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Member on the Menu: DC Brau Crew
When co-founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock opened the doors to their brewery in 2011 on Blandensburg Road in NE Washington, DC Brau Brewing Company became the first packaging brewery inside the District of Columbia since 1956. DC Brau’s signature brews include: The Public (Pale Ale), The Corruption (IPA), The Citizen (Belgian-style Ale), Brau Pils (German-style Pilsner), and Penn Quarter Porter (Robust Porter), with seasonal and special brews available throughout the year including the award-winning On the Wings of Armageddon (Double IPA).
What is the hardest part about owning and opening a business/brewery?
Brandon Skall (CEO & Co-Founder): The hardest part for me is continuing to develop with the business as it grows. Not only must we stay relevant and continue to evolve, but there is a point when the business becomes its own living, breathing entity and we have to separate our original dream from the reality of what the business has become while staying true to ourselves.
Jeff Hancock (President, Co-Founder & Head Brewer): Securing funding to get the doors open was a big challenge. Once we met our minimum raise for capital it got very real for me. Also, making sure the beer we produce stays at the high level of consistency and quality that we’re known for.
Mari Rodela (Chief Community & Culture Officer): Managing people and personalities.
…and the most rewarding part?
BS: Seeing what the brewery has achieved in our short five years. It feels very rewarding to have helped shape the beer landscape of our beloved city.
MR: Managing people and personalities. Sometimes the most challenging aspects of life are the most rewarding.
Where do you look for inspiration when brewing?
BS: Often the motivation for a specific brew comes from a variety of places. The one constant is that it is always something we, ourselves, would want to order if we saw it on a menu.
JRH: For me it comes in many different ways – music, beer, reviewing brewing text on a certain style, etc. The actual naming of the beer gets my creative juices flowing. At Brau, we typically come up with the name for a beer first and then craft the recipe to fit the name.
How are you influenced by the neighborhood you are located in?
MR: We’re truly inspired by the strong and growing business community in the Woodridge area. Rhode Island is beginning to flourish and the excitement helps build momentum for more growth in our neighborhood.
How did you get started in the business? What was your first job in the industry and what did you learn from it?
BS: I came from beverage sales and marketing background. I spent years selling wine to accounts and eventually directly to wholesalers. During that time my interest in beer grew, I began homebrewing and I saw a gap in the market that I thought we could own. Once Jeff and I linked up and combined our efforts, we were able to realize our vision.
JRH: I got my first apprenticeship at Franklin’s Restaurant and General Store in Hyattsville, MD, back in 2000. I was doing Home Improvements at the time and wanted a career shift where I could still work with my hands and use applied sciences. Becoming a brewer was an obvious choice for me. I learned that brewing is hard work, just like Home Improvements, and at that time in the brewing industry everybody started at the beginning.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
BS: In five years, we would like to have solid distribution expanded beyond the DMV with focuses in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and possibly New York. We would like to continue to grow in productivity, people and variety in our product.
JRH: I see us on track to expand our distribution further in the Northeast, expanding production to well over 40,000 barrels annually. Hopefully, we’d open a brewpub somewhere in DC proper, too.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
BS: Always try to remove emotions from business-related decisions.
JRH: Stay positive and always keep it light-hearted, there are too many assholes out there.
MR: I was offered the advice to consider the following question, which really made a difference in the way I look at things: “What if this moment were already perfect, everything you needed to be happy?”
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
BS: Being a firefighter.
MR: A baker - making cakes and all the buttercream!!
What song always makes you happy?
BS: La Mer - Julio Iglesias
JRH: Right On - Happy Mondays
MR: Jeannette - The English Beat
What is your favorite ingredient?
BS: HOPS. I really like the variety of character that can be found in different hop strains. Whether the finished beer should have a citrus grapefruit character or earthy and spicy, so much has to do with choosing the perfect hop.
JRH: Water. It’s the largest ingredient used in the brewing process and is often overlooked. When I travel around to different parts of the country I’m always drinking tap water to see what it tastes like. It’s what makes the many beers of the world so unique to their respective geographical locations.
You’re hosting a dream dinner party. What three people would be at your table?
Group Effort: Stanley Kubrick to ask the hard hitting questions (MR); Tim Curry in his role as the Butler in Clue (BS); Grace Jones because her experiences are likely amazing (JRH).
It’s the last meal of your life - what’s on your plate and what beer are you drinking?
BS: Rare New York Strip Steak seared Pittsburgh Style with a nitro pour Stone of Arbroath.
JRH: It would have to be a Pepperoni pizza from Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit, MI and Kisslings wings from Baltimore, MD. For the beer it would have to be a German-brewed Andechs Dunkels.
MR: NuVegan macaroni and cheese, a slice of vanilla buttercream layer cake with raspberry jam, a Tempeh, Lettuce, and Tomato (TLT) from Seva in Ann Arbor, MI, and a pint of Oliver’s ESB from Baltimore.
What are your pet peeves?
Group: Lack of accountability. Problems are always going to arise, it’s the nature of life. More important than avoiding blame is working together to find the best solution. Accountability is more than admitting fault, it is working toward the fix. Sometimes we are accountable to fix problems we didn’t even make because we need to be focused on the overall goal of group success.
What is your favorite way to give back to the community?
BS: I really enjoy being a catalyst for others give. We donate a great deal of beer to events, but nothing is better than getting others excited about a social issue or local non-profit. I also enjoy creating a space for community members to assemble and discuss the neighborhood issues that are affecting them.
MR: We’ve found success in giving back to the community by supporting the efforts of non-profit organizations whose values align with those of our brewery. We’re moving toward a partnership approach 2017 that will ensure that our donations are doing the most for our partners’ organizations.
You’ve had an extra crazy day, what are you drinking when you get home to relax?
BS: Two fingers of Rowan’s Creek.
JRH: Brau Pils
MR: Herbal tea - Holy Basil
For more information on DC Brau, visit http://www.dcbrau.com, and follow on social media @dcbrau.