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Heavy Seas Can Barely Keep Up with Beer Demand

Heavy Seas Alehouse
Heavy Seas Alehouse
Photo: R. Lopez

It's a good problem to have — weekend happy hour crowds at the new Heavy Seas Alehouse in Rosslyn have been tearing through the brewpub's beer supply. It's clear there was a demand for a beer bar in that area of Arlington, given the initial traffic there. Eater caught up with general manager Keith Kirkland to find out how the restaurant has been weathering the overwhelming response to the second location of the Baltimore-based brewery's restaurant and bar.

So I know it's been just a little slammed the past two weekends. Tell me a little about what the crowds have been like.
We've been extremely busy. Thursday and Friday nights are definitely more of a happy hour focused crowd. And then Saturday and Sunday have been more typical restaurant and dining customers, more food focused. But it's been great for everybody. You can definitely tell that we're filling a niche that wasn't here before. You can see people there who don't want to get on the metro right away — they come in with their bookbags and briefcases and wait for the metro crowds to die down and then head back out to the four corners of the world.

About how many people are coming in on a busy night?
We're probably doing 600 covers, and that doesn't include when large happy hour groups come in and we may ring up one person for a group of 5-6 people on a bar tab. So we're definitely at capacity from about 4:30 to 7:30 or 8 p.m.. There's also been a great late night crowd. We've been fortunate. Even with all the beer events going on Saturday night, it was busy. We thought it'd be a little slower, more of a food crowd, but when the Brewers Ball ended and the beer tasting at the Convention Center ended we got a little bit of a crowd after that. I also think we're feeling a boost from people going to the Caps games and DC United.

Have weekdays been more calm?
Monday through Thursday, we definitely see the Rosslyn lunch crowd. It's more business focused from about 11:30 to 2. Lunch has gotten better and better, we feel fortunate in that aspect. Monday-Wednesday it's more local. There are people for happy hour but it's not like it is on Thursday and Friday.

What do you think people are responding to? Rosslyn could definitely use more bars, but do you think people are also aware of the Heavy Seas brand, or just learning about it now?
I would say I think it's a little of both. We have various craft beers that are all local or regional, but we're going through more Heavy Seas product than anything else, so I think they're familiar with the brand. People are seeing that we have the Loose Cannon on cask and are drinking that. But the fact that we're going through more of our beers than any of the other beers was a little surprising to me. We created the beer list to be balanced, to have a nice selection. But we're going through kegs and kegs. It's crazy how many kegs of Heavy Seas product we're going through. [Not a] bad problem to have.

So I don't know what the best way is to quantify it, but how much beer are you going through?
Without giving too much away, we're definitely going through more than 75 kegs a week.

Is any particular brew the big seller right now?
Loose Cannon is the main one. And then they're all fairly equal after that.

What are people ordering, food-wise?
During happy hour time, we get a lot of app orders, crab pretzels, mussels, a lot of burgers. And then Saturday and Sunday we'll see more entrees. I think our chef is kind of surprised by all the burgers we're selling. It makes sense since we have these wood-fired grills that we brought in But I think we all assumed we'd be more entree focused but we're selling just as many burgers.

I'm not sure if you were around, but do you know how the opening compared to the Baltimore opening?
I wasn't around; I joined the company back in December. I don't think they were sure what to expect with either location. The volume we're doing is definitely surprising for all of us. All the projections that we mapped out have been exceeded.

Were there any particular challenges or hijinks the first two weekendS?
We had our typical mistakes I think we've smoothed out some edges on some things, and are working on some other things. We've had meetings with the brewery saying, hey, we need more beer, how do we get more beer down here. Our chefs are working with vendors to make sure we have enough product. Everyone's been very accommodating. But something pops up every day.

What's next for the next couple months?
We just want to make sure we don't open up all gangbusters and then watch the service or quality drop off. I think we're trying to take care of guests' expectations to make sure everything goes out perfectly and that we continue to have high standards. No one wants this all to go away. We want to be able to tell that couple in Rosslyn who call about a table Friday night that they might want to come in after 7 to avoid the big bar crowd. We want to accommodate everyone and cater to their needs.

Have you been able to get a decent's night sleep with all this craziness?
We take a lot of naps. Sunday was a little rough for all of us with Daylight Savings Time. If we ever open another restaurant in the spring, I'll try to remember that. Going into your second weekend and losing an hour's sleep isn't the best timing.
· Heavy Seas Alehouse [Official Site]
· All Previous Heavy Seas Coverage [-EDC-]

Heavy Seas Alehouse

1501 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, Va.

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