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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 02/12/2008

Nightlife Miscellany

By Fritz Hahn

I had a busy weekend that involved running from one end of the city to another. Here's a brief roundup of news from the nightlife world, including an ongoing table shuffleboard tournament, a tasty new beer, the pending arrival of a cocktail menu on 14th Street NW and a reborn sports bar that boasts a very nice happy hour.

Shufflin' on Over

Tabletop shuffleboard continues to be a popular attraction in local bars, with customers waiting over an hour for a chance to play at places like Rocket Bar and Buffalo Billiards on weekend nights. If you've gotten into the game, you won't want to miss the new Shuffleboard Tournament of Champions sponsored by the local Bedrock bars chain. Through March 12, Atomic Billiards, Bedrock Billiards, Buffalo Billiards, Carpool and Continental are hosting weekly "qualifying rounds" that offer the nightly winner a chance in the Grand Finale at Buffalo on March 19, where prizes include tickets to NCAA basketball tournament games at the Verizon Center.

Here's how it works: Attend one of the weekly sessions (a full list of dates and times is here), where you'll be randomly drawn against another player. Each game is played to 15 points, and the person who takes two games out of three advances to the next round. The night's overall champion earns a place in the finals as well as a gift certificate or other prize. There's a $10 entry fee, which goes into the night's prize pool; If ten people enter, for example, then there are $100 worth of bar tabs up for grabs.

Everyone who attends gets $3 Budweiser products -- they're the tournament's sponsors -- as well as other happy hour deals.

Baltic Avenue

Last week, I mentioned the new Highland Courage Scotch ale at Rock Bottom Bethesda. It's delicious, but I'm fickle, and another new brew has my attention. The Baltic Porter at Gordon Biersch downtown is the perfect beer for dropping temps: It's dark and rich but not too thick, with a slight sweetness and lingering chocolate and espresso tastes. Part of this is due to the yeast -- unlike most porters in this country, which use ale yeast, the Baltic Porter is made with lager yeast, which contains fewer fruity flavors. As a result, this is an incredibly smooth-drinking winter ale -- almost too smooth, when you remember that it's 8 percent alcohol. It's available for a limited time as part of a Gordon Biersch program that offers each restaurant's brewer a chance to craft a beer that's not part of the company's usual lineup.

Cocktails Uncorked

Cork, the 14th Street wine bar that has begun to resemble a Red Line Metro car at rush hour, should get even more popular once bartender and mixologist Tom Brown unveils his new cocktail menu later this week. The holdup? Brown says Cork didn't have "the right paper" to print his drink list on. Seriously. Brown has been serving up some amazing martinis in the meantime, including the highly addictive Honey and Spice, made with house-infused pepper vodka, sake and a homemade spice mixture, served up in wide champagne coupes, and one of the best Aviation cocktails around -- gin, maraschino cherry liqueur and seriously fresh and tangy lemon juice.

If you want to take advantage of Brown's counsel, go early -- doors open at 5, and the narrow bar area doesn't take long to fill up.

Playing Games in Penn Quarter

The old Top Shelf bar near the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and Seventh Street NW has been reborn as the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern.

Its first floor is now an upscale space with exposed brick walls, a large mirror in a gilded frame and a huge projection TV that seems to take up more space than the tiny bar area. Pleasant, but not very sporty.

Upstairs, dozens of plastic football helmets from college football teams -- the kind you might get filled with a sundae from Baskin Robbins -- have been stuck on the walls. It's kind of amusing to play "which school is that?" for a while, but the effect is more T.G.I. Friday's than sports bar. I almost wish they would have stuck to the framed photos of vintage gridiron greats that cover the rest of the space: Franco Harris, Mike Singletary, Johnny Unitas, John Riggins.

I'm sure I'll get picked on for slighting the decor, because what's really important here are the big screens spaced around the room, which will please the alumni groups that gather here, and the killer happy hour specials.

Let's start with sports, because the Sports Tavern is obviously trying to horn in on the lucrative college alumni market dominated by Crystal City Sports Pub, Bailey's and other established bars. During bowl season, Penn Quarter hosted viewing parties for Wake Forest, Air Force and South Florida, among others, and when I was in on Friday, paper signs below several TVs told me which would be showing that night's Harvard game. The University of Miami, Boston University, Villanova, Pepperdine, Ohio and Elon are among the groups that have held game-watching parties here.

Now for those after-work deals, which seem to draw a lot of folks from the nearby E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse. At happy hour on Friday I had two pints of Yuengling and a plate of decent (not great) wings. Grand total spent (pre-tip): $7.50. Two-buck beers are nothing to sneeze at in what's becoming an over-priced neighborhood. From 4 to 7, the deals run like this: $2 off all draft beers, $10 72-ounce pitchers, $10 buckets of five domestic bottles and half-price mixed drinks, wine and appetizers.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | February 12, 2008; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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near new jersey and 7th? the only place those roads even come close to each other is up near howard. where are you really talking about?

Posted by: IMGoph | February 12, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Sports Tavern is at Indiana Ave NW and Seventh Street NW.

Posted by: Lane | February 12, 2008 9:51 PM | Report abuse

If GB's "Baltic Porter" uses bottom fermentation, it is a dark lager, perhaps a dunkel.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 13, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Baltic Porter isn't quite the same as a dunkle. It's an emerging style that has been increasingly become more popular since the Wall came down.

More info on the style here...

Posted by: TV | February 13, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Do you ever say anything other than "go early?" Nightlife is about seeing and being seen. "Go early," when no one is there to look at or to look back, is useless advice for a nightlife column.

Posted by: Night Owl | February 14, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

New Jersey and 7th??? Try Indiana.

Posted by: Chris | February 19, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

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