Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Slash Run, Sotto and The Crown & Crow

There are few greater simple joys than listening to great live music with an even better drink in your hand. This month, we rounded up DC’s musically minded watering holes to find out more about their bars, drinks and live music lineups.


Slash Run - Christine Lilyea and Ana Latour (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Slash Run
Christine Lilyea, Owner and GM
Ana Latour, Bartender and Manager

On Tap: What does Slash Run add to Petworth as a neighborhood?
Ana Latour: There’s something about the versatility of Slash Run that speaks to its importance in Petworth. This neighborhood is a family spot, but also a growing place for young people who want to live in the city. Slash Run can be all of those things.

OT: As a music venue, what’s the local to national act ratio?
Christine Lilyea: It’s a mix of local and national. A lot of the people I work with are local bookers, but they always bring [artists] from out of town.
AL: We had a band here last night from Japan. They were insane! It was probably one of the wildest things I’ve seen since I got here. The band who opened for them was from down the street.

OT: Any local favorites you book regularly or try to bring into the mix as often as possible?
CL: They’re from New York, and they’re called The Nuclears. They’re just really nice guys and their music is insanely good. It’s like Thin Lizzy [or] Cheap Trick – just good, in your face, on the ground sweating rock ‘n’ roll.

OT: Tell us about the drinks at Slash Run.
CL: I have managed restaurants before, so I’m really big on this. It’s supposed to be a dive bar and have shitty wine, but I can’t do it. I’m very picky about our wines and beers. If people want PBR, I’ll give it to them, but then I’ll find something cool too.

Check Slash Run’s website for a full list of upcoming shows, including:
Biff Bang Pow, a 60s garage/psych/glam vinyl dance party on November 10
Part Time with Bottled Up on November 19
Super Unison, Downtrodder, Coward and Bacchae on November 17

Slash Run - Spiced Cider (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Spiced Cider
Cotton & Reed Mellow Gold Rum 
Warmed cider 
Cloves
Cinnamon sticks
Star anise
Citrus butter
Orange and lemon zest

Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com


Sotto - Savi Gopalan (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Sotto
Savi Gopalan, Bar Manager

On Tap: How has Sotto has changed since opening three years ago?
Savi Gopalan: Sotto has really changed into a venue focusing on music. I think originally, the music was more of a perk rather than a focus; whereas now, we define ourselves as a music venue.

OT: How do you think the local jazz scene has changed in recent years? Why is it important to offer live music at Sotto?
SG: I think there’s more community behind it, not just within the musicians but the clientele as well. There’s a real connection within the jazz scene now that I don’t think was as predominant previously.

OT: Do you have any new vinos this winter?
SG: I’m really excited about the new rosé we’re offering by the glass, G.D. Vajra Rosabella. We have a smaller wine list because we are more of a cocktail-focused place, but I do like a lot of the options we offer.

OT: What’s your process for crafting new cocktails each season?
SG: When you’re going into a new season, I always look at what flavors are popular. I pick different flavors that stand out to me and I’ll build cocktails around that. For instance, the mezcal smokiness is appropriate for fall, [and] calvados too. Even though people don’t really do brandy cocktails anymore, I think it fits with the season.

OT: It seems almost all your beers are local. Why is it important to support DC area breweries?
SG: We definitely try to keep all of our beer choices super local. We try to push for local spirits as well, because there are so many great places in the area. It would be a shame not to have them on the list.

Visit Sotto’s website for a full list of upcoming shows, including:
The Lionel Lyles Quintet on November 9
Tashera on November 15
Champion Sound on November 29

Sotto - Back To December (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Back To December
Red wine
Mulled wine syrup
Lemon
Orange
St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram

Sotto: 1610 14th St. NW, DC; www.sottodc.com


Crown and Crow - Ben Sislen and Brian Harrison (Photo - Trent Johnson)

The Crown & Crow
Brian Harrison, Owner, Creator and Barman
Ben Sislen, Owner
Brooke Stonebanks, Event Coordinator

On Tap: What inspired your Victorian era theme?
Ben Sislen: We were flexible with what we were going to be. It started when we found our bar in the front room and it was [from the] Victorian era timeframe.

