It was the desire for a career change and a cross-country move that sparked the idea for Red Bear Brewing Co., a new tavern set to open in D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood this spring. Seattle resident Simon Bee told his friend Bryan Van Den Oever about his plans to open up a nanobrewery in Washington, D.C.
“Overnight, I thought about it and called him the next morning asking if he was looking for a partner,” says Van Den Oever, one of the new establishment’s three co-owners. Along with Cameron Raspet, they launched Red Bear — a reference to the owners’ roots in Washington State and its large bear population, as well as the fact that Bee and Van Den Oever are redheads — in one of D.C.’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.
“We wanted to be able to brew our own beer, serve it with food, and open up a community space where everyone would feel welcome,” says Van Den Oever, who adds they’re intentionally making the 7,000 square-foot space a safe place for all populations.
“We definitely want to be a comfortable space for the community to come into,” says Van Den Oever. “We are cognizant of the ADA population, so most of our tables are ADA height. As we hire folks to work here, we request that everyone starts or continues to learn ASL for the deaf community, which makes sense given how close we are to Gallaudet University.”
Red Bear will offer a core group of beers on draft, based on their popularity among customers, as well as 64 draft wines, cider, and mead. Customers will be able to order craft cocktails, made with spirits from local distillers like Republic Restoratives and Green Hat. Most of the beer will be produced for in-house consumption, but some will be stored in kegs and distributed to local bar.
While all three owners are gay, and the company will sponsor the Washington Renegades Rugby Football Club, the space is not solely intended for LGBTQ clientele.
“It will be a mixed crowd,” says Van Den Oever. “I think we’ll have a fairly decent showing from the LGBTQ community, especially because we’re trying to be so welcoming, but we’ll have to see.”
The bar is scheduled to open next month, so long as there are no bureaucratic delays. “Our grand opening could be around St. Patrick’s Day weekend,” Van Den Oever says. “That would be amazing, especially since we did a collaboration beer with Lough Gill Brewing in Sligo, Ireland. To have that on tap by St. Patrick’s Day would be ideal.”
Red Bear Brewing Co. is located at 209 M St. SE. To be informed about its official opening date, sign up at www.redbear.beer.