The Smoke and Barrel, which will open next Tuesday, September 27, is located above Asylum at 2471 18th Street NW. The bar/restaurant will offer up wood-smoked barbecue and an extensive beer and bourbon list.
Andrew and I recently had the chance to speak with Tavernkeeper Matt Heffernan, formerly of Rustico, and Beer Director Sam Fitz, of Meridian Pint fame via email. We want to thank Matt and Sam for their long, thoughtful answers to these questions. We’re breaking this interview up into two parts, yesterday, we posted Matt’s answers in Part 1. Today, we’re posting Sam’s answers! On Monday, we’ll post the opening day beer list. Enjoy!
DCBeer: How many draft lines will be at The Smoke and Barrel?
Sam Fitz: Smoke & Barrel will have 24 draft lines featuring craft beers from all over the world. Half of those lines will also go downstairs to Asylum. Both bars will have 25 cans and a small reserve bottle list.
DCBeer: What’s the philosophy going to be on the beer list? Things that pair well with the food menu? Focus on domestics? A little bit of everything?
SF: The focus of the draft beer program will be to provide an outstanding diversity of the finest beers from all over the world. Sometimes this will mean serving an obscure product [that is] rarely seen, but just as often it will mean carrying a beer readily available every day that is one of the best. We want to be sure to keep plenty of approachable, yet high quality, products to balance the rare drafts that we will most certainly have.
At any given time, beers such as Gaffel Kolsch, DC Brau Public, Allagash White, Eggenberg Hopfenkonig, Great Lakes Eliot Ness, and Saison Dupont will be matched with products like Bockor Cuvee Des Jacobins, Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen, anything Jolly Pumpkin, Evil Twin Soft DK, Haandbrygeriet smoke beers, Sierra / DFH Life & Limb, Liefmans Cuvee Brut and so on. In addition, we will strive to continue to support local beer the way that we have at The Meridian Pint. DC Brau, Port City, & Lost Rhino are creating some great brews just down the road, and all will frequently be on draft at Smoke & Barrel.
Food pairings will be a lot of fun, and we are excited to tinker with Chef Vinny Waide’s creations. He, Tavern Keeper Matthew Heffernan, and I all have a strong background in food pairings and are excited to work together to bring a unique approach to pairing beer with barbecue. We will also feature a number of drafts that are sure bets for BBQ pairings like Bocks, two Rauchbiers at all times, a Vienna Lager or Oktoberfest, Porter, and a couple of Stouts.
DCBeer: Will your system be draft only, or will there be casks and a bottle list as well?
SF: To supplement our drafts and keep with the BBQ theme, we will have 25 canned beers. Mostly American with a few imports, the can program is meant to make Smoke & Barrel approachable to everyone. We want beer aficionados to walk in side-by-side with patrons looking for a cold beer to wash down the best BBQ in DC. PBR, Budweiser & Natural Bohemian are on the menu, as well as 22 craft beers featuring Oskar Blues, DC Brau, Brooklyn, and others. There’s something to be said for beer in a can at a BBQ joint, and we look forward to being able to provide that experience.
Eventually we will offer a bottle list, but it will really be more of a reserve list featuring beer treasureS from around the world. Cantillion and other authentic Gueuze makers are sure to be featured, as well as other eclectic brews rarely found on draft. Look for this to premiere early in 2012.
As far as casks go, we will not run them as often as [at Meridian Pint], but we will pour cask beer for brewery events as well as random weekend nights. Following our Twitter will be the best way to keep up with this. For opening night, we have an oak keg of Schlenkerla Marzen that we will gravity pour from the bar.
How does the Smoke and Barrel fit into what 18th Street has become, namely a legitimate craft beer neighborhood in DC. People always get down on AdMo for what goes down on the weekends, but when you look at places like The Black Squirrel, Toledo Lounge, The Reef, Pharmacy Bar, Asylum, Jack Rose, Bourbon, MiG Bar, and even Gran Central, which is adding craft beer options, how do you see The Smoke and Barrel distinguishing itself? Is it going to rely heavily on the BBQ to do that since there really isn’t another dedicated BBQ place in AdMo?
SF: Adams Morgan is where I discovered craft beer. Working at The Reef five years ago, I was exposed for the first time to a culture of people that prized quality beer. Before that, I didn’t even know what quality beer was. Since then, many other places have opened with great beer lists, and pre-existing establishments have changed their game and improved their suds. We are excited to join what we consider to be a high quality, evolving beer community.
With that said, I’d be holding back if I didn’t note that we will strive to offer the best beer in the neighborhood–in all of DC, for that matter. Anything less would be cheating ourselves and our patrons. Just as we do at Meridian Pint, we will have the ability to clean draft lines in-house and will do so every time a product changes over. This gives us the ability to update our draft list every day and continue exposing our guests to the breadth of great beer that is available today.
We take beer very seriously and it shows in the team we have assembled. My only responsibility at Smoke & Barrel is to run the beer program, something I am very thankful for, and Assistant Beer Director at The Meridian Pint, Tim Prendergast, will take on an increased role at Smoke & Barrel as well. Tavern Keeper Matthew Heffernan has worked with craft beer since he started tending bar and is probably a Beer Director in an alternate universe. Chef Vinny Waide is a wealth of information when it comes to wine and spirits, and we’re finding that his knowledge translates very well to beer and brings an interesting perspective.
By rotating daily the best beers available in DC, pouring them through pristine draft lines, serving them through knowledgeable staff, and just being downright passionate about beer, we are confident in our ability to succeed in a neighborhood that is already showcasing craft beer.
Thanks to Matt and Sam for their time! Stay tuned Monday for the launch draft list for The Smoke and Barrel! If you have questions about the Smoke and Barrel, leave them in the comments; we’ll be sure to get them answered for you!