Where to have a drink before Saturday’s Nationals-Tigers exhibition

Six months to the day after the Washington Nationals' disappointing 2013 season ended with a loss to Arizona, the team is back at Nationals Park, hosting the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers at 2:05 p.m. Things have changed around the neighborhood since the last pitch of 2013. The biggest addition is, of course, Bluejacket, the long-awaited brewery and restaurant from the owners of ChurchKey.

Bluejacket debuts its new gameday patio operation tomorrow, hopeful that an outdoor grill and taps might cut down on lines inside. Also new and notable: A fresh IPA on tap at the Gordon Biersch brewpub. If you're heading to the game -- forecast be damned -- here's what's happening around the ballpark.

Bluejacket
300 Tingey St. SE
The popular Bluejacket brewery and restaurant opens at 11 a.m. Saturday. This week is the debut of its patio bar, which features three draft beers and snacks coming off an outdoor grill. Our current picks from Bluejacket's rotating tap list: the strong but flavorful Reverie "super saison"; the malt-forward Sweet Science helles lager; and big, citrusy Bully Pulpit imperial IPA.

Gordon Biersch
100 M St. SE
Brewer Travis Tedrow has been busy creating beers for the new season. He just tapped Space Coast IPA, an unfiltered ale named because, "[f]or one day, Nationals Park is going to be Space Coast Stadium," Tedrow explained. Next Wednesday, he unveils a Belgian-style witbier, which takes its flavor from a special strain of yeast instead of fruit and spice. (Germany’s Rheinheitsgebot purity law prevents brewers from adding those ingredients.)

Justin’s Cafe
1025 First St. SE
Justin’s Cafe welcomes spring and the Nationals with “Oberon Day,” dedicated to the summery wheat beer from Bell’s. Between noon and 7 p.m., the Michigan brewery will take over the bar’s taps, and Bell’s representatives will hand out free swag.

The Fairgrounds
1299 Half St. SE
It’s business as usual at the Fairgrounds this year: Live music before and after games, frozen drink stands, beer, hot dogs, bocce and corn hole games. By May 1, you’ll see a food truck preview of an as-yet-unnamed Southern-style restaurant, which Fairgrounds owner Bo Blair and Bayou chef Rusty Holman plan to open in the Lumber Shed in Yards Park, currently home to Osteria Morini and Agua 301. (Holman is a native of North Carolina.)

What's new inside the park?
Nationals offer new food options at the ballpark
3 Stars diversifies Nationals Park beer selection

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