The Capitol City Brewing Company (CCBC) opened its doors in 1992, and that’s about how long I’ve been going there. And I haven’t had a bad experience yet. So for this bike ride, as well as my traditional end-of-the-month restaurant review for April, I decided to ride there and have lunch. I patronized the original location, at 1100 New York Avenue (MAP), near the corner of 11th and H Streets in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood. But the CCBC has become so popular that it has expanded to a second location across the river in Virginia, which is just off of the pedestrian promenade of the village in the Shirlington area of Arlington.
When it started just 23 years ago, CCBC became the first brewery in our nation’s capitol since prohibition ended in 1933. The current brew master is Kristi Matthews Griner, who is one of only a few female brew masters in the area. She is also a member of The Pink Boots Society, an 800-member-strong organization of women beer professionals. After completed the Draft Master Program at the Siebel Institute of Technology, Kristi got her experience at Hops Grill and Brewery in Alexandria, and Vintage 50 in Leesburg before moving to CCBC.
Kristi currently oversees the brewing of a number of great ales, lagers and pilsners, and ensures that CCBC always has at least seven or eight brews on tap. The four award-winning signature brews consist of a classic German-style blonde ale named Capitol Kolsch; an American-style Amber ale with a lovely red hue and citrusy aroma named Amber Waves; an American pale ale named Pale Rider, and; Prohibition Porter Traditional, an English style ruby-brown ale with a pronounced chocolate malt character. In addition to the signature brews, there are also a variety of seasonal choices which bring English, Belgian, and German style brews to the line-up. I’ve enjoyed a number of their different brews over the years but, of course, since my employee has a strict policy about alcohol consumption while on duty, never on a day like today when I was returning to work.
Luckily for me, the food at CCBC makes it a worthwhile destination with or without an accompanying libation. Starting right off the bat are their free hot pretzels with horseradish mustard. I must confess that I am a sucker for a hot pretzel, and it’s a perfect appetizer to start out a meal at CCBC. And yes, you read that correctly. They’re free. So you can’t beat the price. There are other appetizers available as well, including many of the pub standards such as wings, nachos, and beer-battered onion rings. I recommend the BBQ Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp. But if you can’t make up your mind, they have a sampler platter too. Other appetizers aren’t really necessary though, because the hot pretzels are not to be missed.
Many of the entrees on their fairly expansive menu were developed specifically with their beer in mind, and some actually utilize their brews in the preparation of the dishes. Menu offerings include everything from sandwiches and burgers to pizza and more formal entrees, with a focus on regional cuisine using fresh ingredients cultivated in the Mid-Atlantic area and delivered daily.
With so many good pizza places in the city, I have to confess that I’ve never tried their pizza. And I’m not much of a salad guy, and haven’t gone with the salad option their either. Since I most frequently go at lunchtime, I don’t usually go for the full-on meal from the entrée selection. However, I have tried the Prohibition Porter Bratwurst, which is excellent. I usually have a sandwich or a burger. The Hickory Burger is one of my favorites because it’s very flavorful, with just the right tang from the chipotle barbeque sauce. But the Steakhouse Burger with the porter-infused A1 sauce is excellent as well, as is the simple Brew Master Burger. If you are looking for something lighter, I recommend the Grilled Fish Tacos or the Grilled Chicken Wrap. And for vegetarians, or anyone else, they also have a Black Bean Burger which I’ve heard is excellent.
My usual, go-to meal at CCBC, however, is the Amber Chicken Sandwich. First, they take a bonelss chicken breast and marinate it in their fresh-brewed Amber Waves Ale. Then they grill it just long enough to cook it through but not too long so it looses it juiciness. Then they top it with melted Swiss cheese, thick-cut bacon, lettuce, tomato and red onion, and serve it on a fresh-baked brioche bun. It’s the sandwich I had the first time I went to CCBC and it got me going back. And it’s the sandwich I had today.