Thursday, August 21, 2014

Beer March On Washington

Washington, DC

I just learned that DC Beer Week is going on right now and it reminded me how far behind I am on this blog. Not too long ago, I had my own little beer week there. In fact, I wouldn't mind being there right now, drinking at Right Proper or Bluejacket, but instead I'll spend the rest of the day in front of my computer. Yippee.


About a month ago, I had a gig in the Capitol City and managed to find quite a bit of time around my schedule to explore the city on foot and check out some of its breweries and beer bars. Most of my wanderings came at night, after work, so I could only manage short trips in and around the area relatively close to the Convention Center, but when the week was over, I did manage to devote a whole day to walking and drinking, otherwise known as a UBH.

I'll get to the route map and the other shit in a minute, but first I want to tell you about some noteworthy places I visited that weren't part of the actual beer hike (they're the red mugs on the map below):
  • Pizzeria Paradiso - Georgetown: I really want to encourage you to visit any of their three locations if you're in the D.C. area. They absolutely belong near the top of any beer tourist's "to-do" list. You won't find a better tap and bottle list anywhere in the city and the pizza was top-notch. The night I went, it was muggy as all hell and Georgetown was crawling with people, but I found refuge at the underground bar. Just perfect.
  • On another evening, I took the Metro out to Arlington and met up with an old friend at Mad Fox Brewing. The pub itself isn't really anything to get excited about (my cheeseburger was terrific), but their beer offerings will satisfy your inner beer snob. Get a sampler and then some pints. You should sit a while because how often do you get to Arlington?
Some of the goods at Mad Fox Brewing
  • Right Proper Brewing is fairly new in town (I think) and was probably the closest place to my hotel. It's a damn shame that I only made it there once in my whole time there. There's a lot to love here -- try to sit at the bar near the cheese counter and have a chat with the cheese monger. Few things in life are better than beer, cheese, and good conversation.
  • If you're walking around the city, you'll likely pass through DuPont Circle at some point. If you're thirsty and looking for something very down-to-earth and friendly, try The Big Hunt. (There's also another Pizza Paradiso near here.) This place reminded me of a cross between Toronado, an arcade, and a hunting lodge. I don't really know how else to describe it. Good beer, good happy hour specials, and surly service. My kind of place.
 OK. On to the hike...

This is usually how it begins.

Beer March on DC
Bluejacket - RFD - Church Key - The Bier Baron - Smoke & Barrel - Meridian Pint; 6.7 mi.


View Beer March on DC in a larger map



1. After a good, late breakfast at Jimmy T's corner cafe, I began my day in the rapidly-developing neighborhood near Nationals Park and the Navy Yard. It was almost impossible to get a slow start at Bluejacket - the draft list is long and intriguing. Barrel-aged farmhouse ales, dry-hopped k├Âlsch, gose, black wheat IPA... I imagine this place gets its share of beer douches and for good reason. Everything I tasted was damn good and it's an inspiring, comfortable place to sit and hang out.

The first leg of the hike is the longest (2.5 mi.) so I hope you peed before you left. The route goes right through the National Mall where you'll see some familiar sights (and lots of tourists):





2. RFD may look like a typical alehouse/sports bar at first, but there's some rich history here. It was opened in 2003 by the co-owners of the now-closed Brickskellar (more on that in a moment). On my visit there, I got a pint of Dogfish Head Festina Peche for $4. That's a ridiculous deal anywhere, but especially in DC, where everything is expensive. Even if you're just going to have a pint or two, take a look at the huge bottle list for a good read.


3. When I arrived at Church Key, I was turned away due to a private party that had bought out the place for a few hours. That was fine, though, I came back at the end of the hike when the place had turned into a night club (I felt a little under dressed in my shorts and t-shirt). Beer-wise, this is another place that should be near the top of your list. The selection isn't enormous, but it's very thoughtful and it's obvious that they take great care with the delivery (cheers to Beer Director Greg Engert, also of Bluejacket). I would've loved to make one more visit that week and try some of the food, too. The menu looked fantastic.


4. Set in a very unique space, The Bier Baron has done an admirable job carrying on the spirit of its previous, long-time incarnation, the famous Brickskellar, which opened in 1957. The Baron retains a saloon-ish feel and I felt right at home there, drinking canned beer and chatting with the locals. It reminded me a lot of Horse Brass (Portland) and Workhorse (Austin) -- exactly the kind of non-pretentious place that I'd hang out in all the time if I lived close.


 5. By this point in the hike, I was heading toward the Adams Morgan neighborhood and ready to eat. As he's spent some time here recently, I asked Chris (remember him?) for a recommendation. He advised me to check out Smoke & Barrel for the excellent beer and whiskey selection and delicious barbeque. He was right on all counts -- the brisket I had there was the best I've had outside of Texas. I wisely passed on the whiskey, but the selection was formidable. I'm definitely coming back to this joint next time I'm in DC.


6. You can feel good about tossing back a few pints at Meridian Pint -- they are a testament to what's possible when you set out to make a bar/restaurant sustainable. You can read the details on their "About" page, but the long and short of it is that most of the place is reused/reclaimed, they compost just about everything, and 95% of their staff walks to work. Besides all that, it's a great beer bar. Pretty cool.

All in all, I had a fantastic time in DC and I rate it better than average, as far as beer hiking goes. There's a great deal to see on foot in this town (duh) and it's not very big or spread out. There's a whole list of places that I didn't get to visit, so I'm really looking forward to coming back and doing some more exploring.

Two days after this beer hike, I caught a train to Baltimore. I found some great stuff there, too. I'll try to get that out to you soon.

Thanks for reading. Here's a look at some more of my lousy pictures:

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