All Bill Stewart needed was a vacant lot. For a long time, that was the joke between Bill and his brother Andrew, founders of Arlington's gone-but-not-forgotten Bardo Rodeo, one of the Washington area's first-ever breweries and a cult-favorite watering hole in the 1990s. When the brewery closed, Bill put all his brewing equipment in a shipping container in a storage facility, and headed off for years-long travel in Australia and India. But he didn't forget about his past life as a brewer: "We basically had all the brewing equipment laying around in storage," Bill said. "We thought 'Hey, how about doing something with it?'"
So the brothers purchased a sprawling lot on Bladensburg Road in Northeast, unpacked the shipping container, and voila, Bardo Brewpub was born.
The revitalized brewery is still a work in progress, however: the Stewarts are waiting on permits to brew their own beer. So for now they're serving up 20 beers on draft, from Natty Boh to Old Rasputin Imperial stout. They even made the taps themselves, out of 200-gallon Grundy fermentation tank.
Yep, the outdoor beer garden has a very Mad Max/Waterworld/post-apocalyptic vibe, and we are digging it. The bar is made of particleboard; there's chain-link fencing; and the seating is rough-hewn picnic tables. A shipping container holds up a screen for outdoor movies nearly every night of the week (we got really invested in watching Wedding Crashers, which has stood the test of time). It's dog and bike friendly, for sure. A gang of at least 10 cyclists rode right up to the bar while we were engrossed in the film. And when you visit, definitely say hello to Bardo's bar dog, conveniently named, um, Bar Dog. "He's the boss around here," Bill said.
Bill's got big plans for the future of Bardo, too. The 1890s-era vacant building on the lot will be refurbished with exposed red brick, polished wood, a kitchen and two walls of self-serve beer taps. The facility's current port-a-potties will soon be replaced with working toilets—maybe even a squat toilet in the ladies room, although the Internet went crazy when the Stewarts floated that idea. "Only one of four would be a squat toilet," Bill said.
But mostly importantly, Bill and Andrew are excited to start brewing beer again. "We're going to make really weird beer," Bill said. That's what they always did, something which made the original Bardo a hangout back in the 1990s for D.C.'s current class of brewers and beer sommeliers, including some of the people behind D.C Brau, Port City, Churchkey, and Rustico. "Now everyone makes weird beer and it’s okay," Stewart said.
Besides the promise of interesting beer, did we mention Bardo has grills, firepits and cornhole? A whole lot of cornhole? "We have eight total, and some days all eight are rocking at once," Bill said. They might not have working plumbing yet, but sunshine, good beer, cornhole, outdoor movie screenings and a DIY spirit makes Bardo an Atlas District destination to keep on your radar.