Sherwood's Notebook: Now, Time for a Beer Break!

Let’s face it, the grind of political campaigns seems endless.

If you don’t think so, ask the candidates. They’ll tell you — privately, of course — that campaigns are a grueling marathon for them and voters.

So, this week we are stepping away from the campaign trail for a refreshing break to explore the unique, local history of beer with D.C. author Garrett Peck and his new book.

Politically, beer and booze have had a turbulent history in America. Our nation’s capital certainly has been at the center of it before, during and after Prohibition’s short-lived constitutional ban.

A good part of local Washington’s history — not the national fights over alcohol — involves beer breweries dating back to the 1770s. But a lot of that local history has remained lost, dispersed, hard to find and only sporadically recalled or celebrated.

Until now.

Peck’s new book out this month is titled “Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C.” (The book is available through the publisher, The History Press of Charleston, S.C., and from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Politics and Prose.)

“Alcohol always has been a fundamental part of American culture,” Peck told us in an interview this past week. “It’s such a fascinating topic.”

It’s especially relevant given the burst of new breweries operating in the city. Some of the newest places include the huge Bluejacket Arsenal near the Nationals ballpark, Right Proper near the Howard Theatre in Shaw and Hellbenders Brewery opening this May in the city’s Takoma neighborhood. (Please don’t say “Takoma Park” — that’s in Maryland.)

“DC’s best days as a brewing center are ahead of it, not behind it,” says the book’s introduction written by Greg Kitsock, the beer columnist for The Washington Post and editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.

Virtually all of us know of the Heurich brewery. Its owner’s mansion near Dupont Circle was long home to the local historical society. But the beer world of local Washington is far more than one brewery. Peck, an independent writer, has authored four other books.

“The Prohibition Hangover” describes both the national love affair and contempt for alcohol. An earlier book focused on Prohibition in Washington. (If you meet Peck, ask about the obscure Temperance Fountain erected in 1882 and still located along Pennsylvania Avenue downtown.)

“The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry” explored the little-known Maryland quarry of red sandstone along the C&O Canal. And his “Potomac River: A History and Guide” is just that, a close look at our underused river resource.

But back to the beer break.

Peck has nearly two dozen events coming up in the Washington region to discuss and autograph books. Check them out at

Our favorites to hear Peck in the District:

■ Heurich House, 6:30 p.m. March 13. The Heurich House Museum, the only brewer’s home open to the public and the last architectural remnant of old brewing in D.C. And oh yes, there will be beer. 1307 New Hampshire Ave NW. Tickets are required for this event.

■ Politics and Prose, 1 p.m. March 22. Washington’s proud independent bookstore will host Peck for a talk about “Capital Beer.” 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW.

■ The D.C. Public Library’s Washingtoniana Division and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. This event will be held at RFD, but an April date is still to be selected. (The event is being moved from the library to RFD so beer can be served. Good move.)

■ Bikes & Beer. The bike shop and social group BicycleSpaceDC is planning a special event for cyclists to join Peck on a Temperance Tour of Washington, winding up at the Right Proper brewery. No date yet, but check the website for details and availability. BicycleSpaceDC events can draw 200 or more participants.

■ Back to politics. Our break is over. As we mentioned, campaign season brings a slew of candidate forums, cramming the calendar, exhausting the candidates and devaluing the value of the whole process.

Now, Ward 7’s Democrats have shown how it can be done.

The mayoral forum was held last Saturday at H.D. Woodson High School. Instead of just the ward Democratic Party organization, the forum hosts included other community groups from Benning Ridge, Deanwood, Fort Davis, Dupont Park, Hillcrest, Northeast Boundary, Park Naylor, Parkside, Penn Branch and River Terrace, and Woodson’s parent, teacher and student representatives.

Some group somewhere should take on organizing comprehensive public forums in all eight wards. It would be more efficient, more newsworthy, more respectful of voters and candidates and, frankly, more fun and interesting.

■ Early voting. Early voting starts March 17. If you forgot to register, don’t worry. The city has same-day registration.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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