Devils Backbone Cran Gose
Devils Backbone Cran Gose

Craft a BIG Adventure

Spring is almost here and it’s time to elevate your sense of adventure. Canned beer has become the darling of the craft beer industry and for good reason – beer stays fresher in cans, cans recycle easily and when you’re ready to head outdoors, they are more portable than bottles.

Devils Backbone Brewing Company’s basecamp, its original location, is in the heart of Nelson County, Virginia and touches on the Appalachian Trail. Who better to come up with a collection of canned beers that encourages you to get outdoors and have some fun? Their canned offerings include the Daypack seasonal collection and new this spring, their award-winning Vienna Lager and Eight Point IPA will be available in cans.

The Daypack series is a collection of four seasonal beers and one beer available year-round: Goldleaf Lager.  First in the series and available now is Cran-Gose, a 4 percent cranberry ale that is brewed in the “gose” style.

“A gose is an old Germanic-style sour ale, lightly flavored with salt,” says Brewmaster Jason Oliver. “It’s a really great base to build upon and for this beer, we added hundreds of pounds of pureed cranberry. The natural tartness of cranberry works well with the fruity character of the beer.”

In May, Trail Angel Weiss, winner of a 2010 Great American Beer Festival gold medal, is the featured beer of the series.Trail Angel is a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen brewed with Tettnang hops. It has a honey colored, light-to-medium body with a fruity, spicy finish, and carries flavors of banana, honey and clove.

Bravo Four Point ushers in fall, and while it keeps to the under 5 percent ABV level of all of the beers in the Daypack series, it has a bolder, hoppier flavor well-suited to the season. Ginger Brau, a honey-hued lager infused with three types of ginger, wraps up the year in November.

Devils Backbone is one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country, and much of that growth is courtesy of its flagship brews, Vienna Lager and Eight Point IPA. Both beers have won numerous accolades and in 2015, Vienna Lager received a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Devils Backbone beers have been so successful that the company has had to expand capacity at its outpost production brewery in Lexington, Va. from an estimated 10,000 barrels in 2011 to 250,000 barrels currently. And now for the first time, the beers that have driven that expansion will be available in cans. Vienna Lager will be offered in 12 and 16 oz. cans, and Eight Point IPA will be offered in 16 oz. single-serve cans.

Single-serve cans are a newer but fast-growing package option for craft beer. The appeal of the larger can includes all the benefits of a regular can – easier to take places and more suited to concerts and sports venues, but also offers the opportunity for consumers to sample new products. Rather than commit to a full six or 12-pack, the 16 oz. can gives the beer drinker the chance to try a beer they may not have had before at a friendly price point, and without fear of wasting beers if it’s not to their liking.  Speaking from experience, the larger size is also a nice option when you are at a show or event, as it’s certainly a little more beer per trip to the bar!

So for those ready to craft an adventure, be it on the trail or at the show, Devils Backbone has a beer that can suit your needs. Look for their beers at area retail and restaurant locations.

To learn more about Devils Backbone or to get more information on their award -winning beers, visit  www.dbbrewingcompany.com.

pints by state

Primary Pints: Suds by State

Washington’s political class has been turned upside down watching traditional Beltway wisdom shrivel on the vine throughout this presidential election cycle. It’s time to throw orthodoxy by the wayside and get back to the basics of American elections: booze.

Pundits and politicians forget how integral alcohol has been to U.S. politics. In fact, the foundation of our first president’s political career was paved with liquid gold.

George Washington lost his first political campaign when he ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses at age 24. He chalked the loss up to not plying voters with enough booze. When he ran again two years later, he bought 144 gallons of beer, rum, punch and hard cider, according to author Daniel Okrent, and he won. Go figure. When you provide about a half-gallon of booze for every vote you receive, you better win!

It’s time for today’s presidential aspirants to tap into the sudsy goodness that made politics great in America’s infant days. Trump’s comedic dominance in this year’s race has moved the nation further away from the coolheaded statesmanship the nation’s first president hoped would embody his successors. Still, all hope isn’t lost: the state of our beer union is strong.

Nothing embodies that more than thumbing through the upcoming primary schedule. The great thing about the Washington region is that you don’t need a seat on a campaign’s charter jet to enjoy the myriad of beers that primary voters are wildly toasting (or crying into).

So come with me and take a stroll through the primary calendar from right here in the DMV.

