Sweetwater Tavern & Brewery
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Ratings: 17 | Reviews: 14 | Display Reviews Only:
2.78/5 rDev -27.8%
Travelling to Washington DC this weekend, I got the opportunity for a quick stop-in at a brewpub on the very fringes of dense civilization before it gives way to the Virginia hills. Sweetwater Tavern is a small chain of brewpubs operated within the DC area by a larger company that owns several franchises in the area, called Great American Restaurants. And it’s pretty obvious that it’s a chain.
The decorations in this brewpub aren’t very warming, welcoming, or even rational. They’ve got some sort of Mexican/Western vibe mixed with trendy, upscale Americana going on. There’s random Mexican carpets hanging from the rafters, cowboys and buffalos etched into the glass paneling between booths, and cavernous walls adorned with chic light fixtures. It’s all a bit baffling. And while some might find the obvious corporate oversight appealing, I find it cold and distancing.
We didn’t have any entrees while sampling our brews, but we did try a few appetizers, all of which I found extremely tasty. We got tex mex eggrolls, blue grab fritters and a side order of sweet potato fries. While the fries were a bit salty for my taste, everything else was very well executed. Sure, the dip for the egg rolls might have just been sour cream with a bit of guacamole mixed in, and the fritter sauce might just have been some lobster bisque, but it was still delicious. The only issue was the price. It might be an artifact from being kind of close to DC, but most every dish was $12 – $20 and the appetizers were $10. Plus, pints of beer were $5.50 while a growler fill was only $10.
Talk about an in-house mark-up.
Speaking of the beers, they weren’t all that impressive. They had a light lager that was mildly better than a Big Three beer and a Barking Frog Ale that somehow managed to taste even worse than a light lager. The weizenbock was probably fine, but I don’t really care for the style. The imperial stout was tasty – as all imperial stouts tend to be – but not impressive for the style. The best thing I found was their Pale Ale, which apparently won a gold at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. I’m not sure which hops they used, but they’re not very common. There were a lot of subtle flavors in there that I’m not used to in a Pale, which is what made it interesting to me and worthy of a growler fill.
Which brings me to my few complaints. Beer travelers beware – they will not fill your typical screw-top growler. They have some sort of fancy reverse-pressure-flow system that only fills their specific grolsch-top growlers and they refuse to stick a hose from their taps for any other kind. It seems that you buy a growler, drink the contents, bring it back, and swap it for a new, full one while they take care of washing the old ones.
t’s a nice system for people living in the area, but it completely screws anyone from out of town not aware of it.
I ordered a growler and left to retrieve one from my car, only to come back to find a brand new $18 grolsch-top growler sitting on my table that I did not want to purchase. I’ve got plenty of growlers, I don’t need more. A passing waitress tried to explain to me that they only fill their own growlers because they can’t be sure of the sanitation of others’ and it’s a liability issue. I said that was bullshit, as nothing harmful grows in beer and countless other breweries don’t have to take insurance out for their growler fills. Being a bit flabbergasted, I was a bit shorter than I needed to be and came off as angry. I would have been happy to just have not taken a growler home, but a manager came by and explained their system and why it only fills their growlers. It’s some fancy line almost like a bottling system that fills growlers without allowing any oxygen inside at all, keeping it fresh for a long time. She then gave me the growler for free and charged me only for the fill.
This is great customer service, and I applaud the place for that. I still don’t understand the fancy system, though. I can kind of see wanting their beer to be fresh for every customer, so anyone who ever tries their wares from a growler will get the best experience possible, even if it is forgotten about for a month or two. But most people carrying around growlers are well-aware of how quickly the beer will go flat and the need for fast consumption. I don’t see why they don’t offer both options. I mean, how hard is it to have a hose for the taps? Or they should at least having a warning on the menu somewhere to avoid these types of situations.
All in all, it’s not a bad place. It’s just corporate, overpriced, and a little silly.
01-19-2014 20:46:29 | More by bigkingken
District of Columbia
4.19/5 rDev +8.8%
I've been here many times for food, growler fills, etc.
Atmosphere: I think it's so weird that a restaurant of this quality is situated at this particular location in Centreville, but I guess because of the fact that there is a movie theater across the street, it shouldn't surprise me.
Quality and Service: Service in a 5 and will always be a 5 in the "Great American Restaurants" arena. The beer was good, but not great.
Food: Always great: You've gotta try the flourless chocolate waffle.
Value: Moderate - expensive. The food is awesome and the beer is about as average as it gets. Still, I highly recommend this place to a foodie that is looking for a decent brew.
04-11-2013 04:44:42 | More by Chaney
3.68/5 rDev -4.4%
A big chain brewpub that always seems to be busy. Tough not to encounter a line for dinner on any night of the week.
Atmosphere: The dining room is large, wide open and not too cozy. Western regalia abounds, so chaps and lassos it is. A bar sits centrally along with a few TVs.
Quality: Service slows as the place fills up. Cleanliness, though, seems to be a focus. Food and drink are up to par.
Service: Fast when things are a little slower but slower when crowded. I've never had an issue with incompetent staff, I'm happy to report.
Selection: A modest regular line-up that won't win any awards (but it will pay the bills) is supplement by a few progressive seasonal and rotating taps. 5 regulars (pale, lager, light, etc.) were supplemented by a small seasonal line-up.
Food: A decent steakhouse. I've had a good steak here and there seems to be enough to keep most appetites (meat-liking, at least) happy.
