Photo: Addie Juell
Photo: Addie Juell

Andrew Bird Set to Perform at Merriweather

Andrew Bird is coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion at the end of the month. You haven’t bought tickets yet? Then you’re wasting precious time, my friends.

Bird’s performing with not one, but two, critically acclaimed bands – Belle and Sebastian and Spoon – as well as DC natives Ex Hex, on Sunday, July 30. Each band has a stellar musical lineup planned, featuring songs from new albums and old-school classics.

“I’m pretty psyched to be playing with them,” Bird says.

He’s set to play tunes from Are You Serious, his newest album and twelfth full-length LP. The record is ambitious, featuring emotionally complex and hauntingly intimate subject matter. For instance, the song “Valley of the Young” encapsulates the record’s tone, as Bird explores the divide between youth and maturity, comparing young, single people’s lives to those who are raising families.

“It’s difficult to write songs like these – ones that are lyrical and poetic, but also universal,” he says.

“Valley of the Young” also reflects his mission as an artist; Bird strives to create layered, nuanced music that listeners can contemplate.

“I try to make records people can chew on for a long time.”

His Merriweather show promises the same depth of experience. Bird describes his set as “varied and dynamic”– an engaging performance meant to inspire and excite. His passion for music is evident, as he’s deeply committed to the processes of performing and creating music.

“I really enjoy grabbing ideas out of the ether and putting them into song form. I’m in the midst of writing now, and never get tired of it.”

His melodies generally begin as sensory experiences, like a smell conjuring childhood nostalgia or the screeching sounds of a garbage truck breaking, he says. If the tune sticks with him long enough, he’ll put words to it and eventually add additional instrumentation. For Bird, this cycle is both creative and exhilarating – an outward expression of his inner world.

Merriweather’s show will give attendees a sample of his artistry. It’s an event you won’t want to skip out on – especially if you’re a fan of the other famed groups sharing the stage.

Andrew Bird will be at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sunday, July 30. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the show starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $45-$55. Learn more here.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550;

Photo: Courtesy of Clicquot on the Creek
Photo: Courtesy of Clicquot on the Creek

Enjoy All Things Champagne at Clicquot on the Creek

The historic Charles Carroll House and Garden lawn will play host to a spectacular summer fête on Saturday, July 29. Take a day trip to Annapolis and spend the afternoon with friends, picnicking and sipping the delicious champagnes of Veuve Clicquot while enjoying music, lawn games and other surprise entertainment.

This inaugural event on the banks of Spa Creek will benefit two local charities: Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis Green. VIP and general admission tickets, champagne bottles and picnic packages are available online, and tickets and refreshments will not be sold at the door.

VIP ($75 per person)

  • Access to seating, lawn games and entertainment
  • Complimentary nibbles
  • Raffle ticket for Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006
  • Three tickets for three tastings of Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé and Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec in the Veuve Clicquot Tasting Tent

General admission ($40 per person)

  • First-come, first-served open lawn seating
  • Bring your picnic blanket
  • Three tickets for three tastings of Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé and Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec in the Veuve Clicquot Tasting Tent
  • Access to lawn games and entertainment

Tickets to Clicquot on the Creek are available here.

Charles Carroll House and Garden: 107 Duke of Gloucester St. Annapolis, MD; 410-269-1737;

Photo: Kayla Marsh
Photo: Kayla Marsh

Roti Modern Mediterranean Brings Healthy Eats to Capitol Riverfront

Roti Modern Mediterranean just opened a location in Ballpark Square at the end of June, and we didn’t hesitate to check it out right away. The new Capitol Riverfront spot near Nationals Park features a modern exterior, complementing the casual yet sophisticated décor found inside. In addition to the simple, trendy color scheme of the space, the rustic-chic wall signage reads, “Food that loves you back.”

Roti’s menu, and order method, resembles Chipotle and Cava, where you pick the base (laffa wrap, pita sandwich or salad), protein (chicken, steak, chicken kabob, falafel or salmon), and pile on wholesome vegetables, sauces and toppings.

