Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Jan 18, 2018

Every other Thursday, Washington Post Weekend and Food reporter Fritz Hahn discusses happy hours, new cocktail destinations, local beers, date ideas and the late-night scene. Of course, he's also happy to talk about staples of the old Got Plans chats, such as weekend getaways, brunch spots, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area.

Hi everyone. A couple of things before we start:

* For the first time, the three best-selling beers in America are all light (and Lite) beers. How craft is trying to get in the game.

* My guide to the new crop of fun, unpretentious wine bars that opened in 2017 (and one so far in 2018)

* If you're also doing Dry January, here's some advice from the experts.

And finally: 13 things to do this weekend, including the opening of the Bruery's shop at Union Market, a winter festival with a massive shotski attempt, and a chance to "meet the real Indiana Jones."

Any word on the delay to opening? Distilling coming along slowly or is the tiki bar still under construction?

When the Wharf opened last year, they were pretty clear that Potomac Distilling and Tiki TNT -- the distillery and bar from Restaurant Eve/PX founder Todd Thrasher -- was going to be in "the second phase."

I wrote about the rum distillery for the Post's "Things we're looking forward to in 2018" story, and Todd told me that there were construction delays that prevented him from actually getting possession of the building. He's shooting for an April 2 opening, and maybe we'll be able to enjoy the rooftop bar by that point. (One can hope.) 

In the meantime, go check out his bar in the Line Hotel's lobby on weekends.

independent enough to stay open in a shut down? I know the Smithsonian shuts down.

The National Gallery is part of the U.S. Government, along with the Smithsonian, Rock Creek Park, the National Arboretum, the Holocaust Museum, etc . If there's a federal shutdown, the National Gallery closes. Back in 2013, we put together this handy guide to alternative museums that stayed open when the Smithsonian and National Gallery closed. Sadly, it might be useful again. 

Hi Fritz! Happy new year. Could I use this platform to encourage more restaurant and bar entrepreneurs to look to Brightwood in NW DC for new opportunities? We moved there last year, and have been surprised by the relatively scarce offerings in terms of good food and neighborhood hangouts. Georgia Ave provides a nice commercial corridor with a diversity of commercial spaces. And the Walter Reed redevelopment will soon bring thousands of new hungry and thirsty residents. Thanks!

Sure. In our "trends of 2017" lists, I had the rebirth of Kennedy Street NW as one of my top picks: Moreland's Tavern, the Anxo production facility and Jackie Lee's were all welcome additions last year. They're still a little too far apart to walk, especially at night -- that's a long 13 blocks, with a pitstop in the middle -- but realtor friends of mine are expecting some fill-in to come sooner rather than later, especially at the 14th Street end. 

I read with interest your story about best-selling light beers. However, I noted that the craft beer options you wrote about all come from the West Coast. I am interested in trying some of these lighter craft beers and want to know if there are any local options.

I haven't seen any local "light" or reduced-calorie craft beers, unless you want to count Yuengling Light. (Note: You shouldn't.) Two options for you: Session beers have fewer calories than full-strength IPAs, because they have less alcohol and less "body," as it were. Try Fair Winds' Sessions in the Abyss and Port City's Ways and Means Session IPA (now only available on tap/in crowlers at the brewery, grumble grumble).

If you're looking for light, crisp beers, the pilsners from Ocelot and Port City, Manor Hill's Grisette, or Victory's Prima Pils are all winners for me, even if they're not in the same dietary category as Michelob Ultra or that 99-calorie Kona blonde ale. 

My brother's visiting from Boulder- he's a big hiker. Wondering if I can blend that into his visit in some way- maybe an urban hike with a brief separation from buildings. Already familiar with Rock Creek Park and Roosevelt Island... Is there a spot I'm missing where we could pop out near some bars after 2-5 miles of walking?

One of my favorite stories (to do, anyway) from last year was Weekend's guide to urban walks. One of my favorites, which might be good for your brother, started at the wooded Kingman Island near RFK Stadium. Take the Metro there, follow the signs through the parking lots, and walk the Anacostia Riverwalk down towards the Navy Yard. It's relatively flat and has some scenic water views. You'll cross the river by the Navy Yard -- there are scenic overlooks on the 11th Street Bridge -- and then you're perfectly positioned to hit Bluejacket for a couple of their fresh brews afterwards, followed by a stop at Gordon Biersch for some of brewer Travis Tedrow's well-made ales. 

If you want to get out of the city, try walking the W&OD trail, which can be overrun by bikers at times. It's more rural/suburban than the Anacostia Riverwalk, but there are plenty of breweries along the way. Metro out to Ballston or Dunn Loring, and pick up the trail from there. Here's a list of beer-friendly stops written for bikers, but trust me, it works for those on foot, too. 

Where can you get an Old Fashion Whiskey Sour made with egg whites?? Or ..Better yet, the best recipe for one. Thanks!

Some bars don't make them because they're don't like handling egg whites (no, really, I've been told that), or they don't want to put disclaimers on the menu, while others just don't keep eggs on hand. 

Some places where I've had traditional and delicious whiskey sours in the past: Bourbon Steak, Jack Rose, the Gibson, Barley Mac in Rosslyn.

Also: I recently spoke with head bartender Sarah Rosner at Radiator for a different story, and she was joking that she wished more people would order pisco sours and whiskey sours with her, even if it means she has to shake for a couple of minutes. So consider that a challenge. 

Not really a going out question more of a rant. I'm newly pregnant but when my husband and I went out for drinks in Springfield town center (Yard House) the bartender was very unwelcoming towards me when I said I won't have alcohol because we're expecting. Saying we should sit at a table and leave the bar seating for patron's who are drinking. Mind you my husband was drinking a rum/coke while I was doing plain gingerale. As someone who is expecting I'm appalled by the behavior of the bartender. Even if I wasn't expecting I should be able to sit in the bar area if I want. That being said where are some GOOD places around the Springfield/Burke/Fairfax area that have good food, good drinks for the husband and good mocktails for me without breaking the bank?

That's completely unacceptable. I hope you complained. There's no law that says someone sitting at a bar has to have an alcoholic drink in front of them -- especially if your husband is sitting right next to you with a boozy drink. It's just so ignorant, especially in 2018. 

As someone who's currently not drinking (by choice), I love it when bars like the Columbia Room, Hank's, Little Pearl, Hill Country and the Passenger make a point of putting a non-alcoholic drink on their menu, or when bartenders at All Purpose and Primrose made a point of keeping my glass of (house-made) sparkling water full. That's hospitality, and that's going to earn them a better-than average tip from me. (I have a feeling your bartender expected someone who wasn't imbibing to stiff him on a tip for your non-alcoholic drinks, but that is definitely not an excuse.)

So. I don't know anywhere in Springfield or Burke to send you, but I did visit the Mosaic District on a drinking hiatus, and enjoyed non-alcoholic drinks at True Food Kitchen and B-Side. True Food had a fizzy carrot tonic that was surprisingly tasty, and they have other "healthy" sodas and drinks, too. Requin is another idea there -- most of Mike Isabella's spots have house-made sodas that hit the spot, such as spiced pineapple soda or a sharp ginger beer, that are more fun to drink than the usual sugary stuff from a gun.

And I can't forget Trummer's on Main -- their cocktails are ace, but they list the mocktails above the boozy options on the menu. 

I feel like the D.C. beer scene has become stagnant in the last few years. New breweries keep opening in Loudoun County or the Maryland suburbs, but nothing is happening in D.C. Why is that?

It's a matter of rent and supply. It's honestly easier for a brewery in Leesburg or Sterling to find a properly zoned building for manufacturing than it is for a brewery in DC. (There's a reason breweries and distilleries are clustered on the edges of the city or in Ivy City.) Also, once you find space, from what I'm told, the rent is much higher per square foot than it will be in an office park in Columbia or Lorton. Think about it as a new brewery: Would you rather spend your money on a smaller space or on more fermenters and tanks?

There are breweries who are looking in D.C., and there's the Red Bear brewpub coming to the Uline Arena, and Supreme Core is launching its space near the Arboretum later this year, but I think we're going to see more growth coming on the outskirts of the area than in the center. More excuses for a roadtrip, I guess.  

While I don't make it up to U-st very often, I feel like the times I'm there it sorta has the old Adams Morgan feel of being a bit too crowded/occupied for the area because it's popularity. It feels safe to say that U-st is the most popular area of the city for partying (and definitely a diverse age/crowd) but has it reached the point that there's a bit too much going on there for what the sidewalks can handle... or am I just old? On a similar note, great to see how the city ebbs-and-flows in terms of nightlife and it's not as clustered as it was the previous decade+ (looking at you g-town/admo).

Yeah, 14th Street and U Street are the 2010s version of the 1990s/2000s Adams Morgan and Georgetown. The difference is you have way more traffic going through 14th and U than you did going up 18th Street back in the day.

As for the spread, I think it's almost completely down to Uber and Lyft. The problem (at least a decade ago) wasn't really getting to bars on H Street NE, or Shaw, or Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant -- it was trying to get home, and figuring out if you'd be able to find a cab after you'd had a few drinks. Ride sharing has taken alllll the guesswork out of that. 

In your opinion, what is a retail destination that DC needs more of? Has too much of?

Selfishly, I'd want more good men's clothing shops and shoe stores other than Palace 5 and the (very Nike-centric) Kickk Spott. 

But what about you? Send ideas to me -- fritz dot hahn at washpost dot com -- I'm happy to put a list together and publish it when we're back here in 2 weeks.


Post Points Code is HH 4609.

Be seeing you.

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Fritz Hahn
Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes.
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