Streetcar 82 in Hyattsville has all the makings of a neighborhood hangout. But the brewery, owned by three Gallaudet University graduates, has a mission that goes beyond beer: It also gives the deaf and hard of hearing a place to work and unwind.
“In the service industry, there are not many deaf individuals, because the view is that deaf people have a barrier to communication,” Cetrano said in an email interview. “We wanted to challenge that norm.”
Of course, they wanted to make great beer, too.
On a recent chilly Sunday afternoon, customers sat outside at communal picnic tables, sipping flights and sharing bites from Pizzeria Paradiso next door. Inside, a hearing customer taught another the sign for “water,” which she ordered from the bar. Next to the towering stainless-steel brewing tanks, a party of about 15 friends and their children engaged in lively conversation in sign language.
Both deaf and hearing customers frequent the brewery. For some, it’s a place to try new beers. For others, it’s a scarce opportunity to blend in.
“It is very rare for deaf people to have a place like Streetcar 82, where they can go and hang out for a couple beers and talk like normal people,” said David Day, a social studies teacher for Gallaudet’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center.
The brewery has become a tool for educating the hearing community — not from a medical perspective, but a cultural one, said Steph Sforza, a certified deaf interpreter at Gallaudet and frequent customer of Streetcar 82: “We are educating people that we have language, common values, norms, traditions and behaviors, just like hearing people. Now, the hearing community can share what they learn about deaf people and hopefully change the perspective.”
Beyond providing opportunities for deaf customers and employees, the brewery also champions other deaf-owned businesses — the brewery’s logo designers, the T-shirt manufacturers, the people who made the concrete bar top and more.
The small brewery introduces a few new beers on tap every week — designed and brewed primarily by Burke. Favorites include a coffee stout developed in collaboration with the local coffee roaster Vigilante; a citrusy IPA named SoHyPA (a Hyattsville nod); and For What It’s Werth, a saison named in honor of Streetcar’s plumber and regular customer Fred Werth. (The brewery’s name harks back to the neighborhood’s history: The 82 Streetcar line ran from 1888 to 1958 through the Eckington, Woodridge, Mount Rainier, Hyattsville and College Park neighborhoods. Sixty years to the day after the streetcar’s last trip, Streetcar 82 poured its first official pint of beer.)
“Supporting deaf businesses, local businesses and the Hyattsville community is a big part of who we are,” Burke said in an email interview, “because we recognize that without them we wouldn’t be able to establish ourselves as a neighborhood brewery.”
Businesses geared toward the deaf and hard of hearing have become more prevalent in recent years. In October, a Starbucks near Gallaudet opened with a staff fluent in American Sign Language. Ivy City Smokehouse hosts regular ASL trivia nights. But Costner said challenging the public’s perception of the signing community is still an uphill battle.
“We do see some people that are a bit uncomfortable with entering and having deaf staff work with them,” he said in an email interview. “But they quickly get used to it, and then it’s just like being in another brewery’s taproom. It’s not so different after all.”
4824 Rhode Island Ave., Hyattsville. streetcar82brewing.com.