF NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT GROUP See Tour p. 2 State by State News INSIDE Strength Matters .......................... 7 Homebrew News .........................10 NIPAC Winners Announced ........11 Maps ...................................... 14-17 Event Calendar ............................29 Book Review................................31 and is on pace to produce 4,000 by 2018, sharing a building with a restaurant (dubbed the “Arsenal”) that serves excellent traditional pub fare. It’s also the culmination of a dream that NRG’s brewing director Greg Engert has had for a long time. W. Virginia ........9 Virginia ...........12 C. Penn ............18 Philadelphia ...20 E. Penn ............22 Maryland ........24 Baltimore ........25 D.C. ..................27 New Jersey .....28 Delaware ........30 After graduating from Middlebury English Major to Brewer See Blue p. 6
Foeders, Filters And An Urban Farmhouse: A Mid-Washington Brewery Tour
Washington, DC’s Metro offers a tour of three unique and creative breweries within two stops of its Red Line. The Rhode Island Ave./Brentwood station is a short hop from Hellbender Brewing, and Brookland/CUA will drop you off in easy walking distance from Right Proper Brewing. 3 Stars is about a 20-minute stroll from Hellbender, although brewery co-founder Mike McGarvey says that most visitors arrive by Uber or Lyft.
A Yeast-Focused Brewery
Right Proper co-owners Nathan Zeender and Thor Cheston opened their production facility and taproom at 920 Girard St. in DC’s Brookland neighborhood in December 2016. Like Right Proper’s Shaw-area brewpub, it’s got 12 taps, but offers a very different lineup. Brewmaster Zeender describes his brewing style as “yeast focused” and adds, “I like beers that are dry.” He also likes to experiment with mixed fermentations, maintaining three separate cultures that incorporate standard Saccharomyces, saison yeasts, Brett, and Lactobaccillus. Zeender uses color-coded lines to prevent cross-contamination: red hoses for the normal brews and gray for the sour beers.
A highlight of the brewery tour: three 45-hectoliter (38-bbl) French-oak foeders acquired from a Virginia winery. Right Proper is one of a few domestic breweries using the solera method, a process that involves fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of young and older versions of the same liquid. The average age gradually increases over many years as the barrel develops its own stable character. For Baron Corvo, a sour ale in the Rodenbach mold, Zeender empties half the contents of a foeder every 6-8 weeks and refills it with a fresh base beer. White Bicycles, a “rustic witbier” made with Mandarina hops and black limes, undergoes a similar aging.
Right Proper beers are distributed in DC, Maryland and Virginia, kegs only. You can find growlers at farmers markets at DC’s Dupont Circle and Penn Quarter neighborhoods.
But Right Proper beers are perhaps best enjoyed in the brewery’s lovely tasting room with its cherrywood bar and furniture and colorful chalk murals. Musicians take note: it’s probably the only brewery with an upright piano in the bathroom.
Nathan Zeender, head brewer and co-founder of Right Proper Brewing, mans the bar at the brewery's Brookland production facility, which expects to turn out 2,500 bbl this year.
Sign of the Salamander
Once you exit the Brentwood Metro, follow the smell of malt cooking to find Hellbender Brewing at 5788 2nd St. NE. The brewery was opened two-and-a-half years ago by former homebrewers Ben Evans and Patrick Mullane. They named their business after a species of salamander that’s the largest in North America. There are about 45 specimens of this endangered amphibian at the National Zoo, which has teamed up with the brewery for fundraisers. Hellbender is an environmentally conscious business. Its equipment includes a Meura membrane mash filter, a device used by about 90% of Belgian breweries but rare in America, according to Evans. Consisting of a series of micromesh filter pads backed by rubber bladders, it squeezes out the liquid portion of the mash, while the solids drop out as a moist, mealy material that’s shipped to a local farm for “cow happy hour.” The Meura filter allows the brewing grains to be ground to a flourlike consistency, permitting a much more efficient conversion of starches into sugar that uses less grain and about 30% less water.
Hellbender’s best-selling beers are its Ignite IPA and Southern Torrent Saison with Red Line Ale and Bare Bones Kölsch close behind. The brewery has an open fermenter that’s used for seasonal one-offs. The Meura filter has also allowed Hellbender to brew a Bavarian-style dunkelweizen made with 100% wheat, a recipe that would hopelessly gum up the works at more conventional breweries.
