By DCBeer Contributor Jessie Szalay
November 15, 2012
Mari Rodela has only recently started working at DC Brau, where her husband Jeff Hancock is head brewer and co-owner, but she’s a long-time fixture of the DC beer scene. This is evident tonight at Meridian Pint, where she seems to know everyone. It’s the yearly release of Great Lake Christmas Ale, and the place is swarming with local beer folk. Mari hugs many of them warmly, as old friends. Effusive and enthusiastic, Mari is passionate about beer and its community. We find a cozy downstairs corner to talk about beer culture and how Mari and DC Brau fit into it.
What exactly is your role at the brewery?
We’re still figuring it out. My background is in public health management, and I do some HR, so I do some of that at the brewery. I do a lot of different things, and they’re all exciting. At GABF, I did a lot of networking, making connections. There were so many people from different parts of the country, and it was cool to share the DC Brau story with them.
What was their reaction?
People were very surprised that DC didn’t have a brewery until so recently. And they’re excited about it. They understand that having breweries in DC helps the greater beer ecosystem. And DC is changing so much. Jeff and I, we lived in Ann Arbor where there are lots of local breweries and that’s what you drank—and DC’s now starting to look more like that. For a long time, Maryland and Virginia—Baltimore especially—carried the beer culture for this area.
How is DC beer culture unique?
Beer culture everywhere is people-driven. In DC, not everyone is from here, and the beer culture reflects that. Brewers here are from all over, and that makes for amazing things. People bring different perspectives. We’re lucky in that way—we get a national and global perspective. We’re aware of the national trends. Like right now, there’s this trend in off-the-wall beers. Short’s in Michigan, for example, has the Nicie Spicie [a spiced wheat ale with with fresh grated lemon and orange rind, coriander, and black peppercorns].
What’s your favorite DC Brau?
Embers of the Deceased, which we released this past summer. It was an uncommon, Polish-style smoked beer called a Grätzer. It has a pretty low alcohol content and a lightly smoked flavor, like a hint of campfire. It was awesome, and we brewed it with Bluejacket. I also really like the On the Wings of Armageddon. It’s a nicely balanced Double IPA. IPAs have been trendy on the craft beer circuit for a while, but they’ve been making them really bitter. Beers like On the Wings of Armageddon, which isn’t so bitter, that’s new. It’s new that IPAs and DIPAs don’t have to be so bitter, so super-strong, so high octane. Part of it has to do with all the hybrid hop varieties.
Do you see yourself as an ambassador for women in beer?
I hope so. I love beer. I love to get other women excited about it, and it’s also nice to talk to other women who feel the same way about beer. There are so many women doing amazing things in beer right now, right here in DC.
I also think it’s important to be a beer advocate, not a beer snob. I try to encourage people to try new things. It’s like, “You’re drinking that? Try this.” Because I’m interested in quality of life. Beer enhances it. It creates community. As a hobby, it’s something that allows you to be creative in a way you never were before. And there’s a whole community. You run into the same people. I’ve been interested in beer for a long time, and it’s always been part of who I am.
What brew really turned you onto beer?
My first discovery that beer could be something more was Dixie Blackened Voodoo. I grew up in Northern Virginia, and when I tried it, it was so totally different. It was amazing, so I started looking for things. And I traveled a lot for my job, and I learned about all the beer there. Like, go to Texas and you’ll discover that Shiner is a craft beer there. You see different Shiner brews all over Texas.
When you’re in a new place, it’s where you start. It’s a way to meet the craft beer community, to learn about the town. People are always excited and ready to promote their local craft breweries. It’s awesome!
Thanks to Mari for taking the time to talk to DCBeer. If you have someone you'd like us to talk with, leave their name in the comments, and we'll track them down!