It’s late-September — school is open, the Washington Nationals have won the NL East, football is back and daylight is becoming scarce as it is officially autumn at 10:29 p.m. tonight. Gin and tonic season has gracefully yielded to Oktoberfests and ales made with last year’s pumpkin crop. The same will happen with this year’s apples too.
As much as I like Oktoberfest beers, mid-August is TOO SOON for them to be released. The trouble can be they sell out before the swimming pools all close. Now, though, it’s definitely time to start drinking them. Actually, a few weeks ago…
So far, I have purchased three local Oktoberfests:
Corcoran Brewing Company Corktoberfest (Purcellville, Va.)
Port City – Oktoberfest (Alexandria, Va.)
Lost Rhino – Rhinofest (Ashburn, Va.)
The first two I bought at the breweries, while the third was found at Westover Market in Arlington. They are all really good, though Rhinofest available in 1 pint, 6 oz. bottles is pretty pricey.
“It’s a very traditional Oktoberfest,” explains Jeff Hancock, President & Head Brewer of DC Brau. “In recent years, Oktoberfests from Germany have started getting lighter in color and are closer to resembling Helles lagers than Oktoberfests or Märzens. We think our version will stand out amongst the myriad pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests on the market this season.”
They are only making 60 barrels though, all for draft distribution or growler fills, but including Nationals Park.
Outside of BeltwayLand, Flying Dog of Frederick, Md. makes Dogtoberfest. It’s not my favorite, but it tends to stick around longer than some of the other ones. At least in Northern Virginia. Former Ashburn-based Old Dominion also brews one from Delaware.
I really like the Shiner Oktoberfest as well as Leingkugel’s and Great Lakes. Yuengling’s was disappointing and Samuel Adams is okay and probably the most-heavily distributed.
Just going going to throw this out there for the Ombudsman — how about brewing a märzen next year around this time? No wedding to plan and the house is moved into, so how about it?
Also, I owe you a half-smoke.
FESTIVAL SEASON Drink up: A guide to local fall beer festivals – The Post
There are several beer festivals, mostly celebrating Oktoberfest in the D.C. area plus Annapolis and Baltimore. Snallygaster is already in the past, but there are still others to come. I might check out the Shirlington one hosted by Capital City Brewing Co. since it’s nearby, but we’ll see. Or maybe I’ll stop by my hometown for Vienna Oktoberfest. That one is a bit on the family friendly side which may be a feature, not a bug. #dadlife
When the seasons change, explains DC Brau co-founder Brandon Skall, his brewery’s canning line acts up. In the last week, roughly 65 cases of canned beer were sealed while only half or two-thirds full. “It’s perfect beer, but the cans are just too shallow to go to the market,” Skall says. The brewery staff prepared to get rid of the beer, but “it breaks my heart to just dump it down the drain,” Skall says.
Then he had a brainstorm. “I’d heard about people who distilled with beer, so I called John [Uselton, the owner of New Columbia Distillers] and asked him if we could do something with it.”
Then, news broke late Thursday that Pabst Brewing is being sold to Russian company Oasis Beverages for an undisclosed sum. Oasis is partnering with TSG, an investment firm, to buy Pabst. TSG Consumer Partners will take a minority stake in Pabst.
Oasis describes itself as a “leading independent brewer in Russia with growing soft drink operations.” The company was founded in 2008. It has facilities in Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.
So, in addition to Pabst, Old Style, Schlitz, Natty Boh, Old Milwaukee, Stroh’s and others are now all Russian owned…
With the sale of PBR to a Russian company, the USA has officially won the Cold War
Remember two years ago when a massive storm that crossed half the continent knocked power out for many of us for several days? Port City responded to the lack of electricity by hastily putting together Derecho Common. Thankfully, Alexandria hasn’t had any extensive power outages since then, but they have made Derecho Common a summer tradition. It turns out they’ll give you taste if you buy one of their cycling jerseys too. That is, if is still available. I have had a couple of Derechos and I’m saving at least two for when a friend returns from overseas. Well, maybe.
MEANWHILE, IN THE DISTRICT
District breweries are now allowed to sell pints thanks to a new law. That’s already legal in Virginia and even the nanny-state of Maryland. Not that Virginia is perfect as we’ll see later.
SPEAKING OF BUYING PINTS AT BREWERIES
The industry’s growth was strengthened by state legislation in 2012, when the state changed a provision governing on-site consumption at brewery tasting rooms, allowing the sale of pints of beer rather than just tasting samples.
