Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
RWBooneJr

Bluejacket Brewery and The Arsenal, Neighborhood Restaurant Group's Foray Into Brewing at the Navy Yard

Recommended Posts

There's a good article today in the Post about Neighborhood Restaurant Group's forthcoming brewery near the Navy Yard.  It sounds like it's going to be great, but I'm curious how it will impact NRG's other restaurants.  The article mentions that Bluejacket will be brewing a fairly diverse selection of beers.  I wonder how many of these we'll see elsewhere.  My guess is that over time they'll discover a small number of fast-selling, fairly conventional beers -- a lager, an IPA, a hefeweizen, for example -- that we'll see at all of their restaurants except ChurchKey and maybe Rustico, which will get some of the more estoeric styles. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My guess is that over time they'll discover a small number of fast-selling, fairly conventional beers -- a lager, an IPA, a hefeweizen, for example -- that we'll see at all of their restaurants except ChurchKey and maybe Rustico, which will get some of the more estoeric styles. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

I don't know, with Greg's track record I wouldn't count on any of this being conventional in the least. This is closest I've seen to plans for a functioning, small production beer "lab" that had any chance of succeeding. Good on them for doing something really different. Whether they can sustain it financially will answer your question about what production looks like 2-3 years down the line, but you can't say they aren't going big right off the bat!

It will be interesting to see the impact of the nearby Gordon Biersch that is going in literally on top of the Nats Park Metro exit. I don't know how much lead time Bluejacket will get to build up a fan base before that opens. Selfishly I hope they siphon a lot of business so that there is a chance in hell Bluejacket won't be absolutely mobbed on game days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It will be interesting to see the impact of the nearby Gordon Biersch that is going in literally on top of the Nats Park Metro exit. I don't know how much lead time Bluejacket will get to build up a fan base before that opens. Selfishly I hope they siphon a lot of business so that there is a chance in hell Bluejacket won't be absolutely mobbed on game days.

I think Bluejacket will be an instant destination - within the city and people coming in from out of town to visit. Gordon Biersch will be a popular with local office dwellers at lunch and families before games (they're probably going to be up and running by opening day). Bluejacket is going to be on a different level - a nationally important brewery and bar (hopefully open in May/June). Nice thing is that it's going to be big, so getting a beer before a game should be feasable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Bluejacket will be an instant destination - within the city and people coming in from out of town to visit. Gordon Biersch will be a popular with local office dwellers at lunch and families before games (they're probably going to be up and running by opening day). Bluejacket is going to be on a different level - a nationally important brewery and bar (hopefully open in May/June). Nice thing is that it's going to be big, so getting a beer before a game should be feasable.

Oh, I wasn't implying in the least that Gordon Biersch is on the same playing field, just that they will logically take business away due to proximity and approachability of their offerings. The madhouse that is ChurchKey on any given night tells me that Greg & co. don't have much to worry about.

Bluejacket is my most anticipated local restaurant opening of probably the past 10 years (this is not an exaggeration). Well, maybe Right Proper, too. The past 2-3 years have been a dream come true for beer fans in this town.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am extremely excited about this place opening next week. It will be a full-scale brewery with a separate restaurant -- don't call it a brewpub. Two interesting preview articles came out today laying out some details. They expect to open with 20 of their beers on tap. 60 percent of their annual production will be sold to other restaurants and retail outlets. Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac will prepare the menu, utilizing the spent grains from brewing for things like pastas and bread rolls.

What beers will Bluejacket debut with? Among them: Forbidden Planet, a dry-hopped kolsch made with Galaxy hops; the Scarecrow, a hoppy saison; the Imposter, a session rye IPA; Tooth & Nail, an imperial IPA; Figure 8, a wee heavy made with local figs and modeled after pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac's figgy toffee pudding; and James & the Giant, a Belgian strong blonde ale with local peaches.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-guide/wp/2013/10/23/beer-drinkers-prepare-your-arms-bluejacket-to-open-on-tuesday/

