This is the second installment in All We Can Eat’s series following Neighborhood Restaurant Group as it builds and opens its new brewery and restaurant. You can read part one here.
NRG selected the name — historically a term for sailors in the U.S. Navy — after considering more than 100 possibilities, referencing everything from literature (“Ulysses”) to jazz (“Jelly Roll,” after pianist Jelly Roll Morton, who once called Washington home). The large on-site restaurant, overseen by Birch & Barley/ChurchKey executive chef Kyle Bailey, will likely be named Tavern at Bluejacket or something similar.
“Naming is always one of the most difficult things with any project, but certainly with this one, it’s even trickier,” says NRG co-owner Michael Babin, who by this point has been through the process a dozen or so times. “Normally, when we’re thinking about a name for a business, we have something very specific in mind, those four walls and what we’re going to do there. In this case, it’s bigger than that because we’re creating a brand of beer.”
And, he adds, “the naming process is not as scientific as you would think it is. We get everybody in the group to throw every idea at it that they can.”
Early on, NRG decided not to give the brewery a name that overtly referred to the District, although some people hoped there would be a more subtle connection. “It had already been done — twice, really — by DC Brau and 3 Stars,” Engert says. “Plus, we wanted the name to be able to envelop the whole experience and not just be a brewery that’s in D.C.”
It wasn’t as if NRG went through some organized March Madness-style process of elimination. For months, individual names bubbled to the surface, then plummeted for one reason or another. “One of the names that I liked and that absolutely nobody else thought was good was the name Berzelius,” Babin says, referring to the last name of Jons Jacob Berzelius , who is considered a father of modern chemistry. “That name lived a happy life for about three hours before I told the rest of the group, and then it died immediately.”
Another contender, Seventh Son, divided the group and also had nothing to do with Washington. Among the many literary options, Falstaff was a favorite of both Babin and Engert, but the name was eliminated because it had already been used by Falstaff Brewing — a brand that folded several years ago, having been among the biggest brewing companies in the country a half-century ago.
After being considered for about a month, Bluejacket stuck. It was a nod to the history of the Navy Yard — the brewery will be located in a space that used to manufacture boilers for ships — but it also just sounded good, even to people who didn’t know the meaning. Plus, Babin says, “our creative director immediately liked the graphic potential of it, the fact that it carries a color in the name.”
Why only one word, instead of a more typical name such as Bluejacket Brewing? “That just makes people think about a traditional brewpub, where it’s about beer, and oh, you also need to have food with beer,” says Parisi. NRG hopes to send a message that Bailey’s food is just as important as Parisi’s beverages.
“This is really a partnership between the two,” she says. “It’s a marriage.”