Throughout the summer, visitors to Neal Place Tap & Garden might have noticed green vines creeping their way up guidewires surrounding the beer garden's picnic tables and bocce court. These are hop vines -- eight varieties in all -- that produce the hop flowers, or cones, used to flavor beer.
In the last few weeks, the vines have shot up, and the hop cones have gotten larger and begun giving off fresh, oily aromas. Soon, they're going to be picked and sent to 3 Stars Brewing Company, where they'll be used to create that brewery's first-ever Made in D.C. beer.
"We've done some hop samplings, with hops that homebrewers grew in their backyards, but we've never used D.C. hops in a beer before," says 3 Stars co-founder Dave Coleman. "There's not a lot of hop farms in the city."
Coleman and the brewing team haven't determined how much they'll get of each hop variety, which include Cascade, Nugget, Willamette and Sorachi Ace, and the yield will help determine what kind of beer to create. Some at the brewery want to take advantage of the freshness of the hops to make a strong, pungent double IPA, Coleman says, while others have argued for a lighter style of beer, such as a saison, that would better show off the flavors of the hops. ("We're a brewery divided," he jokes.) Either way, it will probably be a cask-conditioned ale, and will include some other ingredients sourced locally. "We'll probably forage for some herbs," Coleman says. "Something that rounds out the aromatics, and will balance or even counterbalance the flavors."
Expect the beer to be ready for a mid-October release, with a party to be held at Neal Place Tap & Garden. "This is just the first installment," says Coleman, who found out about the hops when Neal Place co-founder Gina Chersevani posted a photo of the crop on Instagram last week. "We'll see where we go from here. It's the whole 'Made in D.C.' thing. We're trying to showcase something made in D.C. that showcases ingredients from D.C. We're proud to be a D.C. business, and I know Gina is too."
Both 3 Stars and Neal Place will be open for D.C. Beer Week events this weekend: 3 Stars hosts the Hopfunk Fest at its Takoma brewery from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and Neal Place is turning its taps over to RAR Brewing from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday.