DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Right along the historical downtown Washington DC area next to the Verizon Center in Penn Quarters, DISTRICT CHOPHOUSE opened May ’95 and grew to have affiliate brewpub-restaurants in Denver, Boulder and Cleveland. Though my wife and I only stopped in for a few mid-afternoon beers on our March ’12 Maryland-Virginia three-day journey, this upscale chain takes great pride in its seafood, steaks and sandwiches.
Since Bruce Springsteen’s in town tonight, parking’s at a minimum. But we find a free spot along the National Gallery of Art. Within minutes we’re at District Chophouse, a capacious 7th Street beer hall sporting a maroon awning, historic marble columns, exquisite mahogany interior, and basement banquet room. A right side dining area (with moonlit chandeliers), lofty mezzanine area and open kitchen (with hearth) complete the score.
We sit at a table next to the left side bar watching the Penguins and Flyers fight throughout a late-season hockey game while consuming some of the finest mid-Atlantic suds I’d come across. Brewer Barrett Lauer’s wide-ranging ales, crafted at the mezzanine brew kettles and listed on two blackboards, are all on the mark and usually one step beyond stylistic design.
Though the astringent Light Lager’s strictly for amateurs, its corn-oiled popcorn pungency and dried citrus snip bettered Bud-Coors-Miller ‘lite’ beer. And even if Amber Ale suited lighter thirsts, its bolder stylistic approach allowed styptic wood-toned Cascade-hopped spicing to deepen caramelized apple, lemony peach and marmalade undertones.
As smooth as its name, Velvet, defined as a ‘slow pour nut brown,’ pleated wispy charred nuttiness with dainty dark chocolate. Better was the similarly styled Nut Brown, a mildly creamed medium body receiving a sweet toffee, caramel, and chocolate boost above peanut-shelled hazelnut vestiges.
Moderate juniper hop bittering saddled lacquer-fruited IPA, leaving tangy pineapple, mango, peach, pear and apple notions all over its dried fig backend.
Breaking stylistic confines, Oatmeal Stout grazed its expectant milky dark chocolate repertoire with abrupt wood-burnt molasses flickers.
Saving the most exceptional fare for a mesmerized closing trifecta, I drifted off into three ‘big beers.’ Cherry Blossom Fest, an adventurous wheat ale boasting dark sweet cherries tucked candied stone fruits, tart cranberry and leafy dry hops inside whiskey-soaked malts.
Reaching complete euphoria, I sipped remarkable Belgian-styled pale ale hybrid, Brewers Marker, where aromatic French-roast coffee grounds seep into mild wood-singed dried fruits and contrast candied yeast spicing.
Best bet: Bourbon Stout aged in Woodford Reserve Barrels. This resolute oatmeal stout gained luscious bourbon tonicity above dark chocolate frothing, oaken vanilla mellowness and roasted caramel creaminess, finishing with a soothingly warm feel.