Bye-Bye, Brasserie Beck: Thor Cheston Sets Out To Start His Own Suds Spot
Thor Cheston knows beer. "Sir Cheston," so dubbed after his induction into the Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff, has spent years pouring pints and selecting distinctive suds to serve. Now, he's planning to make and sell the stuff at his own brewpub.
After opening Birreria Paradiso, the acclaimed craft beer bar in the basement of Georgetown's Pizzeria Paradiso, in 2006, Cheston went on to run the show at Robert Wiedmaier's Belgian brew-centric Brasserie Beck and Mussel Bar. Last month, the 33-year-old Georgetown grad left Wiedmaier and company to start a brewpub with his wife, Leah Cheston, who currently directs the wine program at Ris.
The couple hasn't signed a lease yet. They're scouting the Shaw and Bloomingdale neighborhoods of D.C. for possible locations. Cheston describes the concept, still in the early stages of planning, as a full service sit-down restaurant with a late-night bar downstairs.
As for the beer, Cheston plans to focus on rotation and variety by making "yeast-forward" ales and lagers. Yeast-forward, you ask? Cheston explains:
"So many times I’ve gone into brewpubs and I’ll ask the server or bartender for their, let's say, hefeweiss beer. I know what it’s going to taste like because I know where they got their yeast and 9 times out of 10 I’m correct. If we’re going to be making a hefeweizen, I don’t want it to taste like everyone else’s hefeweizen. That's the biggest problem I have with craft beer—common sources of yeast. No matter how talented a brewer is, the end product of fermentation, due to the yeast strain, has a huge effect on the beer.
We'll have a couple core products, an easy-drinking pilsner, something bitter like an American-style or British-style India pale ale, but I want a lot of variety and rotation. My brewmaster and I are going to have to see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. They are going to have to work and will really have to put their heart and soul into it."
Based on his choice of brewmaster, the aspiring tavern keeper is likely to have few concerns. Cheston has brought on talented local homebrewer and blogger Nathan Zeender, whose reputation for brewing and enthusiasm for unique beers is commanding.
The duo plan to start with a seven-barrel system that will produce enough suds to keep six taps rotating with house brews. There will be two guest taps for outside beers and an extensive bottle program.
Cheston describes the kitchen as "American comfort food done well and sourced locally," which translates to soups, salads, sandwiches, and other "inexpensive, recognizable menu items." He is working on selecting a chef to run the kitchen and possibly sign on to the project as a full-fledged partner.
On the choice of location, Cheston says, "I love the neighborhood feel. Shaw and Bloomingdale are well on their way to being the Brooklyn of D.C. The brewpub will be a true neighborhood gathering place. It's an under-served neighborhood for something like this."
Photo by Tammy Tuck