Some heavy duty politics were taking place the week of 5th June, 2017. Corbyn and Co. gave our Prime Minister a run for her money while, on the other side of The Pond, James Comey got his chance to deliver a few blows on President Trump. Political sparring that will be discussed and studied for years to come. Meanwhile, 20 minutes’ walk from the White House, the travel industry came together for its annual USA conference. Top of the agenda this year: how best to manoeuvre through the shit-show being painfully played out by our leaders and king makers.
Like I said: some heavy duty stuff. There’s no way I was facing that on an empty stomach and it’s been 15 years since I was last in DC so I got in a couple of days early to check out the city. When you don’t know a city the best place to start is a bar with a view, to get the lay of the land. POV, at the W Washington DC, is definitely a bar with a view. Patrons can look over the Treasury Building to the White House beyond. Watch closely for the little black dots moving on the roof… those are the snipers. A bit to the left is the dominating tower of the Washington Monument and just poking through the trees is the flat roof of the Lincoln Memorial. For a cocktail bar the beers aren’t bad and I rather enjoyed forgetting my flight with a couple of El Hefe Speaks from the local DC Brau Brewing Company. This seems to be their best seller – I couldn’t find any of their other beers around despite some searching.
We all like a walkable city and DC has an extra large tick in that box. A few minutes from the W and you’re ambling past world famous monuments and memorials, tributes to America’s fallen and the iconic Reflecting Pool… you know, the one off of Forest Gump. Altogether it is an incredible acreage for a city to give over to public spaces and it is, unusually for America, completely free of charge to explore. Keep going a little further and you’ll find the Smithsonian Museums; 11 museums and galleries that are also free to enjoy. As a travel geek, seeing the Wright Brothers’ Wright Flyer and the Apollo Lunar Module in one building makes the Air & Space Museum one of my top recommendations for DC sightseeing.
Jump on a tour with City Brew Tours DC and you will not only see at least 3 of the city’s best brew spots but also have a reason to look beyond the grand monuments of downtown. Parks, graveyards, industrial units and residential streets: it’s a journey through the life of a city.
At District Chop House the beer is hearty and tasty, catering more to your steak-and-chips side than your hipster-craft-beer side. Even though I’ve seen these guys in Vegas airport I feel like they are still up for some bonafide beering. Ask to poke your head into the brewery and you will see a neat gravity feed for the grain which originally had to be delivered onto the roof.
Manor Park, in north DC and pretty much on the Maryland border, is home to Hellbender Brewing Company. If you like a beer with ethos, drink a Hellbender. Named after the local and endangered species of salamander, Hellbender have invested in a unique and incredibly efficient mashing process to minimise their environmental impact. They also have their own yeast lab to help create some truly unique brews. Weirdly for me, a saison fan, and saison being a beer that’s all about the yeast, I didn’t dig their saison. However the lager, again weirdly for me, ‘cos I don’t dig on lager, was immensely drinkable. Check it out.
If you like industrial buildings turned into farm-to-table restaurants, evened out brick streets and exposed walls with just the right amount of old paint on them – go to DC’s Waterfront District. This area, close to the Nationals’ basball stadium and on the Potomac River, has all of the above. It’s a hipster magnet. Bluejacket is the place to go, a brewery and bar that fills its menu with American beers and boasts row upon row of trestle table seating. Here I did find a couple of fantastic saisons, and Mexican Radio, a tasty chilli stout brewed here at Bluejacket.
The travel industry, as I’m sure is true for many industries, can be a tough place to work at the moment. A lot of effort goes in and it sometimes seems as though a few words from the politicians can scupper everything. It’s reassuring to get out and ‘do’ the fun stuff of traveling, not just talk about it. Washington is a beautiful city with an accessible beer scene and those things remain no matter who is in the big, white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.