Brewing History Tour

With author Garret Peck as our guide, we dove into the the brewing history of our wet city. After leaving from the shop, our bike tour began just down the road on 7th Street at a monument to the fruitless pursuit of the temperance movement...

The Temperance Fountain, once voted "the ugliest fountain in the city", was built strategically between one of the seediest parts of town and in close proximity to the Capitol building, notes Peck.

It’s builder hoped that by providing clean drinking water, the residents would happily give up their spirits and brews. Prohibition had the opposite effect, the 270 saloons operating in the District that were forced to close were soon replaced by nearly 3000 speakeasies. 

Parking lot H and I by Nationals Stadium used to be waterfront property, and at the foot of the canal stood Washington’s first brewery, aptly named the Washington Brewery. The first wave of brewers were of English and Irish descent and thus produced ales, Peck explains. This Brewery stood from 1805 to 1836 and was one of the first industrial sites in D.C. The surrounding Navy Yard provided many happy customers for the brewers. 

Ride participants included friend of Peck, the legendary local reporter, Tom Sherwood.

Eventually, in the 1850’s, a wave of German immigrants brought the perfect cure to humid D.C. summers, the lager. This style of brewing quickly gained popularity. Due to demands of the lager brewing process this industry ushered in technologies such as air conditioning and mechanical ice production. 

Numerous people involved early on in the local brewing industry were buried at Congressional cemetery. This victorian era park was designed to encourage leisure and picnics alongside relatives who may have passed. One of the most prolific brewing families, the Beckert's, are buried here.  

At one point, breweries were the second largest employer in the city behind the Federal government. In recent years craft brewing has seen a renaissance, and there are now more breweries in the city than at any point since prohibition. One such brewery, is Shaw’s own Right Proper Brewing Company

Riders, Brad and his daughter Claire, survey the offerings.

Thor and the crew at Right Proper were happy to serve up a wide array of their beers. Peck happily signed copies of his latest book Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. 

You ride through history every time you get on your bike in this city. With the help of local experts like Mr. Peck, we can uncover some of these hidden gems and get a true taste for where we live.


By Francis Tatem, Media Specialist