Brian Harrison: We thought the first room would be rustic, and the other would be sophisticated. Once that vintage feel took hold in the front, it carried throughout.

OT: Your cocktail menu seems reflective of that time period as well.What was the creative process for coming up with unique takes on period cocktails?
Brooke Stonebanks: I want to go along with the theme. The cocktails we had when we first opened were just plays off classic cocktails. Moving forward, the drinks will focus on obscure ingredients that promote smaller brands.

OT: What kinds of cocktails are you looking to make this winter?
Stonebanks: I want to focus on the spirit and and [make] simple cocktails. We have a lot of Irish and American whiskeys and we’re looking to add more. I want them to be whiskey-heavy.

OT: What’s your process for booking musical acts? Any local names you use regularly?
BS: Mostly local acts. We don’t charge a cover because we want the music to be accessible, and we want people coming in and trying out the bar.

Visit Crown & Crow’s website for shows as they’re added through the month, including:
Anthony Pirog on November 3 and Swampcandy on November 15

Crown and Crow - Le Corbeau Sanglant and The Burning Crow (Photo - Trent Johnson)

The Burning Crow
High West Campfire Whiskey
Five-spice syrup
Orange bitters 
Cinnamon stick

Le Corbeau Sanglant 
Compass Box Great King St. Glasgow Blend Whisky 
Luxardo cherry sangue 
Dolin Rouge vermouth
Blood orange juice

The Crown & Crow: 1317 14th St. NW, DC; www.thecrownandcrow.com

 

26_ImperialBrews

Imperials Rule the Winter

The word imperial refers to something from an empire, breeding thoughts of power, dominance and royalty. For beer drinkers, it means heavy ABVs and potent flavors. As the winter sets in and winds blow, higher ABVs will once again become the most sought-after drinks – and their popularity in the world of craft brewing is only rising.

“There’s nothing like it,” says Jeff Hancock, cofounder, president and brewmaster of DC Brau. “[I] still enjoy the very robust and aggressive flavors, and the ever-changing hop profiles. You want to see what brewers are doing to push boundaries of hops. Imperial IPAs are where one should start.”

According to digital food magazine The Kitchn, imperial was first used to describe stouts brewed in England in the 1800s. Those particular beers were then shipped to Russia’s imperial court. From there, the term evolved into a common phrase attached to beers that are big and bold, featuring massive quantities of hops and malts that contribute to higher ABVs.

“I think [imperial] beers excite customers in large part because they know [they’re] rarer,” says Ben Evans, head brewer at Hellbender Brewing Company. “We’re always challenging ourselves when we create new beer recipes. Imperial beers are a particularly fun challenge for us as brewers because we have to balance bolder flavors and hide the much higher alcohol levels.”

When Evans says “hide,” he means to make them taste good. And Hellbender does, most recently offering a triple IPA called Beyond the Infinite with a double IPA set for release on November 10 as part of the brewery’s fourth anniversary.
DC Brau also has a history of notable imperial releases and others on the way, such as their Sugar Leaf Hazy IPA set for a Thanksgiving debut.

Other local breweries and retail locations with memorable imperial-style beers include 3 Stars Brewing Company, The Bruery Store, District Chophouse and Old Ox Brewery, to name a few. Though you’ll commonly see folks mention hops and IPAs when talking about the style, Old Ox actually attached the phrase to this season’s pumpkin ale.

“For Oxorcist II, the imperial brown ale base allows us to showcase fall spices without overwhelming the beer or your palate,” says brewer Ian Gildea. “The body from the malts and the addition of maple syrup balance the spices in a way that would be difficult in a low ABV beer.”

The imperial category allows brewers to be more creative with limited releases, as the high ABVs encourage freedom. In a way, this style encapsulates the craft movement, allowing for funky tastes that are heavy in alcohol and attitude.

“The way you raise ABV is to use more grain, and when you do that you have a richer flavor profile,” says Hugh Sisson, owner and founder of Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Brewing. “When ABV limits were put aside, there was sort of an explosion [for imperials]. There’s no doubt about it.”

As the temperature drops, ABVs will rise and the average beer drinker’s palate will expand. For brewers, that’s a good thing as it brings fans of highbrow beers and more casual beerheads together, forming an even stronger craft beer empire.

