By Judy and Greg
True confessions … we’re not big fans of beer. Oh, we have our favorites for when you just have to have a beer – Bud Light for Judy (that’s the St. Louis girl in her) and Hofbräu for Greg (German, ja?!). Modern craft brews that are all the rage have a bitter bite that we’ve just never been able to appreciate. But we keep trying!
That’s why when Judy saw a post on Facebook about a Saturday afternoon “Pub Crawl” in Old Town Alexandria sponsored by a local brewery, we decided to give it a shot. So on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, we headed down King Street to participate in Port City Brewery’s “2nd Annual Old Town Pub Crawl.”
Here’s the deal: Between 2 and 2:30 in the afternoon, we had to pick up a free punch card with the names of seven Alexandria hot spots. All we had to do was go to each pub during the three- to four-hour pub crawl “window,” get our card stamped, and at the end we’d receive a Port City branded pint glass. No purchases were required, but each pub featured two or three of Port City’s brews at a discounted price.
Stop one: Pizza Paradiso. We just love this pizza place. But because this was the starting point of the crawl, it was pretty crowded. We grabbed our punch cards and headed out. One of the workers slapped a sticker on Greg’s back; he jokingly asked whether it said “kick me” on it. Judy put one on the back of her shorts.
Stop two: The Fish Market. The crowds hadn’t quite packed in yet, so we found a couple of bar stools and ordered a Port City Essential Pale Ale to share. We chatted with two young women at the end of the bar and made an immediate connection – one was private pilot just like Greg! It was just after two o’clock and we were ready for a mid-afternoon nosh. After a quick perusal of the bar menu, we opted for the crab bites. WOW! These little mini crab cake poppers dazzled our taste buds.
Stop three: The Waterfront Market. Tables and umbrellas set-up on the water’s edge gave us the perfect chance to sip summer brews and people-watch. We chatted with “Tom” who told us he wasn’t employed by Port City, but he often helps out with events. When asked why, he easily answered, “Cuz I love the beer.” Tom knew everything about the brewery and its beers. He described the specials at this stop and offered insight into the others we would be encountering. His brilliant descriptions led us to try our favorites of the day – the Optimal Wit, a Belgian-style White Ale, and the Derecho Common. Tom told us the beer got its name from the late June 2012 Derecho that caused major destruction in the Washington, D.C., area. Like thousands of locations, the brewery lost power for several days and as a result, they couldn’t control the fermentation temperature in a tank of lager. But they saved the beer as a California-style common. The results were so good they have continued to offer it each summer since.
Stop four: Chadwick’s. It was more crowded here than we expected and a little hard to get to the bar, so we decided to grab a glass of cold water and skip the beer offerings at this stop.
Stop five: Virtue Feed & Grain. An available table was too hard to resist. We grabbed a seat, skipped the beer, and ordered some drinks and another snack. This time it was pork tacos and watermelon with feta. We’ve been past this restaurant many times, but never stopped in. It was a fabulous surprise! Scrumptious food made for the perfect break from the increasing heat outside and crowds at the bars showing the obvious success of the pub crawl.
Stop six: Daniel O’Connell’s. More true confessions – we avoid Irish pubs, aka Italian Purgatory. O’Connell’s is always jumping on weekend evenings, so we wandered to the back just to check it out. But we decided to escape the crowds to head to the last stop. Sure, it was early, but we figured what better place to end our “crawl” than at our favorite go-to place on the waterfront.
Stop seven: The end of the line – Union Street Public House. It was just before 5 p.m. and much to our delight, our favorite bartender, Bruce, was already checking in for his shift. As expected, there were still a few seats in the Tap Room. Satisfied that we had tried enough Port City brews for the day, we switched to our signature cocktail – the Blue Ice – and settled in to people-watch and chat. We met the CFO of Port City, who shared a little more info about the company and its offerings. We munched on an incredible berry cobbler and just enjoyed the day and each other.
Around 5:30, the crowd was almost overflowing into the street. The Port City crew headed into the Oyster Bar to pass out the pint glasses to everyone who had managed to check in at all seven pub crawl destinations. A line formed and moved quickly. We got our glasses but stayed as the crowds thinned, striking up a conversation with a couple seated at the bar next to us. New friends! We chatted for an hour or so and asked if they wanted to join us for dinner. The wait times for most of the places on lower King Street were approaching an hour, so we headed off to Bilbo Baggins on Queen Street, just a couple blocks away.
We give a big shout out to Port City Brewery for sponsoring this fun and festive event. It gave us a great opportunity to try some new places, try some new brews, and meet new friends. And isn’t that what life is all about?