The long-delayed DC Streetcar finally opened on Saturday (4 years after it’s originally announced start date), shuttling thousands of excited and curious riders down H Street and Benning Road in Northeast DC. The lengthy process has been well documented by Greater Greater Washington, WAMU, and the Washington Post, and the jury is still out on whether the $200 million project ($50 million for the car barn at end of line and $20 million for test line in Anacostia that will never be used) will be worth it.
What’s undeniable is that the Streetcar will be ripe for drinking excursions (though not on Sunday, since it’s not open, at least not yet)-particularly while it’s free for at least the first six months (SmartTrip will never be accepted, BTW). After walking most of the route and taking the ride the entire length, Barred in DC has discovered which drinking spots are closest to each of the stops. Although full blown bar crawls may be complicated to organize due to the restrictions on them for the eastern half of H Street, nothing stops you from grabbing some friends and hitching a ride, hopping from bar to bar.
How to Get There
To get to the beginning of the DC Streetcar from the Red Line Metro station, take the Amtrak/MARC exit, go up the escalator by Amtrak Gate C and follow the signs through the parking garage and past the intercity bus station. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to the Streetcar’s first stop in the median of H Street on the Hopscotch Bridge above the railyard.
Yet another pop-up bar has opened above the still-open Rendezvous Lounge(2226 18th St. NW at Kalorama Rd). in Adams Morgan. Broken Dreams’ Club, run by Sam Gordon,has been open since mid-October on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the second floor space recently occupied by Dr. Clock’s Nowhere Club and MiG Bar. This “fun, artsy” spot opens its doors at 6:45p those nights and features cool DJs and artists and a $6 Natty Boh + shot of whiskey combo.
The topic of DC’s dive bars often leads to lively debate-just see the comment section of Thrillist’slist of top DC dives. Many self-proclaimed dives have sprouted up throughout town in recent years, a phenomenon detailed in a great piece in the Washington City Paper in August 2014, leading to the term “thrive bar“,as well a persuasive DCist argument that the DC dive bar is dead.
To settle this once and for all (ok, not really), Barred in DC’sdefinitive (and comprehensive) list of DC’s dive bars is here (with apologies to many Ethiopian and Hispanic spots that might fit the bill). Definitions ofdive bars abound-though this list eschews any particular definition and instead tracks public perception of whether a bar is a dive or not.That being said, in italics underneath each bar’s name, reasons why a particular spot really isn’t a dive are included (including whether the Post weighed), and in reality, most of these would be called just a neighborhood tavern in most cities not named DC.
Other bars that are “divey” in certain ways but not full-blown dives are also listed. Since many feel age makes a difference (including Tim and Fritz) (though only about 40% of our Twitter followers think so), the year of opening is included to help draw your own conclusion. Finally, interesting stories about many of the bars in the list are linked.
Ivy City, the long-neglected industrial neighborhood off New York Ave. in Northeast DC, is now home to several distilleries and a brewery. Inspired by Travis Mitchell’s DCist piece, Barred in DC recently gathered a bunch of friends and headed off for a boozy Saturday afternoon stroll/crawl.
How to Get There
To get to Ivy City, most people will take an Uber/Lyft (grabbing one from the NoMa or Rhode Island Metro stations will save you a few bucks). A couple of us took Capital Bikeshare to the station at NY Ave/Hecht St., a half mile, 10-minute walk away from our first distillery, while multiple Metrobus stops (D4 from Farragut West, D8 from Union Station, or E2 from Fort Totten) will get you within 1/3 mile. Taking Car2Go there is not a bad idea, but don’t drive your own car unless you’re lame or pregnant and not drinking.
The first stop of our tour, One Eight Distilling, is named after the provision in the U.S. Constitution that established D.C. as the nation’s capital (or as a cynic would say-established taxation without representation firmly in the Constitution). The large, bright, and well-branded Tasting Room is full of communal tables with a long bar on the right. Three tokens are handed out upon entry that can be traded in at the bar for a healthy pour of each of the 3 featured spirits – District Made Vodka, Rock Creek White Whiskey, and Ivy City Gin. There was no consensus favorite-but all worth trying (great labels!).
