What’s unique about the DC-area craft brew scene?

WASHINGTON — There are now 7,000 breweries in the U.S., with an estimated 1,000 openings in 2018 alone, according to the Brewers Association.

And in its year-end report, it says the craft market’s economic impact has grown to more than $76 billion and directly employs 135,000 people at breweries and brewpubs.

The association also says the D.C. region has become an international beer market and is on the radar with local regional and national beers. Plus, the area brewery scene is great.

“In Washington, D.C. you’ve got more than 15 breweries. The District ranks 27th compared to other states, and I know you want to be a state,” the Brewers Association’s craft beer program director Julia Herz told WTOP.

“And Virginia is really coming on strong with almost 200 breweries. And I am loving the rivalry I am seeing between Maryland and Virginia,” she said.

There is also a lot of beer regionality, in part because beer, like wine, has terroir (the environmental factors, like soil a climate, that make its taste unique to the area), and in part because of local tastes.

“Breweries are using local ingredients and look at the barrel. Look at brewers like Right Proper in D.C. and how they are doing barrel-aged beers. And those barrels have personalities. They are affected by humidity, and D.C. was built on a swamp, so there is lots of humidity,” Herz said.

“The mid-Atlantic region is not as known for bitter, West Coast-style IPAs, but you’ve got juicier hazy IPAs showing up in the area,” she said.

Across the country there, is a huge interest in beer brewing, even if it’s in the garage or basement.

The Beer Association says the number of home brewers in the U.S. has grown to an estimated 1.1 million, and home-brewed beers total 1.4 million barrels a year, the equivalent of 1 percent of total U.S. beer production.

That doesn’t mean every home brewer is good at it.

“Well, practice makes perfect. Anyone who bakes or cooks knows everything you do isn’t always a home run,” Herz said.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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