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Find good beer: Upper Northwest Beer Guide

Upper Northwest is kind of a nebulous name for the geographic region that this guide encompasses. Basically we will cover Connecticut Avenue NW at Chevy Chase Circle to right around the Cleveland Park Metro plus Tenleytown and Friendship Heights. At some point we may add Glover Park here or separately. This isn’t a particular bar heavy area, with a few Irish Pubs and not a lot of craft beer pushing places. Hell, the Tenelytown area seems to be void of such places. Luckily however, this region house some of the best beer shop in town including the venerable Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits.

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Connecticut Avenue Area

There’s a good number of liquor stores with solid craft beer selections in this area, as well as a few under-the-radar places to grab a pint any night of the week. The L2 bus is your friend here as it runs the corridor of Connecticut Avenue NW from the most northerly site in this guide to the most southerly. For Metrorail purposes, you’ll want to get off at Van Ness/UDC on the Red Line to visit these exotic (erm, alright maybe not so exotic) good beer sites!

RESTAURANTS/BARS:

Atomic Billiards
You get into Atomic Billiards by going down a pretty easy-to-overlook set of stairs next to the Latin-themed Sabores. Downstairs you’ll find an oxymoronically clean dive bar with six pool tables, two shuffle board tables, three dart boards, a jukebox loaded with great tunes, and, oh yeah, a great craft beer selection. Eight taps rotate but generally contain something from Bell’s, Sierra Nevada, and Dogfish Head. The bottles are particularly impressive for a small bar in Cleveland Park though. Selections from Green Flash (Hop Head Red), Oskar Blues (Dale’s and Mama’s Little Yella Pils), North Coast (Red Seal), and Victory (Hop Devil, Prima Pils) make this a great place to hang out with friends. Not into pool? That’s fine. Every board game you could ever want is here. You haven’t lived until you’ve played Connect Four with a stranger with bottles of Hop Devil on the line.
Atomic Billiards 3427 Connecticut Avenue NW

Acacia Bistro
Acacia Bistro is an interesting place that seems better suited for Woodley Park or Dupont Circle. The menu is largely Mediterranean small plates with some charcuterie thrown in there for good measure. The beer menu is definitely respectable and reasonably priced, especially during happy hour. At happy hour you can get a number of quality beers, including but not limited to Victory Prima Pils or Yakima Twilight, Allagash White, Troeg’s Hopback, and Brooklyn Brown Ale, for just $3.50. The service is a little slow, but if you order two plates of the delicious Turkish meatballs at one time you won’t mind at all. Because of the “Bistro” atmosphere, this is a place I’d be uncomfortable, erm, overindulging in, but for the price, and since I live at Van Ness, it’s a great place to stop off for a post-work pint.
Acacia Bistro 4340 Connecticut Avenue NW

Comet Ping Pong
Take a ride up Connecticut Avenue and you’ll find Comet Ping Pong at the intersection of Connecticut and Nebraska. Tasty pizza with a wide variety of toppings and wings that are meaty and spicy go along great with the respectable, but not extensive, craft beer selection they have. Victory Prima Pils, Allagash White, and North Coast Red Seal Ale on draft complement rotating selections of cans and bottles from Bell’s, Oskar Blues, and Stone, among others. This isn’t really a bar, per se, because there can be families here having pizza parties with their kids (think Pizzeria Paradiso), but it does serve craft beer and pizza and offer you the chance to play ping pong. That’s a holy triumvirate that not even the out of the way location can put a damper on. Oh and if you are into drinking canned beer, you might want to check out their schedule of punk rock shows they throw in the back room.
Comet Ping Pong 5037 Connecticut Avenue NW

STORES:

Van Ness Liquors
Van Ness Liquors is a no-frills place. Its nondescript name and sign don’t do a whole lot to bring you in the door (unless you’re headed over that way to stop in at the Jerry’s Pizza and Subs nearby). Still, once you head in, there’s a lot to appreciate as a craft beer lover. First, and maybe most importantly, the staff there are incredibly friendly. Make a couple of craft beer purchases, and they’ll remember your face and let you know exactly what’s come in recently that you might want to get to wet your whistle. The craft beer selection is impressive for such a small space. Lots of Dogfish Head (including bombers like Fort, Pangaea, Black and Blue, and Red and White), Flying Dog (a recent visit yielded 750 mLs of Dog Schwarz), and Heavy Seas (including Siren Noire). All of the “mainstream” craft beer suspects are there too; you can find pretty much any variety of Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada (except the Bigfoot) at Van Ness Liquor. There’s also a healthy selection of Belgians in both bombers, 12 oz singles, and six packs. Van Ness Liquor is a nice little find, and I heartily recommend stopping in. Oh, but if you can’t? They’ll deliver in the area so long as you’ve got a $25 minimum order.
Van Ness Liquors 4201 Connecticut Ave NW

Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits
This nondescript establishment is one that I would not have stopped into had it not been for a Tweep telling me that I could find Victory’s Yakima Twilight there last year. Billed as “One of the Top 5 Retailers in the USA” and boasting over 1,200 brands of beer, this is truly a must-visit for any beer lover in DC. You name it, they’ve got it. An entire wall of beers that you can easily lose yourself in for hours. The most intriguing part of this place is that every beer has three prices on it: the price per bottle, the price per 4/6/12 pack, and the price per case. The fact that you can buy singles of anything makes it really easy to try new things. I’d list some of the beers that they have here, but there’s no point. Let your imagination run wild. No Russian River, New Belgium, etc. but if it’s distributed to DC, it’ll be here. They don’t seem particularly interested in talking beer with you so just get your beer and get out and save the chit chat for the bar. Despite that, if you love craft beer and are looking to try new things, check this place out. I guarantee you’ll walk out with about a dozen singles of new things you’ll scamper on home to try immediately.
Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits 5544 Connecticut Avenue NW

Cleveland Park Liquor
Cleveland Park Liquor is a solid neighborhood liquor store. I haven’t gone farther than ten feet into the store because the wonderful floor to ceiling shelves full of craft beer always prevent me from going any deeper. All the heavy hitters in craft beer, from Stone to Rogue to Dogfish Head are represented here along with a number of other domestic craft breweries. I haven’t noticed a ton of imported craft beer, but maybe that’s changed since I was there last. The staff doesn’t know too much about the beer selection from what I can tell, but still in Cleveland Park you won’t get a better choice for brews.
Cleveland Park Liquor 3423 Connecticut Avenue NW

Sherry’s
Like claustrophobia? Sherry’s isn’t for you. The very narrow walkways, piled high on either side by all kinds of spirits, will make you feel like you’re pillaging some kind of ancient temple. If you can get past the wine, spirits, and macro beers, you will find some tasty macro selections. I’ve seen Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout four-packs in there, along with Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, and some Stone. Not the greatest selection in DC, but the best selection at this Metro stop for sure.

Van Ness/Forest Hills Giant
There are two great things about this store. First, it’s a grocery store, so get your shopping for the week done AND second you can pick up one of the assorted 12 packs they have. It’s also open on Sunday, which is great because the two next closest establishments are both closed on Sunday since they sell liquor. The selection isn’t particularly nuanced, but there is a lot of craft beer here. Kona, Red Hook, Flying Dog, Sam Adams, Magic Hat, and Sierra Nevada are all here, but if you’re looking for something high-gravity, you won’t find it. Longhammer IPA is about the highest ABV beer you’ll be able to pick up here.
Van Ness/Forest Hills Giant 4303 Connecticut Ave NW

Tenleytown and Friendship Heights

Both on the red line, Tenleytown and Friendship Heights are home to some fine shopping in the District. Located less than a mile apart, there’s all kinds of good shops and food along Wisconsin Avenue NW to peruse. Unfortunately, in terms of bars, Tenleytown and Friendship Heights aren’t even close to being craft beer-centric. This isn’t to say that you can’t find craft beer in the area; indeed, Clyde’s of Chevy Chase, Chadwick’s, and Murphy’s Law all serve Sierra Nevada, but serving a craft beer does not a craft beer bar make. Fortunately, as lackluster as the craft beer selections are in the bars around Tenleytown and Friendship Heights, there are a bevy of liquor stores with passable selections and one, Rodman’s, which should make the regular rotation of anyone with a passion for craft beer in the area. Pick up some beer at any of these stores and share them with family and friends at home, hopefully, while you look at the guides for the other DC locales which are more richly populated with bars laden with good craft beer on tap.

