Starting on Friday, May 3rd, beer lovers in DC will get the opportunity to frequent another watering hole with locally made beer, Valor Brewpub. Located on Barracks Row, Valor opened last October on the lower floor of Ugly Mug. Since that time, Valor has been serving up elevated brewpub food from Chef Ryan Hackney. The food is excellent and on par with any great brewpub. With the completion of the brewhouse, head brewer Greg Maddrey is now ready to bring the beer component online.
Entering Valor feels like walking into a cozy cave. There is exposed brick along the southern wall with a lot of the military memorabilia you would expect from a place called Valor, and the bar is covered in this intricate and beautifully stained tin ceiling cladding. The brewpub was designed as a place by veterans and for veterans, which shows through in both the décor and the staff. Valor has an ongoing partnership with Hill Vets, an organization that helps military veterans reintegrate into civilian life, and works with them to provide work training and job placement assistance. Additionally, the brewpub has committed to working with any veterans group that wishes to put on an event, with 10% of sales going back to the group.
Valor Brewpub’s Greg Maddrey
I got the chance to sit down with Maddrey and talk about Valor’s beer and his brewing philosophy. Maddrey, a veteran of the US Navy, has been brewing professionally in the Pacific Northwest for the better part of 20 years. He initially came to the area to serve as the brewmaster at Portner Brewing in Alexandria, and when that business faced its untimely end he came on board as Valor’s head brewer. Unlike many brewers, Maddrey explains that he has the freedom to make what he wants, which is “clean beer that will have you coming back for more and leave not being drunk.” Valor currently has five taps, with a goal of eight available plus a cask or two. From what I tried, every beer was well-executed and indeed clean and approachable. Two standouts are the double IPA, a classic bitter and slightly malty example of the style, and the porter, which has a rich chocolate flavor provided entirely via chocolate malt and brewing technique. For those beer fans looking for traditional styles done well, Valor is a great option. For his part, Maddrey is most concerned about the guy or gal sitting at the end of the bar after a long day working in construction or some other blue collar job. “That beer is what he’s looking forward to at the end of the day. He might drink it slow and relax, might chug it and walk out, not to be seen again, but he’s had a good moment from something I’ve made.” When I told Maddrey that his quote sounded like a Bruce Springsteen lyric, he confirmed (with a mischievous smile) that he did indeed grow up in Jersey.
Tucked in the back of the brewpub is the enclosed 7 BBL system that Maddrey works on. The brewery’s brite tanks are visible behind the bar, each named after a commissioned US Navy ship. Beer nerds will be able to notice all sorts of details about what’s going on in the tank from boards hanging off the vessels. The space is small, barely able to fit more than one or two people at a time, and hot, probably worthy of its own Springsteen verse, but Maddrey makes it work. Owing to his Navy experience, he explained to me that all the steel in the brewery, indeed most of the steel in every modern brew house in America, actually comes from salvaged steel off of former American naval ships. The material is then recycled by predominantly Chinese manufacturers into the stainless steel that is used to produced mash tuns and kettles and the other components of a brewing system. Throughout his twenty year career, Maddrey has worked at multiple breweries but has also been a part of opening a distillery and a winery. That experience shines through in the beer Maddrey is producing and hopefully, Valor Brewpub will be his home for a long time.
In addition to their location on Barracks Row, Valor will also have a pop-up bar at Union Market for the next two months, where they will be providing a limited food and beer menu. You can visit either location to get growler fills of their beer.
We would like to thank Greg Maddrey and the whole team at Valor Brewpub for their time and hospitality.