A brewpub with room for 150 people outdoors. A restaurant’s off-street rear patio serving killer oysters and local brews. A facelift and expansion for a German-inspired beer garden. These aren’t the latest additions to the H Street corridor or downtown destinations: They’re three happy hour spots inside the Beltway in Montgomery County, Md., and they’re perfect for the next time you find yourself looking to meet friends for a drink in the sun.
Denizens Brewing Co.
1115 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring. 301-557-9818. www.denizensbrewingco.com. Open at 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 3 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Montgomery County’s newest brewery and brewpub opened a 150-seat beer garden near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and East-West Highway in mid-July, even though the on-site brewery won’t be up and running until later this month. In the meantime, a hoppy, citrusy rye IPA and a refreshing ESB-style ale are being brewed at Beltway Brewing Company in Ashburn. The full lineup of Denizens beers will debut sometime in September.
With most of the indoor space also under construction, Denizens’ biggest attraction is its outdoor seating. Long, Oktoberfest-style communal tables and benches fill most of the patio, with a smattering of round patio furniture and picnic tables around the edges. Servers bring pints of Denizens beers or guest ales from the likes of Allagash and Brewers Art, though when all the tables are packed, it’s easier to get up and place orders yourself, either at the small outdoor bar or the counter inside. (There are no happy hour specials; house pints cost $6.50.)
The BBQ Bus food truck will be in charge of the permanent kitchen, which is scheduled to open next week. Until then, meals will be provided by a rotating cast of food trucks. Go Fish will bring crabcakes and fish tacos on Saturday, and Holy Crepes will be there Sunday. Customers also can bring their own food, either from home or local restaurants.
Piazza Beer Garden
7401 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda. 202-841-9114. www.piazzabeergarden.com. Open at 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Let’s be honest: Piazza Beer Garden is really another name for the strip of sidewalk patio outside Cesco Osteria, an Italian restaurant a short walk from the Bethesda Metro station. It opened last year for Oktoberfest, but was expanded and revamped in May, just in time for the World Cup. There are more umbrella-shaded tables and benches, trellises covered with greenery and flowering plants, and a tiny outdoor bar with a trio of Maryland draft beers, usually from Evolution, Flying Dog or DuClaw.
Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m., and includes pints for $5 and a selection of local cans and bottles for $4.50. (Regular prices are about $2 more.) The menu of snacks includes a large, chewy German-style pretzel with mustard ($5), a wooden board of Italian antipasti ($6) and yucca chips with Old Bay ($4). Outside of happy hour, the focus is on bratwurst sandwiches and sliders.
Piazza can get busy, especially if office groups show up en masse, but service is friendly and efficient, and it’s an excellent alternative to the usual Bethesda happy hour spots.
6939 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park. 301-270-3000. www.republictakoma.com. Happy hour 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday.
I’m always annoyed when happy hour specials are offered “at the bar only.” Thankfully, that’s not the case at Republic, where you can grab $1 oysters and discounted cocktails while seated at a barstool, at one of the tables between the bar and the restaurant or on the sunny patio.
That patio is more like a quirky alley that runs behind the Takoma Park restaurant, decorated with the neon sign for the much-missed local shop Video Americain, and veggies and herbs growing sideways from planter boxes hung on the walls. Patio seating is first-come, first-served, which tends to confuse new customers, who cluster at the bar looking around anxiously for seats. (Tip: If you see an empty table, grab one of the friendly young servers buzzing around the room and make sure you can take it.)
Every weekday from 3 to 7 p.m., the bar offers Chesapeake oysters on the half shell for a buck, from Maryland’s sweeter Ugly and Barren Island oysters to Virginia’s brinier Chincoteague and Battle Creek varieties. You have to order at least six, so you probably want to make your own sampler. Wash them down with $2 cans of Natty Boh, $3 10-ounce draft beers (the selection varies) and $5 cocktails or wines by the glass.
The draft beers hail exclusively from Virginia and Maryland, including Denizens’ ESB, and are offered as both 16-ounce pints ($6-$8) or the 10-ounce tasters. Make sure you don’t overlook the creative cocktails: the tart, quenching Summer Localist pairs citrusy Green Hat summer gin with candied grapefruit and BeeGeorge honey (which is made in Takoma Park); and the smooth Primitive American, an intriguingly balanced mix of gin, rye whiskey and orange curacao. The house drinks are $11 and not discounted during happy hour, but you’ll probably find your money well spent.