Photos By Shira Stoll, Words By Mary Beth McAndrews
Friday was International Beer Day. What better way to celebrate than a beautiful outdoor beer garden? On July 31, the Piazza Beer Garden, an extension of Cesco Osteria’s outdoor seating, had an international beer sampler, hosted by DC Brau co-owner and founder Brandon Skall. The beer garden is basically attached to the Bethesda metro station and is right near Bethesda Row. Despite living in the area, I had never even noticed it, which seemed to be the consensus among most of the patrons. The location might even seem gross due to the busy Bethesda streets — but I was pleasantly mistaken.
Plants cover the patio and strings of lights crisscross overhead, which make you feel relatively closed off from the busy street. The patio is small — almost cramped — but hosts a friendly staff, picnic table seating, and a comfortable atmosphere. Just hope it doesn’t get too crowded. If it does, I hope you like making friends.
Besides international beers, there was Italian food. Chef Francesco Ricchi offered samples of house-made meatballs, thin-crust Tuscan pizza, and arancini (delicious fried rice balls stuffed with cheese and vegetables). I also tasted their fried yucca chips (I am obsessed with fried yucca; it’s ALMOST better than potatoes), corn fritters, and a slider sampler. Quintessential happy hour bar food with that homemade comfort factor. If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be the salmon slider. Or the arancini.
The company was friendly and sealed the deal on the atmosphere. Everyone was saying hello, giving hugs, and introducing themselves, especially DC Brau’s Brandon Skall. He made his rounds to each table, checking on guests, dishing out high fives, and just talking about his passion: beer. Admittedly I am a bit of a beer novice, but I learned a lot from him, particularly about IPAs, a type of beer that does not particularly tickle my fancy. He threw out phrases like “hop forward” and a bunch of other adjectives regarding specific hops and Vidalia onions. I may not ever understand beer like Skall, but I can always dream.
I also want to give a shout out to the bear/dog, Tahoe, that stole someone’s food right off of their plate and really stole the entire show. Let’s face it, if there is a dog in my immediate proximity, I will make a beeline for it and ignore the rest of the world. Honestly, all an outside venue means is dogs and that’s really why we all go, isn’t it?
But enough about my love of dogs and good company. You want to hear about the beer. Piazza offered three different beers of three very different styles to provide a wide variety of international flavors. They served the DC Brau Corruption IPA, Franzikaner Hefeweizen, and Murphy’s Stout. Very different flavors but I tried them all. My palate was pleased yet confused so let me offer a novice’s perspective on each beer.
DC Brau The Corruption IPA
Now you maybe thinking, “Hey, DC Brau is not international beer!” However, the IPA has very British roots so they found a helpful little loophole. Now, I am not a big IPA person. I don’t like the taste of hops. It’s too bitter. However, I tried it out because I met its creator, because it’s brewed here in the District, and because I felt it was the least I could do since I was at the event. The consensus: wow. I didn’t mind it. The Corruption uses Columbus hops, which are more oaky and earthy than most hops. It wasn’t as intense as most IPAs I’ve tried. Shira, the photographer, and myself thought it was sweet yet bitter. I have yet to develop a beer vocabulary.
Fun fact: IPA, or India Pale Ale, originated in England when they were shipping beer to India. The hops were a natural preservative for the long journey. Obviously the flavors have drastically evolved, but the idea still remains.
Now this was my kind of beer: wheat, light, fruity, and easy to drink. It tasted like bananas and summertime. This beer also has a place in my heart because I served it at the German restaurant I’ve worked in since the dawn of time. It’s brewed in Munich and is one of the essential German beers. Don’t drink if you don’t like fruity beers or fun. Unfortunately there isn’t much else to say about it. It’s delicious and almost too easy to drink.
Fun fact: This beer has been brewed since the 1300s.
I do not like dark beers. Obviously I am picky about my beer. Guinness is like eating a loaf of bread and just makes me feel tired. However, Murphy’s Irish Stout, apparently an old competitor of Guinness, was delicious, light, and tasted like coffee. Definitely not as heavy as your average stout but it is still as black as the bottom of my shoes after walking around D.C. Not my ideal beer for the summer heat, but I could casually sip it without making a face, which I consider an accomplishment. I was actually advised against this beer by a very drunk man in a bright blue shirt. Obviously his drunken judgment was off.
Fun fact: Murphy’s Stout is distributed by Heineken.
Besides these three international beers, Piazza Beer Garden also serves Flying Dog Doggie Style, Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, Starr Hill, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, and Du Claw Sweet Baby Jesus. But their menu changes every week, so you’ll just have to check in to see what’s on tap.
If you live in Bethesda, I would recommend this little beer garden. Sure, it’s tiny, but the beer is cold, the food is delicious, everyone is friendly, and you might see a dog. Plus, you need to take advantage of this weather before it either gets disgustingly humid or too cold. You never know these days. If you need any more persuading, they have frequent beer pong tournaments and a surprisingly affordable happy hour.
Check out the Piazza Beer Garden on 7401 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD. Just take the red line to Bethesda, and walk straight. Careful or you might miss it. I almost did.
Want more DC Brau? Then check out the brewery on 3178 Bladensburg Rd NE, Washington, DC. Plus, for all you Montgomery County folks, they do growler fills regardless of where the growler is from. If you don’t know about that law, educate yourself.