Gary Heurich dreams of the day when there will be once again a Heurich brewery in Washington.

His grandfather, Christian Heurich Sr., founded the Heurich Brewing Co. in 1873. The company's Senate and Old Georgetown beers were popular in Washington, as was the massive, red brick Heurich Brewery in Foggy Bottom where the Kennedy Center now stands.

That company went out of business in 1955. Last year, Gary Heurich started the Olde Heurich Brewing Co., producing Olde Heurich Amber Lager. The company's offices are in Georgetown while the beer is brewed and bottled in Pittsburgh. However, Heurich, 30, said he has plans to build a brewery in Washington.

Although Heurich admits that financial considerations may push such a plan far into the future, there have been strong signs of success for his firm. Olde Heurich has won top awards in national taste competitions.

Christian Heurich Sr. was 91 when he started up the brewery again after Prohibition ended. He was 102 when he died in 1945. "He worked every day up until nine days before his death," Gary Heurich said. "Whenever people asked him the secret to his longevity, he'd tell them: 'Practice moderation and drink Heurich beer.'

"I consider it {brewing beer} as carrying on the legacy of my family. I also see it as carrying on the legacy of a grand American brewing tradition."

Christian Heurich Jr., Gary's father, ran the brewery until it closed, a victim of the nation's decreasing beer consumption and the emergence of "national brands such as Budweiser and Miller that garnered the major share of the American beer market."

"That was a sad time for my family," Heurich said. "I know my dad was deeply affected by it. To have to close down what his father had started was hard on him. It was also hard on the employes, many who had been with the brewery for years."

The brewery, one of the first fireproof breweries built in the United States, was razed in the winter of 1962.

"My grandfather had a healthy respect for fire. He had two breweries burn down. So when he had the {last} one . . . built {in the early 1890s} it was all steel and poured concrete."

The same was true of the Heurich mansion on New Hampshire Avenue, south of Dupont Circle. Built between 1892 and 1894, the mansion with its painted canvas ceilings, marble stairs and indoor fountain, is now home to the Columbia Historical Society.

Although the brewery closed before he was born, Heurich, who lives in Georgetown, said he grew up on stories of his family's brewing days.

There's the one about how Heurich Sr., in the months before prohibition began in 1920, decided to turn over his brewery to the production of apple cider.

He made 100,000 gallons, but then it accidentally fermented. Heurich Sr. was able to sell only 40,000 gallons of the brew before Prohibition took effect.

Eventually, he had to dump the rest into the Potomac River under police guard to prevent people from gathering up any of the illegal applejack.

And there's the one about the time that Heurich Jr., a notorious practical joker, wired the cushion studs of a brewery bench to a DC 20-volt electrical line, then gathered some employes under the pretext of having a photographer take a picture of them holding steins of beer. When the employes gathered on the bench, Heurich Jr. hit a hidden switch, "and the beer went flying all over the place."

Then there's the story of when a gang of robbers held up the brewery after a World Series game in 1933. The next year, one of the robbers, Arthur (Big Dutch) Misanas, turned state's witness, and when authorities brought him to the brewery to tell how he and the other members of the "Tri-State Gang" robbed the brewery, Heurich Jr. had Misanas sign the brewery guest book and gave him a beer to boot.

Heurich began thinking about starting his own brewery while a business undergraduate at Bucknell University. His father died at age 77 not long after Heurich graduated in 1979, and after four years of working in the family's real estate business (started by his grandfather with beer profits), Heurich decided to go ahead with plans to brew beer.

His family and friends were surprised. "They were enamored with the idea, but by the same token they were skeptical."

Heurich spent nearly three years studying family beer recipes, touring U.S. and European breweries, and taking brewing and packaging courses.

When he started his company last year, he joined the growing number of microbrewers that have started around the country during the last 15 years. He estimates it costs at least $500,000 to start a microbrewery and that he would probably break even by the end of the year.

Microbreweries produce fewer than 10,000 barrels of beer a year. Megabreweries produce as many as 65 million barrels annually.

"Our beer is not for the masses," Heurich said.

Heurich said he has no desire to become a megabrewery.

"I don't want to get too big. When you get to the point where you're too big, you start worrying about sales instead of quality. For us, small is great."