A walk through the neighborhood during the city’s recent spell of warm weather led to an interesting observation: Chinatown has its fair share of brewpubs. Between the District Chophouse (509 7th Street, NW) and Gordon Biersch (900 F Street, NW), tasty beer is never too far. A few more blocks west lies Capitol City Brewing Company’s downtown location (1100 New York Avenue, NW). Three bars serving microbrewed beer all within a short ten minute walk of one another.
How do these brewpubs compare to each other? I decided to find out by visiting each, starting at Cap City and working eastward. First, a seasonal: their Belgian abbey-style ale, a potent, deep maroon colored brew served in a heavy glass goblet. Delicious indeed, but one was enough. I followed with their Amber Waves ale, a lighter ale and staple menu selection. Another good beer, but by now the bar was busy and too crowded for my taste. It was time to relocate.
A few minutes later I stepped into Gordon Biersch, where a smiling bartendress poured me a glass of their Vienna lager. This Bohemian-influenced lager, as opposed to Cap City’s abbey ale, could be drunk all night. The lagers went down smooth, lightly colored but with a fuller body than ordinary American lager. What Gordon Biersch’s beer lacks in on premises brewing it makes up for with its beautiful marble interior. While the bar currently reflects its modern history as a bank, the location is most notorious for hosting one John Wilkes Booth for a drink just hours before he changed American history.
As the night progressed and glasses were refilled, I decided to leave the Chophouse for another night; Gordon Biersch’s opulent interior and surprisingly delicious beer encouraged me to stay. The Chophouse’s freshly brewed beer – especially its Amber ale, my favorite – would be waiting for me on a future visit. The irony of the situation – missing the true neighborhood brewpub in favor of the others – was not lost on me. Next time, perhaps, I’ll start there and work westward instead.
THF is a Penn Quarter resident who blogs about the culture of drinking at thehipflask.wordpress.com