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Not long after the U Street corridor spot opened a year ago, we popped into Policy for the first time and quickly filed it away as a place to go in the unlikely event we were in the mood for velvet ropes, fancy cocktails, and house music.
We never thought beer would bring us back, but last week we struck gold when we stopped in for the SXSW Sneak Peek event hosted by Flying Dog, Brightest Young Things, and ESL Music. Hidden inside the chic resto lounge is an impressive beer selection that includes some of the rarest bottles on the East Coast. Read on to find out which ones…
At the time of our visit, Policy’s drafts included the usual suspects like Brooklyn Lager, Allagash White, and Magic Hat. But also available was Dogfish Head Old School Barleywine. With an ABV of 15%, this big beer is no small investment to have on tap, and not the kind of beer we pictured party-goers drinking while shaking their booties.
Our beer bias flared up again when we saw the drink list had almost 60 beers, with six drafts, a couple dozen canned beers, about 15 large bottles, and just under 20 “longnecks.” Alongside staples like PBR and Miller High Life, Policy offers beers from craft can breweries like 21st Amendment, Butternuts, and Oskar Blues, with five of the six styles the popular Colorado brewery distributes.
But what flipped our lids was what we found casually listed among the list of big bottles. Three months after DC’s known stock of Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head’s collaboration beer Life & Limb had been wiped out (or so the beer geek community thought), Policy was still pouring it. And if that wasn’t enough of a shock, they also carry two beers from Russian River, one of the highest-rated and most sought-after breweries in the US, if not the world.
Policy’s rare bottles are not cheap. Consecration, a sour oak-aged ale, and Damnation, a Belgian-style strong golden ale, will run you around $30 a bottle. Yeah, that’s pricey, but since Policy is the only place we have seen Russian River in DC, we expect they will have no problem selling it.
It was time to find out who was responsible, so we tracked down Policy’s Beverage Director Chris Schmid and Manager Jordan Davidowitz. Schmid, who is one of the DC Beer Week organizers, takes advantage of beer laws that make it easy to import alcohol into DC. He has been getting Russian River from Philadelphia, one of the only places the brewery is distributed on the East Coast, and then pays the required fees and taxes to the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) office so he can sell the beer in DC.
In doing this, Schmid also contacts breweries directly. Many are receptive, but some do not want to distribute geographically beyond where they can make sure their product will be in good condition and treated well (which is often the reason a brewery will not distribute somewhere).
When asked which beers Schmid was most proud to have he said, “We’ve had Rock Art Vermonster and Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and we have Schlafly’s Reserve Oak Aged Barleywine. I love that beer.” Davidowich added, “We’ve been under the radar so far.” We’ll say, but not for long. Policy is aging kegs downstairs and Schmid is trying to get a keg of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger, the jealousy-inciting beer that is rumored to be at the bottom of the bar raids in Philly earlier this month.
According to Davidowitz, Policy is a modern chic restaurant and lounge with an aggressive cocktail and beer list. “We’re not a Birch & Barley, but we take beer very seriously.” The Lagerheads agree, but now that we have shared Policy’s secret with you, please remember to leave some beer for us.