Megan Parisi, the veteran brewer who was hired at Bluejacket with considerable fanfare in 2012, has parted ways with the brewery and restaurant less than three months after the operation opened near the Navy Yard. Her last day was Friday, Jan. 17.
Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which includes Bluejacket, said the parting was amicable. He could not discuss the particulars of Parisi's departure, but said "it was by mutual agreement with all parties involved that this was the right move."
Reached at home this morning, Parisi agreed the job wasn't a great fit for her or for Bluejacket. She compared the situation to buying a pair of shoes that don't quite match the shape of your feet.
"It's nothing wrong with the shoes and nothing wrong with your feet," said Parisi, 42. The two just don't fit well.
At the same time as Parisi's departure, Bluejacket has also hired Owen Miller, a Brown University biology graduate who has apprenticed at several breweries in Europe, including De Struise Brouwers in Belgium and Thornbridge Brewery in England. Formerly a brewing assistant at Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont, Miller was working as a coffee roaster and barista at Four Barrel in San Francisco and as a brewer at Mill Valley Beerworks in Marin County when he got tapped by Bluejacket.
Engert said Miller will start soon with Bluejacket and become the fourth member of the brewing team, which also includes Engert, former Evening Star Cafe sous chef Josh Chapman and Bobby Bump, a former brewer at Allagash Brewing Co. None of them will assume "head brewer" status, which reflects the collaborative nature of the team, Engert says.
"We were looking for another compatible talent that would work side by side with the three of us [in the Bluejacket brewing team] to execute the vision," Engert said about Miller.
Engert emphasizes that nothing has changed about the Bluejacket approach despite the shake-up to the brewing team. The group remains committed to brewing 20 original house brands and five cask beers, not to mention barrel-aging brews and collaborating with other breweries around the country. Engert expects Bluejacket's retail operations, including bottling, to begin in a "couple of months."
"It really is apparent that the four of us are going to have to work together — and each of us wearing many different hats — to execute this the right way," Engert says about his brewing team.
Daniel Fromson, one of the Food section's beer writers, was intrigued by the developments at Bluejacket. Fromson wrote about Parisi's early work with Bluejacket in 2012, many months before the brewery opened.
"The brewery appears to be privileging trendiness over experience," Fromson noted in an e-mail. "Whereas Parisi's main credential was having learned both the nuts and bolts of basic production and relatively experimental techniques at Cambridge Brewing Co., in Massachusetts, Miller is younger and less experienced yet comes with an even more avant-garde resume, having brewed at true beer-geek establishments such as Belgium's De Struise Brouwers and Vermont's Hill Farmstead Brewery, probably the most hyped (and, some would say, best) brewery in America."
The team will display some of that experimentalism this week when it rolls out four new beers, Engert says. Three of them are inspired by doughnuts created by Neighborhood Restaurant Group executive pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac for GBD, the fried chicken and doughnuts shop near Dupont Circle.
The Dalmatian, a strong blonde ale, takes its cues from MacIsaac's Oreo doughnut, Engert says. The beer, with 9 percent alcohol by volume, is made with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Another beer, Nu Order, also includes cocoa nibs as well as roasted hazelnuts and sea salt; this imperial brown ale, with 9 percent alcohol by volume, is based on MacIsaac's Nutella doughnut, Engert says.
The third beer is Sticky Situation, and Engert describes it as a brown ale, with 7 percent alcohol by volume. About 30 percent of its grains were smoked by Nathan Anda at Red Apron Butchery. The beer includes rye whiskey barrel-aged maple syrup and a bacon-reduction jus. The ale is a nod to MacIsaac's maple-bacon-bourbon doughnuts.
The three doughnut-based brews should roll out Wednesday evening, Engert says. If you want to compare beer against original doughnut, you have only a limited window: The neighboring Buzz Bakery, where the doughnuts may be found, remains open only until 5 p.m.
The fourth new release, a Belgian-style saison, is expected to debut at the end of the week. What makes this last beer unique, Engert says, is that it features a minute amount of mastic, a potent oil extracted from the resin of a Mediterranean tree. Originally used in chewing gum, mastic has been incorporated into all kinds of food and drinks in Greece, Engert says.
It tastes like, he adds, mint, lemon balm and anise. A little goes a long way.
The future for Parisi is not certain yet, she says, but she has some "irons in the fire." Her husband took a job recently that allows him to work remotely, so Parisi is not tied to brewing gigs in the D.C. area only. Not that she's looking to flee the local market.
"I really love the brewing community here," she says. "The moment I arrived here I couldn't have felt a warmer welcome."
At the same time, Parisi says she's in no rush to find employment. She's willing to invest more time to make sure her next gig is a lasting one.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said three new beers were designed to pair with doughnuts, somewhat like at GBD. The beers were inspired by the doughnuts. They can be paired with the rounds, until 5 p.m. daily, but the beermakers' original intention was not to pair them.