best bars march madness

Best Local Spots to Catch March Madness

March Madness is upon us, with the NCAA tournament kicking off its 64 games on St. Paddy’s Day. In anticipation of the upcoming games, On Tap put together a list of our top picks in the D.C. area for enjoying the tourney with a little flair. Our short list features sports bars with great drink selections, elevated menus, endless HDTVs to choose from and a less rowdy, mellower ambiance for cheering your team on to victory. Not going to make it out for the tourney, or feeling like your bracket will be busted before you begin?  These locations are all great date places and have plenty to offer besides big screens.

Champps Kitchen + Bar
Champps Kitchen + Bar is a community sports bar with a down-to-earth Midwestern atmosphere, nearly 30 varieties of beer and dependable comfort food. Kevin Songster, managing partner at the bar’s Pentagon Row location, says Champps is still the best seat outside of the stadium.

“Where else can you have as many TVs?” Songster asks (rhetorically).  “There isn’t a [March Madness] game we’re not going to show.”

Champps has four 110-inch laser projection screens, four 70-inch LCD HDTVs and 45 50-inch HDTVs. Songster points out some of the bar’s lighter food options, like the tuna poke appetizer or Tuscan salmon, for those who want to enjoy the game without having to unbutton their jeans/wear stretchy pants to the bar, and different drink specials every day of the week.

CHAMPPS KITCHEN + BAR: 1201 S Joyce St. Arlington, VA; 703-414-3601;www.champps.com/locations/arlington/

High Velocity
Derek VanBrakle guarantees that High Velocity carries a beer you haven’t tried before. The restaurant manager at the Marriott Marquis near Penn Quarter and the Verizon Center is referring to High Velocity’s 48 draft lines.

“We’re always reaching out to [beer] vendors to get the newest, latest stuff,” he says. “We also try some that nobody’s ever heard of before, because the only way to know if you like a beer is if you try it.”

Located in the Marriott Marquis, High Velocity offers 40 HDTVs – three at 120 inches and the rest at 55 – and quieter spots to park it and watch your March Madness game of choice. During the tournament, the swanky sports bar will serve $5 pints of New Belgium Fat Tire and Citradelic IPA. Plus, bourbon fans can swing by The Dignitary (50-feet from High Velocity in the Marquis) before or after the game and choose from up to 70 different bourbons and even some high-end scotches.

HIGH VELOCITY: 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; 202-824-9389;www.facebook.com/HighVelocityDC

The Bracket Room
The aptly named Bracket Room in Clarendon has a tight community of regulars, according to bartender Tania Amador, while also attracting a diverse crowd.

“You see a lot of bonding going on during big games,” Amador says. “A little smack-talking is always in good fun. It’s never a volatile experience here.”

Bracket Room offers 38 Samsung Infinity Edge LED TVs ranging in size from 55 to 75 inches, half-price happy hour Monday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and 75 beers to choose from. Some of the most popular dishes include the “world’s best” tater tots, baby back ribs marinated and slow-braised for 12 hours, and an authentic lobster roll that Maine natives are sure to approve of.

BRACKET ROOM: 1210 N Garfield St. Arlington, VA; 703-276-7337;www.bracketroom.com

THE PROSPECT
In the heart of the U Street Corridor sits The Prospect, an upscale sports bar with 45 HDTVs, craft beers and ciders, signature cocktails, and high-quality stadium and tailgating fare. The Prospect’s interior is covered in sports memorabilia – including an impressive collection of baseball mitts above the stairs and a brick wall of staggered baseball bats – and also offers a 40-seat patio for patrons to enjoy during warmer weather. Notable menu items include three types of home mules served in copper mugs – classic, spicy and strawberry – and hog wings that made Thrillist’s “Best Food & Drink of 2015” list.

“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” says Managing Partner Brian Dombrowski. “From every angle or direction, you’re able to see a specific game or multiple games at the same time.”

THE PROSPECT: 1214 U St. NW, DC; 202-450-4109;  www.theprospectdc.com

OLD TOWN POUR HOUSE
Old Town Pour House in Gaithersburg is ready for March Madness. General Manager Aaron Gordon says the ambiance is going to be awesome, with a great crowd of customers, the Pour House’s upbeat and friendly staff, a DJ spinning tunes during commercial breaks, plus upscale bar food and a diverse craft beer selection with over 90 drafts.

“We’re the total package,” he says. “There’s no restaurant in Montgomery County with the TV setup that we have. We have 14 viewing screens, so every single game will be on.”

Gordon says the bar’s three 110-inch and 11 60-inch flat screen TVs have a great sound system. Added bonus: Old Town Pour House is known for serving limited-edition brews and suds from local breweries.

OLD TOWN POUR HOUSE: 212 Ellington Blvd. Gaithersburg, MD; 301-963-6281;www.oldtownpourhouse.com/gaithersburg

NATIONAL PASTIME SPORTS BAR & GRILL
Impressively sized National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill, offering 600 seats and 42 HDTVs – including a brand new and gargantuan 30-foot-wide LED screen that can break out into 32 games, four games in quadrants, or only one or two games at a time, depending on the day. The sports bar also caters to those of us that prefer a quiet space to watch our team kick some butt, with smaller dining areas featuring individual screens.

Andrew Gould, the executive chef of restaurants at Gaylord National Resort, notes the Indian-inspired veggie burger, lamb burger with mint mayo and health-conscious Cobb salad (topped with salmon, crab cakes or chicken) as some of his top picks on the menu. Specialty March dishes include stew made with a Port City Brewing porter (National Pastime is adamant about serving local brews), corned beef and cabbage, and fish and chips. And get ready for some March Madness specials offering good deals on beers and appetizers during the games.

“We have a great local following from the Oxon Hill area and DC itself,” says Gould. “There isn’t another National Pastime. Our menus and our offerings are unique, and I think our service and general atmosphere is a lot different than what you get at other places.”

