We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Move over, Sam Adams: Here comes Marionberry Lambic, May’s flavor of the month at the Bardo Rodeo brew pub in Arlington. A “lambic” is a native Belgian beer fermented with wild, airborne yeasts, which frequently winds up smelling like an old horse blanket and tasting as sour as gall…in other words, an acquired taste. The Marionberry isn’t that weird, but it’s no Red Dog either. (And it’s not to be confused with Rogue-n-Berry, another ale made with authentic marion berries—a blackberry/raspberry hybrid [see City Desk, 3/4/94]). This strange brew started out as an experiment called Bubba’s Sour Mash Ale, which even at happy-hour prices had more than a few patrons spitting it back into their mugs. Undaunted, proprietor Bill Stewart added some sugar and puréed blackberries to the serving tank, and an eye-catching placard over the tap handle. “People see the sign, they say, “Hey, cool man, give me a mug!’ We encourage them to take a sip first,” says Bill’s brother Graham, who claims that Bardo is selling a half-barrel a week of the Barry Brau. The satirical brew is amber-colored with a pinkish-purple tinge, and has a tartness reminiscent of unsweetened grapefruit juice. Alan Beal, Bardo’s former brewer, likens it to grape Tootsie Pops. “It’s a hell of a salvage job,” said local beer writer Jim Dorsch, who nevertheless preferred to wet his whistle with a pint of the ultra-hoppy Dremo Tibetan Bigfoot India Pale Ale.