We went with the rice plate, featuring a non-GMO basmati and wild rice blend, and piled it high with salmon kabob, hummus, tomato and cucumber – all that, plus additional couscous, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, dill, yogurt and cucumber sauce (Roti’s take on tzatziki). I never miss out on bread, so I fully accepted the offer of warm pita.

Not only was this a generous portion of healthy food, the Mediterranean flavors were explosive from the first to last bite, with the organic hummus standing out in the best way. Roti incorporates a tremendous balance of garlic and lemon juice in most of its add-ons, which allows for a consistently fresh taste.

This fast-casual restaurant is one of the few places in DC where you can grab a low-calorie, high-quality meal that leaves you feeling satisfied and refueled. Anyone who stops in, whether it’s after work, during a lunch break or before a ball game, can agree that Roti creates an enjoyable, healthy way of eating for city folks always on the go.

Roti Modern Mediterranean: 1251 First St. SE, DC; 202-747-2636;

Photo: Rachel Ellis
Photo: Rachel Ellis

Unexpected Stage Company’s Oblivion Tackles the Nature of Belief

What happens when you take a laid-back approach to parenting and, out of the blue, your child decides to become a Christian? What do you do? What do you say? These questions and more are investigated in Unexpected Stage Company’s rendition of Oblivion (from writer Carly Mensch of Orange is the New Black, GLOW and Weeds fame), coming to Bethesda this Thursday.

The story follows Pam and Dixon, a couple whose 16-year-old daughter Julie decides to become a Christian, causing some discomfort in their “secular, philosophical approach to parenting.” On Tap had the chance to speak with Chris Goodrich and Rachel Stroud-Goodrich, the married duo behind the company, and Mindy Shaw, who plays Pam, about the upcoming production.

On Tap: What drew you and Chris to Oblivion?
Rachel Stroud-Goodrich: Part of our mission is to represent underrepresented voices in theater. Participating in the 2015 Women’s Voices Theater Festival served to heighten this awareness, and it is something we kept in mind as we were planning for this summer’s show. But ultimately, you must fall in love with a script. After reading script after script, and still not having a play to announce, we read Carly Mensch’s piece and fell for it within the first scene.

OT: How do you divide responsibilities between the two of you?
Chris Goodrich: Rachel and I have divided responsibilities, but we are both artistic directors. And as such, [we] both have input on the creative choices of a production or season. I tend to direct the shows and Rachel, to her vast credit, tends to manage the company. She is so good at it!

OT: Have you experienced any challenges in bringing this script to life?
CG: Bringing this script to life has been a delight and a joy. We want to make sure that we are getting it right, that we are serving the play. So it can be challenging to figure out what the playwright’s intentions are at times. But these actors and designers are so creative and so professional, it has been a joy to watch their creative spirits unfold.

OT: What’s it like working with Unexpected Stage Company’s husband-wife team?
Mindy Shaw: I’ve never worked with a company that’s had that exact dynamic, and it is phenomenal. They are conscientious and patient, and just lovely human beings who are wonderfully professional at the same time, which is a rare mix.

OT: What can audiences expect from Oblivion?
MS: It will leave you thinking about marital relationships, parent-child relationships, teenage growing pains and certainly religion.

OT: What do you think will surprise people?
CG: An exposed family being tender with each other, attempting to learn [about] each other, [and] attempting to value who they are and what they discover about the other. Hopefully, this is reflection of us.
RSG: The show is very honest. No one is supposed to be a role model. They are flawed but lovable, relatable human characters. No one is completely right or wrong. I think this is something we are used to in theater, but it doesn’t often extend to honest talks about religion and atheism.

Oblivion runs from July 13 to August 6 at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Building. General admission tickets start at $18.

River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Building – Fireside Room: 6301 River Rd. Bethesda, MD; 301-337-8290;

Photo: Joan Marcus
Photo: Joan Marcus

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome: Cabaret Comes to Kennedy Center

It’s time to pull out your favorite vampy lipsticks and thigh-highs. This summer, Roundabout Theatre Company transforms the Kennedy Center into the Kit Kat Klub with performances of Cabaret beginning tomorrow.