March 15:  North Carolina
I’m predicting this election will be injected with booze politics sooner than we’ve seen in the past, and Ashville, N.C. – the unofficial beer capital of the East Coast – is where politicians would be wise to hit the local bar scene in full force.

Voters there come out on the crucial March 15 primary. It’s admittedly hard to find most of N.C.’s best beers in DC. But there seems to be a North Carolinian picking the kegs at ChurchKey on 14th Street. They have four different local choices on tap, including a 12-month aged barley wine from Fullsteam Brewery and a light porter from Foothills Brewing.

But if you really have a hankering for Ashville’s finest brews, just stop by the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is a co-chair of the Small Brewers Caucus. He has a nice little fridge that’s usually brimming with his town’s finest craft brews. Tell him I sent you!

April 5:  Wisconsin
The next big primary contest is on April 5 in Wisconsin – the home state of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In honor of his drink of choice and all of the big, watery beers coming out of the Badger State, that seems like a good day to just grab a Miller Lite (what the Speaker was sipping during the Super Bowl), which you can snag for a cool $3 a pop on Tuesdays at the Cleveland Park Bar and Grill on Connecticut Avenue.

APRIL 19: New York
The New York primary on April 19 seems like a great day to get toasted in honor of the state’s two leading presidential contenders: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If you’re a Trump supporter, you likely have bad taste (yeah, I’m looking at you, Chris Christie!), and your presidential candidate is a teetotaler so maybe just grab a decaf tea and leave the rest of us alone that night!

For Clinton supporters, you might as well put on some skin-tight hipster jeans and sip a cold one from Brooklyn Brewery, which is just a short jog away from her campaign headquarters. Iron Horse Taproom and Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Northwest have been known to showcase some of their specialty brews. If you’re an energetic Bernie Sanders supporter, that’s promising to be a night where you want to avoid being in public. Sorry.

APRIL 26: Pennsylvania
The race to the White House may be more clear when Pennsylvania voters weigh in on April 26 than it was in 2008 when then-Senator Obama was duking it out in a tight contest with Clinton. You could tell they were both pandering to blue collar voters, because Clinton allowed herself to be filmed taking a shot of whiskey and Obama sipped a Guinness for the cameras.

But hey, I wish more candidates pandered to voters with booze! In honor of the PA contest, head out of DC and go to the classic Philadelphia Tavern in Manassas, Va., where they’ve been known to showcase a wide variety of special Yards Brewing Company ales based on the original recipes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. If they’re out of the brews from our founding fathers, just crack a Yuengling and watch the returns roll in.

The nation is at a crossroads and it seems like it’s silly season when it comes to political discourse. But there’s no reason to despair because the craft beer revolution is alive and well.  So even if our politics suck right now, keep your chin up as you keep sipping.

Matt Laslo is a veteran congressional reporter and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s MA program.  He hosts the craft beer and politics show “Bills and Brews.” Follow him on Twitter: @MattLaslo

New District Brewing & Vanish Farm Brewery

New District Brewing & Vanish Farm Brewery

While you may find yourself “green” on the couch from too much Jameson or in full body paint for your team this March, may I suggest a better way to spend your weekends getting in the spirit of the season?  How about some new and great local beer?  Yes, instead of painting, drinking or literally turning green this March, why don’t we make your beer buddies “green” with envy? Grab a pen, plot the course on your GPS and head to Virginia for two (TWO, Johnny Utah!) new breweries that should be on your radar.

“Just tell your girlfriend you’re going out to walk the dog…and then walk your butt to the damn brewery.”  – Roommate wisdom  

NEW DISTRICT BREWING COMPANY
New District in Shirlington is a labor of love from some local ex-rock ‘n’ rollers who had a dream of putting down the drumsticks and starting their own brewery, but did so at an unbelievable, under $350K budget with the help of many, many friends and their engineering degrees. These dudes literally MacGyvered their own equipment and entire build-out on a shoestring budget to create a small up-and-coming brewery with, dare I say, Arlington’s first walk-up growler fill-up window.

While it’s only open on Saturdays, once they expand their capacity, you can expect some additional hours for enjoying their great brews, tunes and food trucks. Or bring your dog since the Shirlington Dog Park is nearby and grab a beer without the usual scolding from your partner about day drinking on a Saturday – because let’s face it, that’s why God invented Saturdays and your boss gave you off, isn’t it? It’s the American thing to do. Drink these for America.

1821 Belgian-style Saison 5.5 percent: Crisp and easy to drink, this floury,  biscuity craft homage to your favorite glass of Stella Artois – only local, better and more crafty.
Rating: Just “sais” yes.

