This issue of the Connection arrives in mailboxes the week of St. Patrick's Day, the holiday that commemorates the patron saint of Ireland. While St. Patrick is one of the most well-known Christian figures, the meaning of March 17 has settled, more or less, on one thing: beer.
That distillation draws from the holiday's history: the day fell during Lent, a time of abstention, but the rules were waived for a day of indulgence. Ironically, until 1995, Irish pubs were required to close in observance of St. Patrick's Day.
In America, however, St. Patrick's Day is known less for religious observation than green beer. Three pubs within short distance of each other in Ashburn offer fine drinking experiences on St. Patrick's Day, and, indeed, just about every day of the year.
AT KIRKPATRICK'S Irish Pub, Sports Bar & Family Grille, there's never a cover charge — not even on St. Patrick's Day. That meant diners had to get reservations weeks ahead of the holiday, but every other day of the year the pub offers plenty of chances for a pint or two.
In terms of Irish beer, Kirkpatrick's offers Guinness, Harp and Smithwicks — just don't pronounce the 'w'. Bartender Rodney Posey isn't too particular, however.
"I like all beers," he said. Miller Lite, he added, is always the best seller.
Kirkpatrick's, owned by local guy Kirkpatrick Harris, has become a popular spot in Ashburn Village. With its classic pub looks, all dark wood and long bar, Kirkpatrick's promotes an atmosphere that's both relaxing and busy, said manager Jamey McLearen.
"This is one of the most happening places in the county," he said.
The pub attracts a relatively young age range, causing McLearen to say he sometimes feels like "a glorified baby-sitter." It's like that times a hundred on St. Patrick's Day, when McLearen brings a change of clothes in order to stay fresh throughout the night.
"That's the longest, most grueling day of the year," he said.
There's one thing drinkers won't find on St. Patrick's Day at Kirkpatrick's: green beer.
"True Irish people will freak out," McLearen said. Bartenders at Kirkpatrick's also know something the Irish appreciate: the correct way to draw a Guinness. The pub's Web site (www.kirkpatricks.tv) features of a photo of owner Harris learning firsthand in Ireland.
Kirkpatrick's is located at Suite 199, 44050 Ashburn Village Blvd. Dinner entrees range from $10-$18. Call 703-724-9801.
JUST AROUND the corner from Kirkpatrick's is a local well that's been a refuge for regulars for a decade: Ashburn Pub.
"We're your basic neighborhood watering hole. Everyone who comes in here is pretty local," said manager Kevin Dubuis, who at first hesitated to give his last name to a visitor. "It's a first name business," he explained.
Ashburn Pub draws customers from "21 on up to 108," Dubuis said. Anyone looking to quaff a green beer on the day in question will find the opportunity here. The bar also offers the usual on-tap drafts, like Miller Lite, Bud Lite, Michelob Ultra and the local brew Dominion Ale.
It's not beer, however, that brings many regulars back for more. Instead, it's an obscure Italian liqueur called Tuaca. "I've worked in other bars that have had the same bottle [of Tuaca] for years," Dubuis said.
Not so at Ashburn Pub. The vanilla-flavored shooter is so popular that Ashburn Pub is one of the top sellers of the liqueur in the United States.
The food at Ashburn Pub sounds like basic pub fare with prices ranging from $6 to $16 for the two-for-one steaks. On Thursdays, hungry pub crawlers can get award-winning burgers for half price.
While Ashburn Pub has a place in the heart of many locals, it's got a distinctly non-local critter in its logo: an alligator. That's because, Dubuis explained, the owner is a Florida alum.
Ashburn Pub is located at 44110 Ashburn Shop Plaza. Call 703-724-0755 .
IRISH BEER might be the order of the day on March 17, but Ashburn residents can get true home-grown beer at Old Dominion Brewing Company.
The brewery is nestled in a low building off Beaumeade Circle without a single sign to announce its presence. The best way to find it on the weekend, is to drive past the Christian Fellowship Church, and look for cars in the otherwise deserted corporate park.
The brewery's unassuming facade hides a surprise for first-time visitors within: an airy dining room and pub adjacent to a vast production room. Local guy Jerry Bailey founded the brewery in 1989, with the pub following eight years later.
Old Dominion Brewpub offers 25 different types of beer with a few seasonals: a thirst-quenching wheat beer in the summer, a heavier German lager in the winter. Its own Dominion Lager and Dominion Ale are the "flagships," said manager John Solomon.
In terms of Irish beer, visitors can find Old Dubliner Amber available in the brewpub.
But while the pub offers lunch and dinner and beer at a reasonable rate, the main focus is still the production.
"We brew the beer, we filter it, we bottle it, we keg it," Solomon said. Last year, Old Dominion sold 27,000 barrels of beer. The brew is distributed throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.
Because the pub is non-smoking and offers a children’s menu, families are common customers. Nearby MCI and AOL also lose employees to the pub at the end of the day.
The pub closes at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. On Saturdays, free tours of the brewery are available at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., as well as at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Dinner entrees range in price from $6 to $12.
Old Dominion Brewing Company is located at 44633 Guilford Drive. Visit www.olddominion.com or call 703 724-9100.