The Most Popular Local Beer Brands in Washington, D.C. Bars…

 Written by Stephen Ngo 

Though American craft brewing has flourished since the ‘80s, the DC area was very, very late to the game. In fact, until DC Brau began production in 2011, no breweries had operated in the city since 1956.

Since that inflection point, the local brewing scene has exploded: scores of craft breweries now operate in the greater Washington area. Local beers are making their way from breweries to DC bars—including BevSpot users.

We’ve broken down our bar order data to find the most popular beer brands for Washington, D.C.-based BevSpot users, both locally-made and overall. Subscribe to see how these evolve quarterly as our user base grows!

The following material aggregates 2016 and early 2017 distributor order data from BevSpot users in the greater Washington, DC metro area; the majority of these users are in the city proper. All figures represent percentages of orders in dollar terms.

Most Popular Beers in DC

While more mature “craft” brands like Sam Adams have grown outside their home regions, the youth of the local craft brewing movement means that DC-area brands haven’t really done the same. Beer production and distribution capacity takes years to scale up; as a result, none of the top brewers locally have broken 0.1% of beer orders nationally. But there’s precedent for that—and indeed, multiple local brewers have announced expansions within the last few months.

The five most popular DC-based beer brands among local BevSpot users are:

Most Popular Regional Beers in DC: 3 Stars

3 Stars Brewing Company

1.1% of DC Beer Orders

Though the 3 Stars Brewery has only been active since 2012, the homebrewing operation of founders Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey began just about five years before their business really started. Five years later, they’ve attached an “urban farmhouse” tasting room to their facilities, expanded from imperial stouts and porters to saisons and IPAs, and picked up accolades from local beer nerds in the process.

Most Popular Regional Beers in DC: Flying Dog

Flying Dog Brewery

1.5% of DC Beer Orders

The original Flying Dog Brewpub opened in Aspen, Colorado in 1990; but by the end of the 2000’s, the brewer relocated all production to Frederick, having surpassed the capacity of its Colorado facilities. Though it’s already Maryland’s largest brewery, Flying Dog recently announced plans to construct additional facilities in Frederick. This will almost certainly make the company’s ales, porters and stouts more visible in DC-area bars (and perhaps beyond).

Most Popular Regional Beers in DC: Ocelot

Ocelot Brewing Company

1.7% of DC Beer Orders

From its home a stone’s throw from Dulles, Ocelot Brewing is a proud producer of “big, strong beers.” That means lots of IPAs and a few stouts, most with ABVs above 7%. And, because Ocelot never brews any beer more than twice a year, chances are you’ll find something new to love every time.

Most Popular Regional Beers in DC: DC Brau

DC Brau Brewing Company

2.6% of DC Beer Orders

Upon opening in 2011, DC Brau became the first production brewery in the city proper since 1956. Once a catalyst for the DC craft beer movement, the Woodbridge/Fort Lincoln brewer is also one of many in the area that are expanding: the company hopes to grow 360% over the next decade. If history is any guide, this means we can expect to see more not just from this pioneer, but from the local industry in general.

Most Popular Regional Beers in DC: Port City

Port City Brewing Company

3.1% of DC Beer Orders

Alexandria’s first production brewery since Prohibition has received many awards since its establishment in 2011: notably, Small Brewing Company of the Year in 2015 and a Silver European Beer Star in 2016. It, too, announced a planned expansion to production in 2016—bringing jobs, and probably more award-winning brews to the District.

So, how do the top-selling DC beers compare to mass market brands like Bud Light and Miller? Read on to find out.

Overall Most Popular Beers in DC

Of the five largest beer brands nationally, three outperform in DC: Bud Light, Stella Artois, and Miller. Corona and Coors underperform, overtaken by brewers like Port City, DC Brau, and Ocelot.

Shock Top and Goose Island also appear in the local top 9, placing fourth and fifth. Though they’re not local brands, they do signal the demand from DC bar patrons for more flavorful brews—even if they’re not necessarily “craft” ones.

Want to see more industry data? Check out how the trends in D.C. compare to Boston:

Boston's Most-Ordered Beer and Liquor Brands