Two new beer-focused bars opened outside of Washington last week. Spacebar , the sister bar of longtime Clarendon favorite Galaxy Hut, brings two dozen microbrews and a menu of grilled cheese sandwiches to a suburban strip of Falls Church. And in Baltimore, Brian Strumke — the acclaimed brewer behind Stillwater Artisanal Ales — opened his first bar, Of Love and Regret . While it’s not a brewpub, it’s named after a noteable Stillwater beer, and about half of the 23 taps pour Stillwater beers, making it a vital stop on any Baltimore bar crawl.
Anticipation for Spacebar has been building since last summer, when Galaxy Hut owner Lary Hoffman announced his intention to bring craft beer and grilled cheese to West Broad Street. The doors finally opened Friday night, and anyone familiar with Galaxy Hut’s low-key aesthetic won’t be disappointed with this neighborhood hangout. It’s a simple one-room place: A row of four-person booths runs down one wall, facing a long, long bar. There are 24 taps mounted on what look like stainless steel refrigerators, which hold all of the bar’s kegs. (A very short list of canned beer and wines are also available; hard liquor is not.)
The all-American list is strong on locals — the Devils Backbone/Heavy Seas black pilsner, Lost Rhino’s My Imaginary Girlfriend and Port City’s Optimal Wit were all on the opening menu — but there are some more distant stars here, including Boulevard’s Tank 7 Saison and Lost Coast’s Tangerine Wheat. The most mainstream draft is Yuengling Light — the only light beer — but it may be replaced by another craft beer in the near future. Prices average $6 per pint; the cheapest option is a bottle of Lionshead Lager for $3.
All cooking is done on a flat-top grill behind the bar. There are 17 grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu, including ham and swiss with Dijon mustard on sourdough; grilled portabello mushrooms, onions and havarti on rye; and, my favorite, bacon, roasted red peppers, feta and mozzarella on sourdough. If you don’t see anything you want, pick a bread, cheeses and “stuff” — bacon, slices of meatloaf, fried egg, apples — and they’ll make it. Sandwiches run $7 to $9.50; a bowl of crispy tater tots or a salad adds $1.50.
For now, Spacebar opens at 5 p.m. daily, but later this summer, Hoffman plans to open for lunch on weekends and to start offering occasional live music, “but right now, we’re trying to get a feel for the crowds,” he said. Given that there were no empty barstools at 7 p.m. on Saturday, I’d say that Falls Church is getting a feel for Spacebar.Of Love and Regret
Baltimore is a little further than we usually cover on this blog, but there’s no way I was going to miss a new bar run by one of the most talented brewers around. Brian Strumke is the gypsy brewer behind Stillwater — he doesn’t own a brewery or manufacturing space, so he travels around the globe, using other people’s brewing equipment and collaborating on beers with other brewers. But Strumke calls Baltimore home, and his first bar is located, appropriately enough, in Brewer’s Hill.
It’s a hip place that still has the new-bar smell: exposed brick walls, a gleaming wooden counter, shiny high-top tables. (There are plans for a gourmet food shop selling bread, charcuterie and coffee upstairs, but that won’t be finished until later this year.) What will get most people through the doors are Strumke’s beers, all of which will be offered on tap. Last week, that meant 12 of 23 taps held favorites like the crisp Stateside Saison, the bright, hoppy Our Side — a collaboration with Denmark’s Mikkeller — and the rich and fruity Red Wine Barrel Folklore. Another 10 range from the classic Schneider Hefeweizen to the assertively hopped Freudian Slip from Denmark’s Evil Twin. (The two brewers have a good working relationship: Of Love and Regret hosted the release party for Evil Twin’s new American Blonde Ale and European Blonde Ale; the latter is gorgeously malty and only available in bottles.) The last tap pours house-brewed iced coffee.
The menu is as interesting as the beers: grilled duck tongues with scallion; fried rock shrimp with corn fritters and a tangy “key lime” dipping mustard; a Korean pancake with shredded pork and jalapenos.
Prices are on the high end for Baltimore: $7 to $9 for 12-ounce pours of most Stillwater beers, and $6 to $9 for similar-sized pours of the guest beers. Some of the Stillwaters, though, can be ordered in a 36-ounce pitcher for $18, which will save a few bucks.
Not everyone is going to be cised to jump on the MARC (or Amtrak) to Baltimore to go sample beers, but I could happily spend a day barhopping between Of Love and Regret, the Brewer’s Art and the Pratt Street Ale House (home of Oliver Ales).