The beloved musical takes place in a pre-World War II Berlin, at a nightclub filled with performers as sexually fluid as they are glamorous. The glitz and glitter of the Kit Kat Klub is surrounded by a growing Nazi presence, becoming a haven in an increasingly frightening country.

Although the beloved musical has been immortalized through many legendary performances, including a film starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, modern DC audiences will find it more than just fun – they’ll find it relatable. Leigh Anne Larkin, who plays the starring role in the upcoming performance, says there’s never been a time when Cabaret wasn’t relevant.

“I think that the role of theatre [in politics] is showing a reality based in truth, but doing it in a way that is entertaining,” Larkin says. “So not being super over-the-top about it, but holding a mirror up to audience members without, sometimes, them even knowing,”

So it turns out that your Saturday night spot to hit the dance floor and down a drink (or four) has a lot in common with the Kit Kat Club. Relevant as it may be to audiences in the nation’s capital, Cabaret is far from a political diatribe. The show reached its iconic status not through a sermon, but through a delicate balance. Filled with bouncy numbers like “Wilkommen” and “Don’t Tell Mama,” it’s easy to get wrapped up in the intimate nightclub atmosphere and miss the messiness happening right outside the theater doors.

“Without giving away too much, that’s what makes the show so fascinating and compelling to come and watch,” Larkin continues. “How does the theme of the show fit in so seamlessly with the upbeat numbers and the underlying darkness? That’s the magic of Cabaret, really; that’s what is so genius about the script and score.”

In addition to blurring the lines between political commentary and risque musical, Cabaret is also iconic for pushing barriers of sexuality and gender – and going where a lot of mainstream theatre will not. And since it’s frequently touted as one of the sexiest musicals around, the payoff is huge.

“There’s a lot of underlying bisexual, homosexual [and] straight relationships, and they kind of intertwine with each other,” Larkin says. “It’s a very exciting, sexually forward piece.”

The actress brings a spark that’s uniquely hers to the character of Sally. She hasn’t even seen the movie starring Minnelli, which helps her avoid mimicking another actor’s interpretation.

“I think that my Sally is really fun, very vulnerable, heartbreaking, troubled and sassy. She’s a lot of things rolled into one.”

Cabaret runs at the Kennedy Center from July 11 to August 6. Tickets start at $59. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Kennedy Center’s website.

Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600;

Photo: Gary W. Sweetman
Photo: Gary W. Sweetman

Talking Controversy with The Originalist’s Jade Wheeler

Enemies of division, rejoice. Award-winning political drama The Originalist is returning to Arena Stage tonight. The provocative play tells the story of a liberal law clerk, Cat (Jade Wheeler), who is hired by the late Justice Antonin Scalia (Edward Gero.) At a time of little political middle ground, their relationship turns into one of fierce political sparring and admiration.

Wheeler, lead actress and former DC local, told us her thoughts on today’s political division, how she prepped for a legalese-heavy, explosive drama and how her own politics affect her role as Cat. Her resume includes local performances in venues like the Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth and Shakespeare Theatre Company. And when it came to talking controversy – which the play, like its late subject, embraces – Wheeler didn’t shy away.

On Tap: Antonin Scalia ruffled a lot of feathers, to put it mildly. Why should people come see a play about him? What do we gain from dramatizing the life of such a controversial figure?
Jade Wheeler: There have been many plays written about controversial figures, so I hope the subject won’t deter people. [Playwright] John Strand was aware of the tense sociopolitical climate when he wrote this play. He begs the question, “How can we listen to, and not demonize, someone we disagree with?” He added, “There’s a lot of humanity that gets overlooked.”

OT: Why should people on the left come see this? And people on the right?
JW: People should come see this. Period. The divisiveness is poisonous and steering us away from progress. Strand employs the characters Scalia and Cat to broach the wider issue of how we engage in a dialectic – especially with someone who doesn’t share the same point of view.

OT: How do your personal politics come into play as you prepare for the role?
JW: Overall, I try to keep my beliefs out of it. If I have opinions that align with Cat’s and feed the truth of the moment, cool. But if something doesn’t serve her journey, then I leave it at the door.