NATIONAL PASTIME SPORTS BAR & GRILL: 201 Waterfront St. Oxon Hill, MD; 301-965-5500;  www.nationalharbor.com/stores/national-pastime-bar-grill

An Evening with Celtic Chefs
An Evening with Celtic Chefs

An Evening with Celtic Chefs

A bit of blarney, some bipartisan peacemaking and some seriously swoonworthy food – the best of all of DC’s worlds collide in An Evening with Celtic Chefs on April 13 at the St. Regis Hotel downtown celebrating the work of the Washington Ireland Program (WIP). The program reaches “across the aisle” in Congress and “across the isle” to promote peace in Ireland and serve as a model for post-conflict reconciliation. It is also a model for throwing an untraditional Washington party. “No sit-down tables,” insists WIP Board Member Kevin Sullivan. “No long speeches.” “And no rubber chickens!” exclaims Carmel Martin, a first-generation Irish American and WIP board member who has sampled a lifetime of rubber chicken in her distinguished career as a civil rights attorney and policy guru. The star of this event is the food.  “I will never forget the foie gras macaron that the team from Le Diplomate served last year,” Martin recalls fondly. So it’s settled: you’re going. Obviously. What local foodie stars are we eagerly anticipating? So glad you asked. Here are three of the six.

The Irish Inn at Glen Echo
Originally from Syracuse, N.Y., Chef Ted Hughes started in small restaurants, worked in hotels and resorts around the world, and then landed in DC at the Irish Inn at Glen Echo – with the goal of eventually having a place of his own. That time has finally come with the March opening of Lahinch Tavern & Grill in the Cabin John Shopping Center & Mall in Potomac, Md., which he co-owns with the all-Irish crew behind the Irish Inn. In an environment of reclaimed wood and opulence glass, this casual neighborhood Irish American tavern and grill will feature fresh, locally-sourced interpretations of Irish cuisine – think shepherd’s pie, but made with braised short ribs.

Hughes and the Irish Inn have been involved with the WIP’s An Evening with Celtic Chefs for many years. Irish Inn co-owner Christie Hughes came to the U.S. from Ballymahon in County Longford over 40 years ago, and has long been a mainstay of Washington’s Irish community. The opportunity to support the WIP and to encourage peace in the homeland while serving great food was too tasty to resist.

So what will Hughes unveil at An Evening with Celtic Chefs? Probably his favorite Irish food: sausage rolls, which he makes with an Irish mustard slaw, “which gives it a bit of unexpected zing,” he says proudly. He served these at the event last year, and they were tremendously popular.

“It’s a very common Irish food,” Hughes notes. “You pop into a little shop and grab a sausage roll, almost like street food, so it really makes sense for an event like this.”

TRACY O’GRADY  Campono
Chef Tracy O’Grady has the distinction of having been a “Celtic chef” every year of the celebration’s existence.

“It’s a smaller, more intimate event that’s close to my heart,” she notes. And “it’s a program that builds peace in the world – people really should look at what the Irish and the U.K. have accomplished.”

O’Grady, originally from the ethnic Irish enclave on the south side of Buffalo, N.Y., grew up on Irish fare; when she opened the critically-acclaimed Willow in Ballston, she updated that heritage with a focus on fresh and local ingredients. But the smoked salmon still came directly from Ireland via Fergus Kennedy of  “Most Things Irish.”

Willow’s closing late in 2015 was a much-mourned moment (the restaurant’s last night was an “Irish wake”), but as O’Grady observed, “it’s a tough industry to start with, and it’s getting tougher.” Now, working in a kitchen without the pressures of small business ownership is “a breath of fresh air. I love the place and

I love the staff, and I’m happy to be here.”

So what can we expect on April 13 from this Celtic chef? O’Grady is mum on menu details, but “we always try to do a modern interpretation of Irish cuisine,” she says.

“One year we did Irish flatbread, with smoked salmon and Irish cheddar – that was really popular. One year I did risotto – with Irish oats.”

Every year she has whipped up something savory and something sweet, including a memorable Guinness cake with Bailey’s buttercream. We can’t wait to see O’Grady’s post-Willow creativity blossom.

JOHN FIELDING Broad Branch Market
John Fielding, who was trending before DC’s food scene was trendy, has been involved with the WIP event for many years.

“We loved the idea of what the program represents about working together through our differences to achieve the greater goals of peace and prosperity,” he remembers.

And the Irish connection?

“My partner Tracy Stannard (maiden name Concaugh) is from an Irish family from Boston, and I’m a bit of a mutt from the British Isles.”

Fielding has a soft spot for the Emerald Isle. While traveling around Ireland a few years ago, “what really struck me was the quality of the produce, dairy and proteins – amazing lamb and salmon, of course, but the vegetables were beautiful, and I could drink the milk all day. And the eggs – electric orange yokes and creamy whites.”

But the chef’s favorite is the full Irish breakfast.

“We stayed at a B&B in Dingle, and sitting at the table in the morning drinking tea and waiting for my plate – I would take that over most fine dining experiences.”

At last year’s An Evening with Celtic Chefs, Fielding represented Chao Ku in Shaw and served an Irish-Chinese breakfast: five-spice black pudding with Chinese pork sausage and fried quail egg. In previous years, he has participated in the event representing his business, Broad Branch Market. This year’s menu, which comes courtesy of Fielding’s new Soapstone Market (Van Ness, opening late summer 2016), is still a blank slate.

“We will definitely have Tracy’s famous Irish soda bread in the mix, but the rest will be determined as we get closer.”

Fun Facts About the Event
For seven years, An Evening with Celtic Chefs has raised money for WIP’s service and leadership programs.

Six DC celebrity chefs will show off at a variety of cooking stations, and then their culinary creations will be plated and served up by Washington VIPs – last year featured Senator Chris Murphy, novelist Alice McDermott and Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley as glam sous chefs.

This year, the evening will honor Joyce and John Flynn for their years of service to the WIP.

