Fenwick Beer & Wine
Silver Spring, MD – There are package stores that exist only to profit off the limited palate and love of booze found amongst the general populace, and there are those with more sophisticated designs. Fenwick Beer & Wine falls firmly in the latter category.
Fenwick offers a beer selection including not just Sam Adams, but Sam Smith, as well. Their list of nearly 400 bottled beers includes Spaten, Chimay, Rogue, and even Delaware’s Fordham and Lebanon’s Almaza. The store doesn’t carry Budweiser, Coors, or anything ending in ‘Lite.’ “You can find those anywhere,” said Owner Suman Shrestha, who opened the shop with his wife, Cathy, at the end of 2009. “We want to offer something different.”
The store is unassuming, to put it mildly; it looks more like a small vacation home than a magnificent beer emporium. But the location, on the corner of Second Avenue & Fenwick Lane, is superb. The Shresthas previously ran a store further from the city, but the move to Silver Spring makes them much more reachable for DC-area beer aficionados – just a short walk from the Silver Spring Metro station. There may be other places within DC to find fancy and unusual brews by the bottle, but the vast selection at Fenwick should draw the connoisseurs out of the city via the Red Line, to enjoy a day in the suburbs.
The owners have taken advantage of the simple space to create a welcoming boutique, rather than an impersonal booze dispensary. The space is limiting, but is also warm and personable.
The left half (or two-thirds, maybe) of the shop is lovingly devoted to beer. Shelves are lined with an unending variety of bottles, and a veritable fortress of six-packs and cases leaves just enough room to navigate. Subconsciously accustomed to big-brewer corporate logos, the sea of unfamiliar names and colors advertising such obscurities as Hansa and Zywiec will give any beer-lover a renewed love for life.
On their website they list all the beers they carry. It is an impressive, even overwhelming list, comprised of beers from every continent but Antarctica, countless craft brews, many beers from the Mid-Atlantic region, and even several organic and gluten-free varieties. And this massive selection – again, already close to passing the initial, ambitious goal of 400 varieties – is ever-expanding. They encourage patrons to recommend beers to stock, and are always looking for new bottles and breweries to introduce.
But, as the name implies, beer is only one half of the equation. The wine selection (the right side of the shop) is less extensive than that of the beer – although over one-hundred lesser-known wines are on hand. As with the beer, there are examples from everywhere, including some locals. Weekly tastings (generally Friday afternoons) offer a great way to check out new arrivals, both domestic and imported. Though tastings naturally tend to be wine-oriented, beer tastings are beginning to work into the Fenwick line-up, as well.
Suman Shrestha hails from Nepal, and has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. It is clear, both when speaking with him and when perusing his shop, that he is a lover of the craft of brewing. While this is one reason for his disdain for the big American breweries, another reason is simple logistics. Confronted with limited space, he and his wife have already considered eventual renovation or expansion – but to add to their incredible selection; not to introduce MGD and PBR.
The shop’s next addition has, in fact, already been planned. All the beer is currently unrefrigerated, but soon a walk-in cooler will provide one more dimension to this unique boutique. There is already more than enough beer available at Fenwick to satisfy every taste and any occasion. Soon patrons will be able to enjoy the added benefit of being able to pop open that frosty new brew the moment they get it home.
For providing the alcoholic requirements of a huge fraternity blow-out, this is probably not the place. For one thing, as mentioned, there is no generic beer. For another, there isn’t even space to store kegs, let alone keep them cool. While this may seem a drawback, all it really means is that the focus is on quality, not quantity. Although, of course, there is quantity, too – but in terms of variety, not in the manner of, say, bath-tub gin.
This is the candy-shop for the beer lover. The owners will have several suggestions to suit any taste, from the familiar to the obscure to the unique. In just a few months Fenwick Beer & Wine has become a rendezvous point for local zymurgic cognoscenti. It is a place to encounter people who are not just fond of good beer, but are knowledgeable, as well. The community of craft-brew enthusiasts is growing quickly, thanks largely to stores like this one. In turn, the community enables stores like this to exist and, hopefully, thrive.