Real talk: you’ve talked trash on Gordon Biersch. You’ve probably spoken negatively about some other brewpubs as well, but you’ve done it to GB. Mea culpa: I’ve done it too. See I used to think India Pale Ales and Imperial Pale Ales were the end-all be-all. I was too green to entertain the notion that a local amber lager could be better, or even fresher, than one trucked south from Pennsylvania. I couldn’t pick out the hops in Maerzen and who liked amber lager anyways? The one saving grace about GB was that they didn’t brew what I thought of (then) as the deceptively-titled “Bitter.” But that was many moons ago, when I swore the only way to enjoy a beer was “go big hops or go home.” I had yet to value the word “consistency” as it applied to beer and I couldn’t figure out why the newest IPA from my favorite brewery, that just opened, didn’t always taste as good as it did the month before.
When I visited the newest Gordon Biersch, GB Navy Yard, I found a nice range of German and Czech-style beers all brewed in-house. The quality of these beers are unflinching and if you are a fan of pilsner, you will find a flawless pils with consistent quality, every visit. The man behind these beers, Head Brewer Travis Tedrow, is a force to be reckoned with in the #dcbrews community.
Tedrow has put together DC’s first-ever Kölsch Competition, a feat impossible to someone not familiar with decorated area brewers. 20 breweries agreed to make Kölsch-style ale for the competition: Blue Mountain Brewing Co., Hardywood Park Brewing Co., Brewer’s Alley Brewing Co., Lost Rhino Brewing Co., Corcoran Brewing Co., Brewer’s Art, Bluejacket, Capitol City Brewing Co., Devils Backbone Brewing Co., D.C. Brau Brewing Co., Rock Bottom Bethesda, Mad Fox Brewing Co., Center of the Universe Brewing Co., GB Annapolis, GB Baltimore, GB D.C. F St., GB D.C. Navy Yard, GB Rockville, GB Tysons Corner, and GB Virginia Beach.
Tedrow’s vision for the Cup was both collaborative and individual; he wanted to bring brewers together. Imagine, for a moment, coordinating 20 collaborative beers. It would be a logistics nightmare. The brewers wanted to do their own thing, Tedrow said, so this competition will be the best of both worlds. Everyone came together around one specific style, Kölsch, and none of them had to step foot outside the brewery to do so.
Graduating from the Siebel Institute, class of 2007, Tedrow and his classmates have done some extraordinary brewing. Members of his cohort have opened impressive operations like the Denver Brewing Company, Roy Pitz Brewing Company, and DESTIHL.
Tedrow first got his boots wet out in Portland, Oregon, in 2006, at the Laurelwood Brewpub. Ironically enough, six out of the seven beers on tap at Laurelwood are ales, the one that’s not is a pilsner. When I visited Tedrow at GB Navy Yard, all of his beers were lagers, save one, a hefeweizen. His first beer out of the lagering tanks at GB? Czech Pilsner.
Tedrow was a brewer at the Capitol City Brewing Company for the last five and a half years. Now, he is Head Brewer at Navy Yard. His system is a 15-barrel brewhouse with five 30-barrel fermenters and 220 barrels of lagering/serving space (six 17 bbl horizontals and four 30-bbl bright tanks). This system has a 1500 bbl capacity for lager beer.
Take your shots at GB, call other breweries “even more anticipated” I won’t get mad. But remember, good lager is like the proverb, “slow and steady wins the race.” Sometimes the proverb references a tortoise and sometimes it references fermentation profile.
Follow Head Brewer Travis Tedrow @gbnavyyardbrew.