Ben Evans, microbiologist, head brewer and co-founder of Hellbender Brewing, shows off the Meura mash filter in this small but state-of-the-art brewery.
3 Stars Brewing dates back to 2012, the thawing of an Ice Age in which Washington, DC endured for over 50 years without a production brewery. With an output of about 5,000 bbl last year, they’re second in size to DC Brau among the city’s beermakers. But the arrival of a new 20-bbl brewhouse in late February/early March should permit both increased production and more experimentation.
Mike McGarvey, CEO and co-founder of 3 Stars Brewing, shows off the brewery's collection of barrels, which formerly contained bourbon, gin, cider and apple brandy.
At 6400 Chillum Place NW, 3 Stars (it’s named for the design on DC’s logo) occupies a nondescript, industrial building. The drab exterior belays what’s happening inside. McGarvey, CEO and co-founder, says that their beers reflect a philosophy of “big flavors and complex flavors.” Check out their handsome, climatecontrolled taproom, the “Urban Farmhouse,” that opened in late 2015. It’s got ten taps, custom-built tables and beautiful chandeliers.
True to the name of its taproom, 3 Stars does tend to specialize in farmhouse-style beers. Its portfolio includes Peppercorn Saison (which vies with Ghost, a white IPA, for being the best-seller), Nectar of the Bogs (a cranberry saison), Citra Lemon Peel Saison, Phoenix Rye Saison and even Harvester of Sorrow (a Cabernet barrel-aged saison).
3 Stars also maintains a separate area called the “Funkerdome” for aging sour beers from its 35-hectoliter foeder, plus a barrel-aging room for non-sour beer styles. It holds casks that formerly contained bourbon, gin, cider and apple brandy.
What’s more, the brewery operates what it calls the only homebrew supply shop in the city.
Besides kegs, 3 Stars packages select beers in large-format bottles and in both 12-oz and 16-oz cans. The beers are distributed throughout Washington, Virginia and Maryland, and 3 Stars is looking at other outlets in the Northeast. But—and this is especially true if you haven’t visited since the last Craft Brewers Conference here in 2013—there’s plenty new to see at the source.
Bluejacket: Flagship Of Washington's Fleet Of Breweries
Martin Morse Wooster
KIND OF BLUE. Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, samples one of Bluejacket’s beers. Below- Bluejacket’s spacious interior includes a brewery capable of producing 5,000 bbl a year, plus the “Arsenal,” a 200-seat restaurant.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT GROUP
The Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) operates many interesting beer bars: ChurchKey/Birch and Barley, Rustico, The Sovereign (for Belgian beers), Owens Ordinary (to show that it’s possible to have a 50-tap bar in heavily regulated Montgomery County, Maryland).
But Bluejacket is, so far, the group’s only brewery.
Bluejacket is not a brewpub. It’s a brewery that produced 2,000 barrels in 2016 and is on pace to produce 4,000 by 2018, sharing a building with a restaurant (dubbed the “Arsenal”) that serves excellent traditional pub fare. It’s also the culmination of a dream that NRG’s brewing director Greg Engert has had for a long time.
English Major to Brewer
After graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont, Engert came to Washington to study postmodernist fiction at Georgetown University’s graduate school. But he realized the job market for English Ph.D.’s was limited, so in 2004 he got a job working at the Brickskeller. He stayed there for two years, learning about beer and studying the Brickskeller’s legendary art of hospitality.
In 2006 Michael Babin, one of two CEOs of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, invited Engert to join the company as brewing director. He’s been there ever since. As the group expanded, he realized that a brewery would be an ideal addition to the group’s goals.
There aren’t many old buildings in Washington that are large enough to be turned into breweries. But in 2009 the group was offered space in a building constructed in 1917 to manufacture boilers for the expanding World War I fleet. The building was a factory until the late 1950s, then abandoned as the Navy Yard shrank. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group signed a lease in 2011. Bluejacket opened in October 2013.
Before opening, Babin had called Engert with a list of proposed names, including Bluejacket. In the British and American navies, “bluejackets” are enlisted sailors. “The name just fit,” Engert says.