Three excellent cocktails were also offered ($7 each or all 3 for $20): There Will Be Blood (white whiskey, cardamom, sweet vermouth, blood orange juice), Kumquat Way (gin, kumquat syrup, lime juice, bitter lemon soda), and Citra-licious (vodka, grapefruit juice, dry vermouth, grapefruit juice, dry vermouth, ginger syrup and seltzer) along with assorted merchandise. We finished our time at One Eight with an informative tour from one owners in the substantial and organized 7,500-square foot production space in the back.
Next, we headed downhill a third of a mile through an alternatively industrial/desolate (boarded up buildings, including a majestic old school) and residential neighborhood (You might hear the walk referred to as “sketchy”-some might feel uncomfortable walking by themselves, but it’s safe). Seven minutes later, we were at the old guard of DC’s distilleries, New Columbia Distillers.
Makers of the now-ubiquitous Green Hat gin, New Columbia is a very different experience than the other distilleries we visited-less slick, a bit more cramped, and homier. After walking through the open garage door to access the 3,500 square foot warehouse space, we helped ourselves to tastings of the regular Green Hat as well as its stronger Navy Strength version (harkening back the British Navy’s liquor rations, which were strong enough to start a fire with gunpowder). Green Hat’s strong earthiness is not for everyone-though it does have many fans. Also available were white and rose varieties of Capitoline Vermouth, the fortified wine produced by Etto, the Italian/pizza spot on 14th Street, and bottled at New Columbia. We also sampled a few $5 cocktails served on the makeshift bar in the distillery (payment awkwardly made in the business office a few feet away)-the Moonage Daydream (gin, crème yvette, lemon), T.V.C.15 (a riff on the French 15 made with gin, the white Capitoline Vermouth, cynar, and O.J,) and a Gin Genie & Tonic (gin, grapefruit, and Fever Tree tonic). Frequent tours were also offered while we were there, while other volunteers happily affixed labels to bottles before shipment.
We then walked a quarter mile, about 5 minutes (warning-no sidewalk for a block or so), to our last distillery of the day, Jos. A. Magnus & Co. This second-floor distillery is adjacent to our final stop, Atlas Brew Works. We weren’t quite sure what to make of the distillery’s labyrinth-ish space; near the top of the stairs to the left was the Magnus Room, containing long tables as well as memorabilia from the original century-old distillery (from the Cincinnati area) . There, large batch, pre-made cocktails ($10-12) are served in a large, bright and airy room overlooking the Mount Olivet Cemetery across the street.
Since we were at a distillery to sample the spirits, not necessarily drink batch cocktails, we then made our way down the hallway to the distillery itself as well as the Murray Hill Club. This sleek (couches and dark colors) cocktail lounge looks out to the stills, and again, $12 cocktails were offered at the bar made by overworked but pleasant bartenders. When we went, the menu was Soviet-themed, created to celebrate a regular’s birthday the day before. The delicious cocktails were certainly creatively named and formulated (one made with strawberry ice cream), but we were a bit disappointed on the lack of spirit tastings (perhaps if we had gotten there during the tours it would have been different), since the whole point of going to a distillery is to taste the liquor. We gathered later that you could ask the bartender for a free taste, but seems a bit bizarre to not make that more obvious even if not free. The Murray Hill Club would certainly be a fine place to get some drinks (the crowd was a bit more dressed up than the other spots visited and there was at least one woman wearing a tiara and birthday sash).
Atlas Brew Works, website, Facebook, Twitter, 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, est. 2013, open 5-8p Fri, 1-8p Sat & Sun. (tours 2/4/6p Sat.)