OT: What do you hope the audience will take from this performance? In a politically fraught time, what should this play do for people?
JW: Nowadays, we are so quick to unfriend, unfollow or block people for thinking differently from us. There’s a hypocrisy that needs to be addressed because, at the end of the day, most of us are seeking truth. Percy Shelley wrote, “I always find the bottom of the well, and they say truth lies there.”

OT: Tell me a little about your creative process. How are you prepping for this role?
JW: My initial prep included a lot of index cards – there was so much to research. Finding Cat’s voice and her physical life was a priority. But the craftwork and relationships get deeper when working with castmates Edward Gero and Brett Mack. This is our third time performing this piece together; I am extremely humbled and honored.

OT: What’s the role of performance art in politics, and vice versa?
JW: The arts and politics have a long and complicated history. My short answer is that performance art is often used to bring awareness to the masses. Politics and economics, however, do have a major role regarding issues such as censorship and funding of the arts.

OT: And finally, slightly unrelated to the play but as a fellow George Mason Patriot alum, I have to ask: where do you stand on the highly-protested renaming of Mason’s law school after Scalia?
JW: I think I’d have to defer to the students and faculty of the law school on this one. I will say that our country has more than a few institutions with names on them that could or should be reconsidered.

Whether you appreciated Scalia’s legal aptitude or loathed his influence, The Originalist tells a humanizing story about breaching political divides with a can’t-miss cast. Catch The Originalist at Arena Stage from July 7 to July 30. Tickets are $40-$90 and can be purchased from

Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; 202-554-9066;

Photo: Matthew Murphy
Photo: Matthew Murphy

Sixteen Going on Seventeen: The Sound of Music’s Paige Silvester

Our city is buzzing about one of the 20th century’s most beloved musicals, currently at the Kennedy Center Opera House through July 16. The Sound of Music tour has finally made its way to the nation’s capital after nearly two years, with Tony Award-winning director Jack O’Brien at the helm. We caught up with actress Paige Silvester, who plays Liesl Von Trapp and has been with the tour from the start, about playing her dream role and why the musical is more relevant than ever before.

On Tap: What first drew you to the role of Liesl?
Paige Silvester:
I grew up watching The Sound of Music, of course, and Liesl was always a dream role because I idolized teenage girls. I would force my little brother – who doesn’t do theater, he’s a soccer player – to play Rolf and Liesl with me. We had a U-shaped couch, and I would make him dance around and jump from cushion to cushion and pretend it was the gazebo in the movie and we’d sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” It’s really nice to get a chance to play the role. It’s a beautiful story that was definitely integral to my desire to do musical theater.

OT: How has your approach to playing Liesl evolved over the past two years?
I think I’ve been able to keep it fresh because the travel is really stimulating to me. We’re always in a new theater in a new city. The audiences react differently every night, so that’s fun.

OT: What has it been like to bring this production to the Kennedy Center?
It is so exciting to perform there. The gravity of performing in that theater really elevates the whole experience. I think the audience is really excited to come to the theater when they’re seeing a show there and so they’re right there with you. It’s a really excited, vocal audience, especially for this show, because everybody has a history with it; it’s nostalgic. I think when they sit down, they’re excited to see the show, but as it progresses, they might be drawn in because it’s a little bit different of a production – different messages might be illuminated throughout the night sitting in the theater, so they really go on a journey with you. It’s an intelligent audience and we appreciate that so much onstage because we feel that energy and we feed off of it. It’s really fun to perform here.

OT: Do you have a favorite song(s) in the musical?
I really love to perform “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” It’s just a blast to perform with Austin Colby, who plays Rolf. We have a fun connection. I also really love “Edelweiss,” especially in today’s climate and being here in DC, it feels just ever so relevant; so that has been extra powerful in the last few months. Our Captain [Von Trapp], Nicholas [Rodriguez], just does a fantastic job with it. He brings tears to my eyes every night.