“[Imperials] are so hop-forward, everyone can pick up on the intense aromas,” Hancock says. “[This] sparks immediate conversation about the beverage, even if they don’t know much about the style. It’s like instant common ground that everyone can talk about and dissect.”

Check out these local breweries to try new imperial-style releases.

DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com
Heavy Seas Brewing: 4615 Hollins Ferry Rd. Baltimore, MD; www.hsbeer.com
Hellbender Brewing Company: 5788 2nd St. NE, DC; www.hellbenderbeer.com
Old Ox Brewery: 44652 Guilford Dr. #114, Ashburn, VA; www.oldoxbrewery.com

Photo: M.K. Koszycki
Photo: M.K. Koszycki

DMV Black Restaurant Week Highlights Local, Black-Owned Businesses

From November 4 through 11, Washingtonians will be able to enjoy good eats and empowering signature events poised to tackle issues of diversity and inclusion in the restaurant industry. The inaugural DMV Black Restaurant Week will highlight black-owned restaurateurs, chefs and caterers in the region, with 20-plus locations serving discounted deals or prix fixe menus for $25 or less.

“We want to be able to create a platform,” says cofounder Erinn Tucker, who describes the new restaurant week as locally grown but globally aware. “We want to use this opportunity to really give back.”

Tucker, a Georgetown University professor for the Master’s in Global Hospitality Leadership program, is one of three restaurant/hospitality veterans behind the already well-received and well-publicized event. She’s joined by Andra “AJ” Johnson, who is in the process of publishing White Plates, Black Faces, a book that puts a spotlight on black culinary talent and addresses cultural neglect in the industry. Third cofounder Furard Tate worked as the chef for H Street-based Inspire BBQ before it closed and is now getting ready to open Brookland’s Love Market, a business designed to train those between the ages of 19 and 25 in a fast-casual restaurant setting.

“I’ve watched this city change and have been a part of it as a business owner as well as a resident,” Tate says. “I know this city, so this is something that we have been collectively working on for awhile. We want to educate the community [on how to] support these restaurants, because a lot of them are closing. An educated consumer is a much better consumer.”

Po Boy Jim’s Jeff Miskiri says he’s hopeful the restaurant week will be advantageous for newer establishments participating in the event, including his five-year-old Cajun restaurant on H Street.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he says. “It’s not just about me. It’s about everyone coming together as a whole.”

DC icon Ben’s Chili Bowl is also participating, and cofounder Virginia Ali says it’s spectacular that the District has so many restaurants representative of various cultures across the globe.

“DMV Black Restaurant Week is something new and exciting for Washingtonians to come and enjoy, and hopefully it’s going to grow over the years,” she says.

The restaurant week’s three signature events include a kickoff networking opportunity on November 4 at the Union Oyster Bar and Lounge near Union Market, the R. R. Bowie Bartender Club competition on November 5 at Service Bar in Shaw, and the Business of Food and Beverage Education Conference on November 10 at the University of the District of Columbia.

Conference panels will range from “Workplace Culture: Rethinking the Workplace” to “Miseducation of the Black Diner,” including discussions on important topics like employee safety, tipping, stereotypes of the black diner, and treatment of the black server.

The theme of the bartending competition is “Black History Makers of the DMV,” and contestants will pay tribute to the DC area through their cocktails.

Participating restaurants will not only be able to enjoy continued support from the community, but also from their peers like the Restaurant Association of Maryland and National Restaurant Association.

“We’re not just letting people [try] the food,” Tate says. “We’re also helping these restaurants sustain themselves [through] our allied relationships and partnerships.”

Plans are also in the works for quarterly programming to further bolster the local restaurant community, according to Tucker.

“In five years, we really see this as an initiative [that becomes] a signature event for the globe,” she says. “We are a global city. We are a global environment. People will be traveling in for this particular event.”

The full roster of restaurants, bars and other spots participating in this year’s DMV Black Restaurant Week has not yet been announced but check www.dmvbrw.com for updates. Follow the event on Twitter and Instagram @dmvbrw.

