The End of DIY?

Historic Old Town Alexandria

Crafting your own beverages is a fantastically enjoyable activity; putting the time, effort, and love into your beer, wine, or spirit is rewarding both during and after – especially after.  Microbreweries have arrived as the newest and hottest trend in beer drinking.  But if you’re truly cutting edge, brews from even small, niche market breweries aren’t enough: you need to Do It Yourself.

Unfortunately for city residents like me, my apartment’s square footage can’t handle the requisite equipment to brew, ferment, or distill.  Yet it only takes a short trip to suburban Alexandria, Virginia to solve this problem – where a few local companies provide the equipment, instruction, and necessary space to make your own booze.

Shenandoah Brewing Company and Carafe Wine Makers, both located in the historic Washington suburb, each provide these services.  I had the pleasure of visiting both in the past few years: I made about five and a half cases of Shenandoah’s Honey Weizen; and my wife and I made just under four cases of Carafe’s Barolo-style IL Re Di Vini.

The process for making your own beer or wine is similar: first, after a tasting session, you select your variety and craft it under the staff’s guidance and direction; afterwards, the company stores your creation during the fermentation period; during fermentation, you can design your own label for a special personal touch; and finally, you return to bottle your beer or wine and take it home.

However, I received two emails in June that seemed to signal the end of creating your own beer and wine in the Washington, DC area.  The first, from Carafe, plainly stated as such: “After 4 years of wine making and enjoying this experience with all of our loyal customers, Carafe will be closing its doors this month and going virtual. You will still be able to purchase some of your favorite Carafe wines through thevinoexpo.com which will be coming soon.”

The second, from Shenandoah Brewery, indicated that although changes in management were underway, the staff sounded modestly optimistic: “Prospective new owners should be in place by the end of this month or the beginning of July… but yes, they are maintaining the brew-your-own-beer part of the business.”  The email concluded on a sad note: “the brewery will not be open on Saturday [June 25th] nor will it be open again until 13 July.”

It appears that for now, at least, do-it-yourselfers are without options.  While I too am optimistic the brewery will re-open later this month, I’m realistic enough to understand the financial strains put on such a small and unique brewery by the recessed economy.  If the recent news of Capitol City Brewing’s consolidation is any indication, prospects don’t look good.  Here’s hoping otherwise.

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Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 11:23 am  Comments Off on The End of DIY?  
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