We have paid a lot of attention to other cities and the possibilities they present for a fun beer-themed vacation. Now it is only fitting that we profile our hometown of Washington, DC and the beercation possibilities that it offers. There is already a lot to love about our nation’s capital, and finally, we can add its local brews to the list as an incentive to visit.
DC may not be spoken in the same breath as the beer meccas of San Diego, Denver or even Chicago, but if you are weighing a visit to DC, the wide array of (free) activities you can do here make this city a worthy addition in our beercation series.
Breweries You Must Visit
Atlas Brew Works
Atlas is my favorite District brewery. They consistently have solid year-round offerings and their experimental brews are usually worth trying. Now the bad news: As with most DC breweries, the location is a little out of the way. Even though it’s nestled in NE across from a cemetery, Atlas’ production house and taproom are worth the trip from the Mall. They have 16 beer selections on draft, and you can get a flight of tasters to try all their brews. If you’ve never tried any of their offerings before, this is a good way to start. Their most popular brews are District Common, Rowdy, and Ponzi. We recommend trying the Coffee Common, which is the District Common brewed with Compass Coffee. Brewery tours are available on Saturdays at noon, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm. No reservations required. One fun quirk of their taproom: the men’s bathrooms have urinals cut out of Atlas kegs.
Those ready to kick their beercation into overdrive (and transform it into a boozecation) may want to venture above Atlas to Jos. A. Magnus, a local distillery focused on bourbon, on the second story. When we visited, there were no food trucks parked outside, but there were some snacks available in a vending machine (though nothing substantial). Definitely BYOfood if you want to eat while there.
3 Stars Brewing Company
3 Stars Brewing Company should be your next stop. Saisons and funky, barrel-aged sours are what differentiate this brewery from others in the area. If that’s your jam (and readers will know it’s most certainly not mine, but Tara’s), this might be your first brewery to hit. Everyone who stops by is given two tickets for free beer samples. This softens the required trip to industrial northeast DC. Once inside, the decorations, design and atmosphere transport you to a jocular indoor beer hall (you can relax at a mix of bar stools and picnic tables). Beer tours happen Saturdays at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm, and are casual and free. While I may prefer Atlas beers, I typically bring friends to 3 Stars, as it offers the best experience for visitors. They even have a store for home brewers. No food is served here either, and restaurants in the area are super limited. Food trucks may pop up on weekends. Plan accordingly for grub.
Right Proper Brewing Company
Right Proper has two locations in the District, and which you choose should be determined by the experience you’d like to have. Their Brookland Production House & Tasting Room can be found at 920 Girard Street, NE, and their Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen is located at 624 T Street, NW. The brewery is off the beaten path, has a slightly larger selection of beers and offers free tours on weekends. It is small, does not offer food and is a little harder to get to via public transportation (though there’s a nearby pizza place that you can call for delivery or walk to). Their Shaw location is massive, has outdoor seating and offers a full menu. It is a less intimate setting and you won’t get a tour, but if this is the last brewery you’re hitting up for the day, Shaw is the preferred location. No matter which location you choose, try the Häxan – it’s a very tasty porter. Both locations offer growler fills, so if you intend to keep the party going after you leave, Right Proper is a worthy choice.
The reasons to stop by our nation’s capital are plentiful. The overwhelming number of museums are free, the Capitol or White House have no cost to visit (but both require reservations that fill up quickly).
WMATA is a good, inexpensive and [mostly] reliable way for tourists (and locals!) to get around the city. Those who don’t want to go below ground for transportation have other options, ranging from car sharing (Lyft, Via, etc.) to bike sharing (Mobike, LimeBike, Spin, and Jump DC) and hop-on, hop-off tour buses (City Sights, Big Bus, and Old Town Trolley Tours). And, of course, walking is always an option, though breweries are pretty spaced out around the city.
Since local hotels fill with business travelers during the week, you will actually find cheaper prices on weekends. Obviously the downtown locations are going to be more expensive, but if you can find a reasonably priced room near a Metro stop, that is a good way to save money while still having access to the city (a lot of tourists stay across the Potomac River in either Crystal City or Rosslyn, which are both Metro-accessible). And if the weather is nice, you can kayak, canoe or take a SUP on the river.
Those with a love of professional sports are in luck, with DC having numerous hometown teams (football: Redskins; soccer: United; baseball: Nationals; basketball: Wizards; hockey: Capitals; tennis: Kastles; and WNBA: Mystics).
Undoubtedly, there are going to be readers who question the omission of DC Brau from our list of DC breweries to visit. There are a number of fans of this brewery, but sadly, Tara and I are not among them. Despite us not being fans of their brews, their brewery is still worth a visit, as they offer brewery-only exclusives and have the distinction of being the first brewery to operate inside the District since 1956. Blue Jacket, which brews onsite, and Churchkey, a sister restaurant that offers 555 beer options, are also worth a stop if the previously mentioned breweries did not fill you with enough good beer.