Sometimes you just need a beer. Usually, it’s not 9 miles into a half (or full) marathon, but if that is when you find yourself craving hops and malted barley, then Matt Carrington and the residents of Bloomingdale have you covered – one morning out of the year, at least.
Since 2012, Carrington and his wife Mason have organized a viewing party for the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon in front of their Bryant Street NW house. Located just south of the McMillian Reservoir, it’s one of the few stretches of residential neighborhood along the half marathon course. (The full marathon runs the same course earlier in the morning, then heads from Capitol Hill through Anacostia and back to RFK Stadium.) In more recent years, the booziness of their party has spilled out onto the course in increasingly grand fashion. More specifically, their house has become known as the place that runners can refuel with a swig of cold beer.
Its unofficial name: The Bryant Street Bar.
“Last year, a group of us neighbors ended up handing out about 1,500 four-ounce pours,” says Carrington. “We could have probably done 1,000 more, but we ran out. It’s a real party atmosphere, and we wanted to blow that out this year since it’s fun for both the neighborhood and the runners.”
Who drinks beer during a test of athletic endurance? According to Carrington, more than you’d think.
“Only the ultra-performers in the front don’t take beer,” the Framebridge Marketing VP shares. “Once people are pacing above 3 hours (for the marathon) or 1:30 (for the half), the party really starts. We got absolutely slammed around 9:30 am when the half-marathoners started coming in heavy.”
To better meet the demand, Carrington upgraded to a proper keg this year. (For those who are curious, they wanted a beer with a little bit of body, so they went with Yuengling.) The move to a bigger vessel required a bit more logistical coordination.
“You need folks to pump and pour into pitchers, then others to scoop out the foam and pour into cups, plus others to hand out beer as we were likely giving out two dozen per minute at our peak,” Carrington says. “It’s a real back-of-house/front-of-house effort with 12 to 15 people making it all work.”
Yet again, however, runners were thirstier than expected: By 10:00 a.m., the keg had been emptied.
The party was for from over, though.
“Once we kicked the keg, we had neighbors running down to the corner store and coming back with whatever they got their hands on: Budweiser, Guinness, Devils Backbone, Right Proper,” the Boston-area native continues. “It was a true volunteer-funded effort.”
Bloomingdale residents kept beer flowing until about 11:00 a.m.
When all was said and done, they had handed out approximately 2,000 pours of beer.
Their reactions vary.
“Some folks desperately want a beer, and they will beeline right to you,” says Carrington. “Others need to get sold – that’s always fun. ‘Four more miles to go! The party starts now!’ We’re all barking out there trying to get the runners excited.”
Every year, a few runners wave off a free beer, then change their minds farther up the block and come back for one. This year, Carrington noticed the station making its way into more and more Instagram Stories – and with that came more and more selfies. The crowning achievement, though, came when their squad picked up an unexpected guest.
“This year, we had one guy quit the race at our stop and just come party with us,” says Carrington. “That got a huge cheer from our crowd.”
At this point, the tradition has solidified a notoriety among area runners.
“My favorite moment was the one runner who told me ‘You guys are my favorite stop every year,” says Carrington. “I love that we have runners now that are looking forward to it.”
“We’re hoping to get the entire block involved, get some signage strewn up on the trees and sidewalk chalk down the street so the runners have fair warning – and, of course, more beer,” says Carrington. “Our goal is to be a known destination for the runners in a ‘Keep DC Weird’ kind of way. We just need to make sure Rock ‘n’ Roll keeps Bryant Street on the course map.”
As long as the race passes down their half-mile stretch of Bryant Street, you can expect to find Carrington, his neighbors, and some cold beer out front.
“A lot of folks might think it’s crazy to drink a beer partway through a race, but the carbs definitely do help, and it’s just fun,” Carringotn adds. “I’ve had a beer at the end of a marathon – it really does help tighten you up when you body is falling apart.”
View more of Clarissa Villondo’s photography – beer or otherwise – at Karlin Villondo Photography.