Bardo Brewery

Business Closed
Bardo Logo
Address

25 Potomac Avenue SE,
Washington, DC 20003

Phone

closed for business sign

Website
First Visited

August 31, 2018

The original Arlington brewpub, Bardo Rodeo was located in the former 19,000 sq. ft. Olmstead Oldsmobile dealership at 2000 Wilson Boulevard near Court House in the Clarendon neighborhood. Owner Bill Stewart, graduated with an architectural design undergraduate degree from MIT, previously designed restaurants for Marriot Corporation in Bethesda, Maryland, fire stations and stuff on an Indian reservation in New Mexico. A 1985 trip to Tibet infused Stewart with an appreciation of that country’s culture, hence the Bardo name. Bardo is from the classical Tibetan term for an intermediate, transitional, or liminal state between death and rebirth. Rein­carnation.

Following a stay in Australia, Stewart and his wife, Alice Despard, settled in Washington, DC. In January 1989 and opened first club, the BBQ Iguana, in D.C.  they then moved to Arlington and opened Roratonga Rodeo at 2711 Wilson Blvd. April 1991 Stewart and Despard separated with Alice kept Roratonga while Stewart opened Amdo at 2830 Wilson Boulevard. (Amdo is the home of many important Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leaders and of lamas, monks, nuns, and scholars,) Intending to turn Amdo into a brewpub, he abandoned the idea and decided to open Bardo Rodeo.

It was almost impossible to have missed noticing Bardo, with the rear half of a 1966 Ply­mouth Fury protruding through the former showroom’s windows, giving the appearance of having crashed. Actually the rear chassis contained a 1,000-selec­tion jukebox. The brewpub was decorated with twisted neons, psychedelic colors, and the ceilings, walls, floors, and doors are covered with the signed works of local artists, and not forgetting to mention, the indoor sandbox, and outside a 20 ft. tall, 4 ft. diameter totem pole whose middle character has his tongue tipped in a mug and is crowned by barley, hops, and an eagle.

At its peak, Bardo Rodeo was one of the largest brewpubs in the country, and one of Arlington’s most popular bars. (Eventually, Bardo evolved into the sushi-centric Ningaloo and Dr. Dremo’s Tap Room before closing in 2008 to make way for a condo building.)

At its peak, Bardo Rodeo was one of the largest brewpubs in the country, and one of Arlington’s most popular bars. (Eventually, Bardo evolved into the sushi-centric Ningaloo and Dr. Dremo’s Tap Room before closing in 2008 to make way for a condo building.)

After closing Dr. Dremo’s Taproom in Arlington, Stewart put his brewing equipment in storage and moved to Australia and, later, India. He returned to Washington in 2011 after he learned that the brewing market had changed considerably. He began searching for a place to restart Bardo.

In 2013, Stewart reopened Bardo at 1200 Bladensburg Road NE in the Trinidad neighborhood. He initially opened it as just a pub but began making his own beer again in early 2014. Bardo was once again a two-thousand-barrel-year operation where brewing takes place outside. The newer epic outdoor Bardo was in 22,000 square feet of space, complete with 500 seats and two walls of taps. Unlike the old space in Arlington, Stewart owned the land under the brewpub. Trinidad has, at times, had an unsettling history, but like the broader city, the amount of violence has ebbed significantly since the 1990s. Stewart had few problems in the neighborhood since employing a guard dog named Bardawg.

The quirky outdoor lot, which is decorated with a giant skull made of beer caps, has enough picnic tables to seat 500. Instead of employing a head brewer, Bardo crowd-sources recipes from some of the country’s best brewers, resulting in a variety of tastes and styles.

Bardo relocated from its Trinidad brewpub to the Navy Yard area in 2017 into its new home, a 2-acre riverfront beer garden, sprawled by the river in the shadow of MLB’s Washington Nationals, Nationals Park. Bardo feels post-apocalyptic. Silver fermentation tanks rise from the dirt, dogs lope around rusted shipping containers, and a wire fence encircles it all. As well as landscaping and the installed bathrooms in shipping containers, theres a 15,000-square-foot fenced-in dog park and bicycle parking. Due to neighborhood concerns the maximum total occupancy for the beer garden was set at 750 people.

February 20, 2022, Stewart posted “The 4th incarnation of Bardo has come to an end. We are gonna take five+ years off to play with our pre-school kids. After that, who knows!?”

Beers Tried

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