Adam Alfano, SIS/BA ’07, always makes time to greet friendly customers. He knows them by name: Oscar, Archie, Baltimore. They know him by smell. Canines—and their humans—are the Bark Social director of operations’ loyal clientele, 20,000 pooches and counting.
In February 2021, the dog-friendly beer garden opened its first location, a 25,000-square-foot space at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda, Maryland. It has since let a second, in Baltimore, off leash. Philadelphia and others are soon to follow. For Alfano, who draws on a background in restaurants, scaling the perfect pandemic business—dogs, drinks, and fresh air—is a treat.
“Figuring out how to grow, failing fast, and learning from your attempts is the most fun,” he says. “In the startup world, every idea is a good idea until proven otherwise.”
So far, he’s proved that good girls, boys, and brews are good business.
PINING FOR A PINT? ALFANO PICKS FIVE DC AREA BREWERIES WITH SPECIAL SUDS:
Denizens: Established in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2014 when everyone was making triple IPAs—hop this, hop that—Denizens stuck with traditional German beer recipes. They’ve been successful, opening a second location in Riverdale in 2019.
Port City: Founded in 2011, the production brewery was the first in Alexandria, Virginia, since prohibition and helped get craft beer going here. The popular Optimal Wit, a Belgian-style witbier, is sold all over.
7 Locks: Located nearby Bark Social Bethesda in Rockville, Maryland, 7 Locks consistently experiments and brews interesting beers. I enjoy Coaster Dips, their hazy New England–style IPA. Billy Goat Tr’ale, a session pale ale, is another we’ve had on tap.
Atlas: I met founder Justin Cox when they were opening in DC’s Ivy City in 2013. They’ve been growing since, launching a second taproom near Nationals Park in 2020. Their Rowdy Rye is my favorite.
Black Viking: The only Black owned and operated brewery in Montgomery County, Maryland, Black Viking just got started and brews out of Oliver in Baltimore. We got a great response when we put their Zingabier, a nice drinking golden ale, on tap in Bethesda.