1821 Black Lager, 8.5 percent: Easily my favorite, this malty, easy drinking lager improves on the Greek family recipe with a special mystery ingredient that I still haven’t guessed yet. No worries, however, as it has a slight licorice/anisette-type dark lager feel with a bitter ending that’s delish. Rating: Smash a lager, not a plate. Yamas!

*Looking for something drinkable for the beer nube? Also try the bitter but drinkable Kolsch or the light cocoa nib First Time stout.  I will always remember my first time well. Thanks Katrivanos family!

VANISH FARM BREWERY
Still need to walk “the dog” a little further? Try a new farm brewery like the epic Vanish in Lucketts, Va. Owner Jonathan Staples originally bought the farm to grow hops for his spirits at James River Distillery in Richmond. However, his friends at Flying Dog Brewing planted the brewery idea in his head (which he continued with alone after the partnership idea disintegrated), and so his rustic and historic Virginia farmland became the site and supplier for Vanish beer.

Here you’ll find an immaculate, 200+ seated tasting room and hop farming facility with a satellite kitchen for weekend BBQ, tasters around $2 and $4 to $5 pints. Plus, an outside biergarten is in the works for the warmer weather. I’d talk more about all the cool farming and local ingredient sourcing, but I’m going to let the owner’s knowledgeable staff regale you with that. I’ll just do the drinking, thank you very much!

Session IPA, 4.5 percent: One-of-a-kind flavor from rye malt and “Brett” yeast, and dry-hopped with Chinook and East Kent Golding. Citrus and dry, earthy tones. Very flavorful/drinkable. Rating: Hands down, you’ll like this beer. If not, replace your tongue (it’s broken), and repeat.

Double IPA, 8.5 percent: Imagine a lighter 75 IBU version of the Heavy Sea’s Double Cannon. Is that possible? Yes it is.  Dry-hopped with slight  tangerine  fringe
and ever so slight dry  bitterness.  It’s  hop   heavy without weighing down your taste buds.  Rating: Double the booze, singular light flavor.

Abbey Dubbel Ale, 7.2 percent: Prunes and raisins dominate the palate with a clean, full-bodied ale that warmed my ruddy facade. Perfect fit for the wet and cold weather. Rating: Plums up!

Sahti (unfinished at 8 percent): Coming soon and amazing. Juniper sourced from the farm, seeds of paradise and hops make this Finnish-style fermented ale just pop on my taste buds.  Rating: The best and most unique thing I’ve tasted in the DC area in months – just amazing!

*Need something more approachable for a beer newbie? The Brown and Oatmeal pale ales are decent, too.

NEW DISTRICT BREWING COMPANY: 2709 S Oakland St. Arlington, VA; 703-888-5820;www.newdistrictbrewing.com  

VANISH FARM BREWERY: 42264 Leelynn Farm Ln. Leesburg, VA; 301-471-6015;www.vanishbeer.com 

Have a beer for the Bierdo to try? Drop him a line at [email protected]

new dining march

New Notable No Longer March 2016

BIBIM
Why: Korean food has moved from “trendy”’ to “staple”
Bibim was opened by a restaurant industry veteran so she wouldn’t have to drive to Annandale for good Korean food. The scallion pancakes are still a work in progress, but the homemade kimchi is on point.  BIBIM: 923 Sligo Ave. Silver Spring, MD; 301-565-2233; www.bibim923.com

BOE
Why: From sleek to splinters
Paul Bunyan meets Elvis in Oya Restaurant & Lounge’s makeover into a posh log cabin with electric purple carpets. The menu is New American (a.k.a. whatever the chef feels like making) and the cocktails are solid. We particularly love brunch, when we can order the $40 bourbon punch bowl (#SquadGoal: this bowl holds 15 glasses).  BOE:777 9th St. NW, DC; 202-393-1400; www.boewdc.com

CEDAR KNOLL RESTAURANT
Why: George Washington might have slept here
Colonial architecture meets New American cuisine at this first restaurant from local catering company The Joy of Eating. When daylight lasts longer (to better appreciate the view of the Potomac), this will be the place to take visiting parents – who will also, hopefully, foot the bill.  CEDAR KNOLL RESTAURANT: 9030 Lucia Ln. Fort Hunt, VA; 703-780-3665; www.cedarknollva.com

