Washington, D.C., is known for a lot of things. Cherry blossoms, a bustling nightlife culture, and scenic monuments honoring America’s presidents. You might be surprised to find out that it’s also a major hub for the craft beer industry. The first craft brewery, DC Brau, tapped its first keg in 2011. Since then, it has flourished into a staple beverage in bars, liquor stores, and sporting events all over the District. After turning into a profitable business, DC Brau is focusing on reducing its carbon footprint.
April 15, 2011, marks the beginning of DC Brau’s journey into craft beer stardom. It was a business idea formulated by founders Jeff Hancock and Brandon Skall two years before the official opening. They began the craft beer trend in the District, as there had not been a brewery in the city since 1956. The first keg of The Public pale would be tapped at Meridian Pint’s former location in Columbia Heights. Funny enough, DC Brau opened on Tax Day in 2011, enshrining it as a District legend early on. Marisela Rodela, Hancock’s wife and brewery co-owner, serves as the chief community and cultural officer.
Eleven years later, Hancock and Skall have expanded their reach beyond the District, Maryland, and Virginia (the DMV), distributing beers in states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
They utilize a cool blend of North American and European brewing techniques to produce their beer lines. They aren’t afraid to experiment with flavors and ingredients, and you can often find a new beer from them each month.
DC Brau has been committed to uplifting the lives of its fellow D.C. residents. The brewery has done extensive charity work with various empowerment groups and nonprofit organizations. It donated money to Smyal (an LGBTQ youth assistance program), Greater DC Diaper Bank, Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, and many more. “DC Brau believes that family, culture, and health contribute to a stronger and more vibrant community in Washington, D.C.,” according to the company website.
Sustainability became the new goal for Hancock and Skall heading into the 2020s. Like many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic forced DC Brau’s doors to close to foot traffic, relying mainly on customer orders for revenue. To find ways to save money and energy while continuing operations, the brewery switched to a more efficient LED lighting system. Thanks to collaborative efforts between Greenscape Energy and DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), DC Brau has saved more than $7,000 annually on electricity. Hancock stressed being situated in a 50,000-square-foot facility with heavy equipment like boilers made the need for a more energy-efficient and cost-saving system important.
In addition to LED lighting, DC Brau began recycling and upcycling programs. Spent grain from brewing was donated to local farms for cattle feed. Next came cardboard and aluminum can recycling initiatives.
“Being able to save that amount of money on an annual basis goes right to our bottom line, and that’s money that we can count on in situations like this pandemic,” Hancock said.
As a D.C. Brewers’ Guild member, DC Brau is constantly looking for sustainable ways to grow the business. That could mean finding new sources of hops or using local vendors to sell its beers for reduced prices. These efforts help cut shipping costs, reducing the carbon footprint generated by the brewery’s business operations. They also look to hire DMV residents to continue boosting the local economy.
The Guild has helped create over 1,400 jobs, generating about $193 million in turn, and DC Brau is a strategic partner in this economic gain. “Jeff and I could only dream of what DC Brau and the D.C. beer community would be at the 10-year mark. The reality far exceeds even our wildest expectations,” Skall said.