Some breweries put out great beers but have little or no decent facilities or atmosphere for visits (e.g. Aslin), while some breweries have great location/facilities but their beers are just meh (e.g. Dirt Farm, Quattro Goombas).
Which breweries in the DC metro area have the best combination of good beers and good environment to enjoy them? Ocelot comes to mind as a contender.
I’m a big fan of Sapwood Cellars in Columbia, MD (or maybe Columbus, MD. I don’t remember). The beers are excellent, and the environment is fine I guess. It’s a pain in the ass to get there though, you pretty much have to drive, which isn’t really the best idea for going to a brewery.
I had never heard of Sapwood, but after your post I looked into them and I am very intrigued. Thanks for the head’s up on this one, @EvanFriend. I don’t get north of DC too often, but am overdue and Sapwood will be on the list to hit up for sure.
If you’re into home brewing, you may have read The Mad Fermentationist blog. The guy who does that opened the brewery. The beers are excellent, but when I went there (the day that it opened, I live in Arlington and it’s kind of a hike), they didn’t have any of their sours ready yet. That’s what I was really looking forward to.
I recommend the House Saison, it’s outstanding.
I’ve met the The Mad Fermentationist a few times. Really nice guy. Had no idea he opened a place!
I met him at the brewery. Really cool guy, and a damn good brewer too.
My goal is to visit Sapwood soon. I hear good things but haven’t tried anything.
Hard question to ask, since everyone’s tastes are different, especially when it comes to beer. I think in this area, there’s a lot more that fit one or the other category and not both, or are solidly average (which isn’t necessarily a problem, just not mind blowing one way or the other). I generally gravitate towards a lot of “average” beer places that are great hangout places with my friends who aren’t as into beer as we are.
I’ll second Ocelot. Pretty solid contender. Great beer, cool location. Large enough to handle pretty sizable crowds. It gets busy, but is rarely uncomfortable. Solace is right near here, and that gets uncomfortably busy.
Bluejacket is a good place, but it’s more of a bar/restaurant. You can hang out outside in the lounge area, on a nice day or night, but the bar is only good if the place isn’t slammed and it’s kind of awkward to just stand around. Most of the other great brewpubs in the area are probably in this same boat - nice as bars or restaurants, but not as a “hangout” kind of place. For people in the District, this might be as good as you can get with Bluejacket and Right Proper being the best “hangout” places where the beer and ambiance are top notch.
Eavesdrop. They’re pretty new, but their beers have been pretty good when I’ve gone there (though ratings seem pretty hit or miss on here). The location is really nice. Small inside, but grounds surrounding it are huge and the roof top deck is nice.
Port City is close to the perfect balance, however they don’t have many mind blowing beers, but core beers are solid/above average, and their special releases are usually pretty decent. They used to only have a tasting room that was pretty Spartan, but now they have a decent sized area in the brewery (with picnic tables), the tasting room is built out more (two separate bars), and they have a lounge area and I think some kind of upstairs that I haven’t explored.
Fair Winds is another close contender to the perfect balance. Again, beer might not be mind blowing, but core beers are solid/above average, and their special releases are usually pretty decent. Location is decently configured, crowds are manageable. I’m probably a bit biased to this place since it’s the place I go with my parents to pretty often to hang out and have a drink.
Denizens has a nice facility and their regular stuff is pretty good. They have a good outside deck/rooftop with a nice industrial basement bar (when open). Their stuff at the brewery was better than the kegs I’ve had lately. I used to head out that way pretty often, though it’s probably been about 2 years since I’ve stepped inside the place.
I’d say Right Proper is way better of a place to hang out than Bluejacket. Less douchy of a crowd, plus you don’t have to content with baseball games in the summer. In the summer some of those huge places like 2 Silos are great, though loud and massively crowded.
Ocelot is OK but if it wasn’t for the fact that their beer is often superior to most places in the DMV, I’d say the look of the place is no different from a million other breweries across the suburban industrial complexes of the world. So I’ll readily hang out there, but it isn’t really because of the atmosphere, which is similar to Solace, Lost Rhino, or any of them.
Old 690 has a cool look, but beer is mostly meh.