Learn About the Best Breweries in Washington, D.C.
25, Mar, 2019
BEST BREWERIES IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
The number of breweries in this country is increasing by the minute. It seems like every day a new brewery opens its doors to offer a wide variety of ales and lagers crafted for an increasingly local beer drinking scene.
Statistics confirm this impression. According to the Brewer’s Association, in 2016, the number of independent breweries and brewpubs operating in this country grew by a staggering 16.6%, bringing the total number of breweries to 5,301. Furthermore, independent breweries accounted for 99% of all breweries in the country.
Washington, D.C. has seen these same trends play out locally. All across the city, new breweries have opened while those that are already established continue to see their business grow.
With that in mind, we put together our guide to the best breweries in D.C. Our preferences vary from the small, hole-in-the-wall nano-breweries to larger, multi-barrel craft facilities. Regardless, if you want to take a trip through the hops, yeasts and malts that give beer its many fabulous flavors, then the best Washington, D.C. breweries are a great place to start.
CAPITOL CITY BREWING COMPANY
When it comes to D.C. breweries, start with the original. Opened in 1992, this brewery was the first brewpub to open in the city. And it continues to stay true to its roots, boasting a lineup of taps only available onsite at the bar.
They focus on classic styles such as their Prohibition Porter, Pale Rider Ale and Capitol Kolsch. This is common among the first wave of craft brewpubs, as many of their owners and brewers were eager to bring classic European styles into an American market oversaturated with the same macro styles. While many new brewers are focused on outdoing one another with over-the-top concoctions, Capitol City continues to offer perfectly-crafted classics.
Their Penn Quarter location is a must-visit, with a gorgeous bar surrounding equally stunning copper kettles. However, they’ve recently opened a second location in Alexandria that captures much of the same charm of their original location.
ATLAS BREW WORKS
Brewing is certainly a science. And if that’s the case, then the founders of Atlas Brew Works have a resume to boast. The founders met while working on engineering degrees at Vanderbilt in Nashville. As a testament to their scientific creativity, the brewery is 100% solar-powered!
Two of their most popular beers are their District Common and Rowdy Rye. Both have earned a spot on many tap lists in bars around the District. However, their rotating selection at the brewery is your best bet for getting one of their new recipes.
The taproom is spacious, making it a great place to meet friends for a pint. They have growler fills if you want to take home a souvenir. Plus, if you like bluegrass, they have jam sessions every third Sunday. So grab a beer, bring a banjo and get down!
This is an integral part of the Navy Pier redevelopment project. Located in a 5,600-square-foot former boiler maker, it’s within walking distance of Nationals Park, making this a perfect destination for grabbing a brew after a game.
They always have 20 originals on tap, plus some rotating cask beers, meaning you can get a taste of the sour trend that’s all the rage these days.
Those who love architecture will fall in love with this place. It is a perfect repurposing of an industrial space, giving you a lot to take in visually while you sip.
Just keep in mind, as this place is perfectly on-trend, that it does get crowded. It’s spacious and the service is excellent, but it’s definitely not the best place if you want to share a quiet conversation while you sip something new.
All the other breweries listed thus far are brewpubs, meaning they brew and serve their own beer but don’t have a dedicated production facility in order to package and ship their beer. D.C. Brau, on the other hand, is the first production brewery opened in the District in over 50 years. Beginning operations in 2009, they have been quietly earning a national reputation since.
Because it’s a production facility, a visit is a bit different than a trip to the brew pub. If you are interested in the production and science of beer, a tour of the facility will be very rewarding. And they have an excellent tasting room, too, meaning you can definitely get a beer or two while you’re there. Plus, beers are half-off in the tasting room on Fridays.
They also have excellent events, like concerts and outdoor festivals, that are definitely worth the trip. They also make an event out of their release days for their Double IPA. However, if you do want to pick up these nationally-renowned brews, expect to wait in a long line.
HELLBENDER BREWING COMPANY
Beers and board games. That’s the vibe at Hellbender. The brewery started as the passion project of a former politico and a neuroscientist. However, what began as a side hustle eventually grew into a full-time project.
They are committed to environmental sustainability. In fact, they were the first East Coast brewery to install a Belgian mash filter system. We won’t bore you with the science, but it’s known for its efficiency and eco-friendly approach to brewing, all without making any compromise to the quality of the beer.
They don’t have a lot of hours open for visits, so this is definitely a weekend destination. But it’s worth it, so get a trip on the calendar!
RIGHT PROPER BREWING COMPANY
In the Shaw neighborhood in the vicinity of the Howard Theatre, this is a brewpub designed for locals. While many breweries try to garner attention in national beer conversations, this is a place that wants to be the best-kept secret for the neighborhood.
