Red Bear Brewing Co.

Red Bear Brewing logo

(202) 849-6130

First Visited

May 18, 2019

Red Bear’s story is steeped in Legend and Wonder! It begins with 3 fearless pioneers setting off from the emerald city of Seattle, on their greatest adventure yet. They set off to create a place of community in our nation’s capital of Washington. The city calls out, yearning for craft beer and an inviting place to chill.  A brewery of the highest quality is what the city needs, where the determined focus of the east coast meets the open casual style of the west coast!

It all started in Summer of 2015 when Simon Bee and Bryan Van Den Oever were hanging out at a fun event near Seattle called the “Scottish Highland Games”. Amidst the kilts and log throwing, a conversation was struck about wanting to open a brewery someday. Things progressed from there with planning, but they came to realize that they likely needed a third partner. They had the head brewer and the charismatic front of the house, but needed something more. Enter Cameron Raspet, stage right, in early 2016 who brought management and engineering expertise to the founding team.

Then began a nearly 2 year process of business plan development, beer creation, and finding the right location. Location, Location, Location! DC has some great sites, but we found that breweries are still a bit of an unknown here and convincing a landlord to sign a brewery wasn’t easy. Finally in November of 2017 though, the stars aligned and our lease was signed for a great spot in NoMa! With keys now in hand and a fierce team of supporters at our back, the dream became reality in March 2019. DC and NoMa now have a great spot for the community to call home.

The entire site for Red Bear Brewing is centered around reuse and recycling. The building itself used to be an Ice House, built in 1931. Then later in 1941 the Uline Ice Arena was built next door to house the Washington Lions hockey team. What followed were 3 decades of use as a hockey, basketball, and music venue, including the famous first performance by the Beatles in the United States.

Then in the 1970’s, the site as a whole started falling into disuse and away from its former glory. Used as a jail, a waste sorting facility and finally a giant parking garage, it came close to demolition in the early 2000’s. Finally in the mid 2010’s, the Ice House and Uline Arena were fully revamped and given new life, saving both a historical structure as well as being able to reuse a massive building that was nearly sent to a landfill in its entirety. Since Red Brewing is environmentally focused as a core ethos, the site was highly attractive based on its history and overall goal of reclamation. It ended up being a key factor in Red Bear selecting the site to build our brewery in.

All of our tables and benches and some other pieces of furniture are both made by Red Bear itself (Head Brewer & Founder Simon Bee is also a fine woodworker!), but also made from reclaimed wood. We buy reclaimed wood from local salvage businesses to use as much as we’re able. Save a tree, help support local small business – We call that a win/win!

Beyond the base building, the style of the brewery focuses on rustic decor and simplicity and that lends to a minimal build out footprint. We don’t have large extensive millwork in the back bar like some places. Our ceilings are completely open, both for acoustics, and well as minimal construction. Also, our flooring is simply the original base concrete with some added touches to make it look great. Where we do need to build, we try to use reclaimed wood or recycled materials whenever appropriate.

As for the name? We embrace the outdoors and adventure, so we wanted our name to reflect that. We thought bears fit this well, and so made bears central to our identity. As a fun connection, it also is a term used by the gay community that describes a certain type of husky men, usually denoting an abundance of alluring body hair. Add in the “red” and you’ve got a “Ginger Bear”, which could be used to describe most of the founding team :).

Red Bear Brewing is an independent craft brewery that fights the mediocre industrial beer giants and strives to win over the hearts of the community. Our conscientious nature shines through with our commitment to our diverse team members, neighbors, and the planet we all share. We quest with the parched people of the district. We ensure that their thirst will be vanquished! Lives will be changed!! The people of the district will cheer!! Huzzah!!!!

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