That legislation, which D.C. just caught up on, has seen significant impacts across Virginia in Loudoun County in particular:
Since the law was revised, the craft beer industry in Virginia has seen 75 percent growth in the number of breweries, driving a statewide economic impact of $623 million, according to Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, a group composed of small, independent breweries in the commonwealth.
During a recent trip to Nationals Park, I finally got to try some Atlas Brew Works beers. Their anniversary is coming up on September 6, by the way. The first was their common which I liked more than their 1500 South Capitol Street lager, specifically brewed for Nationals Park. It’s good to knock off a few more beers and hopefully, I’ll get to visit their brewery sometime soon.
Fauquier County, best known as the first to close their school system during snow storms, is also home to gentleman hops grower, @thefolkist and now Old Bust Head Brew, on Vint Hill which is sort of an in-joke.
Far away from here both in distance and time is the fall of Stroh’s (Forbes) or as I know it, “the beer a friend’s dad used to drink when he was driving us to the pool.” Ah, the 1980s, such a more innocent time. Aside from being a textbook example of an “old dad beer” Stroh’s is a microcosm of Detroit in general, right? h/t Vince Guerrieri
HOPPILY EVER AFTER
Lastly, congrats to Maryland homebrewer The Ombudsman.
Also, if you plan on serving homebrewed (especially if it’s out of state) beer at a Virginia wedding, don’t bother mentioning it to the ABC if you have to apply for a liquor license. A groomsman had to pass out bottles the morning after since we couldn’t have it at the reception.
Oh and we look forward to a “new home” themed beer too.
Brewer Chris is literally head over heals excited about brewing our first Oktoberfest!! http://t.co/5VHGEcWrgQ
Saturday afternoon was a big day for transportation in Northern Virginia and greater Washington, D.C. – the first phase of the Silver Line opened between Whiele Ave-Reston and East Falls Church. Five new stations, including four in Tysons, one of the largest office districts in the U.S., are now in service providing greater connectivity for the entire Washington, D.C. region.
My family and I rode the first train to Whiele Ave-Reston from Courthouse station in Arlington. We were in the front car which was a little more than half full. Several people were in the very front with their cameras. Other riders took the train only as far as some of the Tysons stops, particularly the Tysons Corner stop which serves the two malls. When the train left the Orange Line tracks for the new Silver Line tracks, there was mild applause.
I jumped out at each of the stops to take a few photos, but with the whole family along, including our 1-month old son taking his first Metro ride, I did not explore. It was interesting to get a new perspective on the familiar Tysons area from the elevated tracks. The best view of the Tysons skyline is on the big curve from the media of the Dulles Access Road to VA 123.
At the Whiele Ave-Reston East terminus, there was a celebration hosted by Comstock. VIPs got to go indoors, while the public was entertained by a DJ playing a bunch of music that came out when I was in middle school. We had a quick picnic there anyway, before returning to the platform to take the Silver Line back to Courthouse.
The ride was smooth, though not as fast as I would have thought, particularly on the return trip.
Rail to Tysons (and eventually Dulles Airport) was something I wondered if would ever happen. Like baseball in D.C., it made a lot of sense, but there were obstacles to getting there. Increased Metro service is a bigger deal than baseball, but the absence of both for most of my life was frustrating.
George Mason University history professor Zachary Schrag (Q & A: The Great Society Subway) made the case in his outstanding book, The Great Society Subway, that Metro should have been built to Tysons rather than Vienna all along. Instead, the Orange Line was built through the median of Interstate 66 all the way past the Nutley Street interchange. Though recent development, mostly in the form of low-rise apartments has come to the Orange Line corridor outside the Capital Beltway, the primary role of that Metro Line is as suburb to city, commuter rail, rather than an intraurban subway. Ultimately, the Silver Line will do the same though. The increasingly urbanized Tysons Corner and its four stations will be the only ones, with the exception of the Dulles Airport station, that are not within the median of the Dulles Toll Road. The commuter rail/subway hybrid has always been a compromise to maximize the constituency (and funding partners) of Metro.
Getting this far with the Silver Line has been messy and expensive. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority struck a deal with the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government to build the Silver Line in exchange for taking over the Dulles Toll Road. Much of the funding (too much), is coming out of automobile tolls. Some subsidy from motorists is appropriate, but perhaps a comparatively token fee, such as a $1 a ticket, passed along to Dulles Airport flyers would have been more helpful. The partnership between two public authorities MWAA and Washignton Metropolitan Transit Authority isn’t ideal and this will never be a great deal, but as the saying goes, at least it got built.
