Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Mar 15, 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 few things before we get started:

11 things to do this weekend, including free Lyft rides home on St. Patrick's Day.

Speaking of St. Patrick's Day: Here's a list of Irish-inspired happenings that AREN'T sitting in a pub all day.

A brand-new list of my favorite happy hours in D.C.

Finally, the exploration of American dive bars that Tim Carman and I wrote last year has been nominated for a James Beard Award. If you haven't read it, check it out.

Ads are all over the Metro.

Yeah, it's fine. The latest in Jameson's Caskmates series is whiskey that's aged in barrels that previously held a craft IPA. (I think it's Franciscan Well, from Cork.) Peppery, a little piney, much more complex than the Jameson aged in stout barrels. And it goes well with a good IPA -- last had it paired with RAR's Nanticoke Nectar, actually. 

Your list is good but missing a few notable places, including the Royal, where you can show up early for coffee, get work done and then switch to cocktails.

You're right -- my list of early opening/day drinking bars, which we published in the Going Out Guide earlier this week, is missing a few places, including the Royal. It's going to be published in complete form after the NCAA tournament. We decided that we'd leave out some bars, like the Royal, since they don't have TVs. 

Best sports bar between Farragut and Foggy Bottom for a “long lunch”?

Not a "sports bar," per se, but I really like the Black Rooster at 19th and L. Good pub grub and TVs.

If you're looking for as many screens as possible, I'd suggest somewhere like BlackFinn, District Commons (love that $5 happy hour from 4 to 7), or even Tonic at Quigley's, so you can have some tots while watching games. 

Over the last few months it seems like the quality of RAR's Nanticoke Nectar has really dropped off. Have you noticed this? Are they trying to expand too quickly?

I hadn't. I know that they're pushing out a lot of new beers these days - those ice-cream beers, Fat Panda sour, new variations on LumberSexual and Marylan, etc. - and also getting set for a major expansion. I think the goal is to produce all the main beers - ie Groove City and Nectar - at a new, larger facility and leave the brewpub for the one-off beers. 

Who should win the RAMMY for Best Beer Program?

Probably someone who's not nominated.

Look, I think we all know there are problems with the Rammys. Establishments that aren't members of the Restaurant Association can't be nominated, so you'll never see the Columbia Room as "best bar," for example. Winners are penalized by not being allowed to compete in the same category again for five years. That's why ChurchKey and Pizzeria Paradiso, to name two potential winners, aren't up for the award this year. 

But I digress. Honestly, I'd go for the Sovereign, because their Belgian beer program is so much different in focus than any other Belgian list in town, with its focus on smaller, craftier producers, such as Cantillon and De La Senne. (Brasserie Beck could have been an inspired choice back in 2011, when Thor Cheston of Right Proper was leading the program, but alas, there was no beer award back then - just wine.)

Hi Fritz - Which local breweries do you think are the best to visit for those interested in brewing their own beer? I've tried searching for previous posts where you discussed your favorite local breweries, but haven't had any luck with the WaPo search functionality.

It depends on what you're interested in brewing. Rustic, funky saisons and grisettes? Head to Right Proper and chat with brewer Nathan Zeender, who's all about farmhouse styles. IPAs? Take a tour of Ocelot with brewer Mike McCarthy, who's leaving the Sterling brewery in a few months to set up his own brewery in Winchester. Big stouts? Hang out for a pint in the tasting room at 3 Stars and meet Brandon Miller and Mike McGarvey.

Right Proper's Brookland facility is one of my favorite tours in the area, btw, because it's easy to geek out among the foeders and equipment. 

What are your go to happy hour recommendations near the White House?

Joe's Seafood, Prime Rib and Stone Crab (15th and H, one block from the White House) is a favorite for half-price oysters and drinks (beer, wine and cocktails), and it's just a bonus that it starts at 2:30, in case you can leave work early. I also like the half-liter mugs of German beer at Cafe Mozart (13th and H), especially on Tuesday when they're discounted until 9 p.m. 

And when the weather's nice, I like taking people to Ellipse, the rooftop bar at the Hyatt near 16th and K. Great views of downtown, rarely too crowded and it's not even two years old. I think it's still $5 beers and $6 glasses of wine at happy hour. But again, I'd wait until it warms up slightly. 

