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Naptown Pint: Annapolis' DRY 85 to host DC Brau's Maryland launch

DC Brau beer poster
DC Brau beer poster (Courtesy Image, Capital Gazette)

During a recent brunch rush at Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge on West Street, I struck up a conversation with a fellow beer lover from Baltimore, who happened to be sitting next to me.

At first, things went swimmingly: We had similar tastes when it came to beer styles, as well as a mutual, healthy distrust of people of who do not like the movie, "What About Bob?" Then things took a turn for the smug when my beer writing came up.

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He paused. A genuinely distressed expression came over his face, and he put his hand on my shoulder.

"You're a beer writer in Annapolis? Oh man. Wow. I'm so sorry."

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This Charm City philanthropist - who must have been on a goodwill mission to spread the gospel in our small, Podunk town - looked as if he was one second away from setting up a fundraising telethon on my behalf.

I exited the conversation soon after, citing a need to wash my hair, immediately turning my attention back to my food.

Unfortunately this isn't the first time I've encountered this kind of "compassion." While I appreciate the heartfelt concern, I want to make one thing abundantly clear to all of you social justice warriors who want to support the poor, weary citizens of Annapolis with 10 cents a day to give us a fighting chance at having a better craft beer life.

Annapolis is a craft beer town, and we're doing just fine.

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Yes, I know we're viewed as the annoying, preppy little sister living in the shadow of Baltimore, our cooler and more cultured big brother. But Annapolis is filled with passionate, intelligent people who actively celebrate and support the craft beer industry. And while we may not be tripping over breweries like our friends up Interstate 97, I dare you not to be blown away by what the members of Annapolis Homebrew Club create on a regular basis. (I consider myself in an emotionally committed relationship with the "Elevensies Breakfast Stout" brewed by Nathan Waters, a founding member of AHBC.)

Lucky for us, the Naptown beer scene is going to get another much-needed push next month, when we'll be given an epic reason to go out the night after the Super Bowl.

On Feb. 3, Washington, D.C.-based DC Brau is throwing its statewide Maryland distribution launch party at DRY 85, a speakeasy in downtown Annapolis. The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m., and will feature DC Brau's three core brews - The Corruption, an India pale ale; The Public, a pale ale; and my personal favorite, The Citizen, a Belgian-style ale - as well as their very popular American imperial IPA, On the Wings of Armageddon.

As a native Washingtonian, a good chunk of my drinking career took place in bars across all four quadrants of the District - from Southeast's Trusty's to Northwest's Meridian Pint - that proudly feature their iconic Capitol-emblazoned cans. So when I heard about the launch, I was stoked.

DC Brau co-founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock got their start on opposite sides of the same beer industry coin. Skall's background was in alcohol sales and marketing, whereas Hancock kicked off his career in brewing at Franklin's Restaurant and Brewery in Hyattsville. (Skall also shared that his first foray into brewing was an unfortunate all-extract pale ale from a kit.)

When the two realized there was no good reason or law keeping the nation's capital from having its own local beer, they joined forces in 2009 and founded DC Brau, Washington, D.C.'s first brewery in six decades.

But before we all start victoriously swinging our Sperry Topsiders in the air, I need to tell you that Skall admitted there was no romantic reason for bringing the DC Brau launch to Annapolis - though he has many happy, fond memories of family trips to Naptown from his childhood.

Instead, the story of DC Brau coming to Annapolis reinforced an industry theme I first observed at the Fordham and Dominion collaboration beer dinner with Flying Dog earlier this month.

"This is a relationship business," Skall confirmed. "The relationships you build every day is what drives decision-making. It's easy, because most of the people in this business are people who enjoy life and are great people."

And the relationship that brought them to our fair city is the one they have with former news anchor Brian Bolter, the man behind Red Red Wine Bar and newcomer DRY 85. In fact, Bolter started courting DC Brau regarding their launch long before the opening of Annapolis' new dive, and his reasoning was simple:

"I loved what they were doing. I loved their beer. I loved their brand," he said.

It's not surprising, since DC Brau fits right in with Bolter's vision behind DRY 85's thoughtful beer selection - placing a strong emphasis on showcasing interesting gems from local and regional breweries that are then supported by other unique, national offerings. Though the focus is obviously on bourbon and whiskey first at this establishment, Bolter says that he hopes to meet the needs of craft beer drinkers, as well.

And since its New Year's Day opening, DRY 85 has done just that by featuring brews not usually seen on tap lines around town, like American Beauty by Dogfish Head, Resurrection by The Brewer's Art and Rare Vos by Ommegang. Now Bolter is raising the bar yet again for the local craft beer scene by bringing DC Brau's launch to Main Street before the party heads up the highway to Baltimore.

Skall's excitement for February's event is obvious, and it's not just because of the beer.

"One of the best parts of any event is talking with people who drink our beer. We want people to meet us and know who we are. We want people to get our personality," he said.

Well, guys, I'm really looking forward to it too. Especially after Skall also told me one of his favorite beer rituals. "Seriously, there's something about shot-gunning a can of [On the Wings of] Armageddon that is extremely satisfying,"

Challenge accepted, Brandon. I aim to find out how satisfying that really is on Feb. 3. You know, for science reasons.

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