Bardo is an unlikely place to spend a summer evening. Surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, the Trinidad bar is a mix of dystopian and bare bones: The lot is filled with old shipping containers, unused brewing equipment, clusters of portable toilets and long, rough-hewn picnic tables. Cornhole boards line a grassy area. A projector hangs overhead, showing movies on a screen hanging on a shipping container. In the middle of the asphalt lot is a plywood bar with 20 taps.
If the name sounds familiar, you might have lived in Clarendon in the 1990s, when the quirky Bardo Rodeo brewpub was one of Arlington’s largest bars and one of the country’s biggest brewpubs. Owner/brewer Bill Stewart moved the brewery to Rappahannock County in 1999, and Clarendon’s Bardo soon made way for the Ningaloo sushi bar, which eventually became Dr. Dremo’s Taphouse. (Dremo’s closed in 2008 after the land was sold to developers.)
Last fall, Stewart announced that he had purchased a large vacant lot on Bladensburg Road NE, a few blocks north of the H Street corridor, where he and his brother Andrew intended to create Bardo Mark II. All the favorite Bardo brews would return to the beer garden, including Dremo Tibetan Sasquatch Ale, James Brown Ale, Chocolate Donut Stout and Marion Berry Lambic. There would be an outdoor barbecue pit and few indoor seats. Bill Stewart talked up the idea of self-serve taps.
Fast-forward to summer 2013, and Bardo has yet to receive the permits needed to start brewing its own beer. Andrew Stewart is hopeful that the first Bardo beers will go on tap this fall. “We’ll start with three or four,” he says, and eventually have 10 to 15. In the meantime, they’ve thrown open the gates of Bardo to serve “OPBs,” Stewart says: “Other people’s beers.”
The menu, on chalkboards at the bar, runs the gamut from Natty Boh to Old Rasputin. On hotter days, the draft system seems to have temperature issues, meaning my plastic cup of Old Rasputin was more foam than liquid. (The bartender’s advice: “Be patient and let it settle.” He was right.)
But when I visited with friends last week, we had a great time enjoying the summer night, drinking beer and watching “Animal House” under the stars. Different movies are shown every night about 9: Sundays are for sci-films, such as this week’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Thursdays are given to movies set in the District, so the feature this week is “The Exorcist.”
A full schedule is available on Bardo’s Web site, www.bardo.com.au. (The URL is a nod to Bill Stewart’s 2007 foiled plan to relocate the Bardo brewery to Australia.)
Gates open at noon on weekends, there is no cover charge and dogs are welcome. Until the Stewarts fire up their fermentation tanks, Bardo probably won’t be a destination: The beer list is fine, at best. The surrounding blocks are dead at night, with the exception of Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club. And portable toilets.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a sultry summer afternoon or evening with a group, though, Bardo is a nice, if rustic, change of pace from the usual H Street haunts.
1200 Bladensburg Rd. NE. www.bardo.com.au. Open Monday-Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday at noon.