Former Bi-Rite building at 11th and Park Road, NW in 2008
Well this crept up fast – Meridian Pint is turning 5 years old on July 1st. Remember the table taps excitement? It’s hard to explain how excited folks, myself included, were for those things. Remember the old broken down Bi-Rite grocery store? Remember DC Brau’s launch party?
I kinda take them for granted now but Meridian Pint was one of the first pioneers that helped nurture the craft beer explosion in DC. In my opinion without Meridian Pint, Birch and Barley/ChurchKey among a few others – it’s doubtful we’d have seen such a rapid growth and appreciation in DC for craft beer and especially in local craft beer like DC Brau, Three Stars, Atlas etc. What’s on almost every bar’s tap handles today (from dive bar to hotel bar) was a rarity back then. The beers get a lot of, deserved, attention but I wanted to look at it from a different angle. So I sat down with Meridian Pint owner John Andrade to ask him what it was like opening up a craft beer bar in a very different Columbia Heights (PBR, Tecate, Miller High Life), hell, in a very different DC five years ago.
Meridian Pint owner John Andrade
Here’s a few notable remembrances – well ok here’s a few things I can remember and read from the notes I took. Before settling on Meridian Pint’s current property, Andrade had plans to open a coffeehouse in 2007 similar to Tryst in Columbia Heights closer to 14th Street. (Andrade comes from the former Asylum, now Smoke and Barrel, in Adams Morgan and knew how successful Tryst was.) Fortunately, for beer drinkers, Andrade lost interest when DCUSA was built and he didn’t like the vibe. About six or eight months later he was walking up 11th Street and saw a for lease sign on the old Bi Rite building and said to himself “we can do something here.” But the original plans were not for craft beer either. He thought of setting something up like the old Grog and Tankard – with a stage and live music and Coors light. But this all changed in 2009 when he took a bicycle trip/brewery tour in Belgium. At first he thought he’d focus on Belgian beers but had a sorta eureka moment “why not just focus on really good American beers?”. Why not indeed? Though, it is worth noting, Andrade credits The Reef (currently home to Roofers Union) in Adams Morgan with exposing him and much of DC to the emerging craft beer scene.
Alright more random memories – at first Meridian Pint was gonna be called Park Place (being on Park Road and all) but it reminded him too much of an apartment building’s name. Ed. Note: The apartment building at Georgia and New Hampshire today is called Park Place. So anyway he was surfing the web (ed. note: does anyone say surfing the web anymore…?) in hopes of learning more about Columbia Height’s history when he stumbled on some info about the Prime Meridian and Meridian Hill Park. At first it was going to be called just Meridian but a Meridian opened up elsewhere so then it was gonna be called Meridian Point. Then Andrade was at a bbq and wrote down Meridian Point to show to a friend who misread it and said “Meridian Pint that’s a cool name for a beer bar”. And there it is.
And here’s just a random fact. The DC Brau launch party had a sustained line to get in 5 hours deep all night long. That has never been replicated but that was the moment when Andrade realized – opening a bar focusing on American (and when possible DC) craft beer wasn’t such a bad idea.
Since I’m always curious about what’s next – I’ll leave you with two possibilities (nothing in stone but possibilities) – one day we might see a Capitol Pint or maybe even a Union Pint. When thinking about future locations Andrade won’t rule anyplace out because: “Great beer, great food in a casual environment with great people. Who wouldn’t want that in their neighborhood?”
11th and Park Road, NW Today