OT: Why do you think this production of The Sound of Music is relatable to audience members in their 20s and 30s?
Our show is fun because a lot of people grew up with it and know it, but because of that too, they might think, “Oh, it’s stuffy old Sound of Music that I used to watch with my grandma,” or something like that. But I think that the messages that we have really worked to illuminate in this production [and] the topical relevance of the story right now, and not even just right now, but just that we find always relevant in society…the questions of morality that it brings up, and doing what you think is right and wrong, and the power of religion and love and family, and the importance of music – they’re all really universal topics. I also think our production is younger and fresher and a little bit sexier. It really is fast-paced, and it’s visually stunning. Our set design by Douglas Schmidt and lighting design by Natasha Katz, who just won a Tony Award last weekend – they’re beautiful. It feels like a Broadway production, and if you have the opportunity to see something like that in your hometown, you really should.

OT: What is the best part of being in the show?
Performing at the Kennedy Center is really, really special. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, and I can’t believe after two years that this part of the tour is already here. I didn’t over-hype it in my mind. I’m excited to be here. And I get to perform a lot with the kids that are in the show, and every night, they bring something really different to it. You never know quite where you’re going to catch them. For them, it’s just fun. It’s not work for them. If I’m overthinking anything or if I’m tired, I just have to look at them and they give me all the inspiration that I need and just take it back to the place I was in when I decided this is what I wanted to do for my career and the rest of my life, because it can just be such simple fun. They’ve been a really good source of inspiration for me.

The Sound of Music runs at the Kennedy Center Opera House through July 16. Tickets start at $49. Go to to learn more.

The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600;

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: July 2017

In a city full of coworking options, we picked some of our favorite spots to grab coffee, a cocktail or a little bit of both while collaborating or working independently. Trust us – every now and then, a spiked coffee can boost your creativity.

The Coupe (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Aaron Herencia
Bartender and Floor Manager, The Coupe

On Tap: How would you describe The Coupe’s environment?
Aaron Herencia: We strive to have something for everyone, so if you want to come have dinner or drinks with friends, or sit on your laptop and work, you can definitely do that. There’s a true sense of community.

OT: Is there a similar sense of community at the bar? What’s the vibe?
AH: It’s not going to be high volume, but at the same time, we like to have fun with the music. It’s very eclectic. You can be listening to Queen and then you’re listening to Biggie. Honestly, we just kind of go with the flow. Depending on how the night goes, we might crank it up and make it a little more fun.

OT: How do you choose your beers?
AH: We try to stay local. Breweries in the DMV area are thriving right now. We have 16 beers on tap, so we try to stay seasonal too.

OT: What’s a popular drink on your menu that combines coffee and spirits?
AH: The most popular one is the Irish coffee. It’s a very simple cocktail: coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey and heavy cream. Whenever you take a sip, you’re going to get that warm spiked coffee and a little bit of that chilled heavy cream.

OT: What’s your most interesting coffee drink?
AH: We have a very good lavender coffee soda. It’s an espresso drink with lavender syrup, a little bit of lime juice and soda. It makes it refreshing – a bit bitter, a bit tart – and perfect for summer.

The Coupe 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Aaron’s Pick
Chocolate City Toddy
Pig’s Nose Scotch
City black tea
Demerara syrup
Heavy cream
Cacao powder

The Coupe: 3415 11th St. NW, DC;

SlipStream 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Coleene Rosenbach
Beverage Manager, Slipstream

On Tap: Slipstream just opened a second location in Cap Riverfront. What was the motivation behind that decision?
Coleene Rosenbach: We wanted to create a little bit more of a spatial difference between the coffee and the bar side.

OT: How did you land on this spot on I Street, and what was the design process like?
CR: We are really fortunate that we got in right as this building was being built, which was how we managed to snag this amazing corner location. You can’t miss it. Everything inside here was built to our specifications, and we had a big say as to where we wanted things.

OT: Do a lot of non-coffee drinkers come in?
CR: Oh yeah, sure. As we get toward the end of the week, when people find it a little more okay to have a few more drinks at the end of their work day, our happy hour really kicks off.

