Beyond the Single Malt: At Jack Rose, Craft Beer Flows Like Scotch
[Editor's note: There are corrections to this article noted the bottom. ]
"No bottles," Brian Kruglak tells me. Behind him in the main bar and dining room of Jack Rose, the forthcoming booze emporium in Adams Morgan, I see three full walls of empty shelves.
Of course there will be some bottles: about 1,000 types of Scotch and bourbons, for starters.
But we are not talking about spirits. We're talking about beer. And that "other malt" beverage is something you should get used to associating with Jack Rose.
Kruglak, who was first turned on to beer while backpacking through Europe, is the man behind an ambitious craft-beer program at the soon-to-open hooch hub. With five separate bar spaces and 20 taps at his disposal, Kruglak has big plans for quenching your thirst beyond the venue's reputed single- and double-malt fetish. His line-up will vary with new releases and seasonal offerings from many of the same American breweries he has stocked at Bourbon as beer director there for the last year, with at least 10 taps rotating weekly. Unlike Bourbon, Jack Rose will offer highly regarded selections from several foreign breweries, but to keep things green, the list will be heavy on beers brewed in the Mid-Atlantic region.
To give you an idea, opening week (which officially starts June 7, but could begin as early as June 1), will see Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale, Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA, Dogfish Head Burton Baton, Nøgne Ø Imperial Brown, Mikkeller Not Another Wit, Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold and several other solid offerings. Kruglak expects to pour a steady stream of imports like Belgium's Gulden Draak and selections from Scotland's BrewDog along side American craft big shots like Jolly Pumpkin and Victory. And, of course, Kruglak will pour plenty of pints from local faves like Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, and Olivers of Maryland, Port City of Alexandria, and the District's very own DC Brau and 3 Stars. With just a sting of the "no crap on tap" attitude, the only macro that will be available on draft at Jack Rose will be Miller Lite.
"We're not all about the newest or rarest thing. You can get those things at any of the D.C. beer bars. For me, it's about having a solid, high-quality program overall, on any day," he explains.
Kruglak has the run of the mill when it comes to figuring out where to put all this beer. The main floor dining room has a 52-foot bar overlooking 20 taps. Five are shared with the downstairs "beer den" where Kruglak will feature cask ale, imports and rarer finds at a bar made from a fallen white oak tree. Despite his "no bottles" comment, Jack Rose will eventually carry 22-ounce bottles in the downstairs lair as well.
Upstairs is a different story. In addition to 10 shared draft lines from downstairs, the rooftop bar will feature more than 20 cans: half will be macros like PBR, Miller High Life, and Natty Boh (a staple for Kruglak, who grew up in Baltimore), and the other half will consist of craft brands like Oskar Blues, Butter Nuts, Avery, as well as local libations like DC Brau. The rooftop's tiki bar theme will be more evident in the cocktail menu, which will be 50 strong across the five bars, but comes complete with an all-hours smoke pit perfect for late night sandwiches.
The back bar consists of a side deck off the main rooftop bar that will offer cans only. Well, for now, anyway. Also upstairs is an exclusive tasting room, equipped with five taps and a fireplace, that will be used for special events like beer dinners featuring the cooking of chef Michael Hartzer. Kruglak assures me this space and the downstairs den will be the site of many tap takeovers and meet-the-brewer nights.
With a theme of wood-aged spirits across owner Bill Thomas' empire, it makes sense that Jack Rose will focus on barrel-aged beers. Kruglak even has plans to commission breweries to age beer in barrels from some of Bourbon's private whiskey lines, such as Willett, and is already talking with 3 Stars Brewing Company about a possible project.
Your first chance to see the inside of this Scotch shrine-turned-craft beer beacon will likely be an event with Alaskan Brewing Company for Savor on Friday, June 3. During two seatings, brewery founder Geoff Larson will guide guests through a paired tasting of Alaskan-style smoked meat straight off the smoke pit (think salmon and crab) and several Alaskan brews including his Smoked Porter, Amber, IPA, Summer, and at least one surprise keg.
Updates coming soon on this and other Savor Week events.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated that the venue would be stocking about 2,700 bottles of Scotch. Kruglak tells us the count is actually closer to 1,000. The article has been updated to reflect the lower total. Y&H regrets the error.
Photos by Tammy Tuck