One of the most popular culinary trends in recent years has been the localization of food. Restaurants now import ingredients from as small a radius as possible—in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint—and they gladly boast their sources right on their menus.
Washington, D.C. is quite aligned with this trend, with many of the top restaurants in the area using only locally-sourced items. The numerous farms located in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania makes this easy. But one part of the menu often escapes this theme.
When restaurateurs draft their alcohol menu, the options for picking local-brewed beer are slim. At least that was the case up until the past two years. Since then, this area has seen an explosion of breweries, producing kegs, bottles and cans that compete on the national scene.
There’s Starr Hill Brewery in Charlottesville, Virginia; DC Brau Brewing Company in Northeast, and in a residential neighborhood where you’d almost never expect to find it, Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, VA.
Port City Brewing is best known for its darkest beer, Port City Porter, which is served in hundreds of restaurants across the District, Maryland and Virginia.
Like DC Brau, Port City Brewing traces it lineage to older brewers in the area, ones that disappeared in the 20th century, but are now being revived by artisanal brewers.
Port City Brewing’s grandfather and inspiration was an Alexandria brewer, the Robert Portner Brewing Company, that opened the year after the Civil War ended. At its zeitgeist, the brewery was one of the largest in the South. But when Prohibition came about, it closed its doors.
Almost a century later, in January 2011, the doors reopened when Port City Brewing revived the tradition. In the past year, the company has been churning out beers that are as popular locally as any national brand.
If you’d like to witness the brewing process first hand, Port City Brewing offers tours that are a fun trip for any alcohol enthusiast.
The brewery is located right off Duke Street, at 3950 Wheeler Avenue, in the Western part of Alexandria and is situated in a residential neighborhood. Heading there, you pass townhouses and front lawns before reaching a low-slung brick building that looks nothing like a traditional brewery, but rather a data center.
Appearances are deceiving, especially in this case, because once you step inside, you see the sleek, modern, industrial design. Tours of the brewery are offered only on Saturdays, three times a day, at 12:30, 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. and they are inexpensive for what you get. A $7 ticket earns you a half-hour tour of the entire brewing process from steeping: hops to bottling finished product. After that, you are taken to the tasting room, where you can sample everything you’ve watched the company craft.
Among the choices are Port City’s Monumental IPA, Essential Pale Ale, Optimal Wit and the aforementioned Port City Porter. When you are finished tasting everything the brewery has to offer, you’ll receive a complimentary Port City pint glass.
The brewery also sells inexpensive growlers. You can buy a reusable glass jug for $4, which holds four pints, and can be filled for just $11.
If you can’t make it to the tour on a Saturday, the tasting room is also open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 5-8 p.m. on the weekdays and 12-5 p.m. on the weekends.
Or if you live further from Alexandria and can’t visit in person, simply keep your eyes open, because Port City’s Beers can be found just about anywhere in the area.
And then you can tip your glass a to locally-sourced beer.
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