Late last year we posted that Brookland was the epicenter, geographically speaking, of the DC beer renaissance. What went unmentioned was despite being surrounded by breweries, and soon a distillery, there are very few places to enjoy local beers in the area. Thus, it’s very good news that the first beer-centric restaurant opening of 2012 will take place in Brookland, an untapped market for both dining and craft beer options. Menomale, which is either Italian for “good thing” or roughly translates as “an old friend you haven’t seen in a while,” hopes to open in late April and will pair craft beer with Neapolitan-style pizza. I sat down with Leland Estes, partner and beer director of Menomale at Brookland’s own Col. Brook’s Tavern.* I tried to wean Leland, a California native, off west coast-style IPAs with a Bell’s Two Hearted (Bell’s does not distribute to California) and a DC Brau Corruption, both on tap, with limited success, as we talked about his project.
DCBeer: What was your craft beer “aha!” moment?
Leland: I like to call these “beerpiphanies.” My dad and I went to Belgium when I was 18. Drinking tripels that were light and refreshing, yet between 7 and 11 percent acohol by volume, that was a real eye opener. Then we went to Brewery De Halve Maan (ed note: brewers of Bruges Zot), and I was hooked. After we got back to California, we started homebrewing. I knew I wanted to do something with beer, so I started a catering business that specialized in beer pairings.

DCBeer: How did you meet your partner in the project, (ed: the pizzaiolo Ettore Rusciano)?
Leland: We met through a mutual friend and wanted to do something. We hooked up with an investor, who owns the property in Brookland and wanted to develop it, so here we are.

DCBeer: How many taps will Menomale have?
Leland: Twenty, with no macros. I plan on dividing the taps into three categories. First, five very approachable beers, ones that are gateways into more flavorful and/or esoteric styles (ed note: Peroni, owned by SABMiller, may be one of these taps). The next ten taps will be the core of what we’ll serve; preaching to the converted and dragging a few people outside their comfort zone. The other five will be what I want to drink: sours, some barrel-aged beers, something strange, off the beaten path. We’ll do beer flights, prearranged as well as letting people choose.

DCBeer: DC residents are no strangers to Neopolitan-style pies served with craft beer, with Pizzeria Paradiso and to a lesser extent Two Amys. Location aside, where’s the value added?
Leland: (Laughs) Well, location will be a big part of it. We think there’s definitely room in DC, and especially here in Brookland for another place to eat, to hang out. In terms of pizza, we’ve been scouting the competition. Ettore is from Naples, is VPN-certified, and we think ours will stand up to anyone else’s in DC. We’re going to import ingredients from Italy and keep it very authentic.

DCBeer: Okay, enough food talk. What’s in your fridge?
Leland: Well, I’m working between 16-20 hours a day to get this place open, but I do have a bunch of Stillwater Ales products..

DCBeer: Are there plans to serve local beers at Menomale?
Leland: Absolutely. I’ve been busy with this, but I want to visit both DC Brau and Chocolate City and talk to them about doing something, about getting their products in here (ed: at this point I introduce him to DC Brau’s Corruption IPA. He praises the grain bill without showing too much of his California chauvinism).

DCBeer: What do you think the immediate future of craft beer holds in the US?
Leland: Two things. First, wild yeasts, ones that really give a sense of place, that contribute to beer having terroir, like wine. We’ll be able to speak of beer having local flavors that are distinctive. Second, lagers, and in particular, strange and inventive lagers. (Ed: at this point Leland mentions India Pale Lagers, which blows my mind. Evidently both Ballast Point and Avery are working on these. I mention Flying Dog’s cherry black lager and his eyes light up.)

Other details gleamed from this conversation include the possibility of olive oil tastings, and neighborhood delivery. Menomale will focus on the Campania region for wine service if you’re into that sort of thing, or if you’re like me and have a significant other who doesn’t care for beer. Stay tuned for more information on Menomale as their opening date draws closer. You can follow along below.!/menomale_dc

* Fun trivia fact: Tom Cizauskas sold Col. Brooks Tavern its first keg of Clipper City, now Heavy Seas, in 2002.