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Brewing in DC: Catching Up to 1914

Step it up, DC. History is shaming you on your beer drinking. The volume of beer brewed in DC in 1914 dwarfs 2014 output, and while there are still a few months left in 2015, it looks like we’ll yet again be trumped by brewers a hundred years ago.

It’s not even a contest: we are brewing a lot less beer in DC today than we did a century ago. 210,284 barrels less to be exact. The Year Book of the United State Brewers' Association states that brewers in the District of Columbia produced 230,944 barrels in 1914. Nearly a quarter million barrels – that’s more than the whole state of Virginia brewed last year. Well done, historic DC!

In 2014, production of beer in DC totaled 20,660 barrels. That’s not bad – we rank 29th in the nation for barrels brewed per capita – but that’s only one tenth of our output from a century ago.  We’ve got a ways to go before we catch up with our past, but we’re heading in the right direction.

Today's Brewers Association, not to be confused with 1915's Brewers' Association, feels the same way. Federal Affairs Manager Katie Marisic wrote, “With over 4,022 breweries in the United States we are getting close to surpassing the historical high of 4,131 breweries (in 1873) in the U.S. so hopefully that number will continue to grow.”

It all comes down to drinking more beer. While there's not a lot of great data on consumption, it's fairly safe to assume the vast majority of beer sold in DC today is made elsewhere. This makes sense in what remains a transient city full of those yearning for their hometown beer, but we can do better. If you're a DC restaurant or bar, consider adding a DC-brewed option on the menu. Beer doesn’t get any fresher.

The same goes for consumers. You should buy more (local) beer. It's delicious. This is not to encourage you to drink irresponsibly, but find reasons to help your brewers make more. Gift it to your neighbors at their next dinner party. Give it to your boss for Boss' day, your assistant for Admin Day. Use it to bring your family and friends closer together. Do historic DC proud and buck up. There are more barrels to be brewed.

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