And in addition to the 20 beer collaborations Bluejacket has done with breweries around the U.S. and Europe leading up to the opening, Engert and Parisi are also teaming up with fellow Neighborhood Restaurant Groups chefs. The duo worked with MacIsaac to create a strong Scotch ale brewed with figs, cinnamon, and nutmeg that's reminiscent of her figgy toffee pudding at Birch & Barley. Tony Chittum, who will head the forthcoming Greek-inspired Iron Gate Inn, helped conceptualize a strong Belgian-style blonde saison with notes of anise, cucumber, and mint "seasoned" with mastic, an licorice-flavored tree sap popular in Greece. And a doppelbock was inspired by the half-smoke created by Red Apron Butcher's Nate Anda. The beer uses smoked malts with the same blend of woods that Anda uses to smoke his meats and incorporates some of the same spices, including white cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry/2013/10/23/brew-hub-new-brewery-bluejacket-is-a-laboratory-for-food-centric-beers/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seems like all my friends who were there last night had a fantastic time and couldn't stop going on and on about how awesome the place will be...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And? And??

Ha! I was actually just about to post on this.

The space is awesome. Love it. The bar gets really, really crowded in my experience, which can make it a challenging place to meet people to have a drink and chat. The beers are great, interesting, and the selection is incredible. The ability to order tastes as well is fun, as it allows you to try a bunch of different stuff without having to commit to a full pint.

We were there for dinner this past Friday, and we ordered a whole bunch of stuff and shared things. The beef heart tartare, the crispy chickpeas and the hot charcuterie were our favorite things among the items that we ordered. The pastas we had were good, although not great. Both of the salads were just ok.

Service was an issue in our opinion. Our server was knowledgeable and helpful. When we could find him.  We probably would have ordered at least one more round, or perhaps the equivalent of more than that in tastings, if he'd been around a bit more.

Anyhow, we enjoyed it, we'll be back, and I'm really happy this place is in DC.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had pretty much the same experience as DCDuck a couple weeks back. Abysmal service, beers are very good and quite eclectic, and food is forgettable.

A significant note; we got there at around 3:00 on a Saturday and it was probably 3/4 full. By 6:30, it was completely packed and had I been walking in at that time instead of leaving I would have turned right back around and gone for a different bar. I can't imagine how crowded this place will be before Nats games.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't imagine how crowded this place will be before Nats games.

Agreed. The first time I visited was on a Tuesday, and I was supposed to meet a friend from out of town. I walked in, started to try to

shoulder my way towards the bar, and then realized that there was no way we would be able to grab space at the bar and get food as planned. I walked out and went elsewhere. I was able to get a reservation this time, but had to make it a long ways in advance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finally made it down last night and had a really good time. Snagged the last remaining bar stool at 4pm (every bar area table spot gone by 4:30). I never sit at bar tables at Churchkey because the servers are usually in the weeds running so many different beers. Not the same experience you get when you have 3 or 4 bartenders in front of you who can easily pour you a fresh beer-  so I automatically applied that to The Arsenal sight unseen. And the bartenders did a great job. Not as seasoned as the ones found at Churchkey, clearly NRG had to put out a big casting call for Bluejacket and the new guys are learning on the go. But they were super friendly and attentive. Not a single service gripe.

Beers were very good, especially the New Zealot American Pale Ale (cask) and The Panther Schwartzbier. Got the Hammertime charcuterie board, which is about 5 slices of Virginia ham with toasted bread, mustard, cornichons, etc. Nice, nothing spectacular about the ham. Wings were good. Some may not like the breadiness of them, but I don't mind. Think Hooters wings with much better poultry and frying. Tater Tots are surprisingly revised from Churchkey, square and less plump. Also fewer to the order IIRC - but still delicious.

We got out of there at around $50 a person (4) with plenty of full beers, tasters and three appetizers.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience with service (drowning) and food (fried, meaty, and just fine) was similar to others. However, I wasn't as blown away with the beers as I seem to see in most reviews. It kind of struck me as they were determine to have a huge opening draft list, quality be damned. The Ingenue and Butcher in particular were weird in a "aw fuck it, let's see if anyone will drink it" sort of way. In general my table quickly moved to the lighter, basic styles. Those were executed much better.

