Biking for beer: A guide to the Metropolitan Beer Trail

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Not long after the Metrobar beer garden opened in Edgewood last summer, co-owner Jesse Rauch says, he noticed an unexpected trend: An increasing number of customers — “bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, birthdays” — were arriving not by Uber or via the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station across the street, but by walking or cycling up from the Metropolitan Branch Trail, a popular bike and jogging path that runs between Silver Spring and Union Station and has an entrance just a block from Metrobar.

“They were going up and down the MBT, visiting the different new bars and breweries cropping up there,” Rauch says. In addition to Metrobar, which has a decommissioned Metro car at the heart of its space, frequently mentioned bar crawl stops include City-State Brewing, which opened a few weeks before Metrobar and is located a brisk five-minute walk up the trail, and the Dew Drop Inn, a two-level neighborhood bar with a huge patio that is located a block north of City-State. “Coming out of covid,” Rauch says, “I figured there was a great opportunity to find ways to collaborate with the other bars on that trail” to drum up business.

Rauch and his Metrobar partners reached out to their neighbors as well as bars in Brookland and NoMa, where they began working with the NoMa Business Improvement District, to formalize the barhopping route, eventually including seven bars and breweries located along or just off the MBT. The idea, says John Groth, another partner in Metrobar, is that “we could help get more people to use the MBT to traverse the bars and get from neighborhood to neighborhood. A lot of these neighborhoods, even though they abut each other, things like Rhode Island Avenue or the Metro tracks separate them in certain areas. The MBT really helps you get from point A to point B, if you’re walking or riding your bike or whatever, and we felt like we needed to utilize that.”

Businesses and governments using brewery or distillery “trails” to drive tourism isn’t a new idea: In this region, they can found from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Loudoun’s Ale Trail has four geographic “clusters” throughout the county, including one highlighting farm breweries.

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What makes the Metropolitan Beer Trail especially attractive is its compact size and lineal scope: The route between the Wunder Garten beer garden in NoMa and Right Proper Brewing in Brookland is just over 2.2 miles, and, except for a few blocks near either end, it sticks to the MBT: a paved path that’s open only to bikes, scooters and pedestrians, with no need to worry about cars or buses. It’s as friendly to parents pushing a jogging stroller or a couple out for a stroll with their dog as it is to hardcore runners or cyclists.

The beer trail debuted last weekend with the launch of a passport program, which offers rewards ranging from discounted drinks to T-shirts for checking in at all seven locations, as tracked through a smartphone. Think of it as a relatively short marathon, not a sprint, as participants can take as long as needed to visit every stop. “We know of people who’ve been hitting three or four in a day before we even came up with the idea,” Groth says. “Hitting seven in a day is a lot,” he cautions, before adding, “I think it’s possible if you’re pacing yourself and you don’t overdo it.”

 

(Once you’ve visited all seven locations, there’s still more to do: Consider tacking on “unofficial” visits to Andy’s Pizza, at Streets Market in NoMa, where drafts from the Veil, Wheatland Spring, Tripping Animals and Crooked Run form one of the most underrated beer selections in the city, or riding a few blocks east of Right Proper for a Saturday pit stop at the pleasant Public Option brewpub in Langdon Park.)

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Before the trail officially opened, we did some reconnaissance with the help of a Lime e-bike. Here’s what you need to know about each of the stops, starting with a pro tip: The ride is easier going from north (Right Proper) to south (NoMa), due to downhill ramps from Franklin Street NE to the trail near the Dew Drop Inn, and more ramps from the trail to the street in NoMa, as well as a downhill slope above Florida Avenue.

The home of one of the city’s most popular breweries, Right Proper’s Brookland tasting room offers around a dozen beers on tap, some of which you won’t find anywhere else, as pints and flights. There’s live music after 6 p.m. on Fridays and occasionally on Saturdays and Sundays, so check the brewery calendar. Right Proper scaled back its hours during the pandemic and now opens at noon Friday through Sunday, so don’t plan on including this in a weekday trip.

Cheryl Smith, left, and Ashley Williams, center, visit the Brookland location of Right Proper Brewing.

Distance from trail: At 0.4 miles from the MBT, Right Proper is the most distant stop from the trail itself, which is one of the reasons to think about starting there. There’s also a ramp from Franklin Street to the trail to negotiate — something to consider if you’re thinking about pushing a jogging stroller uphill.

Bike essentials: Right Proper has stylish bike racks with logos out front, as well as an air pump. The closest Capital Bikeshare station is more than two blocks away, at 12th and Irving streets.

Outdoor space: A shaded patio, with stones crunching underfoot, offers the choice of seating at picnic tables or bar stools grouped around barrels. A toy box with bulldozers, trucks and games offers distractions for the youngest visitors. There’s also a streatery with colorful picnic tables protected by a bright blue fence.

What to order: As nice as fresh Raised by Wolves pale ale can be, go with something lighter. At 5 percent alcohol by volume, the Terra Firma lager, which sports a clean, spicy finish, and the refreshing Li’l Wit, a soft, citrusy Belgian-style witbier, seem like perfect bike beers.