09-21-2009 01:26:45 | More by akorsak
3.73/5 rDev -3.1%
We stopped in here this past weekend for a taste and growler of this year's batch of the High Desert Imperial Stout. We normally visit the Falls Church location but they only had the Bourbon-Aged variety and won't do growlers of it. The first thing we notice as we pull up is that this location looks considerably smaller and more compact than the Falls Church one and secondly, there is a large statue of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco right out front. This is really a nice touch and helps set up for the atmosphere inside. I'm not sure about the Sterling one but I wish the Falls Church location had one as well. The inside has a similar country/western theme and overall setup to the others but the smaller and more compact space they have to work with gives it a more cozy feel. There also seems to be some intimate theming (like the antler encrusted clock in the middle of the brewery board) that makes it feel a little less like a corporate brewpub than the others do.
The usual five beers were on tap. I'm not sure I even noticed what the other two were, besides the standard Light Lager and Pale Ale, as I went right for the High Desert Russian Imperial Stout. Naturally, they served it in a pint glass. Would it kill them to invest in some goblets or other appropriate glassware? It was fantastic as always and is probably the best thing that the chain brews. Another difference that sets this place apart is the large gift shop that they have up front. They sell logo gear from not only the Sweet Water Tavern chain but also other sister businesses of the Great American Restaurants Company. They also have a large cooler here from where they sell pre-filled growlers of their beers. I'm hoping that they bottom fill these, as they just fill straight from the tap at the other locations. It all looks pretty convenient, as you just turn in your empty growler and pick up a new one when you come back. I don't think that the growler fill was that expensive either. I'm thinking in the $10 or so range. That's pretty good for what you get. We definitely had a good visit here, as it was really interesting to see how this one differed from the Falls Church location and we were pleased to see that they each actually offered something a little different and new. We'd definitely be up for visiting this location again.
02-27-2008 18:45:16 | More by Kegatron
4.28/5 rDev +11.2%
I've been to the one in Sterling before, but I decided to go to this one because it's a little closer to where I live. The surroundings of the one in Sterling is much prettier (lakes rather than stores) but the inside is pretty much the same. It's a western style theme with a lot of wood architecture. There is a lot of space for eating, as well as a lengthy bar in the middle of the restaurant. There are two large LCD HDTVs that play sports, which are situated over the back of the bar. The brewing equipment is visible in the front left corner of the building, with booths placed right next to them.
They have a lengthy beer selection list on their menus, but there are only five available at a time. The Pale Ale is the regular, along with the light, but the rest are seasonals (and a "Snakebite Black & Tan" which is a mix of a light and dark seasonal). All the beer is delicious, and you can't go wrong with a beer if it's your favorite style. The prices are fair as well, usually $5 for a pint, which is pretty much the standard.
The food is on the better end, with a wide variety of everything from hamburgers to seafood and pasta. Their burgers aren't really pub burgers, it's a little above that. I had the chicken tenders, which rather than having the regular breading, it had a very smooth and light textured batter.
This is probably one of the better brewpubs in the southwest Northern VA area. It's a place you can take your family for a nice meal or to just go for a few beers after work.
09-02-2007 18:50:59 | More by BeerSox
4.05/5 rDev +5.2%
Interesting western cowboy and native American theme. This place was cavernous, lots of space for lots of people. I rolled in just before the kitchen closed, so not crowded at all. Bellied up to the bar for a quick bite and a few beers.
Service at the bar was fantastic. Very attentive, polite, and quick. Interesting approach of asking your name when you sit and addressing you with your name throughout the visit.
My hickory BBQ burger was cooked a perfect medium rare and was very tasty. Came with some uninspiring shoestring fries, but no biggie. The house salad was outstanding.
There were only 5 beers available - the pale ale, the Naked River Low Carb light, Wit's End Belgian white, a cream ale, and a chipotle porter. The porter sounded too interesting to pass up and did not disappoint. Tried the award-winning pale ale next, and was not so impressed. Billed as "assertively hopped" although I tasted no hops at all and everything else about it was bland and boring.
All in all a good experience, and a worthwhile visit. Just wished there were more beers to choose from, and consistent quality of selections.
08-22-2007 13:17:24 | More by far333
4.7/5 rDev +22.1%
I visit the Centreville location regularly... it is my mecca. There are only 5 beers on tap at any time, they always have the Pale Ale (very tasty) and the Naked River Light (for people who don't like beer, don't bother). The other three are their current brews, depending on the season. These can be hit or miss, but they are usually good depending on your taste and you can always try one before you order one. They list them above the front entrance, with the brew date, the % alcohol content, and a description.
What I love about this place is the service is always impeccable, from the hostesses to the busboys and everyone in between. The bartenders are honest about what's good and what's not. Neil, Leah, Ward and Brian are just the best. They have a new outdoor bar that's pretty big, and you can sit out there practically year-round. Unfortunately it's in a strip mall (what isn't in Northern Va), but they manage a great view from the bar.
The menu may look scary at first, but anything you order will be awesome and if you don't agree they will bring you something that you do like. I'm addicted to the salmon, I don't eat pork anymore but the pork chops are to die for, and so is the Drunken Rib-Eye, but if you're going to order it cooked more than medium don't bother wasting a good piece of meat.
Don't forget they have growlers to take home, they're an unbelievable deal to have them refilled (I think $8).
06-08-2007 00:19:54 | More by blackwhe03
Sweetwater Tavern & Brewery in Centreville, VA
88 out of 100 based on 17 ratings.