Note: DMV Black Restaurant Week is in no way affiliated with Black Restaurant Week, LLC, which plans on expanding to the District in 2019. The event is also not the first of its kind in the area. In 2015, a Black Restaurant Week was organized by ABlackLife LLC and New York-based I DON’T CLUBS brought Black-Owned Restaurant Month to DC.

Glasses with different sorts of craft beer, wooden barrel and barley. Retro stylization
Glasses with different sorts of craft beer, wooden barrel and barley. Retro stylization

What’s On Tap: November Beer Listings

Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7

Guided Mead Tasting at Capitol Cider House
Come learn all about mead (aka honey wine) from the team at Orchid Cellar, Maryland’s premier meadery. The best part? Your ticket includes a guided tasting through six handcrafted meads. The cider house will remain open following the second session for attendees who wish to sample more of the menu. First session at 6 p.m., second session at 8 p.m. Tickets $15. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitolciderhouse.com

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8

Brew Republic Fall Beer Dinner
Enjoy a four-course dinner paired with Brew Republic beers, including hearty greens, pork belly medallions, honey baked Cornish hen and red wine poached pears with sorbet. 5-8 p.m. Tickets $55. Brew Republic Bierwerks: 15201 Potomac Town Pl. Woodbridge, VA; www.brewrepublic.beer

Brewmaster Tour at Heurich House Museum
Admission includes an hour-long guided tour of the museum and a local craft beer tasting from Bluejacket. Receive one beer flight per person, featuring 4 oz. pours of three local beers, and experience the Brewmaster’s Castle with a drink in your hand. After the tour, you are welcome to mingle in the Conservatory and purchase full beers. 5-6:30 p.m. Tickets $30. Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10

Fourth Annual Movemberfest Pig Roast
Hosted by Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar, this event features amazing food provided by Chef Ryan Gordon of The Queen Vic and frosty beverages by the team at DC Brau Brewery. As always, there will be a cash raffle with hundreds of dollars in prizes and this year will include a silent auction with all types of amazing DMV-centric prizes and memorabilia. 3-8 p.m. Tickets $60. Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar: 1104 H St. NE, DC; www.littlemisswhiskeys.com

DC Beerathon
The DC Beerathon is an annual tradition of craft and premium beers at DC’s best bars and restaurants, now in its 7th year. The original idea behind the Beerathon was to create a marathon event in November for those of you whose enthusiasm for running includes making a beer-run. Come enjoy all-day access to great beer and food at DC’s best venues. A ticket gets you a 6 oz. tasting pour of 26 beers, an all-access VIP pass to the 13 participating venues and a map to guide you. 12-10 p.m. Tickets $55. Check in at Nellie’s Sports Bar: 900 U St. NW, DC or Buffalo Billiards: 1330 19th St. NW, DC;
www.beerathon.com/washingtondc

Pizzeria Paradiso Autumn Fest
Join in celebrating autumn for the third part of Paradiso Four Seasons Beer Fests. This season’s beer fest will take place at the Old Town Alexandria location. This festival will feature a draft line of seasonal favorites, rare and exceptional Virginia beer, cornhole, oversized Jenga and other games. The restaurant is partnering with Art Works Now to create a mini-pumpkin painting activity for kids, making this event fun for the entire family. Pizzeria Paradiso: 124 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.eatyourpizza.com

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11

Annual Cask Ale Festival at Mad Fox Brewing Company
Join Mad Fox for the Mid-Atlantic’s largest cask ale event. Sample more than 30 special and limited edition cask conditioned ales from around the region at the two day, indoor event. Enjoy music and fantastic food while sipping traditional cask conditioned ales. There will be special tappings throughout the day on Saturday, with more offerings and special tappings to be announced. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. on both days. Tickets $20 for both days. Mad Fox Brewing Company: 444 W Broad St. Falls Church, VA; www.madfoxbrewing.com

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11

FlyFIT at DC Brau
Don’t miss this fun fitness experience with our DC Brau. FlyFIT offers low impact cardio, endurance-based strength and mobility, and heavier strength training combined with high intensity intervals. Instructors Stephen Murray, David McMichael and Savannah Fox will lead you through this 45-minute workout, followed by a post-workout beer. 12:30-1:30 p.m. Free with registration. DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

