By MATT HUMBARD — With all permits in hand and inspections completed, the long-awaited opening of Hyattsville’s newest brewery is here. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. is the second brewery to call Hyattsville home. The owners say it’s been a long — and at times frustrating — process to open, but all the equipment is in place and beer is flowing.
Owners Jon Cetrano, Mark Burke, and Sam Costner say they are excited to finally be open. “There were a lot of delays with inspections and utilities,” said Burke, the head brewer of Streetcar 82.
Like so many breweries, Streetcar 82 got its start through ambitious homebrewing. Burke said he was inspired by French and Belgian-style farmhouse ales like saisons. He wanted to bring a combination of Belgian-inspired beers and more approachable styles to Hyattsville. “My favorite beer is saison,” Burke said, “but it is not for everyone. People like IPAs or pale ales.”
With the delays behind them, Streetcar 82 is ramping up production. “The brewhouse is 3 barrels and we are starting with single batches of beer,” Burke explained.
Selection changes rapidly with a smaller brewhouse, but the owners hope to always have a variety of beer available. Streetcar plans to offer a wide variety of styles from saisons to IPAs to stouts. The goal is to provide people with choices ranging from light to dark. Some of the first beers Streetcar offered were two stouts: one made with an English ale yeast and one made with a Belgian ale yeast. The beers allowed people to explore the use of different yeasts and its impact on the final beer. Streetcar has also offered saisons made with rye and different IPAs using hops like Azacca and Cascade.
The brewery takes its name from the 82 Streetcar line that ran in the area from 1888 until its closing on Sept. 7, 1958. Some of the beer names follow a streetcar theme, like Last Stop and Conductor, while others take their names from the area surrounding the brewery, like Trolley Trail and the SoHyPA series.
Streetcar 82 is one of only two completely deaf-owned and operated breweries in the country and is the only one on the east coast. The second is Lochiel Brewing in Mesa, Arizona. The owners of Streetcar say being deaf-owned is an important dimension to the identity of the business. Currently, the brewery is staffed by deaf individuals. “We aren’t going to hire exclusively deaf employees,” explained Burke, “but a lot of places won’t give a deaf bartender the chance.”
Ultimately, Streetcar’s goal is to be a place where the deaf and hearing communities will find common ground and learn to communicate with each other better. There is a growing community of deaf individuals in Hyattsville and the surrounding areas. The group meets monthly at area bars or restaurants for “Hyattsville Deaf Happy Hour.” The meet-ups, which have been held at places like Towne Center Market and Burton’s Bar and Grill, usually draw a few dozen people. “We will be regulars at Streetcar,” said David Guana Day, a regular at deaf happy hour.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Company, housed in a remodeled auto shop, has a tap room and working brewery that has a combination of indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor area offers plenty of seating and games like cornhole and giant Jenga. During its soft openings, the brewery has frequently been full, with a mix of people signing and talking.
“We worked hard to develop a place that is diverse, neighborly and intimate,” Cetrano said in an interview with On Tap Magazine. “Our brewery is a place where people can really chat with each other and see people with their kids and dogs. When you’re there, you feel like you belong.”
Burke said the owners of Streetcar hope the space will be used by the community to facilitate communication between the hearing and deaf community. “The menu will be easy to order from for both hearing and deaf individuals,” Burke explained. And a combination of signs, text, and numbers will adorn the brewery to assist people in communicating.
There are very few deaf people currently in the brewing industry. Among them are Ken Fisher at Grateful Deaf Brewing, Ian Cameron at Liochel Brewing, Scot Div Lannigan at Ride Brewery in Glasgow, Ireland, and Jim Hammontree, a shift brewer at Yellowhammer Brewery in Huntsville, Alabama.
“Being deaf can make working in the brewing industry more challenging,” Hammontree explained. “I am profoundly deaf but have the aid of a cochlear implant. I grew up orally and picked up sign language while at college at RIT. I’m lucky to work with knowledgeable and talented brewers like Keith Yager, head brewer and co-founder, and Jordan Lambert, our lead brewer. I would be lying if I said there isn’t a communication barrier with them. They have to keep reminding themselves that I can’t help it that I’m deaf. Plus I have to keep reminding myself that they can’t help it that they are hearing. They have been very patient with me. I’m very lucky to work in that accommodating environment.”
Earlier this summer, Yellowhammer Brewery re-released a seasonal beer with Braille embossed on the can. The beer is named Miracle Worker after educator and humanitarian Helen Keller, who was born deaf and blind. Yellowhammer Brewing has recently teamed up with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) to promote awareness of their organization and help fund some of their local outreach programs for the deaf and blind. “For the event release, I’m planning to collaborate on a brew with a local blind musician who also brews,” Hammontree explained. “It will be a hoppy pale ale, basically a session version of the Miracle Worker. We will name it Little Bronco, which was Helen’s nickname. We’re all looking forward to that.”
Streetcar is also working with area businesses, using local ingredients in some of their beers, including rye malt from Dark Cloud Malthouse in Maryland as well as honey from Hope Honey Farm in Hyattsville. “We are planning to do a coffee stout with Vigilante Coffee,” Burke revealed, indicating a test batch of dark beer in a fermenter.
By using local ingredients, Streetcar hopes to further engage Hyattsville and the surrounding communities.
“We chose Hyattsville because of the community,” Burke said, “both the local community and the deaf community in the area.” Burke is from Hyattsville and said he knew that the strong sense of community and family would support a new brewery.
But the support goes both ways. Community drives the owners of Streetcar.
“The sense of community that we hope to foster has been a driving factor in the creation of Streetcar 82,” Cetrano said, in an interview with On Tap Magazine. “Having a sense of place is very important. Gallaudet University is the only university in the world for deaf people, and the sense of community and bond that one gets there is very powerful. As a deaf person, it is an instant connection. Whether you attend there – or are just visiting campus to see and be in a place that welcomes you – [it’s] powerful.”
Streetcar 82 has had a number of “soft openings” since July but will officially swing open their doors with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 7, which several local and state elected officials are expected to attend. The celebration continues through the weekend with food trucks, live music, special hours and cake!
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. is located at 4824 Rhode Island Ave. in Hyattsville. Check the brewery’s Facebook page and Instagram for hours and the most up-to-date beer offerings. Matt Humbard is a Hyattsville resident. He is also the former owner and brewer of Handsome Beer Company, and author of the Ph.D. in Beer blog.