Right Proper Brewing, Anxo Cidery, Red Bear Brewing, Little Miss Whiskey’s bar, Bluejacket Brewing, 3 Stars Brewing
Arriving into DC on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the city seemed half-deserted with empty roads and ample parking (you can park for free on Sundays in DC – useful info). After a lovely family brunch we headed out to up-and-coming NOMA to explore the historic African-American neighbourhood and visit a few of the trendy new drinking spots that have opened up there. After taking in the Howard Theatre Walk of Fame, celebrating African-American musicians outside the famous venue, our first stop was at Right Proper Brewing, just around the corner.
Right Proper has two locations in the city, this being the smaller brewpub, with the production facility and taproom further out of town. It has quite a traditional pubby feel to it with shaded outdoor seating on the street and a warm, wood-panelled interior and looked to be a popular brunch spot with a youngish crowd. Right Proper specialise in Wild Ales and Saisons, open-fermenting with wild yeasts, as well as producing a few more traditional beers. My two favourites were the Bird of Passage American Wild Ale, an eye-poppingly sherbety combo of flaked oats and rye with lactobacillus which at 4% was accessibly gluggable, and the complex, yeasty dry-hop Legend of Zo Farmhouse Saison which was also very moreish. The Raised By Wolves Farmhouse IPA had a bright mango flavour and the From Here To Eternity Brown Ale had a nice hoppy chocolate malt to it, providing a happy foil to the wild-yeast brews. This is a great spot for spontaneous-ferment lovers and we wanted to linger (and visit their other site), but our plans took us instead to Anxo – a super-trendy micro-cidery nearby. http://www.rightproperbrewing.com/
Anxo is an incredibly chi-chi spot where cider is treated as something of an art-form. Ciders are approached with reverence, descriptions of production and flavour are detailed and one is even poured from a great height to enhance the flavour. These guys are not kidding around – which is reflected in the somewhat less palatable price tag ($12 for a set flight of four 2oz pours – that is $12 for Half A Pint!!). Although we tried a couple of decent ciders – the Rose and Ocle Pychard were both perfectly drinkable – I didn’t see what the fuss was about. The District Dry was acceptable at best and the Uncommon Grace was bitter and flat. I did not feel that I got my $12 worth in any respect. Anxo do have a pretty interesting beer list if you don’t like cider (or their cider), but we decided it was time to move on to pastures new (and cheaper). http://www.anxodc.com/
On the far side of NOMA, a short drive from Anxo, sits Red Bear Brewing, freshly opened just six months ago. Red Bear was absolutely heaving when we arrived and we were lucky to find seating in their large, industrial beer hall. Overall, the beers were decent – the stand-out was the Skookum Red Ale which JB and I wrestled over, and the Twinsies DIPA was smooth and juicy, if a bit on the boozy side. The other beers, while drinkable, didn’t stand out, other than the Something About Rosemary which was everything that should not happen to a rosemary beer and tasted like gone off lamb. Red Bear is a fun place to hang out – we were there for a couple of hours chatting with friends, playing board games and enjoying the bustling atmosphere and it’s obviously a great addition to the neighbourhood, but the focus is less beer more social. https://www.redbear.beer/
Much later in the evening, after a very tasty donburi in Adams Morgan, we hit up Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (back in NOMA), a fun combination of late-night dive bar and craft beer expertise. With a whole booklet of craft beers on offer (cans and bottles only), I had a difficult time narrowing down my choices! They also have their very own beer, a crackin Imperial Bock brewed with DC Brau for to celebrate their tenth anniversary, which I really enjoyed – a smooth, soft, creamy banana-clove with a 7% kick, perfect for a night out dancing. Their selection of local beers is to be commended but they don’t come cheap (which is true for pretty much everywhere in DC), but it’s a great spot of dancing and beering – recommended. https://www.littlemisswhiskeys.com/
Fast-forward to the following afternoon, where, after a visit to the somewhat chaotic, expensive (yes, this is a theme – we’re from Texas!) and overall disappointing Union Market (really, don’t bother), we arrived at Bluejacket Brewing’s chic, expansive gastropub, close to the baseball stadium, in a state that can only be described as hangry. We were somewhat mollified by the swift, friendly, capable service, as well as an impressive beer list including five cask options – what a treat. While we spent a heck of a lot of money at Bluejacket, a decent quantity of good beer was consumed and my magic-porridge-pot bowl of diablo mussels comes highly recommended (JB’s burger was less impressive).
My top picks from the nine beers we managed to try (oh yes) were the Lagerfarm – a super-exciting Farmhouse Lager with a rustic, yeasty tang that I had to have a second helping of, and the delightfully hoppy 9 Pound Hammer DIPA (yep, two of those as well). The Yardbird English Bitter was a toffee-raisin treat, and on cask too, and my other cask favourite was the smooth, citrusy Open Window IPA which had a lovely sweet softness. Aside from the sugar-lactose-tastic The Object Lesson Milkshake IPA (just don’t), we found the standard at Bluejacket to be pleasingly high, and with a mighty 25 taps to choose from there is certainly something for everyone. Bluejacket is very gastro-forward and family-friendly so if you need to chill, eat, drink and relax (as we did) it more than does the job. Come prepared to spend time and money and you won’t be disappointed. https://bluejacketdc.com/
I was concerned, given the brevity of our trip, that we wouldn’t make it to 3 Stars Brewing, and it was, indeed, a close call as we arrived just a few minutes before closing time. Having had a few of their beers in cans during our Rehoboth sojourn and being very impressed, I was very keen to squeeze in a visit to the mothership and we were extremely glad that we did – we were treated to the best taproom specials we had on our DC visit. The Zombie Date Night Raspberry Imperial Porter was the star of the show – super-velvety, lush and moreish, none of us could get enough of it. They need to make a whole tonne of it and ship it to Texas!
The gorgeously firm, smooth, hazy Kviek Closet of Forget-Me-Nots was another winner, and the maple-bacon Starsky & Brunch Imperial Stout stole JB’s heart – of course it did! The bright, tart and zippy Cherry J Blige Sour also went down a treat, and we enjoyed the 808s and Technicolor Life DIPAs too. The 3 Stars taproom has simple, hip décor with neon lights, beer posters and their signature skull branding and we were the last folks in there at 9pm on Labor Day, which was a bit of a surprise considering how great that beers were, but obviously did not spoil our fun. Sadly we didn’t make it to any of the other DC breweries I had hoped to visit, but we certainly went out on a high – 3 Stars is not to be missed. http://3starsbrewing.com/