Heritage Brewing Co. Brewpub and Roastery manager Spenser McKenna hoped George, Tom, Teddy and Abe would come down the block for a mug last Sunday after the Market Common Annual Presidents Day Party — the Rough Rider would have enjoyed his honorary brew, the Hazy Teddy. But the Nats’ running presidents seemed content to take selfies with families enjoying hot cocoa — compliments of Nicecream across the street on Clarendon Boulevard.
Since the mouths on those massive heads are sealed shut, I had to go myself and drink on their behalf. The Hazy Teddy, an East Coast Indian Pale Ale named for its unfiltered cloudiness, had a strong citrus tang and appealing, hoppy bitterness (5.6% alcohol at $7 a glass).
Teddy is crafted at the Heritage Brewery Co. headquarters and taproom in Manassas, under the Lincoln’s Hat label. The Heritage slogan is “Uniquely American,” and that theme is expressed through the names of the selections as well as the large woodblock Old Glory on the wall on the North Fillmore Street location, which hosted a lively crowd Sunday afternoon.
The rustic, deep, narrow interior has a high ceiling and gray-washed faux brick, a look that’s all corrugated metal and beer barrels and no BS. It’s an ideal hangout for friends who honestly enjoy one another’s company. Dylan, The Band and The Beatles dominate the music selection — this would be the first time I’ve heard “8 Miles High” by the Byrds and “A Day in a Life” back to back in a northern Virginia bar. Not complaining.
Although not a sports bar (the two TVs — one showing a hockey game and one showing soccer — had the sound down), a football lounge will be starting next season.
Sean, one of the bartenders, told me this location opened two years ago, but the Brewing Company itself was launched on New Year’s Eve, 2013. Both he and his co-bartender, Sabrina, kept busy while remaining down-to-earth and friendly.
A group of retired veterans started the venture, hence the patriotic motif. Nearly all military branches are represented among the staff at the Manassas brewery: the company president is Navy, the toaster is Army and the brewer is Air Force. Flagship brews are called Freedom Isn’t Free IPA, King’s Mountain Scotch ale, American Expedition honey ginger lager and Force Multiplier double IPA. According to its website, Heritage has produced 400 beers and is expanding throughout the eastern seaboard. On top of pushing for excellence in beer craft, the company donates regularly to veterans’ charities.
The menu features local fare such as Chesapeake Bay oysters and mussels — the former with cocktail sauce and sour raspberry mignonette and the latter steamed with one of their lagers (Civil Works), cream, shallots, bacon and garlic. I ordered the mussels ($10.50 for about 12) which were deliciously creamy, sweet and buttery with a peppery aftertaste.
Other selections include deviled eggs, a smokehouse board featuring salmon and trout, and beer-battered pretzels. As of now, only brunch is offered, but McKenna says they are developing a dinner menu. A culinary-school grad, McKenna has channeled his knowledge of flavor to create interesting fusions which are on display in jars over the bar.
He let me try the Heritage Cosmo, a pale pink concoction of lime vodka infused with berry and thyme; and a darker pink Veteran Collins — cherry, apple and mint infused with gin, St. Germain and Sprite. They’re both good, but the thyme nailed it for me. Pinkness will also rule the day for the Cherry Festival, when the addition of hibiscus will yield pink beer.
The two guys on the stools adjacent to mine, friends and Batt and Sean (yes, this is a very Sean kind of place) praised the beer and the atmosphere. Sean lives nearby and says a lot of his friends like to go to more party-oriented bars, but he prefers a more low-key place like this. Batt says he likes the brewery feel.
The Sean factor will be raised to the 10th degree next month when St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated on not just one, but all days of the week. Maybe the Mount Rushmore quartet will sneak in the back door? A barrel would fit nicely inside one of those heads.
Heritage Brewing Co., 1300-1398 N Fillmore St., Arlington, VA 22201 Clarendon District; Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.-12 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-12 a.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.