ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Port City Brewing Co. opened a decade ago as the first packaging brewery inside the Beltway since there was a Beltway.¹ It was also the first brewery in the city since prohibition ended Robert Portner Brewery production in 1916 (PDF).²
The Washington, D.C. area lagged behind other regions in craft breweries for years. Foggy Bottom tried to get there,³ but never reached critical mass or began brewing locally. 2011 was a big year with several breweries, including DC Brau following Port City to market.
Port City’s Wheeler Ave. location serves as the production facility and a tasting room. I sampled Optimal Wit, their Belgian wheat beer at Chadwicks in May 2011. I’ve, uh, sampled it a few more times since then.
In 2012, I took the brewery tour as a birthday excursion with a couple of friends. The Hopzooka was sill called the Hop Cannon then.
When a major storm knocked out power for several days, Port City pivoted and came up with Derecho Common. I still pick up a six-pack annually when it’s in season.
In 2013, Port City doubled production. That fall, Port City and other area beers were on tap at Capitals/Wizards games. They would go on tap at Nationals Park as well.
Grants from the commonwealth of Virginia and city contributed towards expansion in 2016.³
Being first to market is important, but more important is brewing good beer. In 2013, the brewery won four medals, including gold for Optimal Wit, at the Great American Beer festival. In 2015, they were Small Brewery of the Year. They have continued to medal in festivals including GABF regularly.⁴
The expansion of 2016 expansion included a Capital Bikeshare station as well as branded bike racks. Wheeler Avenue has bike lanes in both directions and is near the Holmes Run Trail via the Tarleton Park Trail. Prior to COVID-19, Pedals ‘N’ Pints as well as Joggers ‘N’ Lagers were regularly sponsored events.
Port City sells bicycle jerseys along with all sorts of other branded merchandise as well.⁵
It’s faster for me to ride my bike there than drive.
COVID-19 presents challenges to Port City and all businesses, in particular the loss of revenue from kegs to bars and restaurants – 60% of their business (Instagram video — if they put it on youtube, I’ll embed it).
Curbside pickup, beer delivery and more expansive outdoor seating followed. Even in winter, the socially distant seating area has been full of people every time I bike down there to get some beer.
Colossal VIII – A dopplebock that I only had once — I picked up a growler for my birthday party in 2019. It is one of the most enjoyable beers I have ever had.
Doppleback – Part of the Lager Series, this isn’t far off Colassal VIII.
Oktoberfest – Every August, I buy a case of it. Then it sits in the basement until the weather starts cooling down. Marzen is my favorite style of beer generally and I love Port City’s.
Rauch Marzen – A smokier take that is perfect for sitting out by the fire pit on a fall afternoon.
Tmare Pivo – A welcome entry from the Lager Series.
Optimal Wit – The perfect beer for those “certain evenings in late spring, a cool one can be very refreshing.”
Spoiler alert – I prefer lagers over ales.
¹ The Capital Beltway was completed in 1964, 8 years after Heurich Brewing closed.
² Two Portner great-granddaughters brought the brand back as a brewpub off of Van Dorn Street in the West End between 2016 and 2019.
³ Port City Brewing Company to expand – The Alexandria Times
⁴ Our Awards, Port City Brewing Co.