In the three-and-a-half years since Bluejacket opened, it’s produced nearly 200 beers, including 50 collaborations with other breweries. Bluejacket currently employs four brewers, and hopes to hire a head brewer soon.
When we visited, Bluejacket offered 17 drafts and three cask beers. These ranged in alcohol content from A Little Golden Gem (3.8% abv), a gose finished with 400 lb of kumquats in the mash, to Transistor (15% abv), described as “a massive imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels and finished with Tahitian vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, and Ethiopian Dench Meng coffee.”
Glancing at the menu, you’ll see that Engert likes to organize his beers by flavors instead of styles. Instead of worrying about whether a beer is an ESB or an IPA, patrons can choose from beers whose dominant flavor is “hop,” “roast,” “fruit and spice,” or “tart and funky.”
All beers at Bluejacket are stored at 38 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring the beers stay fresh and don’t lose much CO2. They’re then run through a heat exchanger to be served at three temperatures—42 degrees for lagers and the gose; 48 degrees for most of the ales; and 55 degrees for the stouts, triples and most of the cask beers.
Engert says that the majority of his customers don’t ask for mainstream brews. But suppose a baseball fan from out of town wants to try Bluejacket before walking four blocks to Nationals Park to catch a game. For the Miller Lite drinker, Bluejacket offers Lagerfarm (4.9% abv), a “farmhouse lager” with 10% wheat in the grain bill that’s fermented with farmhouse yeast and then lagered in an open fermenter for six weeks. The result: a sessionable, low-hopped lager that is much more interesting than a massmarket brew.
Bluejacket maintains 50 barrels for aging its beers, including many sour offerings. The brewery also houses a coolship—a long, shallow, open fermenter bordered with white tiles. The coolship is used for the brewery’s spontaneous fermentation program. Several times a year the brewers open the louvered windows and let neighborhood yeast in. The coolship room has cedar planks on the ceiling to provide a place for these ambient yeasts to propagate.
This program is a work in progress. So far only one spontaneously fermented beer has been good enough to release at festivals, after being blended with sour beer and released as a “mixed-fermentation” brew. But Engert continues to experiment with the coolship and hopes to have more mixedfermentation beers released this summer.
Bluejacket doesn’t offer growlers. Rather, Engert hopes you’ll visit his extensive bottle shop offering 20 house beers in a 750-ml format. Bluejacket beers are also available on tap at some other NRG bars, and Engert has a distribution deal with Shelton Brothers to offer his beers to select beer bars nationally.
The food at Bluejacket, in Engert’s eyes, consists of higher-grade versions of traditional pub fare, made with better ingredients than many places but “not too precious.” The sausages, for instance, are provided by Red Apron, a local butcher that sells sandwiches at Union Market and also provides meats for other NRG restaurants. Bluejacket’s chef, Marcelle Afram, has a Mediterranean background, which is why you’ll see falafel sandwiches at lunch.
Bluejacket offers two types of tours (except when the Nationals are in town). The Saturday afternoon tours are more traditional ones; they cost $29 per person and include five samples. The Friday evening tours include a reception after the tour with three tasters paired with specially selected snacks. These cost $35. Reservations are required; check out bluejacketdc.com/tours-and-tastings/.
Eventually there will be a second Bluejacket somewhere in the Washington, DC area, which will allow the brewery to boost production and substantially increase its barrel-aging program. This project is still in the planning stages.
In the meantime, the current Bluejacket, during the Craft Brewers Conference (April 10-13), will host nightly parties showcasing collaboration brews and out-of-town beers you don’t normally see here. On Monday, April 10 they’ll feature six guest drafts from Creature Comforts Brewing in Athens, Ga. Tuesday will bring Potential Grizzlies, a mixed-fermentation ale co-brewed with Arizona Wilderness Brewing in Gilbert, Ariz. Wednesday’s highlight is the hoppy pale ale It’s Me, Not You, a collaboration with Great Raft Brewing in Shreveport, La. Thursday, writer/photographer Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting will be on hand for a meet-and-greet.
Bluejacket is at 300 Tingey St. SE, Washington, DC, about four blocks from the Navy Yard station on Metro’s green line. Hours are 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Phone 202-524-4862.