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Avast, beer lovers: Heavy Seas Alehouse has docked in Rosslyn

Heavy Seas Beer has finally docked in Rosslyn. The Baltimore-based beer line, familiar to D.C. beer drinkers for its Loose Cannon IPA, Heavy Seas Maerzen and Small Craft Warning Uber Pils, opened its first Washington-area alehouse in Arlington yesterday.

Heavy Seas beers dominate the taps at the Heavy Seas Alehouse, but Virginia breweries also have a place. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

“We’ve done a pretty good job of making this a solid brand in Baltimore, but we’ve never done as good a job as we could have in D.C., and I want to make up for lost time,” says Hugh Sisson, who founded the Clipper City Brewery in 1995. “At the end of the day, you want to own your own backyard, and D.C. and Baltimore are becoming one large metro [area].”

Heavy Seas Alehouse (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post) The long, comfortable bar at Heavy Seas Alehouse. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Heavy Seas opened the first alehouse in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood in 2012. It’s not a brewpub, due to Maryland’s complicated rules about breweries and retail outlets. Instead, the Heavy Seas logo and theme is licensed to the restaurants by Sisson, who is not directly involved in the Alehouses.

However, Sisson sees the alehouses as a boon for his brewery. He regularly leads Saturday afternoon tours at the Halethorpe brewery, and estimates that “30 or 35 percent” of the guests on the sold-out tours are driving up from the D.C. area. “I’m just guessing, but it’s pretty surprising to me. That’s a lot that are taking the time to come and visit.”

Those who’ve made the trip to Baltimore – to the brewery or the alehouse – will find some familiar elements in Rosslyn. There are eight Heavy Seas beers on tap, including the seasonal Black Cannon Black IPA and Winter Storm ESB, and three more hand pumps for cask-conditioned ale. (That’s my favorite way to enjoy Loose Cannon.) Even more Heavy Seas brews, such as the limited-edition Siren Noire imperial chocolate stout, are available in bottles.

Heavy Seas Alehouse (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post) Nautical scenes and Heavy Seas portholes dominate the dining room. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Most beers are in the $5-$6 range; if you can’t make up your mind, a “fleet” of four 4-ounce samples of different beers is $6.65. When you've settled on a favorite, 64-ounce growlers are available to go. Expect to pay $12-$15, depending on the beer.

Aside from Heavy Seas, there’s a small selection of Virginia taps, with beers from Devils Backbone, Hardywood and Lost Rhino.

The beer’s not just in pint glasses, either. A selection of six beer cocktails features Any Port in the Storm, a Dark and Stormy variation with ginger syrup and Gold Ale subbed for the ginger beer; and the Musket Ball, which pairs Gold Ale with Bulleit bourbon, Bulleit rye, lemon and black walnut bitters.

The restaurant, tucked into the first floor of an office building at 18th Street North and North Oak Street, is a wide-open 170-seat space with nautical touches, including displays of buoys and model ships. There are framed prints with Heavy Seas’ “pyrate” logo, but the kitschy decor is kept to a minimum. It comes across more as a pleasant pub than a beer swilling pirate’s den, with a sweeping 40-seat bar and a large, light-filled area of bar seating near the front door. A patio will offer outdoor seating in a few weeks.

Heavy Seas Alehouse, 1501 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-879-4388.

A "fleet" of small pours of any four Heavy Seas beers will set you back $6.65. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

The barrel-heavy dining area between the front door and the bar is a comfortable and roomy spot for groups. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Pro tip: The Heavy Seas Alehouse's address is 1501 Wilson Blvd., but the entrance is on North Oak Street, near the intersection with 18th. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)
Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
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