9:30 Club’s Beer Beer! Part 2

…continued from last week

The Office Bar:  Our tour of 9:30 Club’s bars and beers continued with the Office Bar.  Located on stage left (from the band’s perspective), this bar is directly across from the merch stand and shares a wall with the club’s office.

Beers Tasted:

  • Old Rasputin (Fort Bragg, CA)
  • Hook & Ladder Backdraft Brown (Silver Spring, MD)
  • Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre (Rehoboth, DE)
  • Starr Hill Northern Lights (Charlottesville, VA)
  • Flying Dog Brewery Snake Dog IPA (Frederick, MD)
  • Port City Essential Pale Ale (Alexandria, VA)

After crossing the floor to the long bar located at stage left, we were treated to the fourth stout of the day: Old Rasputin, an Imperial Stout from California’s North Coast Brewery.  It is the color and consistency of motor oil.  This is not an accessible beer, but stout-lovers will be delighted to find it on tap.  It’s also 9% alcohol.  (The more observant and sober patrons of the 9:30 Club will notice that certain beers are priced similarly but come in smaller servings due to their high alcohol content.)

9:30 bartenders Paul Rondelli & Roberta Klein expertly pour for the tasting crew

Another extremely local beer was available, Backdraft Brown Ale from Hook and Ladder Brewery in Silver Spring.  It was downright pruney, with more fruit to it than one might expect from a brown ale.

We also tried the raisiny Raison d’Etre, another Dogfish Head selection.  Fans of Dogfish Head are aware of their penchant for brewing unusual beers, often from secret recipes, the Raison d’Etre being an excellent example.

There was another beer from Starr Hill called Northern Lights IPA.  Deadheads will be pleased to learn that both this beer and the Dark Starr Stout sell extremely well when jam bands are in the house.

The other IPA on draft was the Snake Dog from Frederick, MD’s Flying Dog Brewery.  Dalton is a pretty big fan of Flying Dog’s beers, and this incredibly hoppy brew is a great example of the IPA style.  One reason this style is known for being so hoppy was ostensibly to preserve the beer during the long sea voyage from Britain to India.

Port City Brewery in Alexandria is a new local brewery.  They opened last February, and their Essential Pale Ale is complex but approachable.  It’s not overwhelmingly hoppy; it goes down easy with noticeable grapefruit and other citrus flavors.

The VIP Bar: Finally we headed upstairs to the bar facing the stage and adjacent to the VIP section.  Despite being extremely full by this point, we courageously tried some pita pizza and were pleasantly surprised.

Beers Tasted:

  • Stateside Saison (Baltimore, MD)
  • Duchesse de Bourgogne (Vichte, Belgium)
  • Starr Hill Jomo Lager (Charlottesville, VA)
  • Foggy Ridge Cider (Roanoke, VA)
  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale (Halethorpe, MD)
  • Victory Prima Pils (Downington, PA)
  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (Rehoboth, DE)

Gypsy brewer Brian Strumke discusses his favorite topic: beer

One of the local brewers was a cat named Brian Strumke, who describes himself as a “gypsy brewer.”  He travels from town to town, meeting people, getting in adventures, and working with different breweries.  Sounds like a sweet deal.  Brian explained: Saison beers originated in France and Belgium as local “farmhouse beers,” designed to be consumed as refreshment at harvest time with a generally low alcohol content.  They are also drier and have less residual sugar.  This lessens the chance of infection in the beer, as they were stored for long periods of time.   Brian’s Stateside Saison was dry and funky, with a sharp taste.

Two of the more expensive quaffs available to concertgoers can be found at the VIP Bar.  One is a less approachable beer called the Duchesse de Bourgogne, a highly fruity, sour beer with candy apple flavors.  Dalton first tried it at a beer festival in Portland, Oregon a few years back and loved it.  The only other spot in D.C.  we’ve seen it at is Marvin.

Perhaps the most interesting of the local selections was Foggy Ridge Cider, an artisan cider from southwest Virginia made entirely with apples grown in the Old Dominion.  At $16 for a half-liter bottle, it’s pricey, but it’s a crisp, cool, tasty libation.

Our favorites from the second half of the tour:

  • Mitch: Foggy Ridge Cider
  • Dalton: Duchesse de Bourgogne

On our way out, we were treated to 9:30's infamous & delicious cupcakes

Drinking a continuous supply of 2-ounce servings of beer reminded us somewhat of a power hour, the main difference of course being that we were drinking really good beer and being offered hearty bites of “food food” all along the way.  Needless to say, 9:30 Club’s impressive beer selection and focus on local suppliers of food and drink made an excellent impression on us and we didn’t even see any music.

Dalton & Mitch


Special thanks to photographer Joy Asico for letting us use her photos and thanks to everyone at 9:30 Club for a very enjoyable afternoon! 