The Silver Line has also created a squeeze at the Rosslyn tunnel which has cut into Blue Line service. I ride the Blue Line several times a week, but I have found it to be manageable, albiet more crowded. Come September, it could get very crowded. Optimization of the Rosslyn tunnels is an urgent need and long-term, more tubes under the Potomac is also needed. That will be another 15-25 years, I’m afraid.
Building the Tysons portion above ground rather than below it is a flawed decision, but at a certain point, the attitude of “at least it got built” wins out again. I don’t mind the views, but this was pennywise and pound-foolish. Will it hold back Tysons development? Probably not, Chicago seems to do fine with elevated trains and locally, Silver Spring and Alexandria have strong transit oriented development near above ground Metro lines.
If the Silver Line is to succeed, it will be in spite of its builder, not because of it.
ARLINGTON, Va. — It took four months (I don’t take many lunches) but I finally made it to the newest Ben’s Chili Bowl location at 1725 Wilson Blvd. It’s between the Courthouse and Rosslyn Metro stations. I’d say it’s a 10 minute walk from Courthouse.
I had another customer in front of me, but the wait to order or recieve my order was probably just a little over five minutes. I got my usual, a half-smoke with mustard, onions and chili, plus fries and a Pepsi. It tasted like more or perhaps MOOOAARRRR!
The interior is pleasant and reminiscent of the original location, without being kitschy. One of the walls is a big celebration and timeline of Ben’s. Overall, it’s a pleasant design. They have a big screen on the opposite wall; it was playing a “Nats Classic” when I arrived, probably Stephen Strasburg’s second start (though it was the 9th inning, Tyler Clippard relieved Miguel Batista). Since it was nice day and the patio tables were still in shade, I enjoyed dining al fresco.
Today, Ben’s continues to expand with another Arlington location:
Pssst… Here's a super sneak peek at our new Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport location. See you there… http://t.co/djQQRZdV40
The new location is in the public area of the airport, lower level B/C – no TSA lines necessary. It’s an appropriate addition to one of the gateways to the city. Later this year, the long-planned H Street NE location will open along with Ben’s Next Door.
After I initially became aware of the closure of the 29 Diner (nee 29 Tastee Diner, my photo above is circa 1995), I CC’ed a couple of loval Post columnists about the demise. Both indicated that 29 Diner would return. The Post still hasn’t reported anything, but yesterday I found that Northern Virginia Magazine has details:
New owner and Fairfax native, John Wood hopes to reopen the doors of this iconic establishment in late July. “We just signed the lease,” says Wood. “As soon as we get all of our marching orders from the Virginia Board of Historical Resources we will reopen. It is going to be the same classic diner that it has been for the last 67 years.”
As a much-needed renovation progresses over the summer, the diner’s parking lot will host events, including food truck visits and car shows. They hope the diner itself will reopen by Labor Day.
And when it reopens? There will be diner food, yes, John and Billy said, but also artisanal food served by a rotating cast of acclaimed chefs. There’s likely to be a barbecue component, too. Ambitious.
John said the plan is to work with groups that help veterans and the homeless. He said the Lord inspires him to give back.
There were several comments on Facebook about the closing of the diner. I’ll admit to some nostalgia and will probably take a visit there sometime now. My wife’s never been and I think my six year old may enjoy it too. Adding barbecue makes me want to go back more. And artisanal food, why not? Though I’d just be happy if it’s less greasy than before.
By the way, Wikipedia mentions that the diner has been featured in a few Zippy the Pinhead comic strips over the years, including this one from 2003.
Via my brother, I learned that the 29 Tastee Diner in the city of Fairfax closed in May. The classic diner had been just west of the intersection of VA 123 on US 29 there for 67 years, hence the name though the road scholar in me feels obligated to note that US 50 is also along that stretch and US 211 was as well before being decommissioned east of Warrenton. Here’s a excerpt from the web site:
The Tastes 29 Diner is architecturally significant as one of very few diners left in the United States exhibiting exceptional streamline Moderns design and construction characteristics.
This particular model would have appeared unique in its day and especially unusual in the then rural back drop of the Virginia countryside. Through the 1940a and 1950s, the Mountain View Diner Company custom fit its diners to the level demanded by customers: they manufactured high-quality diners that were “built to last a lifetime.” The Tastes 29 Diner is now surrounded by intense commercial development.
Was it “Tastes” all along? I remembered it as Tastee. Also, Mountain View Diner Company built hundreds of diners and was based in New Jersey (naturally), not far from where my dad grew up.
