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all photos: Stephanie Breijo

For all those even loosely involved in the three ring circus that following the new restaurants opening in DC in 2013, Bluejacket was/is that elusive unicorn: a restaurant (and SO much more) people were legitimately ANXIOUS to see finally open doors. And for a good reason: Michael Babin’s Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s by far most ambitious project to date is both a brewery AND a restaurant, it is NOT on 14th street or in Shaw, and in a sea of small, intimate outings by area’s restaurateurs it is big, splashy and proud.

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Press (us included) has been breathlessly following the progress on the place (check out our first semi-look back in August here) and yet, as you walk into the space you are still not quite prepared for the scope of work that inevitably went into getting this project off the ground. Five years in the making, Bluejacket occupies 12,000 sq. feet in the old Boilermaker’s Building in Yards Park, a hop and skip away from the Nationals Stadium and near the upcoming DC United home front. As the official statement says, Bluejacket was designed to be a “brewery without boundaries” and beer director Greg Engert and brewmaster Megan Parisi obviously took that mantra to heart.

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Right out of the gate Bluejacket will be utilizing it’s 5600 sq.ft brewing space to the max: there are 20 original ales and lagers (we tasted 12 and the breadth of scope and subtlety of flavors is truly impressive) and 5 authentic casks, all ready for your taking. Their beer board is bound to be one of the most instagrammed restaurant details in town, with the ales and lagers carrying such perfect namedropping titles as Forbidden Planet, Tooth & Nail, James & The Giant, The Wake and Seersucker. For now, all beers are just going to be available on site, but plans include to very soon start exporting them to “carefully selected restaurants, bars and retail outlets in the region”.

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And then, of course, there is the food. The restaurant inside Bluejacket is called The Arsenal, can seat 200 and is going to be working under the watchful eyes of executive chef Kyle Bailey and executive pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac (who were also BYT’s most recent “WHAT’S IN YOUR FRIDGE?” subjects), the team responsible for the success of NRG’s Birch & Barley, Churchkey, Buzz Bakery, GBD and more.

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The two are taking standard beer hall fair and expanding upon it to make it more locally sourced, adventurous in flavor and perfectly paired with the beers on offer (though the wine program, overseen by Brent Kroll is bound to be worth checking out as well). The opening event saw a sampling of those: pickled sausages with pickle pots, beef heart tartares, crispy hog head bites and fried pig tails all mingled happily with the more traditional samplings of beef, shrimp and lamb sliders, hand cut tater tots and assorted charcuterie and cheese trays. The heartiness is accompanied with a sturdy bread operation from MacIsaac (the warm beer pretzels with whole grain beer mustard were a hit last night) and a whole lot of classic pies as desserts.

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Can it be Tuesday already?

Bluejacket/The Arsenal officially open on Tuesday, October 29th. Address: 300 Tingey Street SE, Website: http://www.bluejacketdc.com/

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