Alumni of WIP’s leadership and service programs include the youngest Cabinet ministers currently serving in the Irish and Northern Irish governments, and two members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Don’t miss An Evening with Celtic Chefs on April 13 from 7-9 p.m. For more information, go to www.wiprogram.org

THE ST. REGIS: 923 16th St. NW, DC; 202-638-2626; www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wassx-the-st-regis-washington-dc

Irish Whiskey dc

Irish Whiskey Trail

When you’re ready to expand your knowledge of Irish drinking beyond Guinness, there’s an increasingly large array of options to consider. With the luck of the Irish on your side, you may even be able to try some of the country’s best and newest whiskeys during your St. Patrick’s Day adventures in and around the District.

JAMESON
The newest from Jameson is the exciting Jameson Caskmates release, taking Jameson Original and finishing it in barrels that previously held the Franciscan Well Brewery’s Irish stout. Caskmates adds notes of coffee, cocoa and hops to classic Jameson.

“Imagined from a conversation in a neighborhood pub, Jameson Caskmates is a product of shared passion for craft, quality and collaboration,” says Sona Bajaria, Pernod Ricard USA’s Director of Jameson Irish Whiskey.

It sounds like a whimsical story, but it’s true, as longtime friends came up with the idea over drinks. It just so happens that the friends were Dave Quinn, master of whiskey science at the Old Jameson Distillery, and Shane Long, head brewer at Franciscan Well.

Another Jameson expression worth exploring is the still relatively new Black Barrel. Aged in bourbon barrels that have been twice-charred, Black Barrel delivers added, intense notes of vanilla, spice and nuts.

Insider Recipe: While Caskmates is best enjoyed neat, perhaps with an Irish stout by its side, try Black Barrel in an Irish classic, the Tipperary. Use 1.5 oz. Black Barrel, .75 oz. sweet vermouth and .75 oz. green Chartreuse.

QUIET MAN
The Quiet Man launched at the start of 2016, in conjunction with Luxco and Niche Drinks, based in Derry, Ireland. Ciaran Mulgrew of Niche Drinks founded the brand in honor of his father, John, a career bartender.

“In more than 50 years behind the bar, my father saw and heard it all,” says Mulgrew. “But like all good bartenders, John Mulgrew was true to the code and told no tales. He was ‘The Quiet Man,’ or as they say in the pubs of Ireland, ‘A Fear Ciuin.’”

Insider Recipe: Two varieties are available, including their traditional blend and eight-year single malt. Try the blend in the brand-recommended Quiet Irish Sour. Use 1 oz. of Quiet Man Blended, two ounces lemon juice, .5 oz. of simple syrup and a dash of bitters, shaken with ice and served up.

TEELING
Teeling Whiskey is now proudly the only operational distillery actually located in Dublin. Production is underway there, while the brand still has supply from its previous operation.

The current lineup includes a single grain, malt and small batch blended offering, as well as several premium expressions. Each bottled at 46 percent ABV, they can offer some oomph to cocktails while also being enjoyed neat.

Insider Recipe: Try the Teeling Souring Inferno, made with 1.5 oz. Teeling Small Batch, .75 oz. simple syrup, .75 oz. maraschino liqueur and an egg white. Shake it all together and serve it up. To elevate it further, set it on fire – literally. You can brûlée the egg white with a lighter to give it an exciting twist.

TULLAMORE DEW
Tullamore D.E.W. has unveiled their oldest-ever release, Trilogy.

“We’re really excited about it – [it’s] 15 years [old] – and it’s got the hallmarks of Tullamore D.E.W.,” says Brand Ambassador Tim Herlihy.

He’s referring to the brand’s “power of three,” referencing triple distillation, as well as the utilization of three varieties of Irish whiskey in its blends: column distilled grain, pot still and malt. But in the case of Trilogy, there’s an added wrinkle.

“We mature it in three different types of casks,” says Herlihy. “Bourbon, sherry and then we’ll also do a three-month rum finish as well.” That rum-cask finishing provides entirely distinctive notes to the whiskey.

Insider Recipe: Trilogy is best enjoyed neat, but Herlihy suggests using another Tullamore release, Phoenix, for cocktails.“That’s a 55 percent ABV, 110-proof Irish whiskey,” he says. “It works great because of the high proof, and you can give an Irish flair to any high-proof bourbon drink.” Try it in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan riff.

WEST CORK
West Cork Irish Whiskey is a newer brand to the U.S., with two different whiskeys including their original classic blend that incorporates both grain and malt whiskey, and their 10-year single malt, aged entirely in first-fill, re-charred bourbon barrels.

“They are a true artisanal producer, using only spring water sourced from the Ilan River,” says Gary Shaw, whose company, M.S. Walker, imports the brand. “And they are the only Irish distillery to exclusively malt all of their own Irish barley.”

Insider Recipe: A small artisanal approach is refreshing for Irish whiskey, typically known for its big brands. Try a brand-recommended W.C. & G. cocktail, with a pour of West Cork Original topped off with ginger ale and served over ice.


Get your  Irish On  at these DC Bars
The Dubliner
The Dubliner’s massive Irish whiskey collection includes all varieties, as well as a lineup of vintage and very rare releases.
THE DUBLINER: 4 F St. NW, DC; 202-737-3773;  www.dublinerdc.com

Irish Whiskey DC 
The bar is named for the stuff, so you bet it’s a good choice. While the selection isn’t strictly limited to Irish whiskey, the vast majority of the bar’s expansive list is dedicated to it.
IRISH WHISKEY DC: 1207 19th St. NW, DC; 202-463-3010; www.irishwhiskeydc.com

Jack Rose
With 2,400+ whiskeys, there are certainly some great Irish selections. According to Tullamore’s Herlihy, there’s a potential plan in place for Jack Rose to become the only bar in the U.S. carrying its Global Travel Retail release, Cider Cask.
JACK ROSE: 2007 18th St. NW, DC; 202-588-7388;  www.jackrosediningsaloon.com

Fund a Flight

Fund a Flight Happy Hour at Brickside Bethesda

Guests joined Flats 8300 and On Tap Magazine at Brickside Food & Drink in Bethesda for a Fund a Flight Happy Hour to benefit Luke’s Wings. The donations are going to help fly Army Specialist William Thomas? family to see him at Walter Reed! Photos: Brittany Thomas

best new brews
Eight beer samplers lined up on a table

5 Specialty Brews You Should Know More About

Beer snobs around the world understand how special beer really is. Beer isn’t just beer. It represents a story. A story of how it came about, often times filled with rich history. It represents a careful and ingenious process of fruition—a craft any brewer or brewery prides itself on. It represents great appreciation for flavor combinations and palate pleasers—tasting is treated as an art that only the finest participate in. Beer is special, and with so many wonderful brews out there, it can be hard to choose favorites. At the very least, here are five specialty beers worth getting to know.

