Editors' pick

Capitol City Brewing Company

Brewpub, Bar

Editorial Review

Capitol City Reopens Downtown
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Weekend Section
Friday, March 25, 2005

Since opening in August 1992, the downtown branch of the Capitol City Brewing Company has served almost 2.9 million pints of beer. It was, boasts Capitol City's Vice President of Operations Andy Cook, "the first brewpub in Washington since Prohibition."

I'm referring to Cap City's brewery in the past tense because several years ago the company opened a larger, high-capacity brewpub in Shirlington and decided that it would be more efficient to brew beer for the downtown branch in Northern Virginia. (The Cap City locations on Capitol Hill and in Baltimore continue to make their own beers.)

Despite the loss of day-to-day brewing operations, the restaurant and bar remained popular. But after almost 13 years, Cook says, the restaurant was showing its age, and closed in February for a month-long makeover. While the "new" space has been freshened up, the changes are primarily cosmetic: a new coat of yellow paint on the walls, new tables and chairs, new hardwood flooring, new lights hanging above the oval copper-topped bar, a pair of flat-screen televisions. Upstairs, the renovated "Brewer's Lounge" offers additional seating for private gatherings and beer tastings.

My favorite reason to visit Cap City, though, remains untouched: extended, affordable happy hours. Every day from 4 to 7 p.m. and again from 10 to close, draft beers sell for $2.50, and everything on the appetizer menu is half-price. On my last visit, there were five beers available, including an English Nut Brown Ale that's sweeter than you might expect. Always reliable: the crisp, light Capitol Kolsch, a golden German-style ale that's become one of the chain's signature beverages, and thick, toasty Prohibition Porter.

Don't expect much more than bar food, though. The multicolored nachos are average, and a pound of wings is a little bit better. Buffalo chicken pizza is just what it sounds like: a medium-size pizza topped with melted blue cheese, moderately spicy wing sauce and hunks of chicken. There's a reason Cap City's reputation rests on its beer, not the pub grub.