What's your take on this these days - is it worth the $135 a pop?

I'm going to have a longer piece on this soon, but I think last year's Savor was the best one in years. More breweries, better use of the space, including putting breweries upstairs, and it didn't seem like *anything* ran out early, including food. 

This year's list has 90 breweries, and the Brewers Association says 60 percent of the participants weren't here last year, and more than a third have never poured at Savor before. Really looking forward to tasting beers from Blackberry Farm, Lawson's Finest Liquids, Marble, Night Shift, Roadhouse, Purpose, etc. 

$135 is a lot of money to spend for a one-night beer festival, but I do think Savor's one of the best around. 

Hello! Can you recommend some decent bars/restaurants/places to meet friends along the yellow line in VA? All I can think of is Matchbox at Pentagon City. Much appreciated!

At Pentagon City, I wouldn't even go to Matchbox - I'd probably pick Sine, the Irish pub at Pentagon Row, near the ice rink. 

In Crystal City, I'd choose Highline RxR, which has good cocktails and beers, room to hang out, bar games, etc. Jaleo would be the runner up. 

Braddock Road has plenty of choices - I even wrote a guide to doing a bar crawl there. Probably would go with Lena's for pizza, or bar snacks and drinks at Mason Social.

Alexandria is a destination unto itself. Try an Irish pub (Murphy's or the sprawling Daniel O'Connell's), Pizzeria Paradiso, Hank's Oyster Bar, Eamonn's: A Dublin Chipper, maybe waterfront views at Blackwall Hitch?


My wife and I left DC to return to Nashville after nearly a decade in 2013; the GOG chats were an invaluable resource in exploring the city. A long weekend in April will be our first trip back together, so we're trying to cram in as much of mix of sampling the new, along with revisiting some old favorites. It seems like several of the buzzing new restaurants in town involve waiting in long lines; can you give a sampling of great newer spots to eat that take reservations? We're interested in Asian and Continental cooking that can be hard to find in the South. 1st bonus question: can you recommend any progressive dinners involving spots in proximity to one another that may have happy hours? we had a bunch of these we used to do, but Rasika/Oyamel/Jaleo was a favorite (though they don't need to be THAT close together). 2nd Bonus question: aside from the African American History Museum, are there any must see tourist attractions that have premiered or been revamped in the last 5 years?

You're right that a LOT of the buzzier spots don't take reservations, and while Himitsu and Tail Up Goat are fantastic, you don't want to spend your vacation waiting in line.

I'd suggest Tiger Fork in Blagden Alley, which makes for a great special-event destination, with an ambitious menu, fun design and Hong Kong-inspired cocktails. You can also make your way around Blagden Alley, if you want - perhaps tacos or queso fundito at Espita, charcuterie and cheese at the Dabney Wine Cellar (my favorite new spot of 2017), and a nightcap at the Columbia Room, the best cocktail bar in town. 

You could also try ChiKo, a fantastic mashup of Chinese and Korean cooking from former Source chef Scott Drewno and Danny Lee of Mandu. The combination of flavors is outstanding. They only take 4 reservations at a time at the chef's counter, but it's a simple fast casual spot and I've never had a problem getting seats. 

In terms of museums: The Renwick Gallery has reopened since you left, and I'd recommend a visit there. (In fact, it's currently closed while they're installing a new exhibit, which opens March 29 - just in time!)

Since DC seems to be too expensive to add new breweries to the already stellar lineup these days, what are some of the new-ish breweries in VA and MD you recommend?

The Diamondback and Goonda breweries in Baltimore, and Solace and the new Crooked Run brewery in Sterling. Solace is one that I'm really happy to be seeing more of these days - I've really enjoyed almost everything I'd had of theirs. ( Suns Out Hops Out session IPA and the Lucy Juicy double IPA were recent favs.)

DC folks who don't get to Virginia much might not have gotten to know Pale Fire, from Harrisonburg, outside of the stellar Salad Days saison and Arrant IPA, but I'm told they're going to start making a big push into D.C. in the next few weeks. Their Irish red ale, Red Molly, is pretty great and would be perfect for Saturday.

Thanks for joining me today, and hope to see you back here in two weeks time. (As always, you can also email questions to fritz.hahn@washpost.com between shows.)

Post Points code is HH4613.

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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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