Denizens Brewing Company will close its Silver Spring (1115 East-West Hwy) location on Monday, October 23, 2023, leaving the spacious 12,000-square-foot brewery and restaurant in Riverdale Park (4550 Van Buren Street) as their sole taproom. As the first production brewery in Silver Spring, Denizens opened their East-West Highway location in 2014 and has served the community for the last decade. Whether it be events like the Make It Funky Festival, their award-winning barrel aged beers (Barrel Aged Low County Common recently won the Battle of the Barrel Aged Beers at Boundary Stone and The Glow Brett Golden Ale won a Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup in 2022), or the dog and family friendly, 200-seat beer garden, the closing of the Silver Spring location is a loss for Montgomery County.
Denizens pioneered the production brewery model in Montgomery County. Working with legislators at the county and state level, they single-handedly changed multiple laws to allow for self distribution and created the brewery taproom model where a brewery can serve their beer directly to consumers, but not be required to simultaneously run a full scale restaurant. Those legal changes knocked down barriers to entry for other breweries that opened after them. If you have noticed the proliferation of local beer on restaurant menus and in beer and wine shops in Montgomery County, you can thank Denizens for making that happen.
The decision to close the Silver Spring taproom is mostly because the original ten-year lease ends in October and the landlord wants to renew for another ten-year term. Denizens tried to negotiate a shorter term for renewal, but the landlord would not budge. After the uncertainty of the last few years, Per Silver Spring native, co-founder, and chief brand officer Julie Verratti, Denizens is not interested in signing a ten-year lease again. They also stopped brewing in Silver Spring in early 2022. These factors coupled with the much larger Riverdale Park production space just six miles away, made the decision straightforward for the business. The East-West Hwy Denizens staff members were informed of the decision to not renew the lease months before today’s official announcement and have been offered jobs at Riverdale Park if they want, or assistance in pursuing other job opportunities.
Denizens does not take the impacts of the closure or the effect they have had on the community lightly. From the jobs they have created for the hundreds of employees they have had in various capacities over the past decade, to the partnerships they’ve created and non-profits they’ve supported in and around Silver Spring, Denizens has been a fixture of downtown Silver Spring (DTSS) and will continue to be a leader in the Maryland beer industry. Denizens beer will still be available in and around Montgomery County, but the taproom space and biergarten will no longer be open in Silver Spring.
During the pandemic, Denizens started moving brewing equipment to the Riverdale Park location and selling excess equipment to other regional breweries such as Atlas Brew Works, Lost Generation, and Black Narrows. With these moves and a ten-year lease coming up, the closing of the Silver Spring location became somewhat of an open secret; the entirety of their production has taken place in Riverdale Park since the beginning of 2022. In the wake of packaging their 3 millionth can, owners/founders Julie Verratti, Emily Bruno, and Jeff Ramirez welcome the next chapter at Riverdale Park. The transition affords them the time and focus to double their efforts into Riverdale Park Denizens, further enhancing a space that honors their commitment to service and keeping us all “Unified By Beer.”
To that end, the Riverdale Park location is home to weekly Thursday night trivia, monthly Drag Bingo (every 2nd Wednesday), regularly scheduled open houses (brewery tours), and a full-service bar with wine, hard seltzers, craft cocktails, and non-alcoholic options. The facility also has two semi-private event spaces. Complementing the beer, Denizens has partnered with the team from Catalyst Hotdogs to bring you New Jersey style comfort food & more to enjoy with your favorite Denizens brew.
This move for Denizens reflects their resilience–think back to the boom of the 2012-2015 years when many breweries began to open in this area. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, many have had to adapt, change their model(s), or simply shutter their doors. Denizens remains a homegrown, family-owned and operated, and customer-oriented business. The transition can best be described as “bittersweet” by Verratti. Once the only production brewery in downtown Silver Spring, Denizens passes the tap handles to Silver Branch Brewing and the brand new Third Hill Brewing. As of now we don’t know if another brewery will replace Denizens in Silver Spring, as was the case with Third Hill replacing Astro Lab.
Considering the time remaining until Sunday, October 22, 2023, I encourage us all to go and send off the beloved Silver Spring Denizens location with all the love it deserves as an industry changing establishment, first as a production brewery and then as a taproom, comes to a close.