Guinness Nitro IPA
Guinness Nitro IPA is new to market and possibly the most innovative beer under the brewery staple. It’s an English-Style IPA, characterized by the balanced blend of hops and roasted barley with citrus accents, but integrates Guinness’ famously smooth creamy texture—giving drinkers a different experience than they normally encounter with IPAs (English- or American-style). This unique finish is achieved through Guinness’ pioneered nitrogenation process that causes carbonation bubbles to be smaller and denser, thus creating signature smoothness.

2. 3 Floyds Zombie Dust
A lot of times pale ales are easily forgotten—lost in a sea filled with thousands of average pale ales. 3 Floyds Brewing Co.’s Zombie Dust Pale Ale isn’t one of those lost souls. As soon as this one touches the lips of any half-decent beer aficionado it leaves a solid impression, one that makes people go the distance to find it. The beer is intensely hoppy yet not hoppy in a heavy capacity—almost as if the “dust” in the name speaks true to how the hops grace imbibers with a friendly but light presence. Its tropical fruitiness containing a citrus and mango flair is just the right amount when first sipped and the follow up bitterness gives it balance while the finishing creamy mouth feel provides a triumphant grand finale.

3. Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin
Ballast Point is a well-respected brewery among IPA drinkers. Its popular Sculpin IPA has a spin off and that’s the Habanero Sculpin—perhaps the San Diego-based brewer got some inspiration from its geographically close friends south of the border. It’s an IPA with bright citrusy notes plus the floral heat of habaneros, extracted from real habanero peppers. The kick of spicy hotness naturally pairs well with island favorites such as Jamaican jerk chicken, tropical bread pudding and coconut Basmati rice. Even if a beer connoisseur doesn’t prefer India Pale Ales, this is one to make an exception for since the special habanero touch is not found in beers just anywhere.

4. Allagash White
Allagash White is inspired by traditional Belgian wheat beer. It’s hard to stop drinking these at the bar or at the local artisan pizza place. Brewed with a generous portion of wheat, Allagash White is spiced with coriander and Curaçao orange peel along with a secret spice from Allagash Brewing Company—it’s refreshing and different. The brew gives off an air of class but can hang among the commercial favorites—one that almost all can agree is easy to drink but pulls more gravity due to the agreeable taste bud satisfaction it brings.

5. Left Hand Milk Stout
For stout fans, Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout is up in the top ranks. This dark, creamy sweet stout deserves the milky reputation as roasted malt and coffee flavors build its foundation. Fittingly enough, it compliments rich sugary foods like cake, and is a perfect partner in crime for barbeque.

Anyone seasoned in the world of beer should know this handful of excellent craft brews. Powerful in presence with distinct flavors and finishes, they are among the best and taking note of their existence is a must.

4 panache pubs dc

Sip in Style: 4 of the Most Panache Pubs in DC

Washington DC is home to an eclectic assortment of must-see, must-do stops. There is the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building. But the capital of the United States is known for more than politics. When the sun goes down, DC comes alive and the heart of the city beats throughout the many nightlife venues. Few, though, manage to pull off the magical combination of swagger and class.That being said, here are four of the classiest bars in all of Washington, D.C.

The Rye Bar
Located at Capella Washington, DC, Georgetown, the  Rye Bar lives up to its name and offers a large selection of finely crafted American rye whiskeys. DC has had a long love affair with whiskey, as some of its most notable residents were whiskey enthusiasts. Thomas Jefferson is recorded as being knee-deep in the whiskey trade, and  George Washington was one of the most famous whiskey producers.

In addition to a large selection of rye whiskies, the bar boasts an extensive selection of high-class spirits and liquors, like Herradura Tequila and top shelf champagne. The establishment also employs specially trained bartenders who create drinks by hand and with traditional utensils, which adds to the ambiance of class and integrity.

The Rye Bar: 1050 31st NW, DC; www.capellahotels.com

Quill
Located within the famous Jefferson Hotel,  Quill exudes an air of refined elegance. It is pricey and debonair, so most patrons visit Quill for special occasions. The intimate lounge, cigar-smoking patio and specialty drinks make it a favorite among the DC night-lifers.

Quill also offers appetizers, a variety of wines and beers and delicacies, such as crab cake sliders and shrimp cocktail. Quill also has delectable seasonal cocktails, such as the Holly Jolly. This drink is made with cranberry-infused Ketel One and spiced cranberry prosecco. The thematic décor is based on the life of Thomas Jefferson, and the walls are dotted with maps that chart Jefferson’s journeys.

Quill: 1200 16th St. NW, DC;  www.jeffersondc.com

Degrees
Boasting innovative dishes and specialty cocktails, Degrees has a special small plates menu with unique regional and internationally inspired dishes. These pair wonderfully with the restaurant’s clever cocktails and long list of wines.

The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown houses the illustrious  Degrees bar and restaurant. It works extensively to create an industrial-chic atmosphere that coincides with the modern design of the hotel with hardwood floors, black-slated bar and timeless bistro tables. Patrons favor specialty drinks, such as the hot chocolate with Bailey’s creme de mint.

Degrees: 3100 S St NW, DC;  www.ritzcarlton.com

Barmini by José Andrés

One of the most modern bars on the classy DC list,  Barmini is the brain child of José Andrés, a noted avante garde culinary artist who has branched out into cocktail creations. The cocktail lab offers over 100 artisan cocktails that are hand-crafted and brilliantly executed.