When I was a teenager working at the Oakton Friendly’s (long-gone too) that was where we’d congregate after work regularly for a late night dinner. It was a time warp to when Fairfax wasn’t part of a major metropolis; just a sleepy county seat of a largely rural Northern Virginia.
The food was greasy; I couldn’t handle it now. The cook smoked while working. There was a neon sign advertising air conditioning. It was the setting of one of the local car dealers commercials (AND A FREE LOH-NAH CAH). There was a sign that said YCJCYADFTJB – Your curiosity just cost you a dime for the juke box.
I had not eaten there since the late 1990s, but I always figured if it made that long, it’d be there forever. I hope diner gets re-opened/re-used somehow either at its present location or elsewhere. It’d be a shame to see that vintage building be destroyed.
It’s time again for my monthly-ish round-up of BeltwayLand and beyond beer news.
WETA has a brief feature on brewing in the D.C. area with Garrett Peck, author of Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. (I need to get it) which gives the broad history of beer in the area. Fun fact – Robert Portner developed air conditioning to make lager beer year round at his Alexandria brewery. Two of his great-granddaughters are going to open Portner Brewhouse in Alexandria, details TBD. They are also mentioned in Washingtonian‘s Women in Washington’s Craft Beer Scene. Now, on with our feature presentation:
Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager won The Post’s Beer Madness, a regional beer tournament (that’s a big region). I’m a fan and have been since I tried it at the behest of Slow States. Once I found it. It’s now my go-to during my now infrequent trips to the Vienna Inn, but I can’t seem to find it in stores of late. Harris Teeter shaved off $2 from the price of a six-pack, so that may be part of the reason. Overall, it seems harder to find local/regional beers in grocery stores of late, is anybody else noticing that?
SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY is Britain on the Green, the region’s premier British car show, sponsored by the Capital Triumph Register. The weather forecast is sunny and clear all day. Over 250 cars spanning the last 100 years of automotive technology are expected. Included in the price of admission is a tour of the historic Gunston Hall, the famed home of George Mason a founding father of our nation – irony! Food trucks and entertainment will be available on site.
BOG Spectator Admission Prices:
Children 6-18: $5
Children under 6: free
Family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children): $25
My brother Christopher will be showing Tommy, the Triumph TR250 our dad bought new in 1968 in Arlington and owned the rest of his life — he was probably the only original TR250 owner left! Come on down and vote for Christopher. They’ll be other cars there too.
The one thing that today’s beer businesses have in common with the District’s brewers of old? A regional focus.
The heyday of Washington brewing was probably in the 1850s and 1860s, when tons of breweries sprung up to produce lager for the many Union soldiers stationed around the city. Eventually, the smaller, family-owned breweries closed, leaving about six huge breweries serving the region.
Those breweries were well known and respected businesses, according to Peck. Their founders also owned real estate, started banks and operated rail networks. Robert Portner, whose brewing company sat where Trader Joe’s is now located on Washington Street in Alexandria, distributed his beer by rail throughout the south.
The largest Washington brewer, and the only one that survived Prohibition, was the Christian Heurich Brewing Co. (Heurich sold ice during the 1920s to keep his business solvent.) Booze may have been able to flow freely, but that didn’t mean all was well for the brewer. One side effect of “The Noble Experiment” was the strengthening of huge, national beer companies.
“By the 1930s, there had emerged a national media market for advertising, so the ones who best competed in that were the national brewers, rather than the regional brewers like Heurich,” Peck said. “The smaller brewers couldn’t compete, and the national beer market really consolidated in the years after Prohibition.”
Nationals Park. The home of the Washington Nationals, which first, added local craft beer offerings to its concessions last year with two District Draft carts featuring local brews, is adding two more carts this year. And some local craft beers will be sold on draft and in cans throughout the season at the Red Porch and at other Baseline Brew locations throughout the stadium.
The Nationals expect to increase the amount of craft beer sold at the District Draft carts by 50 percent — from about 40 kegs per home stand last year to at least 60 kegs per home stand this year.
“I don’t expect it to double, but it’s going to be tough to tell,” said Jonathan Stahl, senior director of guest experience and hospitality operations for the Nationals. “What we don’t know right now is are we just spreading the same crowd from last year or are we going to be appealing to a broader audience. I think it’ll be somewhere in between.”
I’ve been working on a story on the local craft brew industry — Shameless plug: The story comes out in our Friday print edition — and the demand from the Nationals repeatedly came up during interviews.
