Denizens Brewing marks its first anniversary in Silver Spring on Thursday and is celebrating with a full weekend of events, including an all-day happy hour and a brewery open house. Here's the full schedule of events, a quick look back at Denizens' first year and a peek at what's ahead.
This week's schedule of events
Thursday: DC101 broadcasts from the brewery as part of the station's "Thirst Day Live" series, beginning at 3 p.m. The afternoon includes a performance by pop-rock band Darcy Dawn in the 200-seat beer garden from 4 to 7 p.m., as well as $5 beers from 4 to 6 p.m. during the "Freedom Hour" happy hour.
Friday: It's Free Stein Day at Denizens. At some point this week, a password will be posted on the brewery's social media accounts. The first 100 people who give the code word to the bartender after 6 p.m. receive a special Denizens stein, while supplies last.
Saturday: The "Freedom Hour" happy hour stretches from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. In addition to $5 house beers, DJ Sway spins at 3 p.m., and Sound Makers Union, which Denizens co-founder Taylor Barnes describes as a "funky jam band with horns" performs at 8 p.m.
Sunday: Brewer Jeff Ramirez and his team host an open house from 1 to 4 p.m., where they'll offer brewery tours and talk beer and barrel aging with anyone who drops in.
Denizens has released 26 beers in 12 months.
When Denizens opened, it was serving beers that were contract-brewed at Beltway Brewing in Ashburn, Va. Since firing up the fermenters, though, Denizens has been on a tear, crafting five flagship beers and experimenting with more interesting one-offs. Co-founder Taylor Barnes says Sex Panther, a flavorful India Black Lager, was a big hit at beer festivals: "We poured so much of it because it was good, but also because it was called Sex Panther," she says, laughing. "A lot of old men liked ordering a Sex Panther from me."
Other highlights included Short Session, a bright and juicy double IPA, and Fear of a Black Beer, a version of its Mixed Breeds are the Prettiest American-Belgo Blonde Ale with coffee beans in the kegs. Expect some of these beers to return in the future, though possibly with slight tweaks. "It's nice to have beer that people know and look forward to, and get excited about," co-founder Emily Bruno says. Barnes adds: "I'm looking forward to saying, 'Roar, Sex Panther is back!"
More recently, brewer Jeff Ramirez has been experimenting with barrel-aged beers. The first up is Backyard Boogie, a funky and fruity farmhouse ale aged for six months in chardonnay barrels with brettanomyces and lactobacillus bacteria.
Speaking of which, there's a new beer for this weekend.
"The anniversary beer is inspired by the first five beers we produced," Ramirez explains. He describes the new offering, called First Time, as a Belgian dark rye ale. It's something of a Frankenstein beer, using the rye from Southside Rye IPA, yeast from the Third Party Belgian-style tripel, and malts from the Lowest Lord ESB, Big Red Norm Red Ale and Born Bohemian Czech-style pilsner. Ramirez says some of the beer will be barrel-aged and released later, possibly under the name "Do You Remember Your First Time?"
Denizens beers can be found in more bars in Washington than in Montgomery County.
In addition to the 10 taps in Denizens' basement taproom, Denizens beers can be found throughout the area. Denizens' founders went to Annapolis to help reform Montgomery County's liquor laws, and they've been a major beneficiary of the new rules, which allow small breweries to sell their beers directly to bars instead of going through the county-run Department of Liquor Control. And while Denizens beers are offered in a few dozen county bars, including Republic in Takoma Park, Brasserie Beck in Kentlands and the 4 Corners Pub in Silver Spring, they're on tap in even more places in Washington. "One of the things we've found since last year, when the law changed to allow for self-distribution, is that it's been kind of a learning curve in terms of changing the culture," says co-founder Julie Verratti. "It's breaking the pattern and explaining to people, 'Hey, you can buy from us directly.' In D.C., it's the Wild West – they're used to breweries self-distributing." Denizens' beers are sold at 35 accounts in Washington, including Meridian Pint, the Argonaut, Jack Rose and Bar Pilar.
The founders have big plans for the year ahead.
"We're committed to making this a third place for people in Silver Spring," Barnes says, with more events and changes in the offing. The biggest is not in the brewery but in the kitchen: The BBQ Bus food truck, which has provided the food since the opening, is being replaced by a new concept that will feature a "fresh, seasonal and rotating menu that will pair better with our beer," Barnes says. This will also allow for monthly ticketed beer dinners, as well as rotating dinner specials paired with new beers.
Other plans calls for distribution going "deeper into D.C. and Montgomery County, but also the surrounding areas – P.G. Country, Annapolis and Baltimore," Verratti says. There are plans afoot for tap takeovers during August's D.C. Beer Week, and Denizens will host its first beer festival, the Make it Funky Fest, in October, with 20 breweries from Colorado and the D.C. area. (Ramirez brewed at the Mountain Sun brewery in Boulder before coming to Silver Spring.) Participants so far include Avery, Crooked Stave, Hellbender and Right Proper.
Denizens Brewing Co., 1115 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring. 301-557-9818. www.denizensbrewing.com.