If you would like to contribute an article about a music venue in your city, or if you have additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at info@venuerater.com

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9:30 Club’s Beer Beer! Part 1

You probably know 9:30 Club as one of DC’s premier music venues, the place you go to hear your favorite band or the hottest new act. But it also has really good beer, and lots of it.

Jean Homza, the long-time bar manager of the 9:30 Club, invited several representatives from local entertainment, music publications, blogs, and websites to sample their local and regional beers as well as a variety of vittles from 9:30’s “Food Food” kitchen.

Some bars take a seasonal approach; selling wheat beers and hefeweizens in the hot summer, Oktoberfests and marzens in the crisp fall, and porters and stouts in the cold, cold winter. The 9:30 Club has taken a different approach–Jean is focused on two things: variety and locality. They stock a wide variety of beer year-round, which gives the beer drinker more discretion.


The Back Bar: Located in the basement, the Back Bar is perhaps the best kept secret of 9:30 Club. The bar itself was the back bar at the original 9:30 Club at 930 F Street NW (the current club opened in 1996). It provides a nice respite from the masses upstairs, making it easier to drink and also has the club’s only single bathroom, which is usually the cleanest in the house.

(Tip: You don’t have to attend the show to hang out at the Back Bar! Entry is free and separate except for certain sold out shows.)

There was a buffet spread in the Back Bar, including vegetarian options such as a bean quesadilla as well as two varieties of something called pareo. All the bread is from Lyon Bakery, a DC bakery that supplies many restaurants around the city. The meat, from local provider Applegate Farms, is organic, free-range, and grass-fed, with no nitrates or growth hormones.

Beers Tasted:

  • Lindeman’s Peche (Vlezenbeek, Belgium)
  • Redbridge (Anheuser Busch, Kansas City)
  • Victory Golden Monkey (Downingtown, PA)
  • Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale & 60 Minute IPA (Rehoboth, DE)
  • Brooklyn Chocolate Stout (Brooklyn, NY)

Lindeman’s Peche is a peach-flavored lambic, a prominent Belgian style. Because there were brewers present, we learned that lambics are fermented with ambient yeast and fruit concentrate added after fermentation for flavor. Thus, they are macrobiotic beers.

In addition to accommodating people with food that conforms to various dietary restrictions, the Back Bar has Redbridge, a gluten-free beer made from sorghum.

Golden Monkey by Victory Brewing Company stood out for being strong, yet surprisingly easy drinking. This also applies to the 60 Minute IPA from Delaware’s Dogfish Head. Their Punkin’ Ale is one of the few beers here that is only available seasonally.

A hard-core Orioles fan, Jean says she’s only comfortable serving one beer from the official brewery of the New York Yankees: Brooklyn Chocolate Stout.

The Snack Bar: Up on the main floor, we headed stage right to the “Snack Bar” (so named because it is next to the kitchen). After the basement buffet, we were treated to dijonninis (panini with ham, Swiss and Dijon mustard on focaccia) and then wienerninis (a split hot dog on pressed focaccia).

Sudsy offerings abound at the Snack Bar

Beers Tasted:

  • Troeg’s Dreamweaver & JavaHead (Harrisburg, PA)
  • Dark Starr Stout (Charlottesville, VA)
  • DC Brau Public Ale (Washington, DC)
  • Victory Lager (Downington, PA)
  • The Raven (Baltimore, MD)
  • Clipper City Brewing Company MarzHon (Baltimore, MD)

Two more stouts were offered here: Troegs Java Head and Starr Hill Brewery’s Dark Starr Stout. Both were delicious, with pronounced coffee flavors. Troeg’s provided another option at the Snack Bar, an unfiltered wheat beer called Dreamweaver.

Jeff & Brian of DC Brau Brewing Company

Drinking local beer not only reduces your individual carbon footprint, but it also means you get to support your local economy and generally you get fresher beer. Jeff and Brian, brewers from DC Brau (the first brewery to open in the District since Prohibition), pointed out that if you order their Public Ale you can often get served a beer that was brewed the day before.

The other local options at the Snack Bar included Victory Lager and two selections from Baltimore. Both of these had Baltimore related names: a lager called The Raven and MarzHon. The latter is a marzen, a style typically associated with Oktoberfest.

Of the 12 beers tasted in the first have of our tour, our favorites were:

  • Mitch: Victory Lager and DC Brau’s Public Ale
  • Dalton: Victory’s Golden Monkey and Troeg’s JavaHead

Check back next week for the second part of our beer tasting featuring cider, stouts, and a gypsy brewer!

Mitch & Dalton, VenueRater Founders

Special thanks to photographer Joy Asico for letting us use her photos.

