When the much-teased and much-discussed Bluejacket debuts on Tuesday, Oct. 29, it will conclude a long journey that began more than five years ago when Greg Engert sat down with Neighborhood Restaurant Group founder Michael Babin and talked over the idea of creating their own brewery and restaurant. Not brewpub, mind you, but a full-fledged brewery and restaurant.
With just days before its launch, Engert can now finally taste it — not the 20 original beers and five casks brews that he and brewmaster Megan Parisi have crafted for the opening — but the sheer excitement of seeing Bluejacket swing wide its doors.
"Sometimes, you put your head down so hard, you lose sight of what you're doing," said Engert, Neighborhood Restaurant Group's beer director, during a walk-through of the space on Tuesday night.
"I had a moment today when we finally named all of our starting 20 beers," he continued. "I started typing up the menu listings exactly how it's going to look on the menu, and I got a little bit of objectivity to step back. I was like, 'Oh [expletive], ' All of these things that I've lost sight of, I got a broader view of it. I kind of got excited again."
He's not the only one. Some days it feels as if the entire metro area has been chomping at the bit for Bluejacket's debut.
Housed in a former factory where workers once built boilers for ships, Bluejacket is the official name of the brewery, which has the capacity to produce 5,000 barrels a year, or roughly 10,000 kegs. Engert expects to sell about 60 percent of Bluejacket's production via retail, but as of now, the brewery does not have a distribution deal. Large-format bottles of Bluejacket beer will be available for take-away at the Navy Yard location. Bluejacket will not sell growlers.
"This is a production facility that's kind of hulking above a restaurant and bar, which makes sense," said Engert. "We're only selling part of it on-site; the rest of it is off-site. We just wanted to get through, get open, and then kind of go to that next phrase. Also, this is our first time. It's hard to say how much beer we're going to need" at the restaurant and bar.
What beers will Bluejacket debut with? Among them: Forbidden Planet, a dry-hopped kolsch made with Galaxy hops; the Scarecrow, a hoppy saison; the Imposter, a session rye IPA; Tooth & Nail, an imperial IPA; Figure 8, a wee heavy made with local figs and modeled after pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac's figgy toffee pudding; and James & the Giant, a Belgian strong blonde ale with local peaches.
The restaurant and bar inside Bluejacket will go by another name, the Arsenal, a moniker that draws on the building's history. It was part of the Navy Yard's ship and munitions manufacturing complex in the early 20th century. The husband-and-wife team of Kyle Bailey and MacIsaac will create the menus for the restaurant and bar. Chef de cuisine Dan Hahndorf, formerly of Vermilion, will be running the kitchen. Bailey told me his menu will put a modern spin on beer-hall food, with an emphasis on Mid-Atlantic ingredients. He'll also be using the spent grains from the beer production to make pastas.
Not to be outdone, MacIsaac will also be using spent grains for her bread program. What's more, she'll be offering her full line of cakes and cookies (as well as an expanded line of ice creams) at Buzz Bakery, the latest location of the sweets shop situated next door to Bluejacket. It'll sort of be one-stop-shopping for those who want craft beer and one of MacIsaac's perfect pies.
Bluejacket brewery and Arsenal restaurant, located at 300 Tingey St. SE, opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Dinner service starts at 5:30 p.m.
More photos from Tuesday's tour of Bluejacket: