What’s your pre-concert routine? Do you like to meet up with friends beforehand? Maybe grab a drink near the venue?
If so, Northern Virginia has you covered. The region is home to some of the state’s — and the nation’s — most storied stages, from large amphitheaters to intimate listening rooms, and it’s also where some of the most talented and creative brewers practice their craft.
Here are a few pairings — venues you’ll love and nearby breweries — so you and your friends can make a day of your next concert experience and make it to the show in time to see the opening set from that emerging artist who is going to be huge in a few years!
Jammin’ Java marked its 15th year in business back in 2016, and that stretch of time has provided quite a bit to celebrate. Being named a Top 40 venue in the country by Paste Magazine. The establishment of Tot Rock, their robust children’s concert series. The unveiling of Music Makes Life Better, a service partnership with the surrounding community. Performances by the likes of Bon Iver, the Lumineers, the Zac Brown Band, Brandi Carlile, and the Crash Test Dummies. And the venue shows no signs of slowing up, with a busy calendar, the Lobby Bar for pre-show gathering, and the perfect atmosphere for focused, intimate listening.
Pair with: Caboose Brewing—Vienna
Caboose Brewing is serious about both its beer and its dining, making it an ideal stop on the way to a show, especially if you call ahead to make an early reservation. Evening meal service starts at 5 p.m., with an impressive array of farm-to-table offerings, including meat and cheese “Butcher Boards,” small plates, bar snacks, and desserts. You can create your own flight from beers crafted within the 15 barrel brewhouse, fill a growler for after the show, even choose from a number of cocktails, ciders and wines.
IOTA Club & Cafe—Arlington
IOTA is a Clarendon neighborhood institution with a 20-year history of showcasing local and national acts alike. The Arlington venue boasts a busy schedule of shows — they count Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and Norah Jones among their past performers — and it shines as a place for up-and-coming talent to take the stage, with regular Wednesday open mic nights. IOTA also hosts a long-running poetry series, cementing its status as an area cultural gathering place. Add in gourmet sandwiches, bistro-style entrees, carefully curated coffee and beer offerings, wifi, and a “Back Alley” bar and dining area, and you have an all-purpose oasis for music fans.
Pair with: New District Brewing Company—Arlington
Drive just 10 or so minutes south and you’ll find the facilities of New District Brewing Company. The New District logo pays homage to the Key Bridge over the Potomac River, reflecting the operation’s Northern Virginia roots; not long ago, founder Mike Katrivanos was playing sold-out shows in the area with his band Sematic. Katrivanos later followed his love for home brewing and opened Arlington’s first distribution brewery since 1916. Weekend tasting room hours start at noon, so you can treat yourself to an afternoon Ginger Saison or 1821 Belgian-style saison. Or stop by on a Thursday to test your knowledge at Trivia Night and grab a discounted growler fill of one of the brewery’s seasonal offerings.
State Theatre—Falls Church
What do Buddy Guy, Buckethead and Broken Social Scene have in common? They’ve all graced the stage of the State Theatre, located in Falls Church, Virginia. The State Theatre numbers among the many venues across the country that was built as a movie theater and then underwent periods of closure and renovation before being reborn as a spot for music. Now, the theater plays host to everything from blues and rock to retro dance parties, all within walking distance of the East Falls Church metro stop. It’s also a hub for tribute shows, giving fans the ability to experience the sights and sounds of some of music’s most legendary acts without worrying about that pesky little detail of the band still being together.
Pair with: Mad Fox Brewing Company—Falls Church
Open seven days a week just a handful of blocks from the State Theater is the original Falls Church home of Mad Fox Brewing, which opened for business back in 2010. Max Fox gives Northern Virginia residents the opportunity to enjoy the flavors of a European-style gastro brewpub, with creative dishes often made from locally sourced ingredients and a variety of award winning beers. High score from Beer Advocate? Check! Gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival? Check! 63-foot-long bar? Check! (While you’re there, don’t forget to try their Kellerbier Kölsch — that’s their gold medal winner.)
As a result of 50 years of hosting artists we now know as legends — including a 20-year run of regular Thursday performances from bluegrass masters The Seldom Scene — the Birchmere has taken on its own legendary status. The storied venue is located on Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, and while it became known for its evenings of bluegrass, fans flock there for sold out listening room-style shows featuring names from all over the musical spectrum, from the New Orleans blues of Dr. John to jazz-fusion acts like Hiroshima and country stars like Kris Kristofferson. Shows typically start at 7:30, before which “American cuisine with a Southern accent and just a hint of your grandmother’s Sunday cooking” is served.
Pair with: Port City Brewing Company—Alexandria
Port City Brewing Company is another legend in the making. It was named the Small Brewing Company of the Year at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, a reflection of their growing popularity in the region. Flagship brews include the Optimal Wit Belgian style white ale, their Monumental IPA and the Port City Porter, and the brewery offers tours Thursday through Sunday — perfect timing if you’re looking to pair a weekend show at the Birchmere with an afternoon activity in the area. They’re located just a couple of miles west of Old Town Alexandria and a quick 15-minute drive from the venue.
At the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the sky’s the limit — both when it comes to seeing music under the stars and seeing the brightest stars in the musical universe. The land this stunning outdoor venue sits on was donated in 1966 by philanthropist Catherine Filene Shouse, and since the first performance in 1971, the Filene Center — the gorgeous wooden structure that acts as the park’s main stage — has seen frequent visits from luminaries like Lyle Lovett, Ringo Starr, Emmylou Harris, and Elvis Costello, and it acts as the summer home for the National Symphony Orchestra. If you make it there early, you can stop by the Barns lounge for specialty drinks and snacks, or the onsite OVATIONS Restaurant. Or you can plan your own picnic, since outside food and drinks (alcohol included) are permitted!
Pair with: Lake Anne Brew House—Reston
A quick drive up the Leesburg Pike from Wolf Trap will take you into Reston, where you’ll find Lake Anne and the cozy Lake Anne Brew House. Named for the body of water it sits on, the small-scale brewery specializes in small-batch brews, with a Mid-Century Modern-themed taproom (open Thursday-Sunday) where you can taste the goods and fill a growler with mainstays like the Life-Work-Play IPA and their Reston Red. Or you can mix things up with a Quayside Shandy featuring MTO Kombucha and one of the brewery’s flagship beers. Runners take note — the brewery hosts a monthly Beer Run Club: Take a run around the lake and reward yourself with a pint after!
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