Young and Hungry

High Time For Low-Brow Beer


Before we proceed, let's make one thing crystal clear: DC's beer scene is better than it's ever been. The difference, as compared to a decade ago when the Brickskeller was the only game in town, is astonishing and, yes, a net gain for anyone who likes to hit the suds now and again.

But (yes, there's a but) there's now an over-abundance of high-end (read: EXPENSIVE) beer bars all over town. They offer great beers served in proper glassware and often by knowledgeable people who themselves feel passionate about the brews they're selling. But prices are out of hand and seem to be getting worse. Go to just about any of these places (Marvin, which we visited last week, being a prime suspect), and you'll have a hard time not spending something in excess of $10 for a bottled beer; some even go for $15 or more. Given, these beers are rare and should cost more than the average bottle. But such huge mark-up (Is there any reason for a small bottle of Chimay Blue to cost $13?) leaves a lot of people out.

One of the great things about beer is that it's NOT wine. Beer is the traditional drink of the working man, a kind of social glue, a vehicle for bringing people together at the end of a long day to commiserate and relax together. We've got the high-end bars; now let's get some others to fill the gap. We're not talking about drinking Bud and Michelob here. Rather, can't there be everyday neighborhood haunts that carry a few solid craft beers? There are a few. Angles in Adams Morgan comes to mind. Red Derby in Petworth. Aware of others? Please let us know.

Image from Wikimedia Commons used under a Creative Commons license.

  • sarah

    i'm a huge fan of my new favorite neighborhood bar, the black squirrel. i know it's on your radar but maybe didn't make this post because there are definitely some more expensive brews. but i've found a ton of good ones for around $8, which i'm willing to pay for a damn fine beer. they usually have a lot of good stuff on tap, as well.

  • belgians

    Don't forget Happy Hour: 1/2 price drafts at both Pizzeria Paradisos from 5-7 daily and you get a buck off at The Reef (a bit more if you live in AdMo)... No more cheap Belgians - or any good beer anymore - at Bohemian Caverns though!

  • Tammy Tuck and Bruce Falconer

    Yeah, miss those Caverns nights - $3.00 or $3.50 a piece for great bottled Belgian beer.

    Of course Happy Hour is an option and there are some good ones, but the crowds at the best places can make it hard to participate. (BTW, Pizzeria Paradiso's HH is Tuesday and Wednesday only. Trust us, we know!!!)

  • Amy

    Hi, Guys,

    It's Amy from The Black Squirrel. First off, thanks Sarah for the mention. We really appreciate it. And Tammy & Bruce, I hear ya on the expensive beer. Even some of the American craft beer is getting incredibly expensive--so much so that we can't carry some brands I'd really like to. My take on it is that the craft beer scene is skewing toward more high ABV beer than in the past, and that makes for a more expensive beer. Nevertheless, we are able to get some great beer from Bear Republic, Abita, Bell's & Avery that can be really reasonably priced. I'll look for some more...and I'm always open to suggestions.

  • Tammy Tuck and Bruce Falconer

    Awesome Amy! We and all your other customers surely thank you.

    One suggestion would be for more bars to do flights or smaller pours of draft beers, and for the price to be commensurate with the volume. Not sure what it takes on the bar's end to do that economically (additional glassware, dishwashers, and bartenders with four hands...). We are sure there are strains that may outweigh the benefits, but we appreciate it when a place has that option--especially when we're in the mood to drink the higher-ABV beers you mentioned.

    But it's bottle prices (not really drafts) at a few of the places we have visited recently that inspired today's post.

  • Anthony

    $10 to $15 for a bottle beer is ridculous. It makes no sense to price ppl out of the market especially in a deep recession. Thats why the first thing I check before going any where is how much the beer cost if I can't get a good beer for $4 - $5 I usually pass on the place

  • Petco Gal

    We are big fans of all the bars mentioned the Red derby is our local and damn glad to have it.I really wish DC had more cheap locals.

  • D Fritz

    I started working at Tryst in Adams Morgan 10 years ago (still there now) and was a bit shocked at the price of beer and lack of options in town. I'd come from Portland, Oregon where beer was abundant, delicious and cheep.

    I'm really happy that great places like the Squirrel, Reef and Derby exist now in DC and that Paradiso and Church Key are bringing worlds of beer to us that had never been available. Back in the day, the Big Hunt and Brickskeller were about the only places to go for good beer.

    We have good craft beers (Rogue, Great Divide, Bells, Brooklyn, etc) at Tryst and Open City in the $5-$6 range but it's not easy to keep the prices low given the costs. Charging $13 for Chimay doesn't even get the margin down where businesses are supposed to operate. It's also important to consider that some $10-$15 beers can be an exceptional value for the experience compared to wine and other things.

    That being said, I'd still like to see more lower-ABV session beers and local options available which might help lower prices; but that might just be the nostalgic dream of a grumpy old man.

  • Eric

    A little late to the party, but a buddy of mine recently started blogging his experiences trying to find reasonably priced beers in the city:

  • Tim

    I'm a huge fan of my local bar, Quarry House. It's on Georgia Ave just outside DC in Silver Spring. Has six cheap drafts on tap and a great selection of only mildly marked up bottles.