Lately, it seems like there is a new beer hall or garden opening up every day in the DMV. But what makes these new locations different from all the rest? How does each plan to stand apart when consumers have so many options? The people behind Astro Beer Hall downtown and The Garden in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood have each found creative ways to answer those questions. From crafting an out-of-this-world food and beverage menu to constructing a beer garden dedicated to community, each location brings personality and passion to an already burgeoning scene.
Astro Beer Hall
Co-partners Elliot Spaisman and Peter Bayne
Astro Beer Hall opened in early October in the former Mackey’s Public House location. The new space-themed spot is the brainchild of the teams behind Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, with locations downtown and in Falls Church, and bar and restaurant development group Tin Shop, known for Penn Social in Penn Quarter, Georgetown’s Church Hall and Ivy City’s Big Chief, among others. We sat down with Elliot Spaisman of Astro and Peter Bayne of Tin Shop to chat about how they came up with the concept for their beer hall, their selection of brews and what plans they have for the future.
On Tap: What was the inspiration for Astro Beer Hall’s concept?
Peter Bayne: We had all met about six years ago and kept in touch. When this spot became available, everything fell into place. They had doughnuts and we had beer. Beer pairs so well with fried chicken. It felt like the perfect fit.
OT: Was the plan always to make the beer hall space-themed?
PB: We wanted to make sure that the design was in line with Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken’s branding. We wanted something that was warm, vibrant and captured the Astro brand.
OT: What makes Astro unique to other beer halls?
PB: No one else is doing a full coffee shop that then converts to a bar in the evening and is making fresh fried chicken and doughnuts.
OT: If you could turn any of your doughnuts into a beer, which would it be?
Elliot Spaisman: Crème brûlée for sure, or maybe the maple bacon. Both would make a delicious stout.
OT: How many taps do you have?
PB: We have 19 taps upstairs and 20 downstairs, including a nitro cold brew coffee tap.
OT: How many local beers are on tap?
PB: We have six lines that are dedicated to local beers. We have tourists and a lot of people coming through looking for local products, so we wanted to make sure that we were celebrating the local beers on our draft list.
OT: Will you be doing beer and doughnut pairings in the future?
PB: We want to figure it out. It’s too much fun not to do. Right now, we are focused on getting started, but [we] intend to have fun with the food Astro offers.
Astro Beer Hall is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. and Sundays 12-8 p.m. Stop by 4-7 p.m. on Monday through Friday for happy hour specials. For more info, visit www.astrobeerhall.com and follow the beer hall on social media @astrobeerhall.
Astro Beer Hall: 1306 G St. NW, DC; www.astrobeerhall.com
Owners Jeremy Barber and Justus Frank
On the other side of the river in Alexandria, Justus Frank and Jeremy Barber – who own Del Ray staples Live Oak and Charlie’s on the Avenue – are settling into their latest venture, The Garden. Formerly a garden center, the full-blown beer garden opened in Del Ray this summer next door to Charlie’s. We caught up with the owners about their newest addition to Alexandria’s food and drink scene.
On Tap: What is unique about The Garden?
Justus Frank: Each of our locations has a different focus. Live Oak is more of a craft cocktail and wine-centric restaurant. Charlie’s is a sports bar, so it has a fair amount of beer. But we wanted The Garden to be different. We wanted to create something that was beer-centric but not German beer-focused – an American beer garden, if you will. The majority of our beer is locally sourced. We try to support local craft beer places such as Ocelot, Aslin and Port City.
OT: Who curates The Garden’s beer list?
JF: Will Witherow is our beverage director. He’s the essential ingredient for making this all happen. He has ties with local breweries and has built great relationships that have helped him curate our drink list. We currently have 16 draft beers and three cocktails on tap.
OT: What is your most popular beer right now?
Jeremy Barber: Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat is selling like crazy. We also have two Oktoberfest beers on draft that are popular.
OT: As the weather gets colder, do you have any beer alternatives for guests?
JF: We are offering hot liquor drinks, spiked ciders, spiked Manhattans [and] hot cocoa, which can become a Belle Isle coffee moonshine drink.
OT: What has been the best beer moment for you since opening?
JF: The best beer moment for us was looking at how many spent barrels were in the “keg graveyard” after week one. We had like 31 empty kegs. We couldn’t have imagined that that much beer could’ve been consumed over a week.
The Garden is open Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. The spot opens at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and will also be open throughout the fall. Follow The Garden on social media @thegardendelray.
The Garden: 1503 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.thegardendelray.com