Paint & Brew at Forge Brew Works
Novice painter? No worries. Artists will guide you through the painting step-by-step and you’ll be amazed with what you can do. Either follow the instructions or make it your own. Bringing a friend or partner? Save on tickets when you purchase a pair. Pre-registration is required. It is recommended to arrive 15 minutes early to check-in, choose your seats and grab your beer. Includes a flight of four beers. 1-3 p.m. Tickets $35-$60. Forge Brew Works: 8532 Terminal Rd. Lorton, VA; www.forgebrewworks.com

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12

Lost Rhino Beer Dinner
Craft beer is a passion, an obsession and a journey. From hoppy to malty to sour, take a trip through all the flavors. You’ll enjoy a welcome reception with a shared appetizer and a glass of tmavý before moving to a seated dinner featuring four brews and four courses from Matchbox executive chef Vekys Rodriguez de Lopez. 7-9 p.m. Tickets $55. Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro: 2911 District Ave. #120, Fairfax, VA; www.matchboxrestaurants.com

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14

A Guided Pairing: Holidays & Beer
As the holiday season approaches, let the Old Blue BBQ and Port City Brewing guide you through the various holiday feasts that lie ahead, such as Thanksgiving, New Years and, of course, Festivus. Food is an important part of any holiday tradition and Port City wants to make sure you are prepared with the best beers to complement each meal. In this jolly and unique pairing, each course will represent one holiday paired with the perfect beer for the occasion. There will be five holiday pairings, with five 8 oz. pours of your Port City favorites. 7-9 p.m. Tickets $45. Port City Brewery: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Profs and Pints: The Genius of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin’s genius is a puzzle. Born the tenth and youngest son of a decidedly humble family of puritan candle-makers, his rise to the front ranks of science, engineering and invention was as unexpected as it was meteoric. In this talk professor Richard Bell will examine many of Franklin’s ideas to make life simpler, cheaper and easier for himself and everyone else. It turns out that those ideas encompassed not only natural science and engineering – the kite experiments and the bifocals for which he is justly remembered – but also public works, civic improvements, political innovation and fresh new business ideas. Event at 6 p.m. Tickets $12. Bier Baron Tavern: 1523 22nd St. NW, DC; www.inlovewithbier.com

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23

Hoppy Black Friday Yoga at Eavesdrop Brewing
No better time to invite joy (and folds and twists for the digestive system) than the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday. Sure, you could be stuck in lines at the mall for hours on end (you’ll need a good stretch after shopping), or you could roll out your mat at beautiful Eavesdrop Brewing for an hour of self-care indulgence, followed by delicious craft beer. 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Eavesdrop Brewery: 7223 Centreville Rd. Ste. #115, Manassas, VA; www.eavesdropbrewery.com

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24

5th Annual DC Brau Holiday Market
DC Brau’s 5th annual Holiday Market, presented in partnership with Think Local First DC, returns on Small Business Saturday. DC Brau will transform the brewery into a crafters marketplace for one day only, perfect for visitors to start (and finish) their holiday shopping with unique wares from more than 40 local artists and artisans in a unique indoor setting. 1-6 p.m. Free to attend, but VIP tickets are $10. DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29

BrewLights at ZooLights
Friends of the National Zoo’s hoppiest holiday event, BrewLights, a ticketed microbrew and craft beer event, will take place during ZooLights, powered by Pepco. Guests can enjoy beer tastings from dozens of breweries and sample complimentary snacks, all under the bright lights of DC’s favorite holiday tradition. All proceeds support the critical work of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute – including species preservation and animal care. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $40-$60. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.nationalzoo.si.edu

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Potomac Distilling Company’s Todd Thrasher

The transition from barman to rum distiller was a no-brainer for Todd Thrasher. Add the opportunity to continue energizing the nightlife at the burgeoning Wharf neighborhood to the mix and you’ve got one extremely confident – and rightfully so – business owner.

Thrasher’s Potomac Distilling Company is slated to open this month, a slightly adjusted date based on a few additional construction needs. His distillery’s smokestack is quickly becoming one of the city’s most iconic structures, with the cheeky idiom “Make Rum Not War” painted on one side.