Because of that, they’ve focused on serving great food and tasty brews all at an affordable price. It’s a small brewery, which means you can expect lots of rotating taps. But that also means that if you find something you really like, get a growler filled so you can have a little more before the tap disappears! But don’t worry — your favorite beer will come around again soon enough.
PORT CITY BREWING COMPANY
While D.C. Brau was the first production brewery in the District in over 50 years, Port City Brewing Company is the first production brewery in neighboring Alexandria since Prohibition.
It opened in 2011. Since then, they’ve been receiving official accolades and awards from the beer community, including the coveted Beverage Tasting Institute’s World Beer Championship’s 2013 gold medal for their Optimal Wit.
This is obviously a well-known brewery, so you won’t struggle to find their beers stocked in your local cold case. However, they offer fabulous tours — and there’s something about getting a growler filled directly at the source. Considering their growing reputation, this is a great destination for a weekend tour, as it’s the kind of experience you can share as you travel around the world.
3 STARS BREWING COMPANY
The flag of Washington, D.C. features three red stars over two red bars on a white field. Considering this is one of the best D.C. breweries, naming itself after the city’s flag is fitting.
The brewery started when the owner received a homebrew kit from his girlfriend. Keeping with that spirit, the brewery is also the site of the city’s only homebrew store. So if you feel inspired after getting a taste of their excellent brews, you can pick up a kit for yourself!
Like many small breweries, the best way to taste their beers at home is to show up for a growler fill. They also offer a limited selection of bottles. You can also grab one of their beers at select locations in National’s Park.
However, while having a beer at the game is a time-honored tradition, this is an excellent brewery for an in-person visit. They offer a bunch of special events — including belly dancing!
DENIZENS BREWING COMPANY
While a majority of the breweries on this list are found within the city limits, visiting Denizens requires a short trip into Silver Spring, Maryland. However, considering the inviting outdoor biergarten, it’s worth the trip. Once you arrive, you can take in some gorgeous weather while sampling excellent beers, including special barrel-aged brews.
If the weather isn’t amenable, there’s still plenty of space inside, including a downstairs lounge and a taproom upstairs.
They pair their beers with a great seasonal menu. Plus, they have bands and DJs performing most weekends, which takes the biergarten to the next level. Definitely scope their hoppier beers, which are their most famed brews.
JAILBREAK BREWING COMPANY
There’s something about sitting at a bar and watching your future beers fermenting away right before your eyes. At Jailbreak, the concrete bar surrounds the brewhouse.
They’ve put their brewhouse on display because this is a brewery that loves to experiment. They have brews available made with carrots, honeydew and basil. If you like your beer experimental or if you have an adventurous palate, this is worth the trip.
It’s a great place to catch a game if you can’t make it to the stadium or arena in-person. There’s plenty of space with lots of available seating, meaning you will be tempted to stay there for a while and sample all 12 of their taps.
MAD FOX BREWING COMPANY
This is the place to go for cask-conditioned ales, which is a highly sought-after style in today’s beer scene. It’s also a great destination if you’re looking for beer and food pairings, as the brewpub prides itself as a top-notch restaurant as well as a brewery. If you’re a dog-lover, they even offer dog-friendly happy hours so you can bring Fido with you as you sip a brew.
While you can scope their original location, the brewery has done well expanding and opening brewpubs across the city, meaning you’ve got a good chance of finding a Mad Fox stool to park yourself on that’s close to home.
If you can make the trip to Leesburg, Vanish is the perfect destination for exploring the ingredient at the heart of beer: hops! Not only does this 52-acre property boast a large production brewery, but it’s also a working hop farm.
Because it’s outside the city, you will get a more pastoral experience, which makes it a perfect place for viewing the sunset while sipping on some suds. They are open on the weekends and they pair their beers with a barbecue menu designed by the star chef, Bryan Voltaggio, who placed second on the sixth season of Top Chef, losing out only to his own brother.
They regularly have a selection of 20 of their beers on tap, meaning you will get to sample to your heart’s delight while you wander through the hop farm looking at your beer’s signature ingredient!
CABOOSE BREWING COMPANY
This is a rustic destination with a small, carefully selected menu and tap list. In other words, it’s the perfect place for someone who wants to be “in the know.” However, don’t let their size fool you. They are brewing some excellent beers while also offering local wines and ciders.
They pair their beers with a farm-to-table menu featuring both locally grown and even locally foraged ingredients.
While it isn’t a great place for a big crowd looking to spend an evening, it’s the perfect destination for a small group seeking the perfect food and beer pairing.