STORES:

Rodman’s Discount Gourmet
The only reason Rodman’s shouldn’t be a weekly stop for you if you like craft beer and live anywhere near it is if you’re at all claustrophobic. The tight space that comprises the phenomenal beer inventory here makes for a lot of “excuse me’s” and rubbing shoulders with your fellow beer buyers. I could list for you what Rodman’s has in stock, but if you want it they probably have it or can get it. There are weekly sales at Rodman’s, where you can pick up some quality beers at very fair prices. For example, I just snagged some bottles of Rodenbach Grand Cru for $7.99/750mL. Other recent sales have included Founder’s 6-packs for $9.99 and Bell’s Two-Hearted for $8.99/6. If you’re (for some reason) also into wine, you can find an excellent selection of bottles there, but I don’t think it’s possible to run out of beers to want to try at Rodman’s. With new bottles coming in every week and an extensive selection of domestic bombers and European beers, you can stick to the ales and lagers and never need wonder about the fermented grape juice.
Rodman’s Discount Gourmet 5100 Wisconsin Ave NW

Paul’s Discount Wine & Liquor
Just a block away and across the street from the temple of craft beer that is Rodman’s, you can find Paul’s Discount Wine & Liquor. Paul’s is a fine place to pick up liquor; you’ll find everything you could want on that front. The beer selection is wanting though. Two beer cases, and a handful of Magic Hat and Flying Dog variety packs comprise their beer inventory. While you’ll find some gems, like Great Lakes 6-packs or some bottles of Dogfish 120 Minute, for the most part this selection is small and not that noteworthy. Good in a pinch if, like I mentioned above, you’re too claustrophobic to brave Rodman’s narrow aisles. Oh, one last note on this store is that the next cooler over from the beer houses frozen tilapia filets and boxes of frozen lamb shanks. So, if you somehow need frozen gourmet food and an okay craft beer selection, Paul’s is your place!
Paul’s Discount Wine & Liquor 5205 Wisconsin Avenue NW

Tenley Mini-Market
The Tenley Mini-Market has really expanded their beer selection over the past year. While the staff there will greet you any time you enter with some variation of “kegs or cases?” if you look past the coolers stuffed with variously flavored and flourescent colored malt beverages, you’ll find various craft beer selections. A wide variety of Sam Adams, Magic Hat, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, and, recently, Goose Island and Heavy Seas. The selection here has really improved over the years, as has the staff’s ability to give you advice on some suds. Look for a long-haired guy behind the counter who really knows his stuff, according to a reader’s pro-tip. On top of the beer, this is a really, really well-stocked convenience store, and apparently the cookies for sale there are also pretty good. Worth a stop for sure.
Tenley Mini-Market 4326 Wisconsin Avenue NW

Tenley Wine & Liquor
For the most part Tenley Wine & Liquor is known around Tenleytown as being the place where AU students load up on plastic handles of only the finest spirits that they then run through their Brita filters. Indeed, this establishment does have a fine selection of all kinds of spirits and wine. The beer selection, while small, isn’t wholly without merit. If you go to the back right of the store there is a wooden bookcase that is stocked with bombers of Delirium Tremens, Duvel, Chimay, Stone, and sometimes Rogue, among others. Turn the corner to the left from the bookcase and you’ll find one small fridge that’s stocked with chilled craft selections, largely what’s on the shelf warm. You’ll find some sixers here, mostly mainstream stuff but also some Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Magic Hat, etc. A passable choice in the area but certainly no better than the Whole Foods or Tenley Mini-Market. It’s the only store in the area where you can pick up liquor, too, so if you’re looking to stock up on something harder AND craft beer, this is your one-stop shop.
Tenley Wine & Liquor
4525 Wisconsin Avenue NW

Whole Foods Tenleytown
Whole Foods Tenleytown does not best the P Street Whole Foods in the battle of craft beer dispensing DC  supermarkets, but it does house some treasures. The Tenley Whole Foods boasts a very respectable selection of six-packs and bombers. Lots of Stone, Rogue, Magic Hat, and Dogfish Head can be found along with a smattering of Bell’s, Smuttynose, and other tasty offerings. The six shelf “bomber bookcase” around the corner from the cooler case is stocked with excellent beers (Chouffe, Lagunitas, hell I even saw Brooklyn Black Ops there). The bookcase also has some great four-packs (Dogfish Burton Baton, Tupper’s Hop Pocket, etc.) Overall, an excellent place to stop into, especially if you’re going to be at Whole Foods to get organic granola or cage-free eggs.
Whole Foods Tenleytown 4530 40th Street NW

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