Atlas Brew Works CEO Justin Cox and Roofers Union General Manager Dave Delaplaine
Atlas Brew Works CEO Justin Cox and Roofers Union General Manager Dave Delaplaine Credit: Josh Kramer

When you get a group together to brainstorm ideas for an Adams Morgan beer, some conclusions are inevitable.

“Somebody mentioned jumbo slice,” says Dave Delaplaine, the general manager at Roofers Union on 18th Street NW. “We did not want to put that into a beer.”

“That’s a waste of pizza,” says Daniel Vilarrubi, head brewer at Atlas Brew Works.

Instead, says Justin Cox, founder and CEO of Atlas, the focus became creating a refreshing and interesting beer for Adams Morgan Day, the 41-year old neighborhood festival taking place on Sept. 8th. “It’s going to be in September in D.C.,” he says, “so it’s going to be hot.”

The beer, called Adams Morgan Festival IPA, will be a unique collaboration between Adams Morgan bars and restaurants, led by Roofers Union and Atlas Brew Works. A limited quantity is being brewed for Adams Morgan Day, with the rest to be poured at Atlas, Roofers Union, and other establishments in the neighborhood.

A Rake’s Progress, Blaguard, Grand Central, Tryst, Mintwood Place, Bedrock Billiards, Songbyrd, Lucky Buns, Seasons & Sessions, and Smoke & Barrel are all expected to have the beer on draft from the date of the festival until supplies run out. The final list of participants will be announced soon, according to Delaplaine.

Five years ago, Delaplaine and a group of local business leaders took over running Adams Morgan Day. The volunteer-driven effort has been working to bring in locals like drummers from Malcolm X Park and to disinvite out of town “meat on a stick” food trucks.

Delaplaine credits the idea of creating an Adams Morgan beer to his friend Nicholas Karlin, who was drinking at Roofer’s Union while Delaplaine was hosting an Adams Morgan Day planning meeting downstairs at Jug & Table. “I mentioned to Dave how it would be interesting if Dave made an Adams Morgan Day beer,” said Karlin. “It was just a side thought, but I guess it struck a chord with him.”

With no production brewery specifically based in the neighborhood, Delaplaine turned to Cox at Atlas, based in Ivy City. The two already knew each other through the small world of D.C. beer and Delaplaine appraised Cox as easy to work with and open to experimentation.

“Dave’s really been spearheading getting the coalition together,” says Cox. “I got to go around and try to sell the beer to other bars in the neighborhood,” says Delaplaine, who is normally on the other side of the bar, being approached by distributors and brewers. In meetings at Atlas and in Adams Morgan, local bar and restaurant owners helped develop the beer.

After getting past the idea of a pizza beer, they landed on the Festival IPA. Its creators say it defies any single beer style and has qualities of a traditional IPA, session IPA, and sour IPA all rolled into one. A taste of the brew in progress, straight from the vat, revealed a delicate, grapefruity flavor. Citrusy hops and acidulated malt are added to make it light but nuanced at 5.3 percent ABV. It would have been much easier to choose a beer style that was more familiar and obviously popular, Delaplaine says, but instead the creators chose to go for the brass ring—beer nerds.

In the increasingly competitive world of craft beer, Cox has found that it’s not enough for Atlas to just be another local brewery. It must be innovative. Delaplaine feels similarly about Adams Morgan. “To me, Adams Morgan is a very diverse neighborhood with something for everybody,” he says. “But also one that recognizes it needs to continue to evolve to keep up with other cool neighborhoods that have popped up recently.”

Karlin, who suggested the beer idea, says, “It’s pretty awesome that a simple idea at a bar actually came together. But Dave is a true beer lover and once he gets an idea in his head, he always follows through.”

Plans for the beer are still very much in flux, including whether this will be the only time you’ll be able to try it. Adams Morgan Festival IPA won’t be available for retail sale and only one batch of 20 barrels is being brewed. For future Adams Morgan Day festivals, the creators may switch styles or continue to refine their Festival IPA recipe.

In addition to Adams Morgan Day, Atlas will serve the beer at its sixth anniversary party the day before, and Roofers Union plans to offer it throughout D.C. Beer Week