OT: Any spiked coffee concoctions on the menu that are customer favorites?
CR: Our staple Simply Irish, which is our take on an Irish coffee. We do Jameson with a touch of sugar with one of our coffees, hot or iced.

OT: Why do you think people like coming to Slipstream?
CR: I think we’re inviting friendly people who want to go somewhere where they are treated like human beings and not like, “Ugh, what do you want?” sort of a thing. They can grab something fast or spend hours in the back; it really doesn’t matter. We can afford that kind of space where there’s a spot for everyone.

SlipStream 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Coleene’s Pick
The One With The Flashback
Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
Nitro iced coffee

Slipstream: 1333 14th St. NW, DC and 82 I St. SE, DC;

The Royal 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Andrew Larsen
Bar Director, The Royal

On Tap: How does the Royal differ from other spots offering a place to work, but also to enjoy coffee, cocktails and food?
Andrew Larsen: We really try to tie everything together as much as we can. In our cocktail program, I try to incorporate the coffee and tea, and the cooking area and cooking techniques. We try to be an all-day coffee shop/restaurant/bar. You can get any service, and it’s high quality.

OT: How do you keep your cocktail menu fresh?
AL: I try to have a spectrum of as much as I possibly can. I try to have something citrusy, something boozy. We’re always trying to modify and improve our classic cocktails as well. We do actual menu changes about every two months.

OT: Do you offer coffee-based cocktails? 
AL: I’m trying to incorporate them into the menu, because I think it’s fun. One we have on the menu right now is The Monks Made Me Do It, and it’s such a complex cocktail. It’s easy to crush, but you don’t want to, because there are so many intricacies. For our next menu, we’ll do a cold brew negroni that is delicious.

OT: What kind of patrons do you bring in, and does that change dramatically after 5 p.m.?
AL: We try to be very neighborhood-friendly with the menu and the pricing. We’re trying to be your first stop on the way to Shaw, and your last stop on the way back. As we get more accolades, we’re seeing more people come from farther away. It’s definitely nice having that. After 5 p.m., I don’t want to say it gets rowdy in here, but it’s pretty packed.

OT: What regular events do you host?  
AL: Every second Monday of the month, we have a big event called Royal Nights. We bring in guest bartenders and they come up with four cocktails, and I come up with four cocktails, and basically go head to head. The cocktails are cheap too; they’re $8.

The Royal 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Andrew’s Pick
Cold brew concentrates
Cocchi di torino
Smoked with cherrywood

The Royal: 501 Florida Ave. NW, DC;  

Photo: Courtesy of Denizens Brewing
Photo: Courtesy of Denizens Brewing

Brewing Up Business

The craft beer market has grown into a $23.5 billion industry, and the Washington metro area is growing right alongside it.

In 2016, more than 5,300 breweries were in operation around the U.S., and represented approximately 12 percent of market share by volume for the overall beer industry, according to recent data released by the Brewers Association. Overall, craft brewers’ production accounted for nearly 24.6 million barrels, and increased 10 percent in sales and 6 percent in volume over the previous year.

In our region – be it Virginia, Maryland or DC – there’s been an influx of microbreweries, brewpubs and regional craft breweries, and each is attracting customers through innovation and unique offerings. Take Right Proper Brewing, a small brewery company brewing beer in two DC neighborhoods.

“We have both a brewpub in the Shaw neighborhood (The Shaw Brewpub and Kitchen) and a production brewery with a tasting room in the Brookland neighborhood (Brookland Production House and Tasting Room),” says Nathan Zeender, the company’s head brewer. “We have a different set of beers at each location, so there is good reason to visit both. We brew a wide range of styles, with a strong focus on beer fermented with our house wild yeast and lactobacillus cultures.”

The production house is equipped with a shiny new 15-barrel brewhouse, six 30-barrel stainless steel fermentation tanks and three 45-hectoliter French oak foudres. One of the ways Right Proper separates itself from other breweries is by hosting events such as beer yoga, and by showcasing its three huge French oak fermenters used to ferment some of its beers. Zeender says that since the company operates both a brewpub and production brewery, it uses two different models – direct sales and wholesale distribution.

