How Atlas Brew Works became the most metal brewery in America

Back in September 2012 I was handing out flyers outside the Howard Theatre after Kreator, Accept and Swallow The Sun played a show there. As fate would have it there was another guy there flyering for a metal night event at the brewery he worked at. You guys know I’m always interested in metal related events in the area and so I quickly struck up a conversation with him. Little did I know at the time that I’d just met someone who would quickly become one of my best friends in both the local heavy metal AND craft beer scenes. That’s how I met brewer Will Cook. We quickly began working together to bring metal heads together over craft beer at events at Port City Brewery in Alexandria, Virginia. We couldn’t have bands play there but we did have people send in requests for metal songs to play over the speakers and I’d contact a bunch of the venues in the area to get tickets to upcoming metal shows to give away to people that showed up. These free events were a hit and we got lots of metal heads from all around the area to come bang their heads over pints. However, Will and I were always frustrated with not being able to actually host bands to play live. We did a few events at the Pinch to get around this, but it still wasn’t the same as having metal bands play at a brewery. When Will ended up working at Fair Winds Brewing in Lorton, Virginia, we continued the metal nights there and had bands like King Giant, Yesterday’s Saints and Gloom premiere new music at these events. The place was farther away than Port City though, which made it harder for people in DC or Maryland to get to the events. Then in 2016 Will began working at Atlas Brew Works in the Ivy City neighborhood of Northeast Washington DC and that’s when everything came together.

Flyer for the first metal night at Port City

I was excited when Will told me that Atlas was interested in continuing to host our metal night events. We held a few events there in 2016 but it was the DC Heavy Metal Holiday Party in 2016 that we decided was going to be the first time we tried to book actual bands at the brewery. We were still figuring things out and I remember giving away upcoming concert tickets at this show between bands. There was no stage yet so the bands played on pallets we stacked as a makeshift stage. Genocide Pact was the first band to play there and Gloom finished out the two band bill. The place wasn’t sold out but enough people showed up and paid to get in to the show that we saw that this was something that could work. Things started fairly slowly at first but when local concert promoters started booking shows there as well things really started to take off. Hasan of Ripping Headaches was the first to ask me about putting his own metal shows there and in April 2017 he put on his first of many metal shows at Atlas when Thantifaxath headlined the brewery. Hasan and other outside promoters like Jordo & Tommy of Crowbars Up, Evan from Perdition Booking/Maryland Deathfest, Adam from Savage Party and Mary from Shadow Woods Productions, and more recently Lauren from Homesick Promotions and Shamla from Metal Teresa Productions, (and probably others I’m forgetting) have all brought incredible bands to Atlas Brew Works since then, far more than Will and I could have done on our own.

Flyer for the first metal show at Atlas Brew Works

In fact, on June 20th, the Irish death metal band Zealot Cult will be headlining the 100th metal show at Atlas (details here)! There are other breweries around the country that have, and continue to, host metal shows. I’ve seen a few at Hardywood and Champion down in Richmond, and Three Floyds has metal bands play their Dark Lord Day festival every May, but I don’t think there’s another brewery in the country that can claim that they’ve hosted anywhere close to 100 heavy metal concerts. Not punk shows, not indie rock shows, not dude with an acoustic guitar in the corner doing covers shows, but actual brutal, loud, fast, heavy metal shows. That’s something really special we’ve got here in DC and I hope people realize how lucky we are to have something like this happening in our area right now.

Flyer for the Atlas Brew Works Benefit Show

Through all of this Atlas Brew Works has become a central hub for our area’s metal scene, the closest thing the DC area has to Brooklyn’s legendary Saint Vitus Bar. The staff has truly embraced the local metal community, not just to sell beer or fill the place on otherwise slow nights, but they actually enjoy being a part of the local metal community. It isn’t uncommon to see staff members wearing shirts of metal bands that have played the venue in the past and several of them are even in their own metal bands too. They treat the bands well even when turn outs are less than optimal and Atlas has put money into the venue for upgrades to the stage, the sound system and making sure they have all the necessary licenses and such as well. All of this is why I’m proud to plug the Benefit For Atlas Brew Works show going on this Saturday, June 15th, at the brewery. They’ve put a lot of money into supporting our metal scene so Hasan and the Crowbars Up crew has joined forces to put together another great line up for this benefit show that will let us all give back to the venue that has given our area’s DIY metal scene a home. The bands Blood Spore (death/doom) and Basilysk (death metal) are coming down from Philadelphia to play this show and two locals who have played Atlas a lot, Myopic and Foehammer, round out the bill. The suggested cash donation is $10 for this show and doors open at 7pm. Further details can be found on the Facebook event page for the benefit show here. This will be Atlas’ 99th metal show and I think it is definitely long past time we gave something back to the brewery. I hope to see many of you there, it’s sure to be another fun night at the most metal brewery in America!

2 Comments

  1. I’ve been to 20 shows or more at Atlas Brew Works. I love that place, and I come down from Frederick.

  2. Thanks for posting this and making all of us non-East Coasters jealous! If you’re ever in Chicago, Cobra Lounge/AllRise Brewing also consistently host metal shows (Tomb Mold is playing there 7/12) and even small fests occasionally.

    https://www.cobralounge.com/calendar/
    https://www.allrisebrewing.com/

    -Alex


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