Young and Hungry

Birch & Barley Opens Today. What’s Inside?

Birch & Barley

Birch & Barley, the oft-promised beer bar and restaurant, will open tonight at 5 p.m. And while we've drooled over it for months, we've heard little about it other than the numbers they promised: 555 bottles, 50 taps, and 5 casks. I admit I was skeptical, worried that the list would be vaporware like the 1,000+ beer menu at The Brickskeller — but a swing by the bar yesterday put me at ease.

Beer director Greg Engert assured me that come tonight there will indeed be beer flowing from all 50 taps and all 5 casks, and from the looks of it, a bottle menu that will have the nerdiest beer nerds returning for "special occasion" beers. But for me, the casks were the real question mark. Cask beer is fresh, unpasteurized beer hand-pumped from the barrel rather than pulled out by carbon dioxide like regular keg beer, giving it a velvety feel. But it's also more perishable, which is why nowhere in D.C. keeps more than one or two on tap. They're hard to track down, and hard to sell.

Engert showed me a dozen casks in storage, ranging from regional session beers like Troegs Hopback Amber to rarer breeds like Allagash Hugh Malone and Harviestoun Ola Dubh 40, an English old ale aged in 40-year whisky casks. Tonight, taste the Ola Dubh side-by-side with BrewDog Paradox Isle of Arran, a whisky-barrel-aged Scottish imperial stout. Also on cask will be Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale and two others TBD.

Of the 50 taps, about half will rotate every week or so, while the other half will be good standbys. The dependable session beers include: Victory Prima Pils, Allagash White, Brooklyn Lager, Stone Pale Ale, Smuttynose IPA, Green Flash Hop Head Red, and Climax Nut Brown Ale. $5 for about a 12 oz. glass.

But tonight, I'll be there for the cask ale, the spectacle, and hopefully some surprises on tap. For pictures, check out ReadysetDC, whose photography is much better than my own.

(Bonus question: Anyone notice that Birch & Barley's address is 1337 14th St. NW? The number 1337 holds a special place in the heart of many a computer geek.)


  1. #1


  2. #2

    Quite possibly the worst experience I have ever had at a rest in any city. It took the wait staff 30 minutes to figure out we were there and another 30 to get my drinks. Full dining experience= 3 hours. The hamburger was actually a tare tare on bread....nasty at best.

  3. #3

    @R - That's what you get when you bum rush a brand new restuarant. They'll get it together soon - they are seasoned vets of the business. The fact that you posted on your experience so soon after opening shows what kind of patron you are. Good luck.

  4. #4

    I was at ChurchKey tonight (first night of the second week). The beer was great (especially the Ola Dubh 40), the food was great (fig and prosciutto flatbread, charcuterie plate, and burger). The burger was a little rare, but that's the way I wanted it. I think they've worked out some of the kinks from opening night. It was slammed at 6:30.

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