“We brew highly drinkable beers with good personalities,” he continues. “Small-scale, locally supported brewing seems to be driving the industry these days. We continue to see healthy growth in the DC metro area that is supporting an ever-increasing trend toward small breweries.”

Jeff Ramirez, co-owner of Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Maryland, which launched in 2014, says the genesis of the business was to bring the camaraderie of the brewery taproom to the DMV. The brewery offers 200 seats, a dog-friendly beer garden and a two-level taproom.

“In the beginning, we tested out further into Maryland and DC, but we learned that it’s better to focus on a more local feel,” Ramirez says. “I feel there’s a big hops focus among the brewers around here, but we focus on doing a variety of beers that are true to tradition.”

At any given time, Denizens has 10 taps open, filled with diverse beer offerings, including at least three seasonal beers and mixed-culture beers. Overall, it has 65 beers and counting.

“We have an events manager that plans fun things to bring people in, and our bottom floor has outdoor seating and a private alleyway, so people can hold events,” Ramirez says. “We try to focus on having fresh, local food.”

Sean Arroyo, CEO of Heritage Brewing Co. in Manassas, Virginia, says the microbrewery is veteran-owned and operated, and looks to provide the same level of attention to detail and passion that its founders brought to serving our country. Established in 2013, the company opened a brewpub in Clarendon this past April, following the success of its microbrewery operation.

“It’s always been a part of our business plan to open a brewpub, and we just wanted to make sure we had the right location picked out and had the right team to do it,” Arroyo says. “For us, we have found that and are making great, on-style, approachable beers.”

When Heritage opened just four years ago, Arroyo says there were less than 50 breweries in the state of Virginia, and only four in Northern Virginia. Now, there are nearly 200 in the state and 40 in the NoVA area.

“It’s really been an explosion, as people enjoy going to the breweries and trying craft beer,” he says. “We have noticed a trend of going backwards a bit in terms of craft, with people drinking more of the lighter beers and lagers, but we always make sure to have what people are looking for.”

Heritage Brewing was one of the first breweries in the area to can its beer, and has helped lead the way for the canning explosion that most customers crave.

“Our brewpub is an all-encompassing experience,” Arroyo says. “We do fresh coffee in the morning and then serve world-class beer throughout the day. We also do a hot barrel series at our brewery, with hundreds of barrels brewing at any one time.”

The secret to success, he says, is to follow consumer trends and listen to your patrons.

“We try and create products that represent them and the needs of the marketplace. The brewpub is a great expansion of who we are. Part of that is that we think of what we are putting in a consumer’s body, producing a better product that not only tastes great, but also is made in a responsible and sustainable way.”

Another brewery finding success in Northern Virginia is Old Ox, a family owned and operated commercial brewery in Loudoun County, which just celebrated three years in business.

“Our business model includes the tasting room and distribution in both draft and package formats,” says Chris Burns, president of Old Ox. “We brew beer we want people to enjoy every day. But we also have fun with our specialty beers by exploring the more creative side of craft beer. For example, we have a series we call Funky Face, which is a collection of tart and sour ales. Our Cooper’s Cloak series features barrel-aged brews. In our tasting room, we always have something on tap that is a bit extraordinary.”

When Old Ox opened, the owners wanted the tasting room to be a place where friends and families gather to connect with each other and celebrate special occasions. The brewery also hosts events in the tasting room that support other local businesses and raise money for good causes.

“What we hear from our tasting room customers is that the feeling they get when they walk through the door at Old Ox is unique,” Burns says. “They feel welcome and part of the Old Ox community, whether they are a regular or from out of town. Our accounts appreciate the time we spend with them and the help we give them in promoting sales in their businesses.”

According to Burns, the craft beer business in Northern Virginia and DC is still growing, and he doesn’t see an end in sight.

“We see new breweries in the pipeline and established breweries expanding their footprints,” he says. “There’s a lot of discussion around how hyperlocal the craft beer business has become. Both residents and visitors to this area want to drink what is produced within just a few miles of where they are located. We also see more and more accounts responding to this demand by offering more tap handles and shelf space to local beer.”