The establishment is recognized as a culinary research and development ThinkFoodGroup, and the minibar is considered the testing ground for the concepts and projects of Andrés and his staff. A favorite specialty here is the Veruka Salt, which contains pineapple grog, peanut rum, sugar and salted peanut crumbs.

Although DC is home to the throne of democracy, the night-life bars of swagger and class are home to the chalice. So next time you’re in DC, consider skipping the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and take in the history one drink at a time.

Barmini by José Andrés: 855 E St NW, DC; www.minibarbyjoseandres.com

Right Proper Brookland Production House
Photo: Nick Hardt

Bierdo Visits Right Proper Brookland Production House

It’s already been a tough 2016 Bierdos! Rock star and celebrity deaths have become an alarmingly increasing weekly ritual on my Facebook newsfeed—enough to drive you to drink! Music has been a passion of mine for longer than my love of beer, so it was time to raise a cold one in DC for some fallen Bowie-esque “heroes” to celebrate all the great music that changed my life. It just so happened we were raising a glass of DC Brau’s Alpha Domina Mellis (an amazing new DIPA made with local honey and 100 IBU’s of experimental hops) last week for Lemmy of Motorhead with my DC Brau tasting room and concert buddy Jon Pacella, when I realized that a seven-minute drive northeast was the new Right Proper Brookland Production House (920 Girard St. DC; 202-526-5904; www.rightproperbrewing.com), and I had to absolutely check it out. As I entered the extravagant new tasting room, randomly enough, I was greeted by the sound of the rambunctious joyful singing of bar goers and the chiming keys of an old piano. “How ironic,” I thought (still reminiscing about all the music I had thought we had lost that week) as I followed the tunes to what ended up to be the bathroom, where to my surprise sat a full piano in the corner of the men’s room. “Now this was a place with character,” I thought out loud as I was invited to sing—and we hadn’t even gotten to the beers yet!

“I’ll say it again, truly, ‘The road goes on forever and the party never ends’.” –Robert Earl Keen

The Brookland Tasting Room & Production House is a beautiful, reclaimed cherrywood bar, adorned with growlers to fill and the wonderful old brickwork and artwork you’re accustomed to at their first location, Right Proper Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen (624 T Street, NW DC 202-607-2337), only the new facility is located on Girard Street NE near 10th Street NE in the residential neighborhood of Brookland—a lovely neighborhood retreat for young professionals and hipsters who don’t want the corporate setting of downtown DC, but who still want an element of class and design. It’s a cozy tasting nook with an amazing facility where you can view the rustic wooden foudres and spotless new brewing equipment from the tasting room window or take tours of on Saturdays, every hour from 1:30-6:30 p.m. Tasting room hours are Thursday through Friday 5-9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 1–9 p.m. There’s no food yet, but you can bring your own or hit up a food truck outside regularly. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever met a more welcoming staff, and we shared stories and laughed throughout the night. I don’t want to ruin the surprise element of how great this production tasting room really is visually, so just know it’s impressive enough for a date and the perfect spot for warming up this winter with friends in a classy beer environment. You will be in awe to say the very least! Here are some beers to toast the good times and to roast the bad times—truly a new beer oasis that I had to rub my eyes and see to believe. Great beer, music and merriment all wrapped up into one new refined location!

  • Ornithology 3.9%: The standard here for a first-timer and a yeasty upgrade of their original Ornette offering I’ve enjoyed in Shaw for years, this light, bright, session-like wheat beer is more complex than you’d think, fermented with wild yeast in French oak foudres in the new tasting room. Rating: Foudres-tastic!
  • Raised By Wolves 5%: An aromatic pale ale dry hopped for a dry but juicy and fruity citrus taste. My personal go to at Right Proper as a hop head in 2016. Rating: Raise the woof!
  • Haxan 7%: If you’re looking for something more malty and sweet with a kick, try this Baltic leaning porter. Roasted Chocolate notes dominate this semi-booze bomb, as it’s definitely a more delicious and improved offering than the original recipe I had at Brew at the Zoo many years ago before they opened. Rating: They improved the un-improvable. Fantastic.
  • Baron Corvo 7%: A slightly strong farmhouse ale fermented in those fantastic French oak foudres again, this yeast driven beauty is for the more refined beer drinker with a wine-like oaky profile that has hints of fruit and spice. The yeast dominates in very good way. Rating: Beast of the yeast!

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try? Drop him a line at nick@ontaponline.com.

Photo: Nick Hardt

Brewer’s Ball
Photo: On Tap Magazine

DC Brewer’s Ball Serving Up Hope One Pint at a Time

For over a decade, the metropolitan Washington, DC chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation has been serving up hope, one pint at a time. The gala event returns for its 12th year on March 5 at the National Building Museum, and this year promises to be the best and biggest edition yet. Tickets are on sale now and cost $140, of which $70 is tax-deductible.

The 12th Annual Beer Institute’s Brewer’s Ball presented by matchboxfoodgroup and Anheuser-Busch will continue to feature more than 30 of the very best local and regional craft breweries, as well as some national players. Beyond the beers, over 25 great restaurants will keeps attendees well-fed while local band the VIPs keep the crowd moving with live music and dancing.

“Brewer’s Ball is a highlight annually for those that love great beers and better causes,” says Dennis O’Leary, one of three co-chairs of the committee that coordinates Brewer’s Ball each year. O’Leary’s desire to help find a cure for CF is deeply personal; his son, Casey, was born with the disease. “This event raises funds that have contributed greatly toward research for new treatments, programs, and care for those with CF.”

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic, life-threatening disease that affects about 30,000 people in the United States. Approximately 10 million additional people are carriers of the gene that causes CF. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs, which clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure.

