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District ChopHouse & Brewery

Submitted by on February 2, 2010 – 4:02 PMNo Comment
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509 7th St.
Washington, DC
202.347.3434
http://www.chophouse.com/

Hours of Operation:
Sun. – Mon.  11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Tues. – Sat.   11 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Best time to visit:
Early or late – when there may be seats near the bar.

The DC branch of the small, national ChopHouse & Brewery chain is justly praised for brewing beer in house in the heart of the capital.  But given the obvious effort and expense that has gone into creating an inviting, impressive brewhouse, it is a sore disappointment that most of the tap beer is lifeless, and most of the menu is nothing if not overpriced.

This does not speak to the quality of the food, which is not lacking except, perhaps, in variety.  Apparently the only desired patrons are die-hard carnivores, as few meat-free options can be found.  But the unfortunate tendency of the up-scale brewpub is to first forget that beer is not meant to be an ‘exclusive’ beverage, and then to assume that anyone who would like to pay $20 for a steakhouse entrée will somehow have no inkling of how a beer should taste.

There is a reason carbonated beverages are popular.  Carbonation is a flavor delivery system; it imparts the nuances of a beverage to the tongue in a satisfying way.  The biggest failure of the homebrewer is to turn out a beer with inadequate carbonation.  Of the beers available at the District ChopHouse, only the strong Doppelbock, the sweet Wheat Wine, and the Amber Ale had the texture one should demand of any beer served to the public for money.

The Doppelbock is a hearty, deeply-textured example of the Bavarian classic.  It is served in ten-ounce glasses, but, thanks to the better-than-ten-percent alcohol content, ten ounces is plenty for a casual session.

Nearly as strong is the Wheat Wine, an intriguing hybrid of a wheat beer and a barleywine.  The taste is much closer to the latter, and the typical cloudiness of a wheat beer is absent – but a hint of the bite of a real Weiß beer holds the Wheat Wine back from becoming a dessert.

For those less adventurous, the standard Amber is a simple, hoppy beer, but palatable.

In contrast, the Nut Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Velvet Ale, and Light Lager all lacked zest.  The darker beers – not advertised as ‘smoky’ – were, in fact, smoky.  The lighter ones carried an antiseptic aftertaste which many a failed homebrewer would also quickly recognize.  For an expensive restaurant trying to make claims as a brewer of exceptional beers, these comprise a great disappointment.

Instead of offering seven or eight draught options, the District ChopHouse would do better to focus on just a few, and throw in one seasonal varietal at a time.  In addition, the bar area should be expanded – it is invariably crowded during Happy Hour, despite the fact that only two beers are discounted.

Despite a few high-quality selections, the District ChopHouse exemplifies the central problem of many of the small, high-end brewpub chains which have come into existence in recent years – namely, that luxurious ambience and fancy (if limited) menus supplant the need for maintaining high quality in the ‘brew’ part of ‘brewpub.’

Pros: Beer made on the premises; wide selection.

Cons: Most brews mediocre; Not inexpensive; Limited seating in bar area.

Rating: 2 out of 5