COLUMBIA ROOM
Why: Suspenders are back
The Columbia Room was one of DC’s first speakeasies, and the city’s drinkers collectively cursed the redevelopment that led to its closing. Now, however, we can rejoice at its reincarnation as a larger, multifaceted drink destination in ultra-trendy Blagden Alley. Details add up – spring water is sourced from spirits producing regions like Kentucky and Scotland – but as before, it’s worth the splurge.  COLUMBIA ROOM:124 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; 202-316-9396; www.columbiaroomdc.com

COOPER’S HAWK WINERY
Why: The Cheesecake Factory meets wine tasting
This Illinois chain produces its own wine from a mix of grapes from around the world; their best seller is their almond sparkling wine, and their wine club has 160,000 members, making it the largest in the country. The idea of combining a full-service restaurant with a vineyard tasting room is surprisingly rare, and Cooper’s Hawk swoops in with a long New American menu to fill the void.  COOPER’S HAWK WINERY: 19870 Belmont Chase Dr. Ashburn, VA; 703-840-0999;  www.coopershawkwinery.com

LEFT DOOR
Why: Because every cocktail menu should have a $100 drink
The Left Door offers a short and stellar cocktail menu in an intimate space from cocktail god Tom Brown (Hogo, and brother of Derek). Go.  THE LEFT DOOR: 1345 S St. NW, DC; 202-734-8576; www.leftdoordc.com

LITTLE SESAME
Why: Think tank reception food
Hummus is a food group for Washington’s young professionals – but Little Sesame (from the DGS Delicatessen team upstairs) is Raman to your think tank’s Cup O’ Noodles. Hummus serves as the base for a variety of composed meals – the roasted beets are particularly popular.  LITTLE SESAME: 1306 18th St. NW, DC; 202-463-2104;www.eatlittlesesame.com

NAZCA MOCHICA
Why: Let’s get pisco’d
We were sad there was no cuy – a Peruvian delicacy of fried/roasted guinea pig – on the menu at this restaurant (with small influences from Japanese settlers), but the creative range of strong pisco cocktails cheered us up. We loved the super-rich Mochica Leche (pisco, carob syrup, evaporated milk, conceded milk and egg yolk). NAZCA MOCHICA: 633 P St. NW, DC; 202-733-3170; www.nazcamochica.com

PARK LANE TAVERN
Why: Ye Olde Worlde experience
This cheerful, local chain features an extensive menu of “tavern fare” (think fish and chips and shepherd’s pie). With footie (a.k.a. soccer) on the telly, you might consider this a kind of staycation.  PARK LANE TAVERN: 3227 Washington Blvd. Arlington, VA; 703-465-2337; www.parklanetavern.com

ROLLPLAY
Why: Eden Center needs the competition
Customize your order via iPad kiosk at this Vietnamese fast-casual; the winner on the menu is the banh mi.  ROLLPLAY: 8150 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA; 703-891-5595;www.rollplaygrill.com

QUARTER + GLORY
Why: The bus to NYC takes too long
Public House Collective opens its first cocktail bar outside of Manhattan. This intimate, high-ceilinged ode to libations is a transplant we welcome without hesitation. QUARTER + GLORY: 2017 14th St. NW, DC; 202-450-5757; www.quarterandglory.com

SEOULSPICE
Why: Mainstream Korean
Fast, casual Korean comfort food à la Chipotle, fun bevvies (yogurt-soju cocktail on tap!) and the owner is also the National Symphony Orchestra’s Acting Principal Percussion Chair.  SEOULSPICE: 145 N St. NE, DC; www.seoulspice.com

SQUIRE’S ROCK CREEK CHOPHOUSE
Why: Strong cocktails and red meat
This family-owned business is a great addition to Wheaton. And they’re luring the brunch crowd with their $22 “Hair of the Dog” all-you-can-eat brunch buffet, which includes three bloodies or mimosas. The Red Line is for pre-gaming, right?  SQUIRE’S ROCK CREEK CHOPHOUSE: 2405 Price Ave. Silver Spring, MD; 301-933-8616;www.squiresrc.com

TAIL UP GOAT
Why: “Tail up goat, tail down sheep”
Learn to tell your animals apart at this buzzy Mediterranean in AdMo from Komi alumni.  TAIL UP GOAT: 1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW, DC; 202-986-9600;www.tailupgoat.com

TWISTED HORN
Why: The Ghostwood Development, with Jensen Old Tom gin, sapin liquer, Salmiakki Dala Fernet, port, whole egg  and savory spices
From the folks behind Hank’s Oyster Bar comes this mellow libation destination in Petworth where you can actually have a conversation without shouting.  TWISTED HORN: 819 Upshur St. NW, DC; 202-290-1808; www.twistedhorndc.com

