Nathan Zeender is an extraordinary brewer, who stands out among the brewing mainstream. As a homebrewer, Nathan Zeender set himself apart by propagating the dregs of wild and sour beers, aging batches in wine and spirit barrels, and blending the results. We explore how he brought this innovative approach to Right Proper Brewing Company, where he helped launch the DC brewpub that is revolutionizing the brewing industry.
Nathan Zeender is a homebrewer who made his mark propagating wild and sour beers, aging batches in wine and spirit barrels, and blending the results. He has co-founded Right Proper Brewing Company, a brewpub in Washington DC, which plays far outside the traditional brewing mainstream.
A DC-native, Zeender spent several years in the wine industry, has brewed beer for a small microbrewery, and over time made the pivot to brewing.
At Right Proper, Zeender is the head brewer for the original brewpub, which opened in Shaw in late 2013. He also runs the brewery’s two production facilities, Brookland Production House and the Right Proper Tasting Room. The production house churns beer out for cans, kegs, and distribution to other area restaurants.
Zeender began his beer career as a homebrewer. After tasting some experimental homebrews with a wild yeast strain, Zeender was intrigued. He found organism-driven beer fascinating and each beer seemed to have a "living, breathing thing in it," which inspired his further brewing endeavors.
But Zeender found commercial brewers "averse" to this type of experimentation. So, instead of working for a brewery, Zeender decided to go off on his own. He spent several years brewing his own sour beers, propagating yeast, and experimenting with fermentation and aging in wine and spirit barrels.
Now his wild brews are served up at Right Proper Brewing Company and can also be found in other breweries and establishments. He also works with local Washington DC restaurants and bars, including ChurchKey and Westbrook which serve some of his specially brewed concoctions.
Right Proper has grown significantly since its inception and continues to gain popularity. Along with their Shaw location, they opened up a second bar in the Brookland District of DC, called The Right Proper Tasting Room. Their production facility, Brookland Production House, is housed in a 6,000-square-foot space and has the capacity to produce 8,000 barrels of beer a year.
Beyond brewpubs and restaurants, Zeender also takes his wild beer experiments out of the country. He has developed a number of collaborations with international brewers and distillers from around the world such as the Rogue Ales & Spirits from the United States, Beavertown Brewery from the UK, Stigbergets Bryggeri from Sweden, and Germany's Freigeist Bierkultur.
Zeender strongly believes in the influence of the local DC beer scene in the growth of Right Proper. According to him, the city provides a unique opportunity to expand the unique flavor profiles that they craft. He says, "It’s great to have local restaurants and bars that are eager and willing to get involved in a product like this; it really allowed us to grow our brand."
Zeender has always drawn inspiration from the eclectic influences in the city and has tried to incorporate those influences into his beer. His beers ranged from classic Belgian-style ales to experimental new styles, all of which reflects the history and diversity of Washington DC.
Nathan Zeender is a true pioneer in the world of homebrewing, taking his wild and sour beer experiments to the masses and gaining tremendous recognition along the way. From his ambition and passion of craft beer, Right Proper Brewing Company was born and continues to see immense success. Zeender's influence on the DC beer scene will be felt for years to come as he continues to celebrate fermentation, experimentation, and flamboyant collaborations with other international breweries.