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House In Session Ale is a dry-hopped American pale ale brewed in February at the Schlafly Tap Room in St. Louis by the District’s own Greg Jasgur of Pizzeria Paradiso, Sam Fitz of Meridian Pint, and Greg Engert of Birch & Barley and ChurchKey fame. The beer may have been brewed in St. Louis but it is 100 percent D.C.
The brew’s release celebrates the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act currently being introduced in Congress. The legislation, if passed, would help small-production breweries have the capacity to grow by lowering excise taxes on beer. But politics aside, the group of delegates who made this 4.2 percent alcohol by volume beer wanted the project to also show a different side of the District.
Courtesy of the project’s grand architect, Jeff Wells of local beer and wine distributor DOPS Inc., the brew crew even enjoyed half-smokes and chili from Ben’s Chili Bowl and listened to D.C. punk and go-go music on their brew day at Schlafly. (Wells brought the goods in his carry-on. When stopped by security, they laughed and let him and his frozen dogs on the plane).
But beyond pop culture, the collaboration was meant to capture the spirit of camaraderie that exists in the District’s craft beer community. “The underlying theme in all of this is that the beer really is about collaboration. For us to go off to St. Louis together to make a beer for D.C. shows people what the D.C. beer scene is really about,” Meridian Pint’s Fitz explains.
“It shows D.C. is a more unified place than most people assume, especially with what D.C. is as a whole, being a very political town. People project that same adversarial relationship on bar managers in D.C. We wanted to showcase something that shows we are all friends and that it’s more something like who gets a keg every now and then that we fight over, not business,” Jasgur said.
In an effort to show the spirit behind the beer, Wells, Jasgur, Fitz, and Engert have planned the official launch event for House In Session Ale at Old Ebbitt Grill tonight at 6 o’clock. In a tip of the hat to the history of beer in America and one more tie to politics, the release was scheduled on National Beer Day, April 7, to celebrate the day beer became legal to produce and sell in the United States after Prohibition. On this date in 1933 the Cullen-Harrison Act, a law that raised the legal alcohol level for beverages to 3.2 percent, went into effect. House In Session commemorates a time when low-alcohol, session beers were all that was available to drink.
I don’t think you will taste half-smokes or hear Bad Brains or Trouble Funk when you drink House in Session Ale, but it will be hard not to get a sense of the history and politics, both in the local beer scene and in federal legislation, behind this special D.C. brew. If you can’t make it out tonight, look for kegs and casks at ChurchKey, Meridian Pint, both D.C. Pizzeria Paradiso locations, as well as a handful of select spots including Estadio and Ben’s Next Door.