As locals impatiently await the distillery’s opening, Thrasher continues to hone the craft of distilling and prep his four rums – his flagship Green Spice Rum, as well as white, gold and spiced – for consumption. After years leading the Eat Good Food Group and its current spots, the seasoned mixologist says he’s ready to walk away from day-to-day business operations at his NoVa-based ventures.

In fact, he won’t be leading business operations at the distillery either. His wife Maria Chicas will, and he says she’s excited about it. Thrasher, on the other hand, says making rum and expanding his rum’s reach both locally and nationally is his sole focus.

Thrasher’s three cocktail bars within Potomac Distilling range from Polynesian-style tavern Tiki TNT to a grassy rooftop space including a garden with botanicals used for his Green Spice Rum – and managed by his mom, who apparently has quite the green thumb.

He is clearly an option maker, with high hopes of creating yet another reason to visit The Wharf. He wants to pique the interest of locals and tourists alike, offering them access to the distillery, and giving them multiple vibes to choose from for their bar experience.

On Tap: Why is The Wharf the right fit for your distillery?
Todd Thrasher: The water and the rum. Really, it came about because [Wharf developer] Monty Hoffman wanted me to do another Bar PX down here, but I wasn’t interested. So, he floated this idea of a distillery – legend has it there was [once] a distillery down here – and I drink rum, so it was a natural fit for me.

OT: What do you think this neighborhood is bringing to DC?
TT: A waterfront. DC has so much waterfront that has been underutilized. I don’t want to park in Georgetown; that waterfront is small, and the dining and options down there are not so interesting. I think The Wharf itself is bringing something that has long been missed: a waterfront opportunity that’s a gathering place.

OT: How late will the distillery be open?
TT: We’ll be open late, except Sundays. Monday through Thursday we’ll be open till 1:30 a.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays we’ll go until 2 a.m. Me and my business partner have had long discussions about keeping those hours, because that’s a big thing with bars. They say “Yeah, we’ll stay open late,” but when business isn’t happening, they close.


Work Must-Haves
Music
MacBook Pro
Coffee maker
Non-slip floors or mats
Comfortable shoes


OT: Why just rum? Why not multiple spirits?
TT: We may branch out in the future, but there’s a hole in the artisanal rum market right now.

OT: Is rum’s popularity shifting in cocktail culture?
TT: [Yes], and on the craft level. I think we’ve seen that big influx of whiskey, and God knows there’s enough vodka on the market to choke people. New American gin has been kind of big the past few years, but it’s time for rum now.

OT: How long did you spend learning about distilling and experimenting with different rum profiles before setting up shop?
TT: In terms of distilling, [I] probably [started] around 2010. I got into home distilling on a very small scale, and most of the stuff went in the garbage. Over the past two or three years, I’ve taken a few classes at Moonshine University and visited many distilleries.


Can’t Live Without
My wife
Our son Trystan
Vacation
My bed
The ocean (I’m an avid scuba diver)


OT: Are there any challenges to owning a distillery in an urban area?
TT: It’s small in there. I think the distillery itself is just under 1000 square feet, so moving things around is an issue. It’s going to be very tight, so I’m sure storage will be an issue, but hopefully I’ll grow out of the space because of success.

OT: What is your wife’s role in the business?
TT: Clearly she’s the boss [laughs]. She runs our other restaurants on a day-to-day operations basis, but we’re pulling her out of that role. She’s basically going to be the office manager of the entire operation, and she’ll do private parties and all that stuff. She’ll run the business aspect of the whole entity – the distillery and the bar.

OT: How do you feel about Potomac Distilling being in the spotlight? Everyone who crosses the bridge has a prime view of your smokestack.
TT: It’s unbelievable. It’s great. I mean, I joked with a friend of mine about how it’s going to be as big as the National Monument. Everyone who crosses the bridge is going to see that smokestack, and hopefully it’s intriguing to them. It’s reminiscent of the older days when there were billboards.

OT: Who is your ideal customer?
TT: Everybody. I want everyone who’s going to the Fish Market to have a cocktail. I want everyone who’s going to Arena Stage to have a cocktail and a bite to eat. The great thing about DC is it’s a great melting pot of people, and every four years, you get an influx of new people too. I’m equal opportunity.

For more information on Thrasher’s Potomac Distilling Company, click here.

