On August 12, the Heurich House Museum, DC Brau Brewing Company, and the DC Homebrewers will offer the city a taste of one of the District’s most important historic breweries, when we launch Heurich’s Lager, a historical recreation of the pre-Prohibition beer by the Christian Heurich Brewing Company. That evening, the museum will host a fundraising launch party and serve Heurich’s Lager for the first time. (Some tickets are still available:)
Just as most DC residents are closely acquainted with DC Brau today, there was a time in recent history when many Washingtonians knew of Christian Heurich, his successful Foggy Bottom brewery, and his iconic mansion below Dupont Circle. The last time anyone tasted a Heurich beer was 1956, the year his brewery closed and made way for the Kennedy Center. The Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. had been the District’s last production brewery, and no others existed in the city until DC Brau opened in 2011. Heurich’s legacy survives at his former mansion, the Heurich House Museum, which today displays the Heurich family’s original furnishings and decorations, as well as the home’s original state-of-the-art technology.
Heurich was an avid record-keeper who maintained books of brewery invoices, advertisements, and records, some of which have survived. Beer historian and avid homebrewer Mike Stein spent months poring over brittle invoices at the National Archives. With the help of DC homebrewers, Joshua H. Hubner and Pete Jones, several test batches were brewed using modern ingredients when literal historical accuracy could not be achieved. Several ingredients like the Palmer Seedling hop and “fancy malt” used by Heurich are no longer produced. In addition to the Palmer Seedling hop, through his research Stein found evidence that Heurich used hops from Germany and the Czech Republic. One receipt was for “Saazer Hops” the German word for Žatec, a historic hop-growing region in the Czech Republic. While Heurich didn’t have the convenience of using highly modified malts like Vienna and Munich, he did love modern technology and new innovations. Brewers today have the advantage of using pre-gelatinized flaked corn and puffed rice, both of which were used in the final commercial example.
In June, this truly “Classic American Pilsner” was scaled up from 5 gallons to 1,000 gallons at DC Brau Brewing Company. According to William E. Kelley’s Brewing in Maryland, Heurich “had often said his ambition was to produce a fine light beer, and claimed his beer, and that of other American breweries, was as good as any produced in Germany, with an exception, however, which he admitted, of the Pilsener beer made in Czechoslovakia.” Under the guidance of Jeff Hancock and Brandon Skall, the DC Brau beer is both a recreation of the pre-prohibition product brewed by Christian Heurich Brewing Company and a nod to the lager beer Heurich enjoyed in Bavaria, Bohemia, and Vienna. The result is a balanced, golden elixir, a delicious beer and a fitting homage to Christian Heurich’s lager.
This project is part of the Heurich House Museum’s continuing efforts to honor the legacy of Christian Heurich, to preserve and maintain his historic home, and to promote local Washington, DC history and culture. Every third Thursday throughout the year, the museum hosts monthly local craft beer tastings and beer-centric house tours called History & Hops. Other programs presented this summer include free outdoor movies, local music concerts, and public house. During the 1980’s and 90’s, Gary Heurich revived his grandfather’s brand with the Olde Heurich Brewing Co. The beers were brewed in the style of Christian Heurich’s original labels, but were not based on historic recipes or research.