A few decades ago, most people with CF didn’t live long enough to attend elementary school. Through the efforts of the CF Foundation, the life expectancy of a person with CF has doubled in the last 30 years. Today, many people with CF are living into their thirties, fourties, and beyond. Recent drug discovery and development programs have yielded drugs that have changed the course of CF. For the first time, two FDA-approved therapies (Kalydeco and Orkambi) treat not just the symptoms of the disease ,but the underlying genetic defect for a small percentage of the population. Recent research shows great potential for additional treatments that will similarly affect a larger percentage of people with CF. Although great progress has been made, there’s still a lot of work to do to put a cure in the hands of every person with CF.

Brewer’s Ball has grown immensely along with the DC area’s craft beer scene. When the event started, there were no production breweries in DC or Northern Virginia. Now, over a decade later, local favorites like DC Brau, Port City, Flying Dog, and Hellbender will rub elbows with nationally renowned brands like Dogfish Head, Allagash, and New Belgium. In fact, the folks from two local breweries, Adroit Theory and Belly Love Brewing Company, came together earlier this month to make a special collaboration brew, which will be served exclusively at Brewer’s Ball. Named Brooke’s Currant Obsession, this brew honors 15-month old Brooke who lives with CF, and is the daughter of one of the Brewer’s Ball committee members.

The event, which has become well-liked among breweries as well, allows for attendees to chat with brewery representatives, giving lovers of fine ales and lagers plenty of chances to ask questions and find out more about their favorite suds. (Don’t worry, wine and cider fans, there’s something here for you, too.) Area restaurants like Ted’s Bulletin, Hill Country Barbecue Market, Matchbox, and Charlie Palmer Steak DC pull out the culinary stops, often pairing their dishes with the breweries at the event.

Once the well-dressed attendees are fed and watered (or beered, as the case may be), they can bid on a number of intriguing silent auction items ranging from brewery tours to weekend getaways to themed baskets. Using their mobile phones, guests can conveniently check back periodically to make sure they haven’t been outbid on that bourbon basket they’re itching to bring home. During the live auction, guests go head-to-head for one-of-a-kind experiences such as a “custom cask build experience” at Heavy Seas Beer, where the lucky winner will craft their own special firkin of beer; a trip to Hollywood to see The Ellen DeGeneres Show, or a week-long trip to Palm Springs.

Brewer’s Ball, which raised $380,000 last year, has grown from more modest roots —it raised $40,000 in its first year. With the help of the local craft beer community, area restaurants, attendees, and sponsors who have a great time while contributing to a great cause, the event will hopefully grow even more this year as it taps into the continued push for a cure.

DC Brewer’s Ball: March 5, 2016 at the National Building Museum. 401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001; www.dcbrewersball.org for tickets and information.

Photo: On Tap Magazine

best local beer dc

10 Best Local Beers of 2015

2015 was a big year for beer in DC. Right Proper built a new production facility in Brookland, DC Brau started burst distributing in Massachusetts, and several new breweries opened their doors in the DMV including 7 Locks, Fair Winds and Ocelot. It was also a great year for delicious new brews and reimagined classics. Here are On Tap’s best ten local beers of 2015.

Ghost White IPA
3 Stars Brewing Company
Style: White IPA  |  ABV: 5.90%  |  IBU: N/A
In 2015, 3 Stars started offering some of their classic brews in cans, like the Ghost White IPA, now available in a 16-ounce tallboy. The well-carbonated white IPA pours a bright orange color with light citrus and earthy hop aromas. Mild grapefruit flavors mix with bright lemongrass notes to create a beautifully balanced and sessionable IPA.
3 Stars Brewing Company: 6400 Chillum Pl. NW, DC;  www.3starsbrewing.com

Ponzi
Atlas Brew Works
Style: American IPA  |  ABV: 7.30%  |  IBU: 62
Last year Atlas Brew Works debuted their new American IPA hopped with cascade, Chinook and mandarina hops. Munich malt creates a medium body and highlights the light tropical fruit and grassy flavors. Ponzi is named after infamous con artist Charles Ponzi for its deceptively high alcohol content.
Atlas Brew Works: 2052 West Virginia Ave. #102 NE, DC;  www.atlasbrewworks.com

Sorry Chicky
Burley Oak Brewing Company
Style: Berliner Weisse  |  ABV: 4.4%  |  IBU: 4
2015 saw an increase in demand for quality sour beers and Burley Oak’s canned offering is no exception. Sorry Chicky is a tart Berliner Weisse with a funky peach and citrus aroma. Lightly carbonated and slightly sweet with a crisp finish, Chicky is the perfect session beer for sour enthusiasts.

Brau Pils
DC Brau
Style: German Pilsner  |  ABV: 4.6%  |  IBU: 28
DC Brau added a classic German Pilsner to complement the brewery’s impressive arsenal of canned beers. The crisp lager style is light-bodied with spicy hop character from the German Hallertau hops. Brau Pils has a rich, bready start with a clean, malty finish and is perfect for camping, grilling, or tailgating.
DC Brau: B 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC;  www.dcbrau.com

Siren’s Lure
Fair Winds Brewing Company
Style: Farmhouse Saison  |  ABV: 7.2%  |  IBU: 32
One of Virginia’s newest breweries has already taken home a gold medal from the 2015 GABF for Siren’s Lure. This hop-forward saison is dry hopped with citra and German Blanc hops to compliment its wheat and Vienna malt body. Brewed with French farmhouse yeast, Siren’s Lure has a subtle funk and lemongrass flavor. It is not to be missed.
Fair Winds Brewing Company: Suite K and L, 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

Bourbon Barrel  Gingerbread Stout 2015
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Style: Barrel-Aged Stout  |  ABV: 10.6%  |  IBU: 55
Hardywood’s 2015 version of their barrel-aged gingerbread stout is truly “Christmas in a bottle.” Brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, Casselmonte Farm baby ginger, and Bearer Farms wildflower honey and then matured for 12 months in Virginia bourbon barrels, it is both smooth and complex.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery: 2408-2410 Ownby Ln. Richmond, VA; www.hardywood.com

California Stars
Ocelot Brewing Company
Style: American IPA  |  ABV: 6.8%  |  IBU: 60
The brand new Ocelot Brewing Company draws inspiration from music; the brewery takes its name from a popular Phish song. Their American IPA, California Stars, is yellow in color with a subtle bitterness from grapefruit, tropical fruit, and grassy hop flavoring. It is reasonably boozy with a dry finish, making it a success among fans of higher-gravity hoppy beers.
Ocelot Brewing Company: 23600 Overland Dr. #180, Dulles, VA; www.ocelotbrewing.com

Derecho Common
Port City Brewing Company
Style: California Common  |  ABV: 4.8%  |  IBU: 43
In summer 2012, the Derecho storm left millions of DC area residents without power, including Port City Brewing Company. The power outage made it difficult for the brewers to control the temperature of fermentation, which resulted in Derecho Common, a California steam beer. Slight hops and bready malt make this beer a delicious tribute to the notorious storm.
Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Check Point
RaR (Realalerevival) Brewing
Style: American Pale Ale  |  ABV: 4.4%  |  IBU: n/a
Located on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, RaR Brewing is doing their part to make delicious American cask ales. Check Point is a session pale ale that pours a bright straw color. It has tropical fruit and light citrus hop flavors that taste wonderful in cask form. It is worth the short trip to the brewery since RaR beers are difficult to find in DC.
RaR (Realalerevival) Brewing: 504 Poplar St. Cambridge, MD;  www.rarbrewing.com

Diamonds, Fur Coat,  Champagne
Right Proper Brewing Company
Style: Berliner Weisse  |  ABV: 3.6%  |  IBU: n/a
Right Proper’s hugely popular Berliner Weisse is named after track one of the 1980 album “Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev” by American electronic duo Suicide. The moderately sour beer aims to mimic champagne with a similar appearance and effervescence. Hints of lemon citrus in the nose combine with elderflower, grapefruit zest, and Hallertau Blanc hops to create a truly memorable brew.
Right Proper Brewing Company: 624 T St. NW, DC;  www.rightproperbrewing.com

best bartenders dc

5 Innovative Bartenders of 2015

Sophie Szych of Quill at The Jefferson Hotel
On Tap: What was the top cocktail from Quill in 2015? 
Sophie Szych: There were a couple. I like to use ginger, but make it seasonal. So for summer I had a hibiscus ginger soda and a rum cocktail with hibiscus and ginger. Then for fall, I did a play off a Moscow mule that was Concord grape and ginger soda that actually worked out super well and was absolutely delicious. We have one on the menu right now, a gin mule, with a ginger soda we make with a toasted cardamom pod and pineapple as well.

OT: Aside from the clear ginger, what were some of your favorite ingredients you used in 2015?
SS: I liked using a sweetener for cocktails that wasn’t just sugar. I loved using maple syrup and made maple water for a tonic base earlier this year that worked out really well. Honey is great, but I wanted to try something a little different. So, I burnt the honey and made a burnt honey syrup, which added more complexity and bitterness than just honey.

OT: Any resolution for 2016?
SS: Honest to god I’ve had the same one for two years now and that’s to finally do Beasty Boys for karaoke.

OT: What song?
SS: Intergalactic. I really want to do that. I practice in the mirror and it’s so terrible. I have yet to unleash it on the world, which is a good thing. But, I’m keeping that resolution.

OT: Something you’re looking forward to this year?
SS: Portland cocktail week. They are doing it in different cities now and I know they are doing one in Baltimore.  I’ve never gone to Portland cocktail week and I’m interested in this format. The DC Rickey competition. I will probably try to do it again this year. The DC Bartenders Guild is really coming up with some awesome events.

OT: Nice, any other events you can tell us about? 
SS: They have one called the DC Cocktail Queen Competition for female bartenders coming up in a few months and we have some pretty badass cocktail females in the city, so it will be fun to go up against those ladies.

Quill at The Jefferson Hotel: 1200 16th St. NW, DC; 202-448-2300;www.jeffersondc.com

Lukas B. Smith of Dram & Grain
On Tap: What cocktail or ingredient combination best describes your 2015?
Lukas B. Smith: It’s difficult because at this bar we have done a new menu every week. That’s six new cocktails every week.  If you do the math it’s almost 250 cocktails last year. So it’s tough. But, it was a really good year; lots of accolades, so I’d probably say my cocktail would be a nice tall glass of Pappy 23.

OT: What are some favorite ingredients that you’ve used in the past year?
LS: The one that got us thinking more ambitiously about ingredients shows up in the Double Dragon cocktail, it’s a bone washed Cynar and Becherovka bitters. Cynar is a famous Italian liqueur, Becherovka is sort of grown up Fireball. We vacuum seal a smoked turkey leg, cook it at 60 degrees Celsius for 24 hour to break down all the connective tissue and wash out all the marrow, then we freeze it, wash all the fat off and get this finish that we are extending in a really incredible way. It’s not a common practice.

OT: What is something that you are looking forward to this year? 
LS:  My friend Chas Jefferson and I are launching Cotton and Reed in Union Market. He’s the head distiller, and I’m the assistant distiller.  We are hopefully opening in March, with a tasting room. So the two most important things for me are going to be that and the expansion of the Order of the Monkey, which includes Secret Monkey Social Club and Tiki Monkey.

OT: Do explain Secret Monkey Social Club for those that may not know…
LS: Secret Monkey Social Club is a punch club and cabaret. We have live music and I try to get the best people in town, to make punch with me. It’s the fastest, best punch service and I think probably the most exciting way to enjoy cocktails in a live music setting. We had that at the Dolcezza Factory, but are moving out of that this year. Tiki Monkey was the last one we had. We are having a Chinese New Year Party on February 8, location TBD. We will do a Cinco de Mono party, since mono means monkey in Spanish. I’m really looking forward to the expansion of the Order of the Monkey because we’ve kept it tucked away and I’m ready to take it center stage.

