Photo by Aaron Morrissey
Photo by Aaron Morrissey

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This week Modern Times, a San Diego brewery with a cult following thanks to its hoppy pale ales, fruit-forward goses, and barrel-aged stouts debuted in D.C. The release was met with usual excitement as dozens lined up outside of ChurchKey well before opening to try a taste sans cross-country flight to California. Debuts like this aren’t uncommon in the District.

Thanks to the D.C.’s lenient regulations on out-of-market beer sales, a robust collective of hustling beverage directors, and a thirsty public, there’s nary a week where a new brewery doesn’t launch inside the District’s bevy of beer bars. After all, we now live in a city where you can grab cubs of Crooked Stave at Canteen, the pop-up beer garden from Neighborhood Restaurant Group located on a previously nondescript West End corner.

That said, there are still a number of popular breweries that have yet to plant a flag here, including the following four brewing behemoths that, if they were to come to town, would bring both beer nerds and budding suds neophytes to their knees. What’s the likelihood they’ll arrive?

Russian River

There’s never a bad time to reminisce about when Russian River beer flowed during events at the shuttered Brickskeller. But it’s rarely been back on a predictable basis. The Santa Rosa brewery is famed for its world-class West Coast IPAs like “Pliny the Elder” and a vast portfolio of bottle-conditioned sour ales. And, you might see bottles of “Damnation” or “Redemption” every now and then (especially in certain bottle shops around the region that specialize in selling pricey bottles), but it’s a bonafide rarity on draft around town.

What’s the chance of you ordering it regularly at your local beer bar in the next five years?

It’s likely a matter of time. The model is already in place—establishments in Philadelphia have carried Russian River beers both on- and off-premise for some time. In fact, they’re even sold in Wegmans Food Markets up that way—and it’ll just take the right distribution relationship to seal the deal. We’ll peg the chances at a conservative 50 percent.

Three Floyds

This Munster, Indiana producer is a massive favorite among the fermentable cognoscenti. They’re revered for often aggressive takes on standard American styles—like “Alpha King,” a pale ale on citrusy steroids, and its annual “Dark Lord” imperial stout release, which is often purchased for hundreds of dollars from peoplewho are into that sort of thing.

What’s the chance of you ordering it regularly at your local beer bar in the next five years?

It’s a similar story to Russian River—except with Three Floyds, the issue is about scale, not sales. Even the brewery admits that they do not have enough product to supply beer to everyone. But with such a reputation, there’s little chance they won’t expand. Assuming Three Floyds keeps heading east (they’re already distributing as close as Cincinnati), there’s a pretty good chance you could grab some “Gumballhead” here at some point in the next half-decade—maybe 30 percent.

Hill Farmstead

Beer industry stalwarts probably recall the kerfuffle when growlers from this Vermont farmhouse brewery found their way into the District despite Owner Shaun Hill’s protests. That may well be water under the bridge, but a combination of the brewery’s limited production, it’s dedication to large format bottling, and Hill’s rather vocal commitment to quality control mean sipping Hill Farmstead’s delicate saisons and IPAs locally is probably a pipe dream.

What’s the chance of you ordering it regularly at your local beer bar in the next five years?

Never say never—there are any number of bars in and around New York City serving multiple Hill Farmstead drafts these days, and it’s not that far a trip down the Northeast Corridor—but it’s far more likely that you’ll have to settle for trying it at major beer events. We’ll go with five percent.

New Glarus

While Hill wasn’t thrilled about publicans selling his beer thanks to D.C.’s grey market, at least no one got arrested and charged with a felony for doing so—something that you can’t say about bar owners outside of Wisconsin trying to sell New Glarus. The famously insular distribution methods of Daniel and Deb Carey’s quaint Midwestern brewery can occasionally overshadow its standout beer. For example, “Two Women” could be the country’s best lager, and the brewery’s fruit-forward beers like “Raspberry Tart” can only be matched by a handful of brewers around the globe.

What’s the chance of you ordering it regularly at your local beer bar in the next five years?

Zero, and don’t be fooled because they’re canning. To try it, make a new friend in Madison.