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Where to Drink At and Around Nationals Park in DC

August 24, 2017

By Andrew Craig, August 24, 2017

Few things in this world go together better than beer and baseball. And thankfully, stadiums now have more on offer than your usual macro or macro-owned drafts. San Diego's Petco Park has a massive lineup of local craft options from Stone, Pizza Port, Alesmith, Resident, and many others. Mikkeler made headlines recently with their announcement of a 10,000 square-foot restaurant and brewery attached to Citi Field in Queens, New York.

And if you're in D.C., you can catch a Nats game with a nice, cold pint of beer from DC Brau or Mad Fox in hand. But if you're a beer fan going to see a game at Nationals Park, the ballpark should only be one stop on your to-do list.

Andrew CraigModest, industrial, and delectable.

DC Brau

It's not terribly convenient to get between Nationals Park and this place, located behind a nondescript strip mall just a stone's throw from the Maryland border, if you're using public transit. But it is a fairly easy drive or cab ride. And if you want some of the city's best beer straight from the tanks, it's worth the trek. The taproom is modest and industrial, and while there's no food service, you're welcome to bring in orders from a food truck often parked outside.

Their tap lineup is crowd-pleasing and reliably good, and (on a recent visit, at least) includes the brewery's cult favorite Imperial IPA, On the Wings of Armageddon, which is loaded with peach and grapefruit hop notes and balanced with a heavy caramel malt sweetness. It's cheap, too – pints are only five bucks, and five-ounce tasters are two.

Andrew CraigTime for some hazy juice.

Right Proper

Located a 20-minute, straight-shot ride on the metro's green line away from Nationals Park, Right Proper's brewpub in Shaw is far enough away from the park that you'll avoid some of the big crowds, but close enough to still be convenient. The upscale comfort food is delicious and affordable, and the beers are solid if not exceptional.

The Humulus Lycanthropus is a serviceably smooth and sweet (though not particularly complex) New England IPA, brewed with flaked oats and wheat and double dry-hopped with Motueka and Mosaic and Citra lupulin powder. The Ornette grisette is lightly peppery and nicely dry farmhouse ale with a slight citrus note. And the Kick, Kick, Snare Berliner weisse is a standout if you're in the mood for something sour – it's got an intensely puckering lemon-lime tartness that finishes quickly and cleanly.

Swing by a couple hours before the game, order some bar food or a full-on dinner, drink a round or two, and then head south towards the ballpark.

Churchkey

This is not just one of the best DC neighborhood bars for craft beer. It's one of the best in the country, consistently pouring some of the best beer that the world has to offer. It's a bit of a hike to the nearest green line stop, but if you're ok with some walking, it only takes about 30 minutes on the metro all told to get from here to the baseball stadium, and it's worth every second. Between the five casks, 50 (yes, 50) draft lines, and a bottle list as big as a phone book, you're all but guaranteed to have a good time.

That said, there are some downsides in the context of baseball pre-gaming: it can get very crowded, very quickly. It's got a slightly more young professional kind of vibe – think more polo shirts and than Nats tees. And the food, while good, is more apt for a nice dinner of shared plates than wolfing something down before a ball game.

Andrew CraigIt's super close to the park, and outside. The beer may come with bits in it.

Bardo Brewing

Bardo is an outdoor brewery/beer garden with a DIY kind of feel, located just across the street from the ballpark. If you don't think too hard about how an entirely-outdoor brewery could possibly produce operate successfully, you can enjoy a rustic kind of charm and a fantastic location – the large seating space has plenty of picnic tables with a nice view of the Potomac, making it a great spot for big groups on warm, sunny days.

That said, even their best beers are nothing exceptional, and many are quite bad. It's worth going to for the unique vibe, but don't plan to be blown away by whatever you're drinking.

Andrew CraigReady to brave the crowd?

Bluejacket

The space is airy, stylish, and comfortable. The location, three blocks down the street from the ballpark, couldn't be better. The food. elevated take on pub classics, is reliably good. And the beers are exceptional, with 18 taps and four casks that cover a wide spectrum of styles, both classic and trendy.

Especially impressive are their sours, like Movie Ending Romance, a vinous sour blonde with passionfruit, and The Jam, a crisp and addicting Berliner Weisse brewed with strawberry and rhubarb. Their hoppy offerings are respectable as well, especially the Double Dry-Hopped Turning Road, brewed with wheat, oats, and Mosaic and Galaxy hops in classic New England IPA fashion.

The only downside? Bluejacket gets tremendously crowded on game days. That shouldn't deter you entirely, because it's absolutely worth a visit, but plan on either going a early or steeling yourself for a great deal of close-quarters company.

Andrew CraigGet yourself an Earned Run Ale, or look for the District Drafts stands instead.

Nationals Park

As for the park itself, you've got a small handful of good options – though, as with most any stadium, be prepared to pay an extreme markup. Most vendors hawk the usual suspects of macro swill or macro-owned "craft" brands (Bluepoint, Goose Island, Shock Top) but the four "District Drafts" stands scattered throughout have a rotating selection of beer from local and independent breweries like DC Brau, Mad Fox, Atlas, Old Ox, Right Proper, and Port City.

Devil's Backbone, located in nearby Roseland, Virginia, has their own beer stand on the upper level of far left field, where they offer a Nationals Park exclusive called Earned Run Ale. It tastes bready and firmly bitter with a muted lemongrass note – not bad, but not exactly good, either, especially considering that a pour of it costs $15. Note, too, that Devil's Backbone was acquired by InBev last spring, and so drinkers looking for independent craft offerings are better off sticking to the District Draft stands pouring independent breweries.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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