Where Is Your Favorite Beer?

Photo courtesy of
‘Down the Bar’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

I know a lot of people who angst about beer-lovin’ favorite Fat Tire, myself included. So when I went home over break, I was thrilled to find Fat Tire in all my favorite North Carolina bars. Which begged the question, if Fat Tire has bridged the Mississippi River and come East, why hasn’t it arrived in the DMV area yet?

So I set out to ask Greg Engert, beer God over at the Neighborhood Restaurant Group all about the process of acquiring certain beers. He’s worked with both Rustico and Churchkey to procure all kinds of crazy beers, including my favorite beer of all time, Chimay Red, and my runner-up favorite Raspberry Lambic.

Greg explained: “In order to get your favorite brand into DC/ VA, there are many hoops one has to jump through. First is actually establishing if the brewer of said beer has the production capacity to ship to a new territory. Presuming production is capable, a distributor in the area has to be procured. Once a distributor has agreed, then the beer will start shipping. With imports, the brewery needs to have ample product, and then both an importer and a separate distributor need to be established as well.”

Which makes perfect sense – your favorite beer from little town in Nebraska nowhere isn’t going to have any easy time distributing to all of the District. But that’s not the only hurdle.

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

“All beers that are new to the US need to have their labels approved by the Tax and Trade Bureau. This hoop would presumably only be new to an import, as domestic brews have been sold elsewhere in the states before arriving in a new area,” said Greg. “So the brewery would have to be willing to register and pay the fees associated with such approval. Additionally, certain states, VA included, require another label approval, this time done by the state government. Both domestic and international breweries would have to register each new brew with the state and pay additional fees. This addition serves to deter many brands from coming into such markets. A lot of times, the breweries don’t have much excess beer, so they will choose to ship into areas without this secondary label approval.”

Photo courtesy of
‘Black Cat Drink Board’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

Which is why there are beers available in Maryland that aren’t in Virginia. Making sense class? Engert finishes up by making a case for contacting your favorite brewery and letting them know you love them and want them. “Contacting local retailers and bars-restaurants to inquire about beers will be helpful. I can typically let interested parties know if certain beers are available, or ever have been, and also inform them as to why a brew has yet to enter our market. I am also able to work with breweries and distributors and importers to see about getting new lagers and ales. My ability to commit to certain amounts of products and even to set up launch parties makes me a good ally in the quest to bring your favorite beers to DC and VA.”

Which means one thing: Beer nerds unite and talk to your friendly bartenders. Now go forth and lobby!

Katie moved to DC in 2007, and has since embarked upon a love affair with the city. She’s an education reform advocate and communications professional during the day; at night and on the weekends, she’s an owner here at We Love DC. Katie has high goals to eat herself through the entire city, with only her running shoes to save her from herself. For up-to-the-minute news and reviews (among other musings), follow her on Twitter!

15 thoughts on “Where Is Your Favorite Beer?

  1. Did you ask Engert about Fat Tire specifically? I know lots of people who love it but I wonder – is the message getting to folks like him who drive the matter?

  2. I did, Don, but just for context. I know there are tons of beers out there that people love a lot. But you can/should ask him, and other beer-lovin’ bartenders about your specific favorites!

  3. You almost lost me at Raspberry Lambic (fruit in a beer is just wrong) but I have to mention the amazing beer I tasted in NYC last week: Black Ops.

  4. New Belgium has been slowly moving east. I’m looking forward to the day I can get their Fat Tire here too, but even better are their Sunshine Wheat and 1554.

  5. Ugh. Please stop using DMV to refer to anything except the Department of Motor Vehicles. The acronym was tired before it was even introduced.

  6. Oh man, Fat Tire… one of the things I miss most about Denver. New Belgium really can do no wrong when it comes to good beer. I’m not a fan of lighter beers, mind you (Guinness, wooo!), but theirs are much better than most.

  7. I guess I buck the trend – To me, there’s something inherently wonderful about regional beers staying regional. And something nostalgic about the trek that it takes to find, consume, and appreciate these beers. Personally, I love my favorite beer*, but I don’t want to be able to find it at Whole Foods or pay out the ass for it, at some uptight watering hole, 5 minutes from my house. I think that’s really what makes the beer special, and appreciated. *- For what it’s worth, my favorite beer is from a tiny town in southern Vermont, called McNeill’s Brewery. Their IPA is outstanding, and they will refill your 1/2gal jug for $5. If you’re ever in Brattleboro for the day, they open up at 2pm, 6 days a week, and if you can’t get the beers there, (in growlers) you can shoot across the street to the co-op, and get a bottle or two there. …but no where else. :)

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  9. My favorite beer are the fruit lambics (not fruit ale or lager made in usa…)lambics beers fruit based from belgium are the best beers in the world and lambics have a long history
    i work for a brewery in quebec and i import(private) beer from all over the world.
    belgium do the best.
    People who dont like fruit beer are coors drinkers (or labatt…) they should develop their taste a bit more…
    Cantillon, liefmans, belle-vue, lindemanns ,mort subite ahhhh

  10. Katie – did you happen to try any North Carolina beers when you were down here? We’re really proud of our local craft beer scene. With 20 breweries and 20 brewpubs, there’s a lot to choose from.

    I not dissing non-regional beers — after all, Bell’s Two Hearted is my everyday beer — but a little part of me would have loved to see you reminiscence over a local (North Carolina beer).