We’re two weeks into the year and we already have a trend: Virginia breweries are moving into DC, be it via smaller brewing facilities or taprooms. First up, Solace Brewing.
Solace’s original facility opened in Sterling, VA in 2017. In 2020 they headed east for the first time, turning the former Mad Fox brewpub in Falls Church into the Solace Outpost. Their second Solace Outpost will open any week now in Buzzards Point, near Audi Field and Navy Yard in the Maren Apartments development at 71 Potomac Ave SE. Unlike Sterling and Falls Church, this will be a taproom with no brewing on-site. Co-founder and Director of Operations Jon Humerick tells us to expect 12-14 beers at opening, moving to 17 draft lines over the next few months. Look for beers from both Virginia locations on tap, as well as cans and growlers to go. Readers probably know Solace from their IPAs Partly Cloudy and Lucy Juicy, which are excellent examples of the hazy style, but don’t sleep on hoppy brown ale Beer:30 or their Brave Noise pale ale.
Food service will operate as it does in Falls Church: seat yourself with QR codes for ordering at tables. Expect elevated “ball-park fare” in the form of burgers, tots, bowls, and brats from the teams behind Hilton brothers’ restaurants and Blackfinn. With two stadiums and their hundred-plus yearly events nearby, we expect this will become a popular spot.
On the other side of the District, as first reported by Barred in DC, Crooked Run will be opening a small brewery and restaurant at 550 Morse St NE, near Union Market and across the street from The Bruery’s DC store. Like Solace, Crooked Run is no stranger to eastward expansion, with the original brewery in Leesburg opening in 2013 and a larger Sterling location in operation since 2017. Due to size constraints, Crooked Run will be doing something interesting with this space; they’ll produce wort, the liquid mixture of water and grain, in Sterling and then truck it to DC for fermentation, hopping, and kegging. Crooked Run will sell bottles and cans to go from this location, as well as wine. Their best known beers are probably the sour IPA Empress series, which melds fruited sours to hops, but we’re partial to their higher-gravity beers, including a barleywine-style ale brewed with almonds, and Jolly, a collaboration with Harry’s Reserve Fine Wine and Spirits in Navy Yard. Batch 2 is available at that store. Their wines are low intervention, featuring Virginia-grown grapes and native yeast in tres chic clear bottles. Co-owner and Production Manager Jake Endres says to expect “a restaurant created and managed by some very exciting chef partners.” We expect a late summer 2022 opening at the earliest.
In a way, Aslin was the first Virginia brewery to open in DC, with a pop-up near Nats Park during the 2018 season. Like Solace and Crooked Run, Aslin’s moved east, from Herndon in 2015 to Alexandria in 2019 (and then back to Herndon in a different location in 2020). In May of last year, Eater DC reported that Aslin was going to open Aslin Filling Station on 14th St NW, next to Chicken and Whiskey. Co-Founder Kai Leszkowicz tells us that those plans are well underway, with additional details coming soon. As of May, 2021 food was to be provided by food trucks that would park on-site, but the brewery is also planning a pizza concept in Arlington that may influence dining options in DC. Aslin is aiming to open the Filling Station by Memorial Day, with a 1-barrel brewing system they’ll use to train brewers and experiment. The rest of the beer will come from their larger Alexandria facility.
Why move into DC? It’s not just because that’s where the people are. On-premise sales for breweries are increasingly valuable as the competition at off-premise locations like bars and restaurants is fierce. Satellite facilities, be they taprooms or breweries, provide these companies with higher profit margins, and it doesn’t hurt that rents may be more reasonable with many bars and restaurants in dire straits because of the ongoing pandemic. “The margins make up for the lost distribution,” noted Hayes Humphreys, the Chief Operating Officer for Devils Backbone Brewing Company, in an interview with Josh Bernstein. “There’s lots of available retail space.”
Will any DC breweries return the favor and open in Arlington? Might we see Maryland breweries open satellite facilities in the District? Stay tuned, and as Crooked Run and Aslin get closer to opening, we’ll have more details on these projects.