The World of Beer chain has 31 locations across the U.S., primarily in Florida but stretching as far away as Tempe, Ariz. and Naperville, Ill. The only one in the D.C. area opened in Ballston on Aug. 8, to giant crowds and no amount of frustration. Despite 11 people behind the bar at one point during the bar’s first weekend, it took more than 10 minutes to order from the swamped bartenders.
The appeal is that World of Beer has a selection on the level of ChurchKey’s: 50 beers and ciders on tap and 500 in bottles. You won’t find any real rarities here — there were four Starr Hills and three from Goose Island, for example — but the choices are better than most Arlington bars with selections from the Bruery, Devils Backbone and Terrapin.
The majority of draft beers are in the $6 to $8.50 range, though you can knock a buck off of all drafts during happy hour, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. on weeknights. Other deals include half-price ciders and beers for women after 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and a “Bark After Dark” happy hour with $1 off all dog-related beers (think Flying Dog, Sea Dog or Dogfish Head breweries) and free treats for pups on the patio from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.
I have to admit I’m impressed with World of Beer’s loyalty program, which rewards members for trying different beers with T-shirts, mugs and special happy hours. The real clincher, though, is a smartphone app that keeps track of the beers you drink and offers details about them, in case you can’t remember whether Terrapin’s Hopsecutioner or Monk’s Revenge was the double IPA that you enjoyed last night. It also offers access to the restaurant’s current menu, sortable by beer style, country of origin or even color. (The program costs $15 to join but the app itself is free.)
The weirdest thing about World of Beer is the food menu. Due to kitchen issues, the only food made in-house are just-okay soft pretzels and sausages. If you want something more substantial, you can order delivery from the neighboring BGR, Vapiano and P.F. Chang’s; tell them which “zone” of World of Beer you’re sitting in, and the order is brought to your table. I haven’t tried this on a weekend, but I imagine it’s pretty hectic.
-- Fritz Hahn (Aug. 22, 2012)