Mark your calendars, beer lovers: Right Proper Brewing Company is opening its Brookland production brewery and tasting room on Dec. 3. Right Proper received government approval today and can begin brewing immediately; co-founder Thor Cheston expects the brewery will have at least five beers on tap to welcome visitors
It's been more than a year since Right Proper started converting a car repair shop on Girard Street NE into a brewery that could supplement the output from its popular Shaw restaurant and brewpub. "We completely maxed out production at the brewpub," Cheston says. "We've had lots of requests from accounts that want our beer. We thought, 'Why don't we shoot for the stars and build a production facility?'"
The brewpub can produce about 1,000 barrels of beer a year, and the new facility's capacity "is easily 10,000 barrels a year," Cheston says. "We can expand very easily." The brewery has the potential to brew up to 13,000 to 15,000 barrels a year, he adds, but says he hopes Right Proper will sell 3,500 barrels in its first year.
Expansion means it will be easier to find Raised by Wolves pale ale or the kellerbier Being There at other bars, as long as you live in Washington; Cheston says there are "no plans to distribute outside of D.C." at this point, as limiting the range will allow Right Proper to keep tighter control of the freshness and quality.
Those who love Right Proper's quirky selections, such as the honey-based saison The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull, will still want to head for the T Street brewpub. "We'll produce our greatest hits here" in Brookland for distribution, Cheston explains, while the brewpub will be used as "a more experimental pilot system, not that it wasn't before." Head brewer Nathan Zeender will oversee the beer at both locations, while brewer Chris Percello will handle day-to-day operations at the brewery.
When I toured the facility back in October, Zeender was especially excited about the three 45-hectoliter foeders, made from French oak, which are used to age the sour and funky beers that have earned Zeender and Right Proper a cult following. Because so many of his beers use special bacteria and yeast in fermentation, there's a chance of cross-contamination between his "normal" beers and the funkier ales. To cut down the risk, Zeender says, "Everything has to be doubled. We have two completely separate breweries served by one brewhouse." Even the hoses are color-coded. (If you're curious about the behind-the-scenes details of Zeender's beers, there will be tours every Saturday and Sunday at the brewery.)
But while the new Right Proper is a place to make beers, Cheston is looking forward to showing them off in the new tasting room. It's a handsome space, with a bar top and tables made from a cherry tree that fell in a business partner's backyard. "We're trying to treat this more like a winery tasting room," Cheston says, allowing customers to sample up to 12 beers on tap. To that end, the new Right Proper will sell tasting flights, which aren't offered at the original brewpub. (Cheston calls a tray of small pours "a distraction for service in a bar setting," but at the tasting room, it's a chance for customers to talk with bartenders about the beers, and then get a growler filled to go.
"We're expecting Thursday and Friday will feel like a neighborhood pub, but we don't know," Cheston says. There's a sweet-sounding stereo system, and large chalk murals by Patrick Owens, who also did work for the Right Proper brewpub, depicting animals escaping from a zoo, causing mayhem and going on murderous rampages. The bathroom, outfitted with an upright piano, is one of the most distinctive in D.C. (One of Cheston's original ideas included putting bunk beds in the bathroom, but the rest of the team talked him out of it.)
The tasting room will eventually offer charcuterie and other foods prepared offsite at the brewpub. Other plans in the works include a front patio with tables, bike racks, and planters that will be functional as well as decorative, letting Zeender grow herbs to use in his beers.
The brewery and tasting room will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and from 1 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Right Proper Brewing Company, 920 Girard St. NE. www.rightproperbrewery.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that Right Proper brewer Bobby Bump would work at the Brookland production facility. He will be the lead brewer at the Shaw brewpub. Brewer Chris Percello will oversee operations in Brookland. This version has been updated.