Learn more about these local breweries and brewpubs at their websites.

Right Proper Production House: 920 Girard St. NE, DC;

Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD;

Heritage Brewing: 9436 Center Point Ln. Manassas, VA;

Old Ox: 44652 Guilford Dr. #114, Ashburn, VA;

Right Proper Brewpub and Kitchen: 624 T St. NW, DC;


A Summer Tradition: 311 Brings Annual Caravan to Silver Spring

For 311, it’s a family affair.

The multi-platinum, alt-rock band just embarked on the Unity tour, with a two-night stop at the Fillmore Silver Spring on July 24 and 25. In a recent phone interview with On Tap, bassist P-Nut, born Aaron Wills, told us that the band had just practiced their new song “’Til the City’s on Fire” – and his mom Joan loved it.

“It’s a good mom song,” he said. And then he added, surprisingly, “My mom is actually here with me right now, so you’re interviewing both of us.”

Mom has a lot to be proud of.

Over the course of their 27 years together, 311 has sold over 9 million albums and DVDs in the U.S. alone. Their last nine albums have reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 Album charts, and they’ve had nine Top 10 radio hits, including three that climbed to the No. 1 spot. But numbers alone don’t speak to the intangible factor that the band has going for it: the passion of their fans.

“They just want to be with each other,” P-Nut said of the band’s fans, “because when you’re at a 311 show, you’re surrounded by friends. And they all know it, so they want to get together all the time. It’s a really cool thing.”

The band started in 1990 in Omaha, Nebraska and consists of P-Nut on bass, Chad Sexton on drums, Tim Mahoney on guitar, and S.A. Martinez and Nick Hexum sharing vocal duties.

While the band has been so successful with their recent albums, their intention has always been to evolve and grow. In the case of their brand new release, Mosaic, that meant opening up to new ideas and people, and giving up the controls more than ever before.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen us, in our writing core of Chad and Nick, really letting go,” P-Nut said, “and having it be like, ‘Let’s let someone else control it a little bit – the direction of the songs.’”

To that end, the band brought in John Feldmann from the band Goldfinger, who P-Nut called “a 20-year friend of ours who’s turned into this top-list producer.”

P-Nut said that Feldmann pushed the band to revisit some of their most rocking hits, and to see if they could write another one together. He felt that the outside angle really brought a whole new energy to Mosaic, or at least renewed what was already there.

“It’s kind of cool to hear it from someone else’s perspective,” P-Nut said, “and then see what they come up with. It’s just really fun. It’s cool to have control of the collective, but also know that we’ve been around so long that other people might have these great ideas about what’s possible.”

Before the interview with P-Nut ended, his mom wanted to bring it back to the fans. Part of the reason she was so proud, she explained, was that 311 fans make up a positive, charitable group who give back to their communities, motivated by nothing but love.

“In Atlanta last year, they had a diaper collection,” she said, “and they collected disposable diapers from fans who were coming to the show to donate to homeless shelters in Atlanta. Because families make up a large part of the homeless. Just imagine having a baby and not having diapers. And they collected a truckload of diapers from 311 fans who were coming to the show.”

She explained that the band didn’t provide any kind of reward for this outpouring of giving; it was just because 311 fans are generally good people.

“The band doesn’t give you anything for doing something nice,” she said. “But they generated that themselves, because that’s the kind of people that they are and that’s the kind of music that they like.”

It turns out there is a reward, though. Sure, maybe not for that specific charity event, but in general, 311 rewards fans every other year with a concert on March 11 (a.k.a. 3/11). It was a fan-generated idea at first, but the band embraced it. They play more songs each time, old favorites and rarities, requests and whole albums. P-Nut said it’s just one way the band gives back to the people that have given them so much.

“It’s its own little lifestyle,” he said, “and we are endlessly thankful for the opportunity. We love the way our community represents the band so well with a positive message.”

And with that, they signed off. Any mom would be proud.

Catch 311 with opening act New Politics at Fillmore Silver Spring on Monday, July 24 or Tuesday, July 25. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50. Learn more about 311 at

Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD;