A bar with dozens of taps doesn't always offer the best selection of beers. Looking for smartly curated menus that offer hot new beers, old favorites and flashes of a bar’s personality? Try one of these six craft beer destinations.
193-B Main St., Annapolis.
Dry 85 is well-known for its bourbon selection. But don’t overlook the dozen draft beers, which can be heavily weighted toward Maryland offerings from Key, RAR, Union and Jailbreak, and a mix of locals and nationals that go “off the beaten path,” owner Brian Bolter says. He’s also big on exclusive beers: In March, Dry 85 released a version of DC Brau’s Alpha Domina Mellis double IPA aged in a barrel that held Dry 85’s exclusive Elijah Craig bourbon, and a Flying Dog Mint Julep Ale aged in an Angel’s Envy barrel.
501-B G St. NW.
This basement bar is dedicated to the Mid-Atlantic region, which owner Brian Leonard defines as stretching from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. “We try to have one beer from each state,” says Leonard, a native of Aberdeen, Md., who attended the University of Maryland. He’s a fan of Union’s Double Duckpin double IPA and “really good barrel-aged beers” from Richmond’s Hardywood, though he plans to mix up the drafts frequently at Free State, which opened in January. Port City, Evolution and Dogfish Head have also been fixtures, and Leonard likes to include at least one cider. Just don’t look for food, beyond regional snacks like Utz potato chips, Berger Cookies and individual bags of Fisher’s Popcorn.Th
2711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Galaxy Hut was pushing what were known as “microbrews” in the early 1990s, when it was known as Roratonga Rodeo. But craft beer has been a focus since 2005, when Lary Hoffman took over the cozy one-room bar. (He and his wife, Erica, also run the newer Spacebar in Falls Church.) The Hut’s focus is on the newest, coolest beers from Virginia breweries: Caboose, Ocelot, Adroit Theory, Blue Mountain or Old Ox — “we try to pour the most hard-to-find stuff,” Lary says, while also keeping some “middle-of-the-road” beers on for less-enthusiastic drinkers. They usually turn over half the beer lines during a given week, providing a reason to come back for more tater tots, grilled cheese sandwiches and vintage video games.
3400 11th St. NW.
Taps: 24 (plus one cask).
Sister restaurants Meridian Pint, Brookland Pint and Smoke & Barrel have their own personalities, says beer director Jace Gonnerman. If I had to pick one, though, I’d go for Meridian Pint. While the Columbia Heights bar is known for a strong selection of hoppier IPAs, double IPAs and heavyweight barrel-aged stouts, the approachable menu has a well-chosen array of Belgian styles, sours and lighter, easier-drinking beers. This is a place where beer geeks and newbies alike can find something to enjoy.
Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown
3282 M St. NW.
Taps: 16 (plus one cask).
“With the number of draft lines we have, there’s no way we can fulfill every style,” says Paradiso beer director Drew McCormick. Instead, she picks an array of fun, esoteric beers, so a Belgian bière de garde sits next to a Maine sour farmhouse ale, which is alongside a New Zealand triple stout porter, plus an English bitter served on cask. She prefers taking chances on beers on tap rather than in cans: “You can have something a little bit weirder on draft if [customers] can try it” before they buy a full glass, she says.
Red Apron Burger Bar
1323 Connecticut Ave. NW.
The beef at this Dupont Circle burger shop is sourced from small Virginia farms, all the better to pair with drafts from the commonwealth’s most sought-after brewers. Look for soft, tropical IPAs from the Veil, Triple Crossing and the Answer, which you’ll rarely see anywhere else in the District. Despite the regular presence of Commonwealth, Ocelot or Alewerks, you’ll also find brews from Maryland’s Union, North Carolina’s Wicked Weed and Pennsylvania's Tired Hands, helping cover the spectrum from crisp pilsners to rich imperial porters.