DC's John Harvard
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
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush