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Alexandria: Where DC’s Breweries Began

Weekend Tour

Saturday, November 17, 2018 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Code: 1NWA04
Wales Alley in Old Town is named after Alexandria’s first brewer (Photo: Garrett Peck)

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Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, is filled with a refined historic charm reflected in its grand colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. But it was also the city where brewing first began in the Washington, D.C., area when Scottish immigrant Andrew Wales set up shop in 1770. Brewing was a major part of the local economy, satisfying the thirst of dockworkers, ship crews, and neighboring plantations like Mount Vernon. It was also a source of innovation: Robert Portner, the largest brewer in the South, invented air conditioning and ice making machinery to allow him to brew lager year round. It all came crashing down in 1916 when Virginia went dry, but today new makers are following in the tradition of Old Town’s venerable brewers.

Join author and beer historian Garrett Peck on a charming walk through Old Town’s alleyways, archaeological finds, ice wells, warehouses, and waterfront as you explore the sudsy beverage’s local history and its renaissance. Bring your camera and good walking shoes; the route covers about 2.5 miles along byways and sidewalks. If the 2-hour walk works up your own thirst, join in an optional happy hour (with cash bar) following the tour.

This tour is 2.5 hours and begins at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House on 323 S. Fairfax Street. A free trolley is available from King Street Metro station to the waterfront. Parking is available in Old Town, with the Market Square underground garage on Fairfax at Cameron Street recommended. Dress for outdoor walking.  

Other Connections

Watch Garrett Peck, author of Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C, discuss beer’s growth as a national beverage and why breweries were often among the first businesses to spring up in 19th-century immigrant neighborhoods.

Tour meets at the Old Presbyterian
Meeting House, 323 S. Fairfax St
Alexandria, VA