NOTABLE
CATOCTIN CREEK
Why: Iconic, almost
Whisky Magazine shortlisted Catoctin for three of their Icons of Whisky awards (including Master Distiller of the Year for cofounder Becky Harris!) Next year, they’re a sure thing.  CATOCTIN CREEK DISTILLING COMPANY: 120 West Main St. Purcellville, VA; 540-751-8404;  www.catoctincreekdistilling.com

KEFA CAFÉ
Why: A phoenix
Congrats to neighborhood fave Kefa Café for getting back on its feet and reopening after a devastating fire.  KEFA CAFÉ: 963 Bonifant St. Silver Spring, MD; 301-589-9337;www.facebook.com/kefacafe

KO DISTILLING 
Why: A winner
KO Distilling took home the award for “Virginia Moonshine Distillery of the Year” at the sixth annual New York International Spirits Competition.  KO DISTILLING: 10381 Central Park Dr. Manassas, VA; 571-292-1115;  www.kodistilling.com

NO LONGER

  • Crios Modern Mexican
  • Posto
  • Rogue 25

PALETTE 22
Shirlington is abuzz thanks to Palette 22, a creative space for enjoying street food-inspired cuisine while also checking out the eclectic works of local artists. The coolest part? Two of the artists-in-residence will always be working in the restaurant during lunch and dinner, so you can sneak a peek at their latest masterpieces and chat them up. Four murals by local street artists, including one by Aniekan Udofia – best known for his portrait of Chuck Brown, Bill Cosby, President Obama and Donnie Simpson on the side of Ben’s Chili Bowl – also cover the Arlington eatery’s walls.

Palette 22’s Arts Director, Cara Rose Leepson, says, “Art is unavoidable in this place. It’s going to be talked about, whether [people] like it or they don’t. If they’re having some kind of reaction, in my mind that makes it successful artwork.”

Graham Duncan, the Corporate Executive Chef for Alexandria Restaurant Partners (Palette 22 is the newest member), put together the globally-inspired street food and small plates menu, describing his creations as “accessible and bright, with punctuated flavors.” Each dish comes out of the open-display kitchen’s huge 900-degree oven in a matter of minutes. Duncan’s faves include the fried watermelon and Halloumi (also our top pick thus far) and vegan ceviche.  PALETTE 22: 4053 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; 703-746-9007; www.palette22.com

bartenders dc

Behind the Bar Hip Hotel Bars

ANDREA TATEOSIAN Urbana at Hotel Palomar
New England native Andrea Tateosian first began bartending in college, but it wasn’t until she moved to the DC area that she fell in love with everything behind the bar. She worked at the Gibson for four years – while also juggling a 9 to 5 – and considered the bartending gig more of a hobby where she could learn about the history of cocktails, explore the different spirits available to her and learn the art of hospitality.  For the past year, she’s been striking the perfect balance between craft cocktail knowledge and quality guest experience at Dupont Circle’s Urbana, a contemporary Italian restaurant within Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar.

On Tap: Do you have any tips for those of us with limited craft cocktail knowledge about ordering drinks at speakeasy-style locations? 
Andrea Tateosian: Don’t be intimidated by arm garters and man buns and twirly moustaches. The bartender is there to take care of you. I don’t care how much they know about craft spirits. If they want to make their guests feel inferior, they’re not a good bartender. There’s a backlash in the bartending community against the snobby mixologist trope. It’s overdone, and it’s not fun for anyone. I think bartenders now are more focused than ever on having a well-rounded culture of knowledge, great ingredients and quality of experience.

OT: What’s your process for selecting the seasonal lineup on the cocktail menu?
AT: It’s really important to me to have a focused menu each season so that everything works well together. I like to have a menu where there’s something for everybody, and then also push some boundaries.

OT: Can you give us a sneak peek of what might be on Urbana’s spring drink list? 
AT: There’s an Italian liqueur that isn’t necessarily a cherry liqueur, but it has a lot of berry flavors. It’s also slightly reminiscent of Pimm’s, so we’re going to do a Pimm’s Cup variation with that. What we really have fun with at Urbana is taking the Italian style of drinking and adapting it to American cocktail sensibilities.

OT: Do you have any special ingredients in mind for the warmer months?
AT: This summer, I want to use some of the fresh ingredients from our garden [at Urbana] to make a house soda to incorporate in a seasonal rickey. I’m leaning toward yellow bell pepper and potentially some basil – just get a little weird. Keep it weird, keep it sexy.

