By Elliot Carter
Washington was home to hundreds of small and large breweries during the Industrial Revolution. The Christian Heurich Brewery was the most noteworthy, producing 500,000 barrels of award winning beer a year. The eponymous company was founded by Christian Heurich, who emmigrated from Germany in 1866 with $200, and built a beer empire over the course of his 105 year life. At its peak, the Heurich Brewery Company was D.C.'s largest non-governmental employer.
The Heurich Brewery was located in Foggy Bottom at the present site of the Kennedy Center. The massive brick structure was four stories tall and had 40-foot underground vaults, where an immense system of vats and tanks transformed water and hops into beer. Like the Heurich mansion in Dupont Circle, the brewery was designed to look like a German castle, complete with a crenelated tower and mock arrow slits. Heurich had so much confidence in the fireproof design that he didn't have a dollar of insurance on the building.
Christian Heurich was a brainy autodidact who made a point of keeping up with the latest technological advances. According to the Evening Star, this included annual trips back to Europe to "study the improved methods in use in the large breweries of the old country." Heurich pioneered several techniques such as pasteurizing his product to extend the its shelf life. He was also the first person to market his beer with special themed packaging during the holidays, which is now a standard practice.
Heurich's brewery offered 13 differient beers with names like Capitol and Old Georgetown. In 1900 his Senate and Maerzen beers won the silver medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where they were recognized for their clarity and purity. In 1905 they won the gold medal at the Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Leige, Belgium.
Heurich lived with his family in an elegant Dupont Circle mansion. HeurichHouse.org writes that the building features "include full indoor plumbing, circulating hot water heat, central vacuum system, venting skylight, elevator shaft, pneumatic and electric communication systems, and combination gas and electric lighting fixtures."
The mansion has been preserved as a museum, but the brewery was torn down in the 1960's after the family donated it to make way for the Kennedy Center.
If you liked this article about breweries you might also enjoy reading about Washington's much-hated Temperance Fountain.