High Side co-founder Jinson Chan has applied everything he’s learned from two decades spent as an electrical engineer and defense contractor into designing the most sophisticated beer bar in the area.
The newly minted entrepreneur was methodical from start to finish: carefully researching the up and coming local breweries he thought would most likely get customers in the seats of the Fairfax restaurant he’s officially opening on Friday, February 9; narrowing down his bottled beer selection to collector’s items that can stand being cellared for a few years; ordering custom glassware that helps draw out the aroma and flavor of featured pours; and deliberately choosing to let other local businesses tend to boozy drink seekers.
“We don’t do cocktails because we think people can walk a block to get that,” Chan says.
Instead, the focus here is almost exclusively on beer. Big fruity sours. Dense malty stouts. Whiskey barrel-aged ciders. Light refreshing pilsners. The list goes on and on. Well, up to a few dozen, anyway.
The opening draft list features various regional offerings including: Aslin Beer Company’s Berliner Weisse, Solace Brewing Company’s Sucker Punch IPA, Crooked Run Brewing Cruise Control pilsner, Port City Brewing’s Optimal Wit, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s Gingerbread Stout, and Potter’s Craft Cider’s Highland Cider.
“It’s one of those things that’s hard to find, particularly on draft,” High Side assistant general manager Rufio Nobleza says of the hard cider displaying a bit of smokiness on the nose thanks to time spent in used whiskey casks.
Coolers are filled with local favorites including 3 Stars Brewing Company’s Starsky & Brunch imperial stout and DC Brau Brewing Company’s On the Wings of Armageddon IPA.
Shelves are stocked with cult bottles worth holding onto for a while. The current catalog includes the Bouffon sour ale produced by California-based the Bruery under its Terreux label, and Richmond cider maker Blue Bee’s dry-hopped Hopsap Shandy.
Non-beer drinkers must make do with the handful of wines offered (by the glass pours include four whites, four reds, and a single sparker). Hard liquor fans can choose from about a dozen bourbons and imported whiskies (all from the Islay section of Scotland) — though Chan insists those will only be served on the rocks or neat.
The kitchen prepares what Chan calls Taiwanese street food — snacks he says “go good with beer.” Initial offerings include grilled sausage served with raw garlic, chicken and cabbage-filled potstickers, fish fritters, skewers of teriyaki beef, garlic noodles layered with grilled shrimp, and breaded pork chop flanked by furikake-topped rice and pickled vegetables.
His current favorite, however, is surprisingly simple: sweet potato French fries dusted with cured sour plum powder.
“It’s just great,” Chan says of the tangy-sweet creation.
Nobleza says the cooking crew is still fine-tuning several dishes (he mentioned the Taiwanese fried chicken, specifically), noting that the restaurant remains open to exploring other Asian cuisines — Chinese, Filipino, and Korean all came up — in the future.
High Side is projected to operate from 4 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday through Sunday, to start. Chan says happy hour will likely follow in the coming weeks.
Status: Grand opening is scheduled for 4 p.m. on February 9. 4009 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, Va.; website.