The North Carolina Beer We’ve Been Waiting for Is Here
Mother Earth Brewing first caught my attention this June at food and craft beer fest Savor with its Double Wit Blackberry. Ever since then, I've hoped the green-focused North Carolina brewery would officially send its suds to the District.
That day has finally arrived.
Starting this week, local watering holes are pouring Mother Earth's arsenal of top-notch brews. In addition to head brewer Josh Brewer's (yes, his real name) experimental Windowpane series, which includes Double Wit Blackberry and three other unique wine and apple brandy barrel-aged beers, Mother Earth is now sending kegs and bottles of its "classic" American and international-style brews like Sisters of the Moon India Pale Ale, Weeping Willow Belgian-Style Wit, Endless River Kolsch, and Dark Cloud Munich-Style Dunkel, which recently won a bronze medal at this year's Great American Beer Festival.
Mother Earth was started by father and son-in-law team Stephen Hill and Trent Mooring in Kinston, N.C., in 2008 out of a shared love for homebrewing, their hometown, and things that are homegrown. "Kinston had a struggling downtown. The buildings were all built in the 1930s and run down," says Mooring. "We built the brewery in part to revitalize that neighborhood and add jobs to the community."
Focused on sustainability as much as their fellow locals, the folks behind Mother Earth also work hard to give back to, well, mother earth. Equipped with reclaimed products, solar power, and a system that recaptures rainwater, Mother Earth's facility is the first U.S. brewery to achieve Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
It should be no surprise that the brewery's roster includes canned beers like Second Wind Pale Ale and Sunny Haze German-Style Hefeweizen. In addition to these year-round brews, Mooring assured me that D.C. will see seasonal releases like fall-friendly Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter, the Belgian-style Tripel Overhead each spring, and the sought-after Silent Night, a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout out on Dec. 1.
According to Mooring, Mother Earth, which produced about 6,000 barrels in the past year, sells 90 percent of its beer in North Carolina. With expansion to Georgia and now D.C., Mother Earth expects to do up to 30 percent of its sales out-of-state and projects getting up to 10,000 barrels in 2013. "We want to become a regional brewery. We want to grow but at a rate that is sustainable and without losing any of the character and homebrewing feel that makes Mother Earth what it is today," he explains.
Why D.C.? Mother Earth co-founder Hill began his love of homebrewing while living in the D.C. area in the mid-'80s. Aside from the personal connection, Brewer says District beer fans can thank the courtship of SpeakEasy Spirits, a local wholesale spirits distributor that has recently begun working with craft beer. He also credits enthusiastic support from local bars like The Black Squirrel, whose owner Amy Bowman started "bootlegging" Mother Earth beers far before this week's official launch.
"On my first trip down to North Carolina, I went to a shop and said I wanted the best. They told me that meant I wanted Mother Earth," says Bowman. "We ended up touring the brewery and I've been encouraging these guys to come to D.C. since."
As for where you can find Mother Earth, tonight Mooring and Brewer will make appearances at two parties, one at The Black Squirrel at 5 p.m., conveniently coinciding with their half-price burger night, and a tap takeover at Iron Horse Taproom at 6 p.m. Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown will likely have leftovers from last night's launch event, including the newest release from Brewer's drool-worthy Windowpane series, an American wheat beer fermented with peaches and then aged in Chardonnay barrels for three months.
The list of other spots to find Mother Earth brews this week includes Smoke & Barrel, ChurchKey, Boundary Road, and Granville Moore's, as well as 1 West Dupont Circle Wines and Liquors. According to SpeakEasy Spirits' Drew Long, the list will grow over the course of the month. Check out the brewery's website for updates.
Image courtesy of Mother Earth Brewing