MS. REBECCA SHEIR
All right. So now that we've drained the drags of Gin Rickeys, let's turn to another classic drink, beer. But not just any beer, we're going to talk craft beer, brewed by small and independent breweries. And we boast several here in the D.C. region, but have you ever thought about how craft breweries keep those suds fresh on the way to your local bar or liquor store? We'll find out in our weekly transportation segment, "From A to B."
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Martin Di Caro recently embarked on a bit of a brewery crawl to learn how they're getting their product into thirsty customer's hands.
MR. MARTIN DI CARO
Inside D.C. Brau, the noise is a constant.
MR. JEFF HANCOCK
Maybe my ears have gotten used to it, but, yes, it's typically around anywhere from like 60 to 70 decibels.
Cofounder Jeff Hancock's workers tend to keg cleaners, compressors and massive silver conical shaped fomenters, all humming away accompanied by loud music on the radio at the city's first new micro brewery since 1956. D.C. Brau was founded by a couple of cool guys last year and their business is cool too in a manner of speaking. Here's Hancock's partner, Brandon Skall.
MR. BRANDON SKALL
It's really, really important to us, since our beer is unfiltered, that our beer stays cold and we go through extreme measures here at the brewery to keep those kegs cold while they're here. But once they're out the door, it's kind of out of our control.
That's when Skall, the manager, and Hancock, the head brewer, have to trust their distributor and all the places that sell their product. Craft beer is fresh, it's not pasteurized. If it gets warm, it gets stale.
So you want to make sure that your distributor's got refrigerated trucks, your distributor has a working cold box, things that are going to keep your beer the way it needs to be as it goes through that transportation stage to end, finally arrive at the account.
Before they can brew one ounce of brew, D.C. Brau's ingredients have to be transported over long distances. Their barley is from the Midwest, their hops from the Pacific Northwest.
The malt comes in much larger orders so that comes on flatbed trucks, it's about two days transport time. The hops take about five days because they're coming all the way from Washington State.
With just five full-time and six-part time employees, Hancock and Skall coordinate all the logistics and brew all the brew. It's a process that recalls a past era.
That's how it used to be in this country, that there were so many regional, local microbreweries before Prohibition and beer didn't necessarily get transported even from state to state the way that beer is now shipped all over the country. It was consumed fresh. It was consumed local. And that's what I think we're kind of getting back to with all these smaller, local microbreweries opening up regionally across the United States. And it's a beautiful thing because people are getting to try and taste beer in a way that they've never tasted it before.
Another one of those new craft breweries can be found just 15 miles south of Washington.
MR. BILL BUTCHER
My name is Bill Butcher. I'm the founder of Port City Brewing Company.
Port City is in Alexandria, Va. The morning I show up to talk with Butcher, a flatbed truck is growling in his parking lot, preparing to bring an electricity generator. He lost power in last week's ferocious storms so he's trying to save what beer he has on the premises. His brewery only opened last year.
Our beer has a limited shelf-life of 120 days and we do guarantee the quality for 120 days, but it tastes best within 90 days.
When it's business as usual at Port City, Butcher and his employees usually have no problem getting their beer to market fresh.
It goes on trucks and our wholesaler, they use refrigerated trucks so they're able to keep the beer cold on their trucks. It's written into their contract actually that they must keep it cold while it's under their care.
And he's strategic about the amount of beer he'll sell to a liquor store in a single order.
Since nobody has enough cold space the way we deal with it just keeping inventory short and making sure that nobody buys too much that they can't sell in a very short period of time.
Like his fellow brewers at D.C. Brau, Butcher has to coordinate the shipment of his ingredients over long distances.
Our pilsner malt comes from Germany. The hops, they also come from England, they come from Germany, they come from the Pacific Northwest.
Butcher, whose name doesn't fit his profession, decided to become a brewer for the same reason someone may prefer to buy vegetables at a farmer's market.
My wife and I have been committed to local food and drink for a long time. And it was about four years ago that when we realized that we're buying all of our groceries from local producers, our meat from local farmers and the beer that we were buying was coming from the West Coast of the U.S. And that really got us looking at other options that are more local, more close to home.
Since there weren't any microbreweries around, he opened his own and, yes, I'm very thirsty for a beer right now. I'm Martin Di Caro.
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