Ever since learning that World of Beer was planning an Arlington, VA location just blocks from my front door, I have been excitedly following the progress of the beer mecca. On Monday August 6th they hosted a “VIP” event for their Facebook fans and Twitter followers, one day prior to their official opening on August 7th. So I made plans to visit the new beer establishment and see what their 50 draft lines and 500 bottles had to offer.
According to the WoB Arlington Facebook page the doors opened at 4:00 PM for the event, but they had a soft opening earlier in the day for lunch. I made my way through the doors just after 5:30 PM and the place was already packed; obviously it wasn’t limited to Facebook and Twitter followers, but it was still easy enough to fight the crowds and grab a beer at the bar. Large crowds are to be expected when a bar first opens, and the bartenders and servers were handling everything very well – their pre-opening training really showed.
The location itself is near a busy intersection and offers a good amount of outdoor seating. There is a large L-shaped bar area with a lot of high top tables surrounding it, along with a few low-top selections. The bottle coolers are behind one end of the bar split into two sections. There is also a stage for live bands and plenty of TVs airing local and national sporting events. All of the seating appeared to be first come first serve, but there was plenty of standing room as well. You could certainly feel the opening day crowds, but it wasn’t overwhelming.
Unlike most World of Beer locations, the Arlington location serves food (because of VA law) but patrons can also order food from a selection of nearby establishments, including burgers and pizza. I wasn’t able to order food myself, but from what I could see it was hot and fresh. The food menu is mostly smaller items (sausages, pretzels, chips and dip) and no real entrees, though those can be delivered. You can bring your own food in as well.
The draft beer list was extensive, including many local and domestic beers as well as several international selections. There were many tried and true options such as Anchor Steam, Bell’s Two Hearted, Lagunitas IPA, and Victory Golden Monkey. I decided to sample the Goose Island Pere Jacques, Oskar Blues G’Knight (one of my favorites), Boulevard Tank 7, and the Lost Rhino Chasers Pacific Pils. The draft list was solid, but did not contain a lot of “rare” or “hard to find” beers. I won’t fault WoB for this yet, as they may be playing it safe during their first few weeks of being open. I didn’t sample any of the bottled beers, but I did have a look at the list and I was impressed by the selection. Even with many great beers on draft I saw many bottles going out to the tables, which is a good sign that the bottles aren’t being ignored by both patrons and servers.
The bartenders and servers seemed knowledgeable and were very attentive. They handled the crowds well, and from the conversations that I heard they really knew their stuff. World of Beer put all the servers and bartenders through a training course prior to opening and it appeared to have paid off. I saw a few beers go out in the wrong style of glass, and with a bit too much head but that is to be expected during the first week of operation.
World of Beer does have some stiff competition in the area. Just a few blocks away is the well established Rustico with 40 taps and 400+ bottles, as well as a full menu of food options. There are other options just a few miles away in the nearby Clarendon neighborhood such as Lyon Hall, Liberty Tavern, Galaxy Hut, and several more options slightly further away in Falls Church, not to mention DC. All of these options are different and competition is a good thing. I think that they will all push each other to be better, offer different beers, atmospheres, and even collaborate from time to time.
Even with the competition I think that WoB can carve out a good niche in the local beer market. It really feels like a non-pretentious place to just go and have some good beers with friends while listening to a live band and watching some sports. The food delivery option is interesting, and they have more than enough taps and bottles to cater to all palates. Once the opening crowds die down I won’t think twice about stopping in for a few beers with friends. I welcome World of Beer to my neighborhood with open arms because really who can complain about adding 50 more taps within walking distance? Come on now.
Mike Hoff is a Senior Writer for Passion Beer.
He is always seeking out the new, weird and wonderful in the world of beer. When he is not writing for the site, you can normally find him with a camera around his neck and a beer in hand.