Port City Brewing was the first bottling brewery to open in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area since the close of Old Dominion Brewing. The brewery’s name derives from Alexandria’s origins as an important colonial seaport, which later became a major brewing center. Owner Bill Butcher recognized that Washington was the only large metropolitan area without a production brewery and decided to fill that vacuum, opening in February 2011.
Jonathan Reeves, a brewer with 17 years experience, was Butcher’s first hire. Reeves helped design and install the brewery and develops the beer recipes. Since its opening, brewing at Port City has increased from 3000 barrels the first year to about 9000 barrels in its third year of operation. Port City has expanded its capacity each year to meet this growing demand and now is able to produce 14,000 barrels at its Alexandria industrial area location.
The facility has a tap room with between 8 and 14 different beers on draft for visitors, which average about 800 to 1000 each week. The brewery is open for visitors and tours on Thursday-Sunday with hours posted on its website, http://www.portcitybrewing.com. The tapping area provides a tasting glass and six samples for $9, as well as pint.
About 40 percent of Port City’s beer is bottled, with the remainder distributed in kegs and sold in growlers at the brewery. Port City’s distribution includes the metro area, South Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, New York City and Quebec, Canada..
Port City brews five beers on a year around basis: Essential Pale Ale, Monumental IPA, Porter, Optimal Wit and Downright Pilsner. Periodically, the brewery makes an oyster stout using 3000 locally grown oysters and oyster shells per batch, with part of the proceeds going to an oyster recovery program for the Chesapeake Bay. Seasonals include Tartan Ale (Scottish Ale) in the spring, an American-style Bitter for the summer, Oktoberfest in the fall and a spiced Tidings Ale, using Maryland wildflower honey as its holiday offering. Optimal Wit, a bottle conditioned beer and the brewery’s best seller, won a gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival. The brewery also took four other medals.
Porter (7.2 percent alcohol by volume, ABV) has an alluring aroma of roast, coffee and dark fruit which leads into a front showing muted roast, a splash of dark fruit and a soupcon of chocolate. The roast increases a tad in middle while adding both a nuanced vinous quality and a tempered bitterness. The roast and coffee grow to medium in the finish with restrained dark fruit emerging. All blend into the aftertaste with roast and dark fruit continuing and a subtle chocolate appearing. Ratings: 8/8.
Monumental IPA (6.3 percent ABV) has a bitter hop, fruit and citric bouquet. The slight bitter and sweet malt front continues into the middle with the malt coming to the front. In the finish, the bitter hops battle back with some added floral hops to see-saw with the sweetness of the malt. Both last through the aftertaste and linger in this balanced IPA. Ratings: 8.5/9.
Essential Pale Ale (5.5 percent ABV) has a grapefruit and bitter hop nose. The soft, sweet caramel malt front segues into a middle where the malt increases and mild bitter hops join along with notes of grapefruit. The hops grow to medium in the complex finish but are nicely balanced by the malt while the grapefruit flavor becomes quite strong. The malt fades in the aftertaste as the bitterness and grapefruit linger. Ratings: 8/8.
Optimal Wit (5 percent ABV) is the brewery’s top seller. Optimal Wit had a nose of yeast, orange zest, lemon and coriander. The light lemon front grows slightly in the middle joined by a touch of orange sweetness. The finish adds a hint of pepper. A note of clove arises in the AT as the lemon and pepper remain. Ratings: 7/7.5.