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Red Bear Brewing’s massive U-shaped bar stretches 85 feet and features 24 mirrored tap lines on both sides.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

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Inside Red Bear Brewing, NoMa’s Rustic Campground For Beer Drinkers

The 100 percent gay-owned brewery and taproom is expected to open within a few weeks

Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Red Bear Brewing Company is gearing up to unveil its massive 7,000-square-foot tap room and brewery in Northeast — complete with a woodsy motif and 24 tap lines dedicated to West Coast-style ales, ciders, and wine — in the next few weeks.

The industrial facility fills out the corner currently occupied by REI and La Colombe (209 M Street NE). The Red Bear owners hope to tag the NoMa hub as a one-stop shop for “coffee, beer, and gear” once they get their permits approved.

Co-owners Bryan Van Den Oever, Cameron Raspet, and Simon Bee met in Seattle and quit respective careers in healthcare, flight test engineering, and property management to move across the country and open what they say is D.C.’s only 100 percent gay-owned brewery. They wanted their outdoorsy tastes to be reflected in the design from the beginning.

“When we started this process we talked about wanting to be the REI of breweries,” says Van Den Oever, director of business development and marketing.

As fate would have it, a space next to REI fit their vision of a rustic playground built for beer drinkers. Local Studio 3877 packed in lots of reclaimed wood and bear-themed elements to create a giant indoor camping ground-meets-10-barrel brewhouse.

Branded growlers from Red Bear Brewing.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

The front bar, dubbed the “front yard,” is lined with a snowcapped mountain comprised of painted wood planks. “This is the only mountain range in D.C.,” jokes Van Den Oever. There’s also brown leather couches, wooden tables, and a midnight blue-painted ceiling dotted with a constellation-shaped pattern of lights.

The “backyard” bar in the back, strung with patio-style lightbulbs, will feature a dedicated stage for live music and performances. The space will clear out for monthly yoga led by a nearby studio. Customers are also encouraged to play one of 110 board games stocked near the entrance.

Some of the owners’ favorite board games stocked at the entrance include Evolution: Climate, Azul, and Joking Hazard — a riff on Cards Against Humanity.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

One bathroom is dedicated to actor Jeff Goldblum, featuring a painting of a dinosaur donning a dress as an ode to his Jurassic Park role. Another depicts cats in astronaut suits.

Bee moonlights as a carpenter, and he built all the shiny wooden tables seared with black bear logos, as well as the host stand and towering chalk menu boards spelling out the selection. Most of the tap lines (16) will be dedicated to beers made on-site. A handful of taps will be filled out by nitro beers, ciders, and wines. The perk of serving all of its wine in keg form means light and oxygen never makes contact.

A brewery from Ireland is working on its first collaboration beer, a strong 9.5-percent ABV Imperial stout.

The brewery will fit a maximum of 300 people inside, with seating for 164. Come spring, a patio will fit around 25.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

A tight spirits list and cocktail menu will play up local operations like Republic Restoratives and Cotton & Reed. One idea is making a shrub out of hops.

“If you want a vodka soda we can do that — but we’re not going to make anything under the sun,” says Van Den Oever.

Initial hours are slated for Monday to Thursday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Hours will grow once the kitchen is fired up in May and manned by a to-be-named chef.

The casual food operation will include an order and pick-up window, similar to the no-table service setup at Franklin Hall.

A metal sign at the door names its Kickstarter founders, who helped the brewery raise over $25,000 last year — blowing past its initial goal of $10,000 to get it up and running. The only other LGBTQ-majority owned brewery in the area is Silver Spring’s Denizens Brewing Company.

A merchandise corner will be stocked with trucker hats and other Red Bear swag for purchase.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
An “alleyway” between both bars features a seat-less area for quick service. The “front yard” bar will always be open, and the side will depend on traffic.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Along with live music, the “backyard” area will host comedy nights and drag queen bingo. A large mural is coming.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
The brewhouse will have the capability to produce 620 gallons of beer at a time.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Distribution deals are in the works, but Red Bear will provide kegs to local bars and restaurants to start.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Red Bear Brewing

209 M St NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 849-6130 Visit Website
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