After getting liquored up at three distilleries, we concluded the day after sunset downstairs next door at Atlas Brew Works. This brewery offers some of DC’s most widely-available popular beers. It was crowded when we got there but it was easy to post up at the bar (no seating makes it easier to order) and order as many 5oz. pours as possible. Here, $2 or $3 tastings of Ponzi American IPA, Pope Magic Belgian-style Blonde, and the La Saison des Fetes Holiday Saison, as well as the widely-available Rowdy Rye, District Common, and 1500 South Capitol Lager; for those of you who know what you like, pints are $6 or $7, and 64 oz. growler fills are $12 or $15.
Tours were still ongoing of Atlas when we arrived-the bar is just feet away from all the equipment. We instead enjoyed some cornhole/bags games out in the covered/outdoor garage area in the front.
Afterwards, we took a cheap Uber/Lyft down to H Street to grab dinner. We were able to get seated on short notice at Liberty Tree, an underrated great value spot on the street to close out our day of exploring. Highly recommended afternoon of day drinking, paced out to maximize enjoyment.
Sorry bros, looks like there won’t be a “Leprechaun Lap” this year. Lindy Promotions, the party promoter (in)famous for Dupont bar crawls over the years, had its St. Paddy’s Day-themed bar crawl rejected yesterday by ABRA under its new rules. The organizers hoped to have up to 3,000 patrons at 34 bars in Dupont, Chinatown/Gallery Place, and U Street.
ABRA rejected the application because:
No litter prevention plan (e.g. trash removal contract);
Concerns about adding a second bar crawl to the Gallery Place neighborhood (Leprecrawl already scheduled there);
Large geographic area could lead to walking between neighborhoods without adequate supervision; and
Concerns about 3,000+ folks concentrated in one area
So far, ABRA has approved two bar crawls (the Mardi Gras party held last weekend and the Leprechaun Lap next month-both by DC Beerathon folks) and rejected three others (The Shamrock Lap, Cupid’s Bar Crawl, & All You Need Is Love). Borderstan has reported that these new ABRA rules have gotten support from the Dupont ANC.
Based on these rejections, if you’re looking to host a new bar crawl, here are some suggestions: 1) Pay for trash pick-up 2) Cap your ticket sales to 2,000 3) Get your application in ASAP 4) Stick to one neighborhood and 5) Pick a neighborhood that does not have a bar crawl approved yet.
Also for your reading pleasure, here’s an entertaining ABRA hearing transcript about the 3 Halloween bar crawls in Dupont with 16,000 attendees (Lindy’s oversold by 3000 tickets) that led to these new rules (these other December transcripts are worthwhile). My favorite part (Midtown’s settlement agreement prohibits bar crawls):
The Sovereign, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW (essentially “32nd” and M), the Belgian bistro and beer spot in Georgetown from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group folks (Churchkey, GBD, Iron Gate, The Partisan, etc.), is set to officially open to the public this Thursday, February 4th.
The cozy two story bar (84 seat dining room on ground floor with 57 seats upstairs) features rare Belgian and Belgian-style beer as well as cocktails featuring genever (Dutch gin). The dark and moody spot is down a lantern lit alley (think Iron Gate) just off the northwestern corner of Wisconsin and M Street NW a few steps south of El Centro Georgetown (the signage is pretty noticeable walking by the alley on Wisconsin). 50 beers will be on draft (like Churchkey) and 300 more bottles will be available. The more formal first floor features many romantic booths as well as a chill bar area while the second, more lit, floor features a lot of great standing areas/high-top tables to rest your drink on along with two TVs. Although there’s not much natural light in the place, the vibe is still great and expect this to be popular, even though it is in Georgetown and was previously home to the unmemorable Champs and Blue Gin.
At a preview event Monday night, NRG beer director Greg Engert personally passed around pours of one of his favorite beers, the Saison D’Epeautre from the Blaugies brewery in Hainaut, Belgium. This fantastic brew is a reflection of the quality of beer at The Sovereign – I sampled a variety of Belgian beers styles including saison, pale ale with figs (acquired taste), stout, porter, and blonde ale.
For more details, I highly recommend (the slightly esoteric for non-beer dilettantes, but still great) 3 part interview on Dcbeer.com by Dcbeerbill; those with less time should check out Fritz Hahn’s piece in the Post.