Dram & Grain: 2007 18th St. NW, DC; text 202-607-1572 for reservations

Gina Chersevani of Buffalo & Bergen
On Tap: If you could describe 2015 as a cocktail, what would it be?
Gina Chersevani: Super effervescent and bubbly, because I gave birth to my Francesca, who is wonderful, it would have a little bit of bitterness, just because a couple of months were a little bit hard, and then it would have a really solid, almost sweet finish, with a little bit of flower to it, like a lavender.

OT: What ingredient did you fall in love with in 2015?
GC: I re-fell in love with persimmons. I really got into hanging persimmons to get their natural essence. It coagulates the fruit, so it makes its own syrup with no sugar or anything added. And that essence is what I forgot that I love the most. It wasn’t the boiling and making and adding the vinegars, it was the pure beauty of what the fruit can do on its own.

OT: Any mixology resolutions for 2016?
GC: My resolution for my bars in general is to pay attention more to the ingredients and not so much to the rule.

OT: I feel like you do that though…
GC: I do, but now my focus is stronger. I’m doing an “Under Pressure,” Queen and David Bowie menu that’s going to be my cocktail list for this year. Every single line of the lyrics will be in there and while the chorus repeats, the cocktails won’t repeat. The ingredient might stay the same but we highlight it in a different way. So, when I say staying true to the ingredient, that’s what I mean.

OT: Wow that sounds intense.
GC: This menu in particular is definitely very stressful, because if you’ve ever read the lyrics, they are very similar over and over, so it will be amazing to see, for example, what does adding cognac and deleting whiskey really change? How much can that change when making everything else the same?

OT: I need to go listen to this song after this interview…
GC: I love this song, and the a cappella version is really inspiring. Unfortunately both men are deceased but it’s really a true testament to time that two people can be gone and still be so relevant in the world of music. It mimics what bars are. Cocktails have been around for centuries, we are still making what was once somebody’s creation. Somebody came up with an old fashioned, somebody came up with a gimlet, and they are still being made and tweaked. There’s a real testament to artistry there.

Buffalo & Bergen: Union Market; 1309 5th St. NE, DC; 202-543-2549;www.buffalobergendc.com

Jo-Jo Valenzuela – VP of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild and  Beverage Consultant
On Tap: Favorite cocktail of 2015?
Jo-Jo Valenzuela: Well clearly the Rizal. Whiskeys are definitely the most challenging thing. People are finally falling in love with them, but it’s still pretty tough and not a whole lot of people are well versed on how they can use whiskey. Mezcal at one point was big, but it’s so seasonal. Whiskey just took over the spirits.

OT: What was a favorite ingredient you used last year, something outside the box?
JV: I started using oysters as a garnish. “Oyster Can You See,” is the drink and it’s gin-based with a white pepper syrup, fresh lemon juice and a little bit of absinth, garnished with an oyster.

OT: Jo-Jo’s ultimate cocktail moment of 2015 was…
JV: Definitely winning Rickey of the year and the Margarita Wars. That was definitely a defining moment for me.

OT: Anything you want to focus on more in 2016?
JV: Definitely want to focus on the garnish game. In competitions it’s starting to show when someone comes up with a new garnish that has never been seen before. As far as bar techniques, probably throwing and working flair.

OT: Something you are really looking forward to this year?
JV: I want to open my own bar. I’ve wanted to for a while and now it just totally makes sense.

OT: Predict the cocktail trends for 2016…

JV: I think people are going to be more innovative in different presentations. I’ve been going in that direction myself. In food, before it even hits tables or bars, people say “can I have one of those.”  I am going for the same thing when it comes to cocktails.

Justin Hampton of Poste Moderne Brasserie
On Tap: What were the DC area cocktail trends you saw in 2015?
Justin Hampton: I saw low alcohol by volume (ABV) beers popping up everywhere, particularly Stiegl-Radler Grapefruit, which is a grapefruit juice and beer combination with a super low ABV. Another trend was the use of shrubs. It’s been around since the colonial period, but I noticed this year, especially in DC, a lot of people using them. For example, at this year’s DC Rickey competition, you saw at least three entries that had a shrub as their acid source, instead of lemon or lime and I thought that was cool.

OT: What was your 2015 cocktail moment?
JH: My general manager surprised me and rented a slushy machine to play around with. At first, I was apprehensive and it came with high fructose corn syrup margarita mix and I thought this is horrible. But the first thing I tried putting through it was our Poste signature basil lemontini and it came out so good! It was an ah-ha moment that slushies could actually be really well done. I did a frozen Negroni for Negroni week and that came out amazingly well. Now I want a slushy machine behind the bar.

OT: That sounds delicious. Any other big moments?
JH: At this year’s DC Rickey competition, when Jo-Jo Valenzuela won. What stood out to me was when they announced him the winner, he cried, and I thought that was a special moment for the bartenders in the room and showed the passion and drive. It really showed how much it means to all of us to be in the industry and win these local events.

OT: Ingredients you really enjoyed using in 2015?
JH: Vinegar. I started making my own shrubs, made one or two in the past without success and when I got to Poste, I was determined to make something good and I knocked it out of the park on the first one I made here and I’ve been making them seasonably ever since. I think I’ll use vinegar for rest of my life.

OT:  Two ingredients you want to work with in 2016?

JH: I want to make my own vinegar. I’m interested in preservation techniques. At work we have a dehydrator so I sliced up a lot of pears and used dehydrated slices as a garnish. I also made dehydrated peppers and was able to use them in ingredients, including my own pepper flakes. Pickling and jamming I’ve done before but I am really eager to keep that going. I don’t necessarily want to use one ingredient, I want to preserve everything.

OT: So if the apocalypse happens, we should really come find you with the preserved foods? 
JH: I’ve been really interested in preserving foods. Honey is a good ingredient I’ve been thinking of using too. Honeycomb has antimicrobial benefits, it’s healthy, a good substitute for sugar and it preserves. They found it in a clay pot thousands of years old! Keep your eye out for my beehive. I’m not joking, I want to try it on the Poste roof.

Poste Moderne Brasserie: 555 8th St. NW, DC; 202-783-6060; www.postebrasserie.com