Former federal worker, Justin Cox, and his old schoolmate, Will Durgin, a professional brewer, have announced plans to open Atlas Brew Works in the District’s Ivy City neighborhood this spring.
“Right now, it’s a big empty square with a forklift and some kegs,” says Cox of his space in a warehouse at 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, across from Mount Olivet Cemetery. But he expects his 20-barrel brewhouse and five fermenters to make port in Norfolk, Va., in late January. With a little luck he thinks he could be churning out beer in time for the Craft Brewers Conference set for Washington in late March, although he admits “that will be a tight stretch.”
Atlas Brew Works, says Cox, is named not after the Atlas District, but after the Greek deity who supported the heavens on his shoulders. (A commentary on the thriving craft brew community propping up an otherwise stagnant beer industry?)
Cox and Durgin will enter the market with two flagship brews: Rowdy, a “hop-forward” pale ale with a touch of rye, and District Common, a California common-style beer consisting of a lager fermented at higher, ale-like temperatures to add a touch of fruitiness. Initially, both will be draft only. Cox, who’s been making beer since 2004 when his then-girlfriend (now wife) bought him a homebrew kit, says he has “a huge list of recipes” to tap for specialty and one-off brews.
The brewery will include a tasting room and offer growler fills, but will not operate as a pub or restaurant, says Cox.
Cox met Durgin when the two were engineering students at Vanderbilt. Durgin subsequently completed the master of science in brewing program at U.C. Davis, and has had stints at Telegraph Brewing Co. in Santa Barbara, Calif., and at Pyramid Breweries in Portland, Ore.
With all the operations slated to come online in the District within the next year (Bluejacket, Right Proper Brewpub, Hellbender Brewing Co. and the revived Bardo), does Durgin think there’s room for another local option?
“Just look at the more traditional beer cities,” he says. “Portland, Ore., has over 40 breweries within the city limits. San Diego has a huge amount of breweries. I see no reason why D.C. can’t be on a par with those cities in 15 years.”
“I think we’re well on our way,” Cox chimes in.
Kitsock’s Beer column appears once a month in Food.