By Marley McKenzie, Foodable Contributor
DC Brau prides itself on being the first of its kind. For decades, our Nation’s Capitol lacked a brewery to call its own. DC Brau was founded in 2009, opened its doors in 2011, and was the first to brew and distribute beer within city limits since 1956. It didn’t take long for the trend to catch on. In the past few years, the city has become a verified beertopia, as brewers like 3 Stars, Atlas and Denizens moved to town. And those are just the breweries.
Beer has become a fine art in this city, and restaurants all across DC are catering to young residents hungry for ever more unique and flavorful craft beers. From brewpubs like Biergarten Haus to large operations with in-house brewing like Bluejacket, Washingtonians now have an unprecedented amount of options when it comes to choosing a beer.
No Slowing Down
Despite all the new kids on the block, DC Brau is not on the retreat. In fact, they’ve ramped up production in recent years, producing 11,600 bbls in 2014. They also released three new beers just last month: the Brau Pils, a scotch ale ornately named The Stone of Arbroath, the El Hefe Speaks! and even a Crowler, a 32-ounce container inspired by their flagship Public.
Beauty in the Details
So how does DC Brau manage to defend its turf? One might suggest that a key element of the brand lies in its iconic cans. You can spot a DC Brau can from a mile away. The packaging almost always includes a "factoid" about DC itself, including voting rights, political scandals or DC history. Several of the beers are even named after important events in Washington’s history, and each corresponding can is hand-designed by local artists to embody the spirit of these chapters of Washington’s collective story.
The familiar Capitol Building is a distinct part of their logo, and many cans include a diamond-patterned background. Why diamonds? The District of Columbia was a complete diamond of land, ceded by both Virginia and Maryland in 1791. In 1846, the territory that was originally part of Virginia was taken back in what is known as the District of Columbia "Retrocession.”
Take The Citizen, a popular strong ale in the Belgian style. The beer debuted in 2012, and its namesake comes from a distinctly Washingtonian moment in history: In 1963, the citizens of Washington DC won the right to vote for president with the 23rd amendment to the Constitution.
The Citizen’s story and its corresponding can art highlight the subtle message that the brewers want to make clear with every can of DC Brau: We are DC’s beer. Sometimes, this includes the political commentary so typical of the Capitol city. DC Brau’s can art is unafraid to allude to more controversial matters that young Washingtonians often face in their day-to-day lives in the city.
The El Hefe Speaks!, a German-style hefeweizen, is a perfect example. The can – created by DC artist Rob Shortley – depicts a politician at a press conference, with one minor adjustment: a stereo for a head.
Additionally, DC Brau enthusiastically supports D.C. Statehood. Founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock are longtime supporters of the cause. The campaign for statehood is featured prominently on their website, but it’s personified on their beer cans. According to the brewery, the drive for statehood is the entire inspiration behind the cans’ historical factoids. In addition to their cans, DC Brau's slogan is "Fermentation Without Representation,” a nod to the "Taxation Without Representation" slogan of DC license plates. According to DC Vote, a national citizen engagement and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening democracy and securing equality for all in the District of Columbia, the can art is working: “The cans and stickers have been amazing conversation starters about DC voting rights both in bars and on the street.”