Tuesday saw the long-awaited debut of the Bluejacket brewery, and despite large crowds filling the converted industrial space for the grand opening, this weekend promises to be even more packed with beer pilgrims.
With 25 house-brewed beers to choose from at Bluejacket –- 20 on tap, five cask-conditioned ales flowing from English-style hand pumps –- it can be hard to decide what to drink. Fortunately, Bluejacket makes it easy by offering four-ounce "tastes" of everything, allowing you to sample the wide range of brews that Megan Parisi and her team are creating near the Navy Yard.
The bar opens at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. To help make your visit a fruitful one, make sure you go on the early side and sit (or stand) by the bar, where natural light streams through the three-story windows. In our limited experience, the bartenders know more about the beers than the servers in the Arsenal, Bluejacket's restaurant. Also, try to grab a menu, which contains short tasting notes for each beer. Since Bluejacket makes styles that casual beer fans might not be familiar with – salty gose, Rheinischer bitter, IPA intentionally infected with funky brettanomyces yeast – you might want to know what you're drinking before you order.
Here's what we've liked so far, with brief tasting notes.
Bird of Prey IPA
This was the first beer I ordered at Bluejacket, and I wasn't going to settle for just a taste. It's brewed with Falconer's Flight, a blend of hops that includes some of my favorite varieties, and then dry-hopped with more of the same after fermentation is finished. On cask – served at a cool 55 degrees – the tropical citrus, pineapple and grapefruit notes are at the fore, and there's a gorgeous lingering citrus bitterness. Checking in at 7 percent ABV, it's heartier than some others, but I wasn't going to pass up a pint. -- FH
I have to be honest: Rheinischer Bitter isn't a beer I'm really familiar with. This is a collaboration with Freigeist Bierkultur, a German brewery who are bending the rules of their country's straight-laced beer scene. It's a 19th-century style that drinks like a hoppy, full-bodied pilsner. There's a subtle smokiness, a very dry bitterness. I could have had several. -- FH
Cut & Dry
Reminiscent of the fresh pilsners I enjoyed in the Czech Republic last year, Cut & Dry isn't going to blow away the hop-heads. It's an unfiltered pilsner with a grassy hop flavor and a good bit of malt. Crisp, snappy and easy to drink, it's subtle enough for fans of German and Czech styles, but will also impress the casual Pilsner Urquell drinkers. -- FH
Schwarzbier is one of my favorite styles, but not all of them are done right. The Panther is: It's rich with chocolate and light coffee, and the body is amazingly smooth, with peppery hop flavors perfectly married to the roasty malts. The hops take it into Black IPA territory, but this is an easy drinker with a touch of tobacco on the finish. Very enjoyable. -- FH
A good beer to pair with cheese (but definitely not the crab deviled eggs). On draft, the scotch ale is meant to recall pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac's figgy toffee pudding; on cask, however, it takes on an entirely different character thanks to the addition of Mexican coffee beans. -- AB
A saison isn't typically a beer that says "backbone," but the Forager has some serious steel thanks to the addition of grains, mostly prominently rye, hand-foraged by Arsenal executive chef Kyle Bailey. Drinks almost like a crisp IPA. -- AB
James & the Giant
One of Bluejacket's most talked-about beers, the peach notes of this Belgian blond aren't as prominent as you might expect them to be, but smooth drinking (perhaps dangerously so) at 9 percent ABV. -- AB
Watch out for this one. If you've never tried a gose before (and most people haven't) you'll think this beer smells like ... how should I say this charitably? ... old cheese. Not finely aged cheese; cheese you would otherwise throw out on fridge cleaning day. If that's your thing, drink up. But don't say you weren't warned. -- AB