Denizens Brewing Co. head brewer Jeff Ramirez fills casks with sour beer at the Silver Spring brewery and taproom. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Jeff Ramirez, the brewmaster at Silver Spring’s Denizens Brewing Co., enjoys concocting some unique brews.

Last week, he was transferring what will become sour beer from rectangular stainless steel vats to wooden casks. The sour-beer brewing process features yeast, which can add unpredictable flavors to the beer, and takes time to age—six months to a year for the beer to reach a point where it can be served.

The lengthy aging period and unpredictability keeps many brewers from making sour beers, but Ramirez says he likes to experiment.

The 28-year-old brewer and co-owner from northern New Jersey works behind the scenes to craft Denizens’ lineup of  different beers with the help of assistant brewers James Fiandt and Kevin Corcoran.

The 15-barrell brewing system at Denizens on East West Highway is the largest in Montgomery County, capable of producing about 2,200 barrels of beer a year, according to Ramirez. Denizens opened in stages this year—the beer garden opened in July along with the upper taproom and then the lower taproom opened in October.


The brewery began production in August. Since then, Ramirez has been pumping out beer to sell at the tap room as well as to other restaurants in the area. So far, the beer is a hit with some local bar managers.

Dave Delaplaine, general manager and beer director at Roofers Union in Adams Morgan, said the new brewery has done a great job maintaining flavor consistency with its brews.

“They do something really exciting,” Delaplaine said. “Part of what’s important with a new brewery is to be consistent. They’ve done a great job in their infancy with being a consistent product.”


Brett Robison, a certified cicerone (basically a sommelier for beer) and bar manager at Republic in Takoma Park who has become friends with Denizens’ owners, said he considers the brewery’s Born Bohemian Czech-Style Pilsner a “world-class” beer.

“That is our decidedly mainstay beer. We go through a lot of it,” Robison said. He added that many brewers can make a good IPA or stout, because these heavier beers feature bold flavors that can mask mistakes, but lighter beers such as pilsners are more difficult to brew.

“If you make a mistake then it’s going to show up a lot easier in a really light beer,” Robison said.


Ramirez first started brewing beer at 22. He worked for free in a small brewery in New Jersey during the day, then worked the nightshift at the bar or waiting tables to make money.

“I always liked to make things and I wasn’t a real academic,” Ramirez said. He graduated from Kenyon College and later went to the renowned Seibel Institute of Technology, a brewing academy in Chicago.

His first paid brewing gig was at Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurants, which has multiple locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. He brewed there for six months before joining the specialty beer program at Mountain Sun in Colorado, which operates brewpubs in Denver and Boulder.


At Mountain Sun, Ramirez said he had the opportunity to experiment with a large amount of raw materials—from varieties of malts and hops to barrel-aging ingredients—that helped him gain a base of brewing knowledge.

Ramirez was then approached to join the Denizens team by co-owners Julie Verratti and Emily Bruno, who knew him because his brother is married to Bruno’s sister.

“It’s a little scary when you start,” Ramirez said. “It’s laying the foundation of what we can do.”


In the future, the brewery plans to package its beers for retail sale. Taylor Barnes, the marketing manager for Denizens, said it’s part of the taproom’s two-year plan, but right now they’re content selling it to customers at their location and as kegs to local bars.

As for Ramirez’s favorite beer, he said he likes a good lager or pilsner, but added “I drink a lot of different styles. We don’t have cots here [in the brewery] yet, but I’ve been angling for one.”

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