CHRISTIAN HEURICH SR., founder of the Chr. Heurich (pronounced “HI-rick”) Brewing Company, died in 1945 at age 102, doing what he loved and knew best: running the brewery he founded in Washington in 1873. Born a dozen years after Christian’s death, grandson Gary F. Heurich says that nevertheless, “Grandfather had more influence on my life than any other individual.”
Christian Heurich was honored as the world’s oldest brewer and patriarch of the American brewing industry. In the 1870s, the Heurich brewery was the most successful of more than a dozen D.C. breweries. He became one of Washington’s largest landowners, which is one of the reasons his family became the benefactor of several Washington institutions, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
|THE HEURICH HOUSEThe Historical Society of Washington, D.C., occupies the former home of Christian Heurich Sr.; the home is one of America’s best examples of late Victorian domestic architecture (ca. 1892). In 1956, the Heurich family leased the mansion, located just south of bustling Dupont Circle, for use as the city historical society’s first permanent home. The first two floors of the four-floor house have been preserved and are open to the public; the third is used as a library. The society’s programs include “Samantha” tours for young girls: history-inspired interactive visits under the direction of guides dressed in period attire. The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., 1307 New Hampshire Avenue NW, 202-785-2068; www.hswdc.org|
Now, two generations later, Gary has made sure that his family’s beers-Foggy Bottom Ale, Lager, Wheat and Porter-are institutions themselves in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. Inspired by the family tradition of excellence and envisioning a renaissance in craft brewing, he resurrected the brewery business his father was forced to close in the 1950s. He started with his grandfather’s award-winning 1900 Paris Exhibition Marzen beer. “I had old brewing record books to get a sense of what the beer was like,” says Gary. Although his beer is bottled, under the Olde Heurich Brewing label (www.oldeheurich.com), at the F.X. Matt Brewing Company near the Adirondacks in Utica, New York, he hopes to reopen a Washington brewery in the future.
“I love any beer, but am particularly drawn to beer with a lot of flavor,” says Gary, whose favorite brew is his Foggy Bottom Lager, named for the neighborhood in which his grandfather built his second Washington brewery. To help ensure freshness, Heurich produces just four kinds of beer and restricts his distribution to the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and New York.
When developing new beers, Heurich makes the initial decisions and then collaborates with his brewmaster, Joseph L. Owades of Sonoma, California, who created the first light beer in 1967. (It became Miller Lite.)
New beers are dependent on the style of beer and individual interpretation. “It’s like going to Julia Child and saying, ‘Make me a salmon en croûte,'” he says. “Not all are the same.”
The Olde Heurich Brewing Company and Gary Heurich are pioneers in the American craft brewing renaissance, having introduced the company’s first beer to the market in June 1986, when there were only about 35 craft or microbrewers in the United States; today there are more than 1,300. The Foggy brews are the best-selling regional beers in Washington, and Olde Heurich has established Foggy Bottom Brewpubs at two airports, Reagan Washington National and Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Virginia. So tip your glass to the Heurich family during your next visit to Washington. Their dedication to the art of brewing has rewarded lovers of beer, the arts and history.
THE HEURICH (BEER) FAMILY Foggy Bottom Ale is the city’s best-selling regional beer. Look for a light, bright flavor. “Americans like a pale pilsner type of beer, an English-style pale ale,” says Gary Heurich. “It’s maltier, a light amber color. It’s hoppier, meaning more hops and more bitterness.” Foggy Bottom Lager is a Marzen-style beer, an Old World German beer, with more malt and more caramel flavor. It’s smoother and has a soft, almost subtle sweetness. Foggy Bottom Wheat is the lightest, made with 70 percent malted barley and 30 percent malted wheat (others are 100 percent malted barley). Expect a straw color, lightly hopped-light and refreshing, especially appealing in warm weather. Foggy Bottom Porter, introduced in October, is the heaviest beer. Think of a porter as sort of a light stout. -K.F.