Crafthouse founder Evan Matz has learned a lot about the local hospitality scene since he began spreading World of Beer outposts across Northern Virginia in 2012. The biggest takeaway: he’s done with having outsiders dictate what gets served to local residents.
“In today’s world everyone carries beer. For me it’s about the local community and the environment,” is why Matz said he’s flipped his three restaurants — located in Ballston, Fairfax, and Reston — from corporate franchises to home-grown enterprises.
World of Beer continues to operate establishments in neighboring Ashburn, Va., and opened a spot in Bethesda, Md., just a few months back.
Matz said he’d been going back and forth with World of Beer about unspecified “operational issues” for over a year. He finally asked to separate from the Florida-based group in February.
Once free, Matz trimmed the beer list by more than half (down to 250), electing to pay closer attention to beverages brewed, fermented and distilled in Virginia and D.C. That retooling has led to the appearance of two selections from Williamsburg Winery (Governor’s White riesling, Two Shilling Red blend) on the menu. Local spirits, including Catoctin Creek Distilling Company’s Watershed Gin, Silver Fox white rum from The Great Dismal Distillery, and Virginia Highland Malt Whisky from Virginia Distillery Co., fuel cocktails ranging from gin rickeys to a signature caipirinha.
For now Matz expects all three of the existing Crafthouse locations to share the same menu — noting that each restaurant has the latitude to experiment with daily specials. Featured items include Bavarian pretzels with beer cheese ($12.25), tuna poke ($13), a J-BLT ($8) featuring jalapeno bacon with lettuce and tomato, as well as an eponymous burger ($14) weaving together beef, bacon, crunchy peanut butter and a fried egg.
Matz has no immediate plans to grow the Crafthouse empire, but suggested it could happen down the line. “I don’t want to promise anything, but it’s open,” he said.