Heurich House: Home To Washington's Oldest Brewer

01 Aug
August 1, 2013

The Washington, D.C. brewing scene has exploded in recent years. From Port City in Alexandria, Virginia to DC Brau in Bladensburg and Three Stars Brewing near Brightwood, this city is starting to gain credibility in the world of beer.

That trend is unlikely to stop, especially with the upcoming opening of Bluejacket Brewery down near Nationals Park . With all this new development going on in the District, it’s sometimes easy to forget the rich brewing history Washington, D.C. has.

When it comes to making beer, this city’s was churning out kegs well before the recent boom. And if you’ve ever wandered around south of Dupont Circle, you’ve walked right past the heart of it.

On the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and 20th Street sits a hulking building, very out of place among the row houses of the neighborhood. It’s the Heurich House, and though it’s a mansion, it’s much more reminiscent of a castle, with a large brick turret rising four stories into the sky. The turret and the rest of the red brick exterior make up what is one of D.C.’s most interesting, yet least known edifices.

The building was the home of Christian Heurich, who ran the Christian Heurich Brewing Company, one of Washington’s oldest commercial breweries. The brewery was in business from 1894-1956, sitting on the land that now makes up the Kennedy Center. Heurich was in charge of the brewery for most of his life. At the time of his death at age 102, he was known as the world’s oldest brewmaster. And as a tribute to the business he ran, as well as its exterior, the Heurich House in Dupont is referred to as “The Brewmaster’s Castle.”

Built in the early 1890s, its steel and concrete construction made it the town’s first fireproof building. But despite the materials, it maintained a Victorian look and feel, especially in its interior.

That makes a trip to the Heurich House a real journey back to turn-of-the-century Washington, D.C. The 31-room house hasn’t changed since the original construction, maintaining the furnishings of the era. The house is replete with ornate wood carvings, individually-cast fireplaces and hand-painted ceilings.

Another part of the allure of the house is how technologically advanced it was for its age. Not only did it have a revolutionary in-home communication system, there was circulating hot water and electric lighting. It was a house build right on the cusp of American technological innovation, and it stands as one of the first marvels of the conveniences of modern society.

All tours of the Heurich House are given by a docent, who will guide you through the mansion and answer any questions. The tours are only available three days a week, and must be booked in advance. They run on Thursday and Friday at 11:30am and 1:00 p.m., and Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tours are only $5 a person.

So with D.C. beers making a comeback on the national stage, take a trip to the Heurich House to see how this city’s most preeminent brewer lived over a century ago.

- David

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