Knowing the caliber of people behind this venture I know they will get things up and humming by spring (although this place is going to be perpetually slammed). I'm pretty happy staying away and giving them some time though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Their head brewer has left.  Maybe not a huge loss as it's hardly uncommon to see brewpubs of all sizes see turnover in this department.  Still, kind of weird to see it happen so soon after opening.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. I know brewers (like chefs and cooks) do move from job to job with some frequency, but this is surprising. Interesting phase that NRG seem to be going through.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Incidentally we went there for lunch yesterday for the first time, and all enjoyed our food and brews. I had the merguez burger with a side of tots and thought they were well done, though the bun was a little lackluster (but I do appreciate that it's something they make themselves). I've had a much better bun on the burger from Red Apron, so hopefully this can improve.

as for the beers, I personally had 3 tastes: one of their normal IPA, one of their imperial IPA (I forget their names). neither overly hoppy but very crisp and I could easily see myself enjoying larger glasses of each. Also had a taste of the Mexican Radio mole-inspired stout, which I thought was fantastic and would pair wonderfully with a chocolate dessert (though it did just fine with my burger). I wanted to try more but my mom was with us and I know she definitely would've judged me getting 4 or 5 tastes (though it would only add up to a pint). other people in our party enjoyed their cheeseburgers, but my uncle thought his wings were mediocre. I had one and thought them to be fine, if unremarkable, but I've had far worse and better.

will definitely have to come back and navigate more of the beer menu.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

and one of my best friends is like their new brewer: a Brown bio grad who has been doing internships at breweries, but mostly wineries around the world. guess there's a shot for him to latch on in this field after all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

and one of my best friends is like their new brewer: a Brown bio grad who has been doing internships at breweries, but mostly wineries around the world. guess there's a shot for him to latch on in this field after all.

I hope he can bring them down to earth a little bit. He's certainly got the resume.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope he can bring them down to earth a little bit. He's certainly got the resume.

sorry that was poorly written. I'm not friends with the new brewer, but my friend is basically in the same situation as this new guy at Bluejacket, also a Brown bio grad.

my friend has been jumping from winery to winery for a few months at a time (in Australia now). I'm not as familiar with the wine industry, but hoping he can get something good after doing this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sorry that was poorly written. I'm not friends with the new brewer, but my friend is basically in the same situation as this new guy at Bluejacket, also a Brown bio grad.

my friend has been jumping from winery to winery for a few months at a time (in Australia now). I'm not as familiar with the wine industry, but hoping he can get something good after doing this.

it was written perfectly; my own constant misuse of the word "like" was like the only reason I misunderstood it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know the (now) former brewer, and while I haven't discussed it with her personally, I get the sense from her Facebook wall that she is happy about this. I have a feeling she already has something else lined up already. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the gist I'm getting from the Post article is that she wanted to do things one way and perhaps NRG wanted to do things another way. which is why it looks like they won't "officially" have a head brewer but a team.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have any firsthand knowledge on this, but I wonder if the situation of having a brewmaster who's not an owner is similar to a restaurant being in a similar situation with a hired chef.  In the beer world it seems more the case that you hire a brewer whom you trust to brew a certain way but basically turn the keys to the brewery over to them as opposed to a chef just executing an owner's vision.

I wonder if in Bluejacket's case whether the brewer is given ingredients by Greg Englert and told to make it work somehow;  the upshot being that these are Englert's beers, not the brewmaster's and maybe the underlying reason for her leaving.   This would also explain the insistence on opening with 20 beers whereas most breweries start with a much smaller core linup, nail their execution, and then expand from there. Again, pure speculation on my part

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I wonder if in Bluejacket's case whether the brewer is given ingredients by Greg Englert and told to make it work somehow;  the upshot being that these are Englert's beers, not the brewmaster's and maybe the underlying reason for her leaving.   This would also explain the insistence on opening with 20 beers whereas most breweries start with a much smaller core linup, nail their execution, and then expand from there. Again, pure speculation on my part

This was my assumption on reading the news.

Along with I'm sure many others I was so, SO excited for this place to open.  Due to various issues it took me over a month after the debut to get down to Navy Yard and sample everything.  There is a reason I never bothered to add my comments here. I charitably had hoped they would turn things around and make it a destination to travel across town for, but most of what I've read (with the exception of a couple of stand out beers) doesn't give me much hope for the current line up.  At this point I'm waiting to see what the start of baseball season brings us.   Hopefully the vision and execution will eventually find a happy medium.

The contrast with Right Proper is significant, a brewery that focused on a few solid offerings to open up with and really knocked it out of the park (IHMO, I know they are not universally loved).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...