In May, we brought you the news that Handsome Brewing Company would launch in DC this fall. Well, it turns out fall is here, and so is Handsome. Next week, Handsome will begin releasing its first three beers at a series of events in DC and Baltimore. Handsome, which is a joint venture between local homebrewer Matt Humbard and beer scene stalwart Graham MacDonald.
The list of launch events looks something like so:
- Chapter 1: Launching Your Brewery – Sun, Sept 20 – Glen's Garden Market – 12pm-4pm
- Chapter 2: Launching In Baltimore – Tues, Sept 22 – Max's Taphouse – 4-8pm
- Chapter 3: Home Brewing! – Wed, Sept 23 – Meridian Pint – 5-8pm
- Chapter 4: Happy Hour! – Thu, Sept 24 – Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont – 5-7pm
- Chapter 5: Propagation! – Fri, Sept 25 – Smaltimore – 4-8pm
- Chapter 6: Belgian Tradition – Sun, Sept 27 – Granville Moore's – 6-9pm
But what are the beers you can drink at these launch events? To find out more, we reached out to MacDonald and Humbard via email. A lightly edited transcript of the interview is below.
DCBeer: Describe to us the beers you're launching with. Are these more beers that you see fitting into a niche that the local market doesn't currently meet, or are these styles that are improving on what's already out there?
Handsome: A little of both, we hope.
We’re starting with three beers.
First, Galaxy Saison, a delicate and tropical version of a Belgian saison, showcasing Australian Galaxy hops. Big Galaxy flavors of citrus, white peach, and passionfruit, with a nice dry, tight finish.
Second, we’ve got Medium & Message, an Abbey pale ale hopped with New Zealand Moteuka hops. Again, you get a touch of those southern hemisphere fruit notes, but it’s really nicely balanced against Belgian yeast and malt, and extremely sessionable at only 5.0% ABV.
Lastly, Strange Charm, what we’re calling a “re-invented brown ale.” It’s a little different than brown ales you typically see. We’ve used a ton (nearly) of Special B malt, which lends subtle nutty, chocolate aroma and flavor with strong notes of dried cherry and a touch of leather and tobacco. It’s very well textured and finishes clean. We’re really excited about it for fall.
But to get to your question, we think these particular beers are definitely a bit different than what other folks are doing in the market right now. DC is very fortunate to have such a wide array of beers available and such good local breweries. What we’re trying to do is enrich and expand the local beer scene, put out what we hope are some of the best representations of a given style, and also to create interesting takes on traditional styles that move beers in a new direction. Or to put it simply, we’re just trying to make amazing beers.
You'll be rotating some beers through the production schedule, can you give us a heads up on what the next round of beers will be, or are you waiting to see how the market responds to these?
We definitely have a bunch more beers we’re working on, in particular a 100% Brett IPA, a couple of different takes on pale ale styles, another hoppy saison or two, and a few other beers with mixed fermentation using Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces. These will be rotated into our production schedule when we have time and space to do so, and it’s fun to have a little variety. We’re certainly paying close attention to a number of market variables to help inform some of these choices, but it really comes down to what we feel we can add to the beer scene and what we can do that’s really special.
You're launching DC and Baltimore at the same time. This is a strategy we haven't seen before. What do you hope to gain by launching in two cities versus one?
We’re actually launching in DC and all of Maryland at once. Fortunately, it’s all the same distributor – Legends – which simplifies a lot of the logistical issues. Still, it’s quite a challenge to get out there and meet the folks at all the bars, restaurants, and growler shops in the region, as we are just two guys. The help Legends is providing us is invaluable, of course, but at the end of the day, we feel that being able to sit down and chat with people in person and explain who we are and what Handsome is about is the best way to get people interested in bringing us on.
You’re right that the other breweries in DC have started in just DC and worked up to Maryland and Virginia over a period of years. We believe that an “a little bit everywhere” approach will be more effective for us, as we’re mainly trying to win by putting out the best beers we can and trusting that folks that are into beer will like what we have to offer.
Also, since we’re necessarily a touch more expensive than many of the other local breweries due to our contract brewing business model, we simply can’t compete with them on high volume and low price. Distributing over a wider area just makes the most sense. Plus, given that we’re contracting as far out as Warrenton, Virginia and are in talks to brew in a number of spots out in Maryland, we’ve had a lot of folks outside the major cities email us who are interested in what we’re doing and are looking forward to trying our beers. We’re really happy to have the opportunity to make our beers available to them.
How large are the batches being released in this round? Will you be contract brewing constantly to stave off gaps in availability?
Each of the three batches this round were 30 BBLs. We are planning on adjusting our brewing schedule to meet demand in the market, and, fortunately, our production facility has been very flexible and understanding of our situation as new brewers. People talk a lot about the beer industry being very welcoming and friendly, and from our experience so far, it’s absolutely true.
Moving forward, we’re forecasting brew days every couple of weeks, but it really depends on how heavy the demand is and fitting into our production facility’s schedule. So you could say we’re planning to adapt!
How well did the recipes scale into production batches; did you notice much difference in the beers between the homebrew and production-sized batches?
Scaling our recipes to production size was one of our biggest concerns going into production, and we talked with everyone we could that would tolerate our millions of questions. There are a ton of people that we need to thank for being so patient and helpful with us. We feel very fortunate that the final beers turned out so close to our homebrew versions. There are obviously a few minor tweaks here and there to make to get these as close to perfect as possible, but we’re really relieved to have hit the marks we were aiming for on a production level.
Congrats to Handsome for making it into the market. Be sure to stop by one of their launch events next week and give them a big ole #dcbrews and #mdbeer welcome!