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DC's John Harvard

September, 2000

By Bobby Bush

Though my travels often take me to the nationís capital, I seldom find time to visit John Harvardís Brew House; for no good reason! Located in the basement of the John Warner Theatre at 1299 Pennsylvania Avenue, this downtown DC establishment began life as part of the ill-fated Philadelphia brewpub group, Dock Street in 1996. The Washington facility was the first to close, itís daylight-less subterranean site being given most of the blame.

The building had been shuttered for eight months when it re-opened with a new owner, Cambridge, Mass-based John Harvardís, a new name and new life. Other than back-lighted stained-glass Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy wall decorations, the decor has changed very little. Undulating ceiling. Sleek spotless bar area separated from the dining area by a thin partition. Brewer Mark Kauffmanís seven-barrel, two-story brewhouse is visible through windows at the far end of the rose/black marble L-shaped bar, the blonde-stained back bar; itís all still there.

But where Dock Street failed, John Harvardís thrives. The beers obviously canít be the culprit. Schooled at UC-Davis, Kauffman has been the brewer since the Dock Street beginnings. The kitchen was buzzing with take-out orders. Downtown workers downed their beer and headed out the door with styrofoam containers full of meat loaf, fish & chips, quesadillas, pasta and other entrees of the Americana cuisine ilk.

Paul, the extremely friendly bartender, is on first name basis with everyone but me. Itís only a matter of time for that, as my questions perk his interest, but first he had to buy two birthday boys a shot of something nasty and green. I studied the chalkboard, posted near the brewery windows, where original gravity and on-serve date accompanied each available beerís name. All-American Light Lager was just what it was. Clear yellow with no head, sweet malty nose greets a similar taste sensation, perked by a hint of apple. Raspberry Red Ale, done in cloudy gold tomato-like hue, was the oldest of all the beers. On tap for five weeks, it offered little berry aroma and moderate raspberry taste within its American wheat beer style. The seasonal Hefeweizen wafted a strong clove scent and was all-Bavarian with big banana flavor.

Kauffmanís District Pale Ale, copper colored with fruity mouthfeel up front was quickly enveloped by proper bitterness- a great session brew. His Nut Brown Ale was ruby red. A malty balance of chocolate, caramel and crystal malts - none dominated - left with a tangy, short finish. Oatmeal Stout was available fizzy and cask conditioned. With CO2, this black ale had an edge that faded into soft notes of honey as it warmed. Nearly room temperature from the cask, the naturally carbonated version boasted a huge brown head of foam, immediate smoothness and nice, rounded flavor profile.

Kauffman also brews an Expresso Stout, which includes a pound of ground coffee and an American Brown Ale, which took silver at this yearís cask-only Real Ale Festival. He provided a sample of the latter from the fermenter. Still green, this muddy brown beer was big in the hops department. Bitter finish and aftertaste, its 40 IBUs (international bittering units) are high for style and destined for entry in GABF 2000 competition.

I promise not to forget John Harvardís next time Iím in DC.

Another DC Brewpub

Itís next to impossible to get information out of their corporate headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but I did learn that thereís a Gordon Biersch brewpub headed for the District of Columbia. The German-style brewery/restaurant will be located at 901 F Street. Opening is planned for late 2000 or early 2001. Stay tuned for more information.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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