Dan Bedford, a brewer for Atlas Brew Works, pours a sample of District Common beer while filling kegs at the brewery. Atlas plans to be open for tastings most Saturdays.
It would be easy for a new brewery in Washington, D.C., to feel the weight of expectations, given how much this town likes its craft beer. But the team behind Atlas Brew Works doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world on its shoulders. Those involved say they feel if they keep putting out quality beer, the local scene will embrace their nascent operation.
“People are appreciating locally produced food more than ever, and beer is part of that,” said Will Durgin, head brewer and co-owner of Atlas.
Justin Cox, Atlas’ CEO and other co-owner, agreed that Washington’s receptiveness to craft brew, locally produced food, community-supported agriculture and farm-to-table establishments makes now a great time to start pouring their beer.
“D.C. right now is coming into its own. ... The whole nation is shifting, and we’ve been very fortunate it’s so receptive,” Cox said.
The Atlas brew crew got a good taste of demand for its initial offerings — Rowdy, District Common and NSFW — on Sept. 14, when it attempted a soft opening for Saturday tastings at the Ivy City operation. No publicity, just spreading the word to a couple of friends here and there.
Nice try. They were mobbed, with about 250 people, including D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, stopping by to quaff a few and grab growlers for the road.
Ivy City, Here We Come
It certainly wasn’t due to people window-shopping. Atlas headquarters at 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, Suite 102, is on a desolate industrial stretch sandwiched between New York Avenue and Gallaudet University. It’s across the street from Mt. Olivet Cemetery and a D.C. Public Works lot. But word of mouth was enough, and they were pleased with what they had initially intended as a “dry run.”
“We made some money. Sold some beer,” Durgin said. Perhaps it was the somewhat dissonant idea of a “dry run” for a beer happening that led to the crowded house.
Atlas kept up the momentum on Sept. 21, with strategic spots at the H Street Festival, including at foodie-lover paradise Smith Commons and at the festival tent of H Street pub The Pug.
It plans to continue the tastings on most Saturdays, including this coming one. The sum total of the staff is Cox, Durgin and brewer Dan Bedford.
In making their way in Ivy City — which is also home to New Columbia Distillers, the makers of Green Hat Gin, over at 1832 Fenwick St. NE — Cox and Durgin weren’t attempting to make a statement about helping restore a long-neglected neighborhood.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.