Five years ago, Montgomery County was still behind the curve when it came to the national obsession with craft beer.
Fast forward to 2020, and the trend is reversing—and quickly. The county is now home to nine craft breweries with open taprooms. If Silver Spring and Rockville are the epicenter of the movement, with six breweries within a 10-mile radius, the up-county area is close behind, with three excellent farm breweries in Montgomery County’s agricultural reserve.
You can find a craft taproom nearly everywhere (Bethesda is notably quiet when it comes to craft breweries; Rock Bottom, on Norfolk Avenue, is part of a national chain). And while nine might seem like a lot to try, we’ve put together a guide to match a brewery with every need. Have a friend who loves IPAs? We have a brewery for you. Looking to try something you can’t find anywhere else? We’ve got a recommendation for that, too.
Here are my picks for the best of the local brews.
Best Overall Beer (tie)
Saints Row Brewing
A small, drafty taproom hidden inside an industrial park in Rockville, Saints Row Brewing offers little in the way of amenities. But don’t be dissuaded—its catered menu of craft beer is on par with Denizens Brewing Co. and better than many of the county’s bigger players.
The brewery sells a handful of beers at a time (six on the day I visited), and they’re all well crafted and original. I felt like I was sipping summer with the “Careless Whispers,” a hazy coconut pale ale with a creamy mouthfeel and unapologetically tropical flavor. It paired perfectly with the “Beast and the Harlot,” a light-bodied white ale with notes of sea salt and Key lime pie. Easy to drink at 4.5% ABV, it was the perfect beach brew.
Darker beers were full-bodied without being overwhelming. I particularly liked “Beating the Kobayashi,” a hazy, heady double IPA that started bitter and finished smooth. The self-described “nanobrewery” rotates its beers regularly, which means there’s always more to discover.
Saints Row Brewing, 1211 Taft St., Rockville; saintsrowbeer.com
Denizens Brewing Co.
Denizens Brewing Co. has gotten glowing write-ups for its vast beer garden—an oasis of umbrellas amid the urban sprawl of downtown Silver Spring—and its LGBTQ-inclusive space (co-owners Emily Bruno and Julie Verratti, who founded the brewery with brother-in-law Jeff Ramirez, are married, and Denizens often hosts drag performances and Pride events).
But don’t overlook the beer itself, which is consistently among the best in Montgomery County. Bruno, Verratti and Ramirez have been honing their wares since 2014, when they opened one of the few woman- and minority-run breweries in Maryland. They’ve since expanded to a second location in Prince George’s County, but still offer the same quality suds from their low-slung building.
Excellent offerings include the “A Petit for $400” bourbon barrel-aged sour—a surprisingly mellow brew with a distinct apricot fruitiness. Tart, but not mouth-puckering, it even had my sour-hating friend reaching for a second sip.
Other favorites included a clean, crisp Czech-style pilsner—dubbed “Born Bohemian”—and a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. The latter, saucily named “The Chapless Horseman,” balanced a touch of bitterness with smooth notes of coffee liqueur.
Denizens Brewing Co., 1115 East West Highway, Silver Spring; 301-557-9818; denizensbrewingco.com