The stadium will feature beer from most of the big names in local brewing: D.C. Brau, 3 Stars Brewing Co., Atlas Brew Works, Port City Brewing Co., Mad Fox Brewing Co. and Flying Dog Brewing Co.
The relatively new Atlas Brew Works might have the biggest presence, with plans for its beers to be featured at both the carts and on draft at the Red Porch during each home stand.
There is even more exciting Nats beer news:
In addition to offering more local craft beer throughout the stadium, the Nats are also launching a new promotion: Firkin Fridays, which will feature two local beers in cask on Fridays of each home stand. First up on opening day, April 4, will be beers from D.C. Brau and Flying Dog, although the exact beers haven’t been finalized yet.
The 1500 South Cap Lager, named after the address of Nationals Park, is a 4.8% Helles lager that will be a great compliment to a sunny day in the stands. “The 1500 is an American spin on a traditional German style pale lager. It features light malt notes and earthy American hops,” said Will Durgin, Atlas’ Head Brewer. The beer will be available at locations throughout the three levels of the ballpark the Red Porch Restaurant in Center Field Plaza.
I am eager to try it, though I wish the press release came out on a day other than April 1.
It’s great to see the Nats are embracing the local brewing scene and probably good business for them too. Given a choice of marked up beers available, I’m inclined to support the local one, even if it’s a dollar or two more.
On April 2, 1964, Administrator Rex Whitton participates in the dedication of I-495, the Capital Beltway from U.S. 1 to the Shirley Highway-the last segment in Virginia. Photo by FHWA
It was on this day fifty years ago that the Capital Beltway was completed in Northern Virginia. I suppose many commuters would have found it opening a day earlier more apropos as the road seems more a burden than anything else and the SPEED LIMIT 55 signs to be a mockery. Back in 1964, most of Virginia’s 22 miles of Beltway was only 2 lanes wide each way. Now, with the HO/T (high occupancy/toll), EZ-Pass Express Lanes, it is 6 lanes each way between Springfield and Tysons.
Inside the Beltway wouldn’t be coined until 1969 (by Mike Causey, then of The Post, now with Federal News Radio), but the highway formed a big wall literally and figuratively in Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. There currently are only 23 automobile crossings of I-495 in Northern Virginia and 15 of them have full interchanges with the road, while another has a partial interchange with lanes. Another one, Live Oak Road, is not a through route. The are also 3 Metro rail crossings (Orange, Blue and Yellow lines) and 2 Virginia Railway Express rail lines penetrate it as well. There are a few pedestrian/bicycle trails too, but overall it is tough to get from one side of the Beltway to the other. A “bridge to nowhere” was built between Van Dorn Street and Telegraph Road, but it never became connected to anything and was torn down in the early 21st century.
The Beltway divides the sprawling newer suburbs with the more established and often denser populated pre-World War II areas like Arlington and Alexandria, whose residents don’t even necessarily think of the Beltway much. Tysons Corner, once a crossroads of two country roads grew into the 11th largest business district with two large shopping malls and a growing skyline most of which is just outside the Beltway. In fact when USA Today left Rosslyn for its own campus, I recall then publisher Tom Curley making it a point to mention in an interview that they’d be outside the Beltway. It really abuts the Beltway by the way or at least it did before they sold off their land with the softball field and path. I digress.
Back in ’64, the Virginia portion of the Beltway was signed only as Interstate 495 as Interstate 95 was then routed along the Henry G. Shirley Highway into Washington, D.C. over the 14th Street Bridge and planned to cut through Northeast D.C. and Takoma Park then onto points north. That didn’t happen and in 1977, the eastern-most portion of the Beltway in Virginia was changed to I-95. That proved to be confusing, so I-495 multiplexed back on the I-95 portion of the Beltway around 1989.
The original Beltway exit numbering began in Alexandria with Exit 1 at US 1 (note US 1 is also Exit 1 in several locations throughout the East, including just over the 14th Street Bridge on I-395) and increased sequentially clockwise until finishing off at Exit 38 for I-295 just east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Around 2001, the exit number was changed in Virginia for the first time (it had changed in Maryland after I-95 was moved to the southern and eastern portions of the Beltway) to be a counter-clockwise continuation of the Maryland numbering scheme that began east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge all the way to the Springfield interchange (Exit 57) where I-95′s mileage-based exit numbering took over, the there is a jump from 57 to 172.
The entire Beltway opened in August 1964, so I’ll have more to say then.