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DC Brau cuts off free samples because people were getting sneaky for seconds

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Since DC Brau opened its brewery to the public in the summer of 2011, visitors of legal drinking age have been given tickets that allowed them to try small pours of any four beers for free. That system has now come to an end, due to what the company calls "widespread abuse of the free tasting policy."

D.C. law limits the amount of beer a brewery can give away to 12 ounces per visitor per day. DC Brau says dishonest customers were figuring out ways to get around that limit, opening the brewery to the possibility of fines or the suspension of its liquor license. To avoid those penalties, DC Brau is eliminating tastings, period.

"I started noticing it a few months ago," says DC Brau co-founder Brandon Skall. "I went outside, and the side door [to the brewery] was propped open. At first I thought [customers] propped it open to let underage people in, which thankfully wasn't the case.

"What was happening was that people were leaving through the fire escape hallway, going around outside and coming back in through the front door," picking up tickets for four more drink samples when they came back in.

Some people were pretty blatant about it, Skall says, while others employed more cloak-and-dagger tactics: "They'd go out to their car and grab sunglasses or a hat" to try to fool the DC Brau employee at the door responsible for checking IDs and distributing tasting tickets.

"It started becoming a problem for people who were pouring samples. They were saying, 'Hey, people are getting served more than they're supposed to.'"

Going forward, DC Brau will still offer 3.5-ounce samples of all beers, but customers will be charged $2 each. A pint of beer in the tasting room is unchanged at $5, and drafts are half-price from 4 to 9 p.m. on Fridays.

"I'm really bummed about it," Skall says. "But this is not a money-motivated thing. We're trying to preserve our license. We want to be compliant, and we have to make sure we're staying vigilant."

DC Brau, 3178-B Bladensburg Rd. NE. 202-621-8890. The brewery is open Thursday and Friday from 4-9 p.m., Saturday from 1-6 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.