URBANA: 2121 P St. NW, DC; 202-956-6650; www.urbanadc.com 

BEN COLQUE  Cambria Hotel & Suites 
The bar at Cambria’s DC location near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The boutique hotel experience at an affordable price suits Colque, who thrives off of the welcoming environment at the bar. Before becoming Cambria’s Bar Manager last year, Colque worked as lead bartender at L2 Lounge in Georgetown. Now he pairs unique ingredients together for the hotel bar’s seasonal menus.

On Tap: Bartending at a hotel must lend itself to a lot of interesting requests from guests. Is this the case, or are travelers more normal than I think?  
Ben Colque: We have people that come all the way from Europe, Asia, South America, [and] of course, the whole United States. I just found out that they put a little bit of Malbec in their whiskey in Argentina. I was like, “Really? Okay.”

OT: So the guests keep you on your toes then.
BC: Of course. Every day, different people come here and you’re surprised. You try [their cocktail selections], and they’re not bad. They’re not bad at all.

OT: Do these guest recommendations from around the world ever inspire your seasonal menu? 
BC: [This year], I’m going to try to make at least two, maybe three, cocktails from each region [including] Europe, the U.S. and South America. I think people will feel welcome. They will feel like they came from home, and [now] they’re coming home. I think that’s our goal here in the hotel.

OT: What’s the weirdest thing someone has ever requested from Cambria’s bar? 
BC: My bartender was like, “Okay, I need to talk to you. [This guest] wants me to boil vodka and put it in a huge glass with ice and iced tea. And she wants four [servings].” So we were Googling “boiling vodka.” Apparently, [singers] drink that to clear their throats. And then we [realized] it was Rihanna.

OT: Requests for boiling vodka aside, what do you have in store for the spring and summer? 
BC: We’re getting ready for our new summer cocktails that will include a lot of passion fruit and other juices. We have a new product that is Mr. Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite drink, the Singani 63, from South America. We’re planning to put that as a main drink.

OT: What Cambria cocktail do you have the most fun making? 
BC: The blackberry watermelon mojito. I think it’s the best drink that we have here. The muddling, the mixing, and the color – it’s beautiful.

CAMBRIA SUITES: 899 O St. NW, DC; 202-299-1188;  www.cambriadc.com

ALEXANDRA GORDON Blue Duck Tavern
A DC Craft Bartenders Guild member with five years of bartending experience under her belt that includes three years at the Park Hyatt’s Blue Duck Tavern in Georgetown, Alexandra Gordon is a self-described “gin girl” with a penchant for putting a modern twist on classic cocktails. Gordon is part of a rare breed of DC residents who actually grew up in the area (Reston, Va.) and decided to stay (now in the West End), making her role at Blue Duck even more of a perfect fit – some of their cocktails are even named after DC parks.

On Tap: Do you have any spring cocktails that will pay homage to our fair city’s cherry blossoms?
Alexandra Gordon: We have an incredible tea that’s like a cherry blossom tea, and we want to incorporate that into a cocktail.

OT: Do you work closely with the Blue Duck chefs to create new cocktail recipes? Is it a collaborative process?
AG: I work at such an incredible property. We have a huge downstairs kitchen where I literally could order anything under the sun that I want to play with. All of the chefs are willing to help me with anything I want to try. And there’s a lot of trial and error, to be honest with you.

OT: That’s great to have the freedom to try new things and see what happens.
AG: Oh absolutely, and because I work at such an incredible restaurant, I can experiment. There’s a lot of cool produce and things downstairs that I can play with.

OT: What types of cocktails are you experimenting with now?   
AG: We’re going to start a gin and tonic program where we have three gins and three tonics, and we’ll be listing them by themselves so you can play around with [them]. We’ll have the guests be able to almost create their own [cocktails] through our three and three.

OT: What is your signature cocktail or the biggest crowd-pleaser? 
AG: I would say that bourbon is probably our strength. We have the Park Manhattan, which uses Bulleit rye, sweet and dry vermouth, and orange bitters. That’s become a standard here.

OT: What sets Blue Duck’s drink menu apart from other area bars? 
AG: We’re extremely seasonal. I feel like it excites guests to be able to come and sit down at the bar and always try something new.

BLUE DUCK TAVERN: 1201 24th St. NW, DC; 202-419-6755;  www.blueducktavern.com

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.