Potomac Distilling Company: 1130 Maine Ave. SW, DC; 202-900-4786; www.wharfdc.com/restaurants/potomac-distilling-company

Photos: Courtesy of Heavy Seas Brewing
Photos: Courtesy of Heavy Seas Brewing

Ale the Heavy Seas with Founder Hugh Sisson

How does an aspiring actor dreaming of big lights in New York City choose the life of a brewer over a career on Broadway? For Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson, two things come to mind: success and passion.

In 1980, Sisson took the keys to the family pub rather than leave for an acting career. But instead of stashing cash for a few years and then heading to the city like he’d planned, the young man delayed and delayed until he realized he was already doing what he was meant to.

“I had hesitations,” Sisson says. “It’s one of those things where you’re finishing grad school and have no money, and you’re heading into a field that doesn’t lend itself to cash flow…. my first inclination for this was temporary, it would allow me to save a few dollars and pay off some debt, and then hit New York with a few bucks in my pocket.”

He never left Baltimore for New York. Instead, he ran the family tavern simply called Sisson’s until 1995, when he founded Heavy Seas Beer, a place where his brewing interests could flourish and grow.

“The process of brewing is fascinating,” Sisson says. “When I started in the brewpub it was me and a bunch of books, I was psyched about it. I’d wake up at 3 a.m., go into the office and brew a batch of beer. In those days, it was continuously fascinating and at the end of the day, you’d have a full tank of beer.”

He brewed at Sisson’s for about five years, following a successful campaign to get brewpubs legalized in Maryland.
“Now people pick up the phone and order a brewery,” Sisson says with a laugh. “We had to figure all that crap out. By 1989, the family pub had became the first brewpub in Maryland, and that was an interesting transition.”

Operating at a small scale allowed him to get his hands dirty and be creative with his recipes, but after tasting success at nearly every level, he was ready to move on to a larger operation and Heavy Seas was launched.

Sisson took what he learned, found some other like-minded individuals crazy about brewing and began pumping out more beers. This included annual options like the American IPA Loose Cannon, Pounder Pils, Gold Ale and others. Now The brewery is one of Baltimore’s most notable and has produced several popular beers since its inception.

“It changed and adapted, because as you get larger it becomes more of a business,” Sisson says. “You have to make a product for which there’s a market. You look at the market and figure out where there are holes. Since we don’t live in a world where you make one product and that’s all you do, especially in the craft segment, you’re going to have a portfolio of products.”

Though Sisson and Heavy Seas are into producing classic concoctions that will stand the test of time, they do dabble in seasonal releases that make sense. For instance, the brewery recently installed a 15-barrel pilot system which will allow them to test recipes in the tasting room without getting ahead of themselves with mass production.

“It’s not going to represent a ton of volume, but it serves purposes,” Sisson says. “It gives us a new platform and it allows us to do something crazy at a small enough format to where we’re not betting the ranch. To the extent we can produce one-offs, it helps drive business in the taproom.”

Apart from that, Sisson and his team at Heavy Seas is set to release their new Schnee Boot, a bourbon barrel-aged Eisbock. The brewery is also going to release new spring and winter beers in 2019, as well as some broader visual changes to the brand’s iconography.

“We’re working on a logo change,” Sisson says. “It both excites me and terrifies me. We’ve had the current one for eight years, and we’re changing it because we have to. In small business and beer business, you have to be willing to reinvent yourself from time to time.”

Despite the change in look, you can bet on Heavy Seas to deliver world-class beers in 2019 and beyond.

For more information about Heavy Seas Brewing, brewery tours, taproom tastings or where to find Heavy Seas beer near you, visit www.hsbeer.com.

Heavy Seas Brewing: 4615 Hollins Ferry Rd. Baltimore, MD; 410-247-7822; www.hsbeer.com

Photo: NMAI staff photo, http://blog.nmai.si.edu
Photo: NMAI staff photo, http://blog.nmai.si.edu

Native Foods in Flavor Just In Time For Thanksgiving

We’ve all heard the tale of the first Thanksgiving: a feast where settlers from England and Native Americans gathered around a large wooden dining table outdoors and passed turkey, stuffing and other treats around until everyone was full, happy and thankful.

