Yet many local beer drinkers have never tried Aslin. Only a few bars regularly offer its beers on tap. Cans are sold only at the brewery, and the ballyhooed IPAs and stouts sell out quickly. And if a curious beer lover has heard of Aslin and driven out to the Herndon brewery looking for a pint or a tasting flight, they’ve been disappointed: Aslin hasn’t had a public taproom since December 2016.
A new era began Monday, however, with the opening of a massive new Alexandria brewery and taproom in a former FEMA warehouse. The 25,000-square-foot facility has a spacious taproom with a capacity of 350, a game room and plenty of space for Aslin to expand in the future. Here’s everything you need to know before making the trip.
Why did they move to Alexandria?
Aslin opened in a Herndon industrial park in the fall of 2015. By the following spring, its hazy IPAs, such as Orange Starfish and Master of Karate, had made it one of the most-sought-after breweries on the East Coast, especially because the brewers kept cycling new recipes into the mix. (A May 2016 Post story named Aslin “The Best Brewery You Probably Haven’t Heard Of.”) As its popularity grew, so did the lines of people trying to buy beer, which clogged the parking lot and annoyed nearby businesses.
On Christmas Eve 2016, Aslin’s taproom was shut down by the fire marshal and the city of Herndon for surpassing its capacity, recalls co-founder Kai Leszkowicz. As a result, Aslin closed its taproom altogether and began actively seeking a larger location. Soon after Aslin announced it was looking to leave Herndon, Leszkowicz says, “Alexandria’s economic development team came to us and sat us down and said, ‘Have you ever considered Alexandria?’” After more explorations — including a planned taproom in downtown Herndon that still hasn’t opened — Aslin signed a lease on a space in Alexandria in September 2018.
So what's the place like?
The taproom is a simple warehouse box with white walls, concrete floors and ceilings open to two stories. Enormous windows on the back wall offer views of the tanks and brewing equipment. Instead of the usual industrial decor, Aslin has mix of styles: The Scandinavian-modern beer garden tables and cool glowing circular light fixtures contrast with the flickering colored lights of numerous flat-screen TVs and noise from video games. The robot mascot from the old brewery has moved over, too, sitting near the front doors.
If you’re hanging out and sampling beers, there’s an area near the front door with pinball and arcade games, and another group of video games and pop-a-shot basketball near the rear. A lounge upstairs offers bird’s-eye views and comfortable chairs and sofas. Outfitted with murals of Aslin’s distinctive and much-admired label art, it can be reserved for private events but is open to the public if not.
Prices for beer at soft-opening events were $4-$7 for six-ounce pours, and $6-$9 for full-sized snifters and pints.
What does this mean for the beer? Will there be more beer?
Right now, the 14 drafts available in the taproom — from the Baby Shark IPA to the s’mores-inspired Glamping imperial stout — were all made in Herndon. Leszkowicz expects Alexandria’s new brewing system, which has an annual capacity of around 15,000 barrels (“two-and-a-quarter times larger” than the old one), to be fully operational in August, with the first beers ready to drink a few weeks later. The entire facility could eventually produce “50 or 60,000 barrels a year,” Leszkowicz says, “but we don’t know necessarily we’ll ever grow to that capacity.”
So yes, this should mean more Orange Starfish and Laser Raptors and Berliner weisse, all of which are currently on tap, but the expanded brewing space and equipment will also allow Aslin to expand its offerings. Visible through those taproom windows are four huge lager vessels, which look like tanks set on their side. These will enable the regular production of Much Ado, a German-style Helles that has become a brewer favorite, as well as seasonal festbiers and even “light American adjunct lager,” Leszkowicz says.
Visitors peering through taproom windows might also see what looks like a sauna-style room holding a giant metal baking pan. This is Aslin’s coolship, a traditional Belgian-style fermentation vessel that allows beer to be fermented with the wild yeast in the air. Vents connect the sealed room to the outside, which will draw microbes in, and invite them to live in the American white oak that covers the walls. “I don’t think many consumers understand what a coolship is or why it’s utilized,” Leszkowicz says. “This literally an exhibit for people to look at,” that allows them to ask brewers or staff about what it is and how it’s utilized.
Meanwhile, the original Herndon brewery will become a smaller, experimental facility, specializing in “the finite and delicate beers that our brewery isn’t necessarily known for” that could eventually make their way to Alexandria. Leszkowicz says it will stay open for can sales, and he’s interested in opening a “decanting bar” that would serve bottle-aged and vintage beers.
Can I get beer to go?
Yes. Cans are for sale in the “Merchandise Room,” off the taproom, alongside T-shirts, caps and special glassware. There are no crowlers yet, though they should be available later this summer.
How easy is it to get there?
There’s not a lot of street parking, which Aslin knows is a potential problem, especially on release days. Leszkowicz says that “Alexandria has been super-helpful” with helping the brewery look at other options, including bike-share stations and ride-hailing.
While the new location is only about a mile from the Van Dorn Street Metro, that station is closed until after Labor Day. For now, the best bet for those coming from D.C. is to bring a designated driver or to book an Uber or Lyft from the Pentagon’s parking lot, a 20-minute ride which should cost $16 to $20, depending on traffic.
Are well-behaved little angels allowed?
Kids are allowed until 7 p.m., when Aslin switches to a 21-and-older “Adult Swim.”
Is there food?
A short menu of snacks and sandwiches comes from the Aslin food truck, which is parked out back — Aslin’s way of not having to deal with installing a professional kitchen. Outside food is not allowed.
What else is coming?
With the move behind them, life might get less hectic for the Aslin team. (Probably not — they’re still hoping to open that downtown Herndon taproom this year.) But ask Leszkowicz what he’s looking forward to, and he sounds like things are only getting started.
“We’ve been sitting on a bunch of new IPA and double IPA recipes,” he says. “There’s a whole bunch of revamped versions with new hop combinations that I can’t wait to make and get into people’s hands, because that’s one what consumers are really looking for. But those are the beers that I wanted to make when I started brewing, when we started this place, so it’s getting back into being inventive and creative in the process with newer ingredients.”