Meridian Pint may not have opened in time for the first games of the World Cup, but the new Columbia Heights watering hole did manage to pour its first beers in June. Although today, July 1, is the American craft beer and contemporary cuisine establishment’s official grand opening, last night The Lagerheads attended a soft opening held by owner John Andrade and his partners.
The bar and restaurant’s focus on sustainability drives everything about Meridian Pint, from offering only American beer to cut down energy needed for trans-Atlantic shipping to partnering with Envirelation, D.C.’s first composting company, to minimize waste. Most of the structures in the building were purchased used and recycled, and according to a blurb on the drink menu 95% of the staff live within walking distance of the neighborhood bar.
As for the suds, Beer Director Sam Fitz has 24 draft lines running to both the upstairs family-friendly restaurant as well as the downstairs lounge and gaming area called The Joint Chiefs (equipped with pool tables and shuffleboard). For Meridian Pint’s opening this week, Fitz balanced out his American-only list of solid craft beers from regional breweries like Dogfish Head, Troegs, Weyerbacher, and Allagash and Mid-West breweries like Bell’s, Great Lakes, and Founders, as well as several high-quality beers from West Coast breweries like Sierra Nevada, Stone, The Bruery, and Lagunitas. To many beer snobs’ dismay, Miller Lite and PBR have snuck their way onto the otherwise unblemished list.
According to Fitz, the drafts will rotate out as quickly as they run dry. He predicts he will average five new beers a week and thinks he could have as many as twelve new kegs on next week. Meridian Pint will offer cask ale as well, and the first seven days will each see a different gravity-pour offering from Olivers Breweries in Baltimore (three casks of Olivers ESB dry-hopped with different varieties of hops, three versions of Olivers Pagan Porter each brewed with cocoa nibs, coffee beans, or vanilla, and a cask of Olivers Blonde). About a dozen bottled beers are also available, primarily special releases like Allagash Curieux and Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 1 and Local 2. After all the talk about being environmentally friendly, we expected to see more beer from nearby breweries like Flying Dog and Heavy Seas but are reserving judgment until Meridian Pint has been open for awhile since Fitz has plans to rotate drafts frequently and his casks are likely to come from breweries that are close to D.C. Time will tell.
One of the most notable features of D.C.’s newest beer bar are the two tables equipped with pour-your-own taps downstairs. The taps are designed to allow patrons to self serve any two of the 24 draft lines directly at their table, and are rigged with a pay-by-the-ounce system that tracks how much beer is poured. According to one of the partners, the taps can be set up with any requested beer ahead of time, but the flushing process takes about an hour so requesting beer for the table would definitely be a “call ahead” thing. For now the table taps will most likely be set up without any options for changing the beers running to them.
We went primarily to check out the beer list and get a look at the first table-top taps to hit D.C., but managed to take in a lot more, including dinner. The food menu shows a commitment to local and regional ingredients and has several vegetarian and vegan options including a soy smoke, grilled seitan with veggie kabobs, and a three-bean quesadilla with vegan (or regular) cheese. The happy carnivores we are, The Lagerheads went with the New York strip and grilled trout, which were both excellent, followed by the strawberry shortcake, which was light and delicious.
The bar has an Americana industrial theme, with details like gears and wheels decorating the walls amid sketches of trains and tools, a giant wheel near the rear dining table upstairs, and a chain link foot rest on the bar downstairs. A doorside mural painted by Virginia artist Chad Brady captures the theme with three workers hoisting an American flag and toasting a Rosie-the-Riveter character perched on top of beer tanks. The mural is framed by the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” We think there’s plenty of happiness to be found at this neighborhood beer bar and restaurant.