The sign in the window reads: “THANK YOU For 7 years of craft beer & food Gordon Biersch Navy Yard will be closing our doors March 1st. Thank you for your patronage. Please visit our Annapolis Location.” And with the announcement on this 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, DC’s last winner of a Great American Beer Festival medal was no more.
Craftworks Holdings, the group that owns Gordon Biersch, Rock Bottom, and District Chophouse, has closed several area locations of Gordon Biersch. We have confirmed that Gordon Biersch Navy Yard, Rockville, Baltimore, and Virginia Beach are all shuttered. Employees were given no notice, save rumors swirling Sunday evening. The Tysons Corner location remains open, and Nassim Sultan’s beers are worth a visit.
The closures are part of a nation-wide trend that unfortunately came to DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Gordon Biersch Phoenix closed in February, as did the Honolulu brewpub. According to its website, Craftworks operates over 390 restaurants, brewery restaurants and entertainment venues in 40 states. That number decreases with the closures. An October 2019, archive of the website listed 20 locations and now lists 10, according to Baltimore Fishbowl. Two days after closing the area locations, Craftworks themselves filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
With the rise of production breweries in and around the District over the last decade, many legacy brewpubs are overlooked by beer fans. However, it’s hard to overstate the effect places like Gordon Biersch have had on the local beer scene. Devils Backbone brewmaster Jason Oliver got his start at the 9th Street Gordon Biersch location, which closed in 2018. Rockville counts Union’s Kevin Blodger (Old Pro Gose started as a one-off at Rockville) and Silver Branch’s Christian Layke as alumni.
The Tyson’s location took home a Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2018 for their Czech-style pilsner, brewed by Justin Damadio. Navy Yard won gold in 2017 in the Hefeweizen category, the District’s last GABF medal. Travis Tedrow, who co-founded and runs Jasper Yeast with Jasper Akerboom, brewed that beer. Any area brewery would be lucky to have Chris Cashell (Baltimore), Justin Damadio (Navy Yard) Scott Lasater (Rockville), and Adam Gurtshaw (Virginia Beach), on their brewing teams, to say nothing of the bartenders and servers affected by these closures.
Some brewers chimed in to pay their respects to Gordon Biersch’s excellent brewing teams. Still, the internet commentariat flamed GB Navy Yard for its food and service. Commercial brewer Matt Ryan, wrote “Par for the course as usual though. People who disregard GB/Rock Bottom at a mere mention don’t know shit about beer.”
DC Brewers Guild executive director Paul Dean confirmed Gordon Biersch will not be at this year’s HopFest. He added, “For years Gordon Biersch and its team of talented brewers have been valuable members of DC’s craft brewing scene, and will be sorely missed. We wish the best to their many employees as they look to find new employment opportunities in our community.”
As for the Navy Yard neighborhood, fear not. Atlas will open their second facility a block north of Nats Park later this month, and Forbes, that esteemed arbiter of cool, notes that while many DC neighborhoods are hip, “none is shining brighter” than Navy Yard.