Many of D.C.'s Belgian beer bars are known for their wide selection of brews. But none have quite the same kind of selection as The Sovereign, opening today in Georgetown from Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
Beer Director Greg Engert is eschewing the big name brands—the ones whose names you find emblazoned on glasses and umbrellas—for a dozen smaller Belgian breweries that are producing more traditional beers with dry, funky, sour, and complex flavors. Rather than highlighting a few beers from a lot of breweries, Engert is looking to highlight a lot of beers from relatively few breweries. (Read more about that in Y&H's previous column about The Sovereign.)
The Sovereign will pour 50 drafts beginning tonight at 5:30 p.m. Its selections of more than 250 bottles, most of which are stored in a humidity and temperature controlled cellar, won't be available until tomorrow. In addition to Belgian beers, expect to also find Belgian-style ales from American, Italian, and Canadian brewers.
The bistro menu from chef Peter Smith, formerly of PS7’s, includes Dutch-style mussels with a range of flavors from saffron to pesto. The team visited Belgium in preparation for the restaurant's opening and found the bivalves there to be particularly plump, rich, and creamy. The secret, apparently, is that they're grown according to Dutch methods on the sea floor vs. on ropes or poles. Smith says he was able to find a Dutch-style mussel farmer in Maine to source his mussels from.
Another discovery from that Belgium trip was the bicky burger, a late-night favorite. The deep fried, nutmeg-spiced beef and pork patty is topped with fried onions, pickles, and bicky sauce, which is kind of like a Belgian thousand island sauce, and served between an English muffin. The bicky sauce reappears as a condiment for fries or loaded fries, along with seven other dippings sauces including bearnaise and smoked mayo.
Other highlights include "flame cakes"—the more pronounceable term for a German-style flatbread called flammkuchen. The traditional German tart is topped with crème fraîche, bacon, and caramelized onions, but there are also other variations on the menu.
Braises—many of which are cooked with beer—are another big focus. While the menu features the classic coq au vin, there's also a coq au gueuze cooked in the lambic Belgian beer.
The downstairs bistro will take reservations, but the bar areas downstairs and upstairs are available for walk-ins.
Check out the full food and draft beer menus below:
The Sovereign, 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW; (202) 774-5875; thesovereigndc.com
Photo by Joy Asico