Brewing Exceptional Beers Behind the Scenes
Right Proper Brewing
On the best sort of Sunday morning, Nathan Zeender and his partner, Rachel Lawrence, will grab some bagels and head to the National Arboretum along with Fhinn, their 3-year-old son. For Zeender it is more than a family-friendly destination. The 2 .5-acre National Herb Garden within it is full of brewing ideas, nicely divided into distinctive theme gardens, among them Beverage, Fragrance and Native American.
There doesn’t seem to be a plant that Zeender is not interested in brewing with, and the orderly arrangement of the gardens must likewise appeal to him. “The more predictable things are, the happier I am,” he says, talking about the schedule he and assistant Chris Percello keep at Right Proper Brewing in Washington, D.C. They mash in within a five-minute window each day and try to always take lunch at the same time.
“We’re a bit superstitious.” Zeender says, explaining that Fridays are for mixed-fermentation beers, a bit of brewing derring-do involving untamed yeast strains not usually embraced by brewers who treasure predictability. He calls some of these American Primitives, a term borrowed from music and referring to the work of untrained artisans, most particularly avant-garde guitarist John Fahey.
The music connection is also evident in how Zeender names the beers. One poured in June and known as Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine shares its name with both a song title and a drone doom supergroup. A Berliner weisse at its base, it was brightened by bold American hops (Centennial and Chinook) and dandelions.
Not surprisingly, Zeender and Fhinn picked the dandelions themselves.