What’s the best brewery for someone new to craft beer?
Each brewery has its own personality. Ocelot is great for IPA fiends; Right Proper specializes in funky, sour beers; 3 Stars kills it with barrel-aged stouts and sours. Almost every brewery offers tours of its brewhouse on weekends.
For general beer education, Flying Dog probably has the best tour in the region. Guided visits to the brewery in Frederick go beyond mash tuns and tanks, with visits to the quality control room and samples of beers in progress to better help guests understand the brewing process. (There also are “graduate level” tours each month that cover special topics.) Closer to Washington, Port City’s lineup covers all the bases: pils to IPA, witbier to stellar seasonals, such as the aged Colossal anniversary series or the annual Derecho Common. Its tasting room is a fun place to learn about beer.
Should we bring the kids? What about the dog?
You’ll see children at almost every brewery you visit. Remember, however, that breweries are manufacturing facilities, with moving parts and occasional sharp edges. Some tasting rooms are well removed from the tanks and barrels; others are not. If the kids are mobile, we recommend breweries with space for them to play, such as the patio at Denizens or the grassy area at Vanish. Also, space limitations mean strollers aren’t always welcome inside.
The D.C. Department of Health has told some breweries that dogs are not allowed in tasting rooms. Most Virginia and Maryland breweries with patios and beer gardens welcome dogs, including Denizens, Old Bust Head, Adroit Theory, Belly Love and Crooked Run.
Is it better to order pints or flights?
I rarely drink pints (or “full pours”) at a brewery, unless I’m there for the release of a specific beer. I want to try beers that I don’t see in bars, or to try them next to one another to get a sense of the brewery’s soul. That means a flight of four to eight small pours, especially if it’s a brewery I don’t visit often. When I visit Ocelot, I want to try all seven or eight IPAs on tap. But if you’re hanging out at a brewery you’re familiar with, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a glass of your favorite beer — it should be a lot fresher than at your local bar.
What’s the deal with growlers? Do we need to buy a new one at each brewery?
Refillable half-gallon jugs, called growlers, are the easiest way to get beer home. You can buy a new growler at a brewery — maybe you like the logo — or you can take growlers from one brewery to another’s tap room.
I tend to purchase growlers of only limited-release beers, not those readily found in stores. Growler beers are perishable: They should be opened within a week and consumed within a day or two after that. Also, growlers tend to be more expensive than the same beer in bottles and cans. At DC Brau, for example, a 64-ounce growler of the Corruption IPA is $10. A six-pack of the same beer (72 ounces total) is $10, and will last longer in your fridge.
Is there anything to do other than drink beer?
Most breweries realize that it takes more than beer to get visitors through the door, especially during the week. So look for such events as Port City’s Joggers and Lagers running group (Mondays), movie night at Denizens (Mondays), bring your own vinyl at Right Proper (Tuesdays), game night at Old Bust Head (Wednesdays) and Bingo at DC Brau (Thursdays). And far too many breweries host trivia nights and yoga-and-a-beer events to list.