Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bardo Rodeo Rope-a-Dope?

Bardo Rodeo

The story broke, yesterday —suddenly, surprisingly, hopefully— initially at the Prince of Petworth blog, and then at the Going Out Gurus at the Washington Post.

Bardo Rodeo —northern Virginia's first-ever brewpub, long-closed— may be returning to the area, not to Arlington, but to the Trinidad neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Here's how the Post's Fritz Hahn put it, giving the story local-beer-history context:
If you lived in the D.C. area in the 1990s, you remember the pioneering Arlington brewpub, which filled a former Oldsmobile dealership on Wilson Boulevard near Court House. It was hard to ignore: The car crashing through the front window, the indoor sandbox, the totem pole out front.

At its peak, Bardo Rodeo was one of the largest brewpubs in the country, and one of Arlington’s most popular bars. (Eventually, Bardo evolved into the sushi-centric Ningaloo and Dr. Dremo’s Tap Room before closing in 2008 to make way for a condo building.) <...>

Bardo founder and brewer Bill Stewart Jr. filed an application for a liquor license for Bardo, a brewpub slated for 1200 Bladensburg Rd. NE, a few blocks north of H Street.

Stewart, who left the D.C. area for Australia in 2007, will be running the place with his younger brother Andrew, and he’s game to resurrect the offbeat Bardo experience.

Garrett Oliver at Dr. Dremo's
In 2007, Andrew Stewart (l) at Dr. Dremo's,
with the visiting Garrett Oliver (r),
beer author and brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewing.

The scene at Bardo Rodeo was always funky, and the beer, when good, could be great. James Brown Ale, a wickedly powerful strong brown ale, was a favorite of many. Dr. Dremo's continued with tradition number one, and often with the good beer as well, although it seemed to somewhat lose its way near the end in 2007/8, serving a donut-flavored beer.

Dremo's totem

The Stewarts' off-beat tradition continues. Bardo Rodeo is slated to be built, not in a closed car dealership as it once was, but, appropriately enough, in a former used tire shop and a former barbershop.

The good-beer scene in Washington, D.C. is very different now than it was 20 years ago, during Bardo Rodeo's heyday. When re-opened, the brewpub will be be but one part of a quickly growing beer business in the city: production breweries DC Brau, Chocolate City, and 3 Stars, and brewpubs District Chophouse, Gordon-Biersch, and, planned for 2013, Right Proper and Bluejacket, not to mention any of the new-wave good-beer bars and restaurants. I'm confident that many who fondly remember the Arlington, Virginia, Bardo Rodeo, wish the new D.C. location good luck, and a new generation of thirsty patrons.

UPDATE: Bardo re-opens in early August 2013; brewing to follow later in year.

  • Twenty years ago, I lived only a few blocks from Bardo Rodeo's proposed new location. I may have moved too soon!
  • How Dr. Dremo's run ended in 2008 (with a bit of history of Bardo Rodeo): here.
  • An unsuccessful attempt to re-open Dr. Dremo's in Clarendon, as a pub, not brewpub, occurred in 2009.

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