Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Jul 20, 2017

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. First, here's our weekend Things to Do guide, which is packed with cool stuff, from Tour de Fat to the Wyoming State Society's open-bar rodeo to a performance by the Latin Grammy-winning Cuban band Septeto Santiaguero. (I have to say, though, I'm probably most stoked about the free Wyatt Cenac showcase at the Kennedy Center with Aparna Nancherla and Judah Friedlander.)

And since the last chat, Tim Carman and I publish a guide to eight great local dive bars, which was by no means controversial. At all. We also wrote pieces arguing whether the Tune Inn is a dive bar, and why your favorite four-year-old bar isn't a dive bar yet. (This is, of course, all following on our earlier guide to The State of the American Dive Bar.)

So, plenty to talk about today. Let's go.

Fritz, when are the DC breweries hopping on the hazy IPA train. Seems like a lot of breweries are making a fortune with their weekly can releases. Would love to avoid driving to Herndon or Richmond to buy these delicious beers.

Good question. New England-style IPAs aren't something we've really seem from D.C. breweries. I like 3 Stars' #Ultrafresh a lot, the If I Did It from Atlas was a real juice bomb, and the New Colossus from Bluejacket was mammoth. But these were all very limited beers; not sure the latter two ever left taprooms. 

Crooked Run -- which is celebrating its birthday this weekend -- has a great new (to me) hazy IPA called Strength and Honor that I found at Meridian Pint earlier this week, but they're obviously not in D.C. proper.

What was your most controversial bar you left off that wasn't mentioned in any articles? I like the age limit mentioned in comments ("bar has to be old enough to drink" to count)

Dunno about controversial, but the one we heard most about leaving off was the Pub in McLean, also known as the Chinese Pub because it's attached to a Chinese restaurant. I knew about it, and it ticks most of the boxes, but we decided to include other places instead.

More controversial, I think, was our reasoning for not including Showtime, which people feel very strongly is a dive, even though it's barely four years old. Give it time.

So where does Galaxy Hut fall in to the 'why your bar isn't a dive bar' category?

I love Galaxy Hut and have been going there since I was underage. (It was for bands. I never drank. I swear on my copy of Dischord #1.) And while the tater tots/totchos are to die for, I think Galaxy Hut is far less divey than it used to be - and part of that is when you have 28 beers on tap and you're charging $11 for a double IPA. It's a comfortable neighborhood spot and, for me, the best bar in Clarendon, bar none. Love sitting on the patio (though not on a day like today) with friends and hanging out. But go there, and then go to Downtown Saloon or something, and it's night-and-day.

I moved to DC a month ago and I'm having trouble meeting people, both for friendship and dates. I don't just want to hang out with coworkers, and I don't want to sit at bars and meet people that way. What are some good ways to make friends in DC?

Meeting people can be tricky, because you have to put yourself out there. Not everyone is comfortable with that. A question, though: What do you like to do? Are you a cyclist? Sign up for the Washington Area Bike Association's rides, or the D.C. Bike Party. Hiker? The non-profit Capital Hiking Club goes on both urban and wild hikes every week. Like cocktails? What about learning how to put farmers market finds into your drinks at Cotton and Reed

Where did you go to college? Many schools have alumni clubs in D.C. that organize happy hours, trips to baseball games or volunteering, and you'll definitely have a tie to the people there. And depending on where you grew up, you might also want to look into your home state's State Society. Almost every state has a group in D.C., and they host great events: thinking about the Wyoming State Society's rodeo-inspired C.O.W.P.I.E. this weekend at Eastern Market, or the Mississippi State Society's recent Mississippi on the Mall. 

Sports teams are always a popular way to meet people. If you want to sign up to play bocce, for example, DC Bocce will randomly assign you to a team and you'll meet plenty of people that way, both on the court and afterwards at team or league happy hours. 

So that's a start. Chatters, please add you tips. 

Thoughts on who has the best Old-Fashioned in town? I recently tried the Old-Fashioned at the new Wydown on H Street and thought it was fantastic.

The Old Fashioned is such a simple drink - bourbon or rye, sugar, bitters, orange twist - that it should be impossible to screw up, right? And yet, people do.

I've had pretty solid classic versions at Jack Rose (of course), Beuchert's Saloon and Bar Charley, so I'd start there -- oh, and Bourbon Steak if you want a high-end rendition. 

Hi Fritz, my girlfriends and I would like to get all fancy for a night on the town and are looking for an appropriate place to go. I know museums sometimes throw parties and this town has galas galore, but how do we actually find out about them? Is there a listing somewhere? Are you aware of any upcoming? Thanks!

Well, I can help with museum parties -- the Newseum is celebrating the '80s at its next Newseum Nights event, which is next Thursday. $60 for a open bar, snacks by Wolfgang Puck, tours of exhibits and live 80s music by the Reflex. 