While turkey and stuffing have become staples in the cultural zeitgeist, Native American food hasn’t, until now. The tide is shifting, and according to an September CNN article, Native American fare is undergoing a refreshing revival around the country. In DC, there is only one restaurant dedicated to its promotion: the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe located on the first floor of the National Museum of the American Indian.

The Mitsitam menu is designed by Head Chef Freddie Bitsoie, who became the first Native American chef for the cafe in 2016.

“I think the reason why [there is a resurgence] is because of people like myself,” Bitsoie says. “Native food is something that wasn’t popular until Native chefs started talking about it. I had always been taught at a young age that people aren’t going to care until you make them care. So most Native chefs have that mentality. Whatever your point of view is, make them talk about it.”

Bitsoie also references Bobby Flay and Martha Stewart making fried bread on their shows, which caused people to tag and text him snippets with comments indicating the famed and white chefs had no right to culturally appropriate the dish. He disagreed, simply saying that he makes a “damn good” ossobuco, and if he could demo it on TV then he would.

“No Italian chefs would say, ‘I don’t have the right to do that,’” Bitsoie says. “Appropriating Native arts like jewelry [and] fashion, to me, is fine. But food is personal and people want to go home and try things they like. It’s a very fine line to promote and talk about it. But if people are mimicking it, we’re doing what we’re supposed to.”

One reason Native American foods continue to climb in culinary popularity is the fact that they are immeasurably diverse and expansive. As a person without in-depth food knowledge (I’m not really a foodie, if you will), the first thing I think of on mention of Native American food is corn-based dishes and buffalo meat. I was uneducated about salmon planks or the wide variety of soups indigenous chefs have concocted throughout history.

“People really do think boring, bland and grainy when they think of Native foods,” Bitsoie says. “These are things myself and other chefs are trying to change. For instance, New England clam chowder is a soup that has an ancestral path to the North Atlantic. Tribes from Nova Scotia would make soup with clams, sunchokes and sea water. When the English came, they added their cream and butter and that’s how it came to be. I researched and researched to see if there was a clam chowder from England, and I couldn’t find one.”

With Thanksgiving this month, there’s no better time for these dishes to move to the forefront of the culinary world and find homes on menus nationwide. For Bitsoie, Native American foods should still hold weight during the holiday because of its historical significance.

“When it comes to historical stories and historical things, a lot of genocide and other things occurred,” Bitsoie says. “I think more people got along than what we’re portraying, and fed each other. We still have things like the state fair, [which is] a celebration of sharing food.”

Bitsoie says Thanksgivings were pretty standard growing up, with the exception of being at his grandmother’s house where they would pick a sheep and butcher it for an evening meal. These days, his work includes concocting the cafe’s holiday specials. This year’s Thanksgiving options range from your standard turkey to change-up tastes like bison and salmon.

“I think people should be more interested in eating gourd squash,” Bitsoie says. “I think it’s used more as decor right now. What I like to do is rough chop it, toss it in sugar and bake it. It’s a very versatile dish. And I think people should utilize quail a lot more. It’s a very good bird.”

To learn more about the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe and its food specials for the holidays, visit www.mitsitamcafe.com.

National Museum of the American Indian: Independence Avenue and 4th Street in SW, DC; 202-633-6644; www.mitsitamcafe.com

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Día de Los Muertos Festival at The Wharf

The skies cleared and the fun began at the Dia de Los Muertos festival at the Wharf. Presented by Modelo, the day featured live music from La Unica, sets from DJ Blind Stares, face painting, an altar competition and authentic treats from Pearl Street restaurants. Photos: John Gervasi

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A Taste of Chevy Chase: The Lindley Grand Opening Celebration

The Lindley’s Grand Opening Celebration featured a live jazz trio, fare from local restaurants like La Ferme, Tavira Restaurant, Manoli Canoli and PassionFish Bethesda, tours of the luxury space and raffle opportunities. Photos: Mike Kim, Devin Overbey

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Rosslyn Farmers Market with Trailer Grass Orchestra

Rosslyn Farmers Market at Central Place Plaza with FRESHFARM Market featured Trailer Grass Orchestra playing bluegrass covers of hits, free hot cider, and the local produce at the market. Photos: Devin Overbey