A Bit of the Old Dominion in D.C.
It's been almost two years since I first wrote about plans to install the Old Dominon Brewhouse at the Washington Convention Center. At the time, it was scheduled to open in summer 2005, but a series of construction and permitting delays kept pushing the date back, back and back again. (Now you know why we put disclaimers on these look-ahead-to-2007 stories.)
The Brewhouse finally -- finally -- opened its doors last weekend, bringing Shaw the first spot I can heartily recommend for a happy hour drink.
First, let's clear up two misconceptions: First, this isn't a brewhouse in the common sense of the word. No beers are made on site -- it's simply a bar that sells brews. Second, it's not owned by the Old Dominion brewing company -- it's a franchise run by Hanny Chan, who also runs the Old Dominion pub at Dulles Airport.
What the Old Dominion name does mean, though, is that you get a wide selection of the company's varied output. The 16 Dominion taps include the wonderful Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale, limited-run beer like the heavyweight Millennium barleywine. a few private-label beers like Aviator -- which is brewed for and sold only at McGarvey's Saloon in Annapolis -- and the Irish Ale that's downed exclusively at the Dubliner. (Designated drivers should note the tap pouring Dominion's draft root beer.)
There are another 16 that you could find at any area sports bar -- Bud Light, Amstel Light, Miller Lite, Guinness, etc. -- so the locals are clearly the stars of the show. Since many will be unfamiliar to customers' palettes, the Brewhouse offers a handy sampler: five ounces of any four beers for $6.95. Once you find one you like, pints cost $4.50 and 20-ounce imperial pints are $5.25. Discover one you really like and there's a beer tower called a giraffe that contains 133 ounces -- that's just over a gallon -- for $26.95. Order one of these and your table will get plenty of curious looks.
Back to happy hour, though, because it's stellar: From 3:30 to 6:30, all draft beers are $2.99, as are bottles and rail drinks. Appetizers (nachos, quesadillas, wings) are half-price, checking in around $4. Service is a bit scattershot right now, and servers need to learn which beers are which, but I'm willing to give them some time to learn.
The restaurant itself is kind of sprawling, divided into a curving bar and two large dining rooms outfitted in warm, well-lit wood. Flatscreen televisions abound -- there are 20 throughout, including one large 64-inch high-def TV in the middle of the room. Those will come in handy on Super Bowl Sunday when the Brewhouse hosts a special game day party with happy hour specials from 4 to 11.
To sum up: good local beer, good happy hour, good for Shaw.
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