If you would like to contribute an article about a music venue in your city, or if you have additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at info@venuerater.com


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New Venue Rated: The Fillmore, Silver Spring MD

For years, only two small music venues in DC have consistently booked national touring acts: the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat.  Until now.  The Fillmore Silver Spring, which opened on September 16th with a show by Mary J. Blige, is the new kid on the block, which, based on the bands they’ve booked so far, could be a force to be reckoned with.  Located in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Fillmore is an all-ages club with a capacity of 2,000, two floors, a basement, and four bars.  It is owned and run by Live Nation which merged with Ticketmaster in 2009 so ticket prices are unsurprisingly high and come with all the additional fees typical with a Ticketmaster show.

My first experience at the Fillmore was October 13th for the Trey Anastasio Band (TAB) show.  I’ve been to several TAB shows, so I could enjoy the music while also focusing on the pros and cons of the venue.  Here’s what I found:

Getting In:  Parking was easy and free in the nearby county parking lot adjacent to the town center.  You have to take a ticket when you enter, but by the time you leave it’s free.  I was pleased when we arrived at the club and saw that there was merely a short line (about 1o deep) to get in.  However, after entering we then saw two additional lines inside the club for checking IDs.  These lines were not only long and slow moving (15 minutes), but they crossed the main entryways into the music hall creating an inconvenient, and possibly unsafe, logjam.   When we finally made it to the front of the line I noticed what was slowing it down:  wristbands.  The Fillmore uses wristbands for patrons over 21 wishing to consume alcohol, which was most of the crowd.   Compared to hand-stamps used at most venues in the area including 9:30 and Black Cat, wristbands take much longer to apply.   The staff at the ID table was polite, but slow.  I’m sure this will improve with time and experience, but it wasn’t a good way to start off the night.  Perhaps they should check IDs when people enter the club so that there’s only one line to go through.

Getting Served:  After the long line to get a wristband, we were rather parched and in need of a tasty beverage.   We headed over to the closest bar and waited about 10 minutes for a drink, which is too long.  The bar featured a standard variety of beers as well as a typical selection of liquor.  They had a decent selection of wines including some bubbly by the glass.  Drinks were priced a bit on the high side with beers at $9 – typical for a corporate Live Nation venue.  Impromptu beer stands were setup sporadically around the venue, but they did not seem to lessen the burden of customers at the bars.  The bartenders were friendly, but consistently slow throughout the evening.

Getting Around:  We made our way to the front of the venue and settled relatively close to the stage.  When it came time to hit the bathroom, we had a hard time weaving our way back through the crowd.  Even along the bars, there was no natural walkway allowing people to move freely.  The staff stuck to their positions and did little to keep any walkways clear.  Once out of the crowd, we looked for restrooms and were surprised to see that there were none on the main floor so we headed to the basement. Wide stairs lined with framed concert posters from previous Fillmore shows led to the balcony and basement and were easy to traverse.  The bathrooms in the basement were fairly clean and in good condition, although there was a line for the men’s room most of the time.  The basement bar was less crowded than those on the main floor, but it took just as long to get a drink.  One feature I really liked at the basement bar was that they had the show broadcast live on TV with decent sound as well, so you didn’t completely miss out on the show while downstairs.  The balcony has a tiered structure on both sides with a fence complete with drink holders to lean on.  It has a boxed in feel to it and seems great for those who are able to get there early to secure a spot, but is not a fluid section that one can easily enter to improve one’s concert viewpoint.  Behind the tiered structures are two sets of concrete risers that appear to have been installed to allow those in the back to see the stage.  Unfortunately, that was not the case as we were unable to see the stage over the people in the front balcony sections.  The back of the balcony holds reserved seating with table service which was rumored to run around $400 per table.  Needless to say, it was mostly vacant.  There is also a bar directly behind the reserved area that did not appear to be crowded when we walked by, but I didn’t buy a drink there so I’ll refrain from speculation.

How’d It Sound?  In a word: great.  The sound was the best part of my experience at the Fillmore by far.  I could hear each of the instruments well and never noticed any feedback or unintentional distortion.  As mentioned earlier, it was also a plus having TVs and audio from the show broadcast in all areas of the venue.

Getting Out:  At set break we ventured outside for some fresh air and had major difficulty leaving the building.  The exit doors were blocked because there wasn’t enough room in the outdoor area to accommodate the throng of people wishing to leave.  At the conclusion of the show it was much easier to exit and was a smooth safe walk to our car back in the mall parking lot.

As a DC native, I’m always pleased to see an increase in the number and quality of music venues in the area.  Healthy competition among venues can only make things better for those of us who love live music.  The Fillmore has some kinks that need to be worked out to improve the overall experience, but nothing major that would keep me from going back.


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