The Smithsonian's after-hours events, Smithsonian at 8, can be a lot of fun, too -- they just hosted a late-night Folklife Festival-themed event. (Follow them here for more info on upcoming soirees.)

And then you might have heard of Brightest Young Things, who have turned into the city's premiere cultural party-throwing team -- they were responsible for the recent late-night events at the Smithsonian's American History Museum and the National Geographic headquarters. 

One plug: I'm now writing and wrangling events for the Going Out Guide's Monday and Thursday "Things to Do" posts, and I try to get as many of these kinds of galas included as I can. I feel like they're a great way to take advantage of the city, even if you're one of the jaded "Ugh, I've been to the Smithsonian a billion times" people -- and I'm certainly guilty of that myself, on occasion. 

I need to find a happy hour bar that's fun and cheap, with a great vibe around it, located near Georgetown

Have you tried El Centro in Georgetown? $5 margaritas, beer and wine every day from 4 to 7, and it can get lively on the back patio.

Orange Anchor on the Georgetown Waterfront has $4 drafts (Miller Lite, etc), $5 rail drinks, $1 oysters and half-price bar food from 4 to 7 Tuesday through Friday. It's right on the water, which lends a party vibe. 

Cheaper but a little fancier is the Sovereign's 4x4 happy hour, with $4 beer, wine, a cocktail and a snack for $4 every weekday from 5 to 6:30. 

How can we save Seattle's historic dive bar scene from the development and hyper-growth that is decimating its old culture? As a beer and dive establishment operative do you have any thoughts on this? Have you been out here recently? The onslaught is appalling. Signed- Soon to be barless in Seattle

I've never been to Seattle, so I can't speak about the situation directly, but we're going through similar problems in the D.C. area, thanks to rising rents and property taxes, gentrification and all the associated factors. I mean, one of the best dive bars in Northern Virginia, Jay's Saloon, closed last year and it's being turned into yet another faceless retail/residential building. 

The people who are surviving are people who own their buildings and thus can't be forced out. 

I read a story in the Guardian recently about a new trend in the UK: Community groups banding together to buy their local pubs and run them as cooperatives. If you can get people to invest, that's one way to do it.

Thoughts on how this new venue will shape our city's music scene and the impact on wallets? I'm eager to see most all of the acts announced since they opened but ticket prices are high. Higher than what I'd expect to pay at 9:30 for example. Is this just our tough luck or do you figure mid-level acts like War on Drugs might go back to playing 9:30 after Anthem has been in operation awhile? And are we concergoers going to feel the pinch of a monopoly?

I have a feeling that Anthem might mean fewer popular acts playing Constitution Hall and the Warner Theatre, and, just maybe, the Verizon Center. But what I'm really curious about is the knock-on effect that Anthem might have on other venues, and thus ticket prices.

Obviously Foo Fighters are one thing, but I've seen Phoenix multiple times at multiple venues in D.C., and never more than like $25, and probably cheaper at Rock and Roll Hotel. And then they're $45-$55 at Anthem.

If Phoenix "moves up" to Anthem, that means the 9:30 Club has to start bidding more for bands to play at that venue to replace them. And if they're bidding up on bands that are currently playing, say, the Hamilton or Black Cat or Rock and Roll Hotel, they're going to have to pay more for those bands, and then they're going to have to recoup that money through higher ticket prices (or so you would think, since the 9:30's not a non-profit). 

But then again, between the Anthem and Union Stage (coming to the Wharf from the Jammin' Java team), and the new MGM Casino, I wonder if we're hitting saturation in the volume of music venues, and if the concert halls are going to have to find a way to get competitive. 

Did you used to go to Lil Pub? Fun place to play pool, drink cheap beer, and get dirty looks from the bartender. Loved that place.

Yes. I loved Lil Pub. Great bartender, crooked cue sticks, cantankerous regulars. I'm still livid that it closed to essentially become the CVS's storage closet.

(I was also a fan of Zack's, before it became the just-meh 18th Amendment. It's now Barrel.)

I enjoy reading about beer and the industry, so I have enjoyed your columns in the Food section. Are you dialing them back, because I haven't seen them in a while?

I'm writing roughly two beer columns a month for the Food section -- there's one coming next Wednesday. Beer of the Week is on hiatus because I'm doing more for the Weekend Section at the moment while co-workers are on (and going on) leave.

Heading up for a long weekend in eastern PA, but not to Philly itself - any knowledge of/thoughts on any breweries to hit up in that area?

That location's a little vague. I'd definitely try to hit 2SP if you can - I've enjoyed their saison and Berliner weiss. Victory's an obvious one. But I'd encourage you to check out the Pennsylvania Brewers Guild's interactive map of PA breweries.

Any bars in the DC area have shuffleboard tables?

Many of them. Iron Horse Tap Room, Bedrock Billiards and Breadsoda all come to mind immediately as places where you can play for a few hours with beers in hand. 

It's been great talking, but I have to run. See you back here in two weeks. 

The Post Points code is HH9575.

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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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