Local breweries compete for bragging rights

Put down that Keystone Light. Don’t touch that Miller. Or that Budweiser. It’s time to shift focus to a higher caliber of beers. Local craft beers.

For those in the coveted 21-and-over age group, moving away from just trying to chug down whatever beer you can get your hands on can slowly turn into starting to craft your own taste, and starting to discover the art that is microbrewery.

Bar Louie in Chinatown recently held a local craft brewery competition, where brewers within 150 miles of D.C. came for three rounds of competition to determine who made the best local beer.

“This is the first brew competition that I am aware of in the city where everyone is purely local,” said Steve Centrella, the event’s organizer.

Around 600 patrons came to sample the beers throughout the three rounds and to vote on the best craft beer. The winner, Holy Brew – a brand new brewery out of Leesburg, Va. – will be featured on tap at Bar Louie for the month of September.

“It’s not just that there is a winner, but actually letting our guests participate and decide what we’re going to bring on,” Centrella said. “It’s a very democratic process, we like to include everybody.”

The idea of keeping the competition local was very important to Centrella, and to the brewers. Other beer events and competitions around the city often allow the big national chains to compete among smaller companies, and when it comes to getting on tap at a national chain restaurant such as Bar Louie, it is even more difficult.

“What is hard about these national chains, you can’t get your beer in because everything is decided from the top down,” said Mark Kruchten, co-founder and co-owner of Holy Brew. “If you show demand at the local level, they may bring you in to the national chain.”

Kruchten said that despite their small size, their product, personality and marketing will hopefully make them a success. The company plays on the good-versus-evil theme, giving their beers names such as “Purgatory Pilsner” and “Heavenly Light.”

“The logo and everything is all about fun, and look, drinking beer with your friends is all about fun,” Kruchten said.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, which are based out of Gaithersburg, Md., placed second in the competition. Southeastern Sales Manager Devin Arloski said that competitions like these are rare.

“Mostly everybody (in the craft beer market) is usually buddy-buddy, they compete indirectly,” Arloski said.

As for the future of the competition, Centrella said it would definitely happen again.

“This is the first time we’ve run this competition, but from the reaction we’ve gotten, it’s definitely not going to be the last,” Centrella said.

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