Young and Hungry

Another Best of D.C. Category: Best Overlooked Beer Selection


When it comes to beer lists in D.C., ChurchKey, RFD, and the Brickskeller all deserve due credit for their selections. But we feel there was a major oversight in the readers poll for beer categories this year. Missing from the winners lists for Best Craft Beer Selection and Best Draft Beer Selection was Birreria Paradiso,  the beer bar tucked inside the Pizzeria Paradiso locations in Georgetown and Dupont Circle.

When it comes to size, Birreria Paradiso's collection of taps at Georgetown (12) and Dupont (16), plus the soon-to-open Alexandria location will total over 40, which is well in the range of  competition with ChurchKey (50) and RFD (30), and trumps the Brickskeller, which has only 12 drafts. With at least one cask in each location, Birreria will have 3 or 4 total, compared with five at ChurchKey, one at RFD, and one at the Brick.

The size of Birreria's bottle list is closest to RFD's 300-bottle menu, with just under 200 bottles at both Georgetown and Dupont and only around 35% overlap across the two bars. But the competition gets a little tougher when the other contenders enter the race, since the Brickskeller's list has over 1000 beers and ChurchKey stocks around 500.

Size matters, but it's not why we think Birreria Paradiso deserves recognition. We've said it before and we'll say it again, Pizzeria Paradiso's beer program is largely responsible for our love of beer, and we are not alone. Credit is first due to the Brickskeller for laying our foundation with their expansive list of time-honored imports and old-school craft breweries. We return often for old favorites, as well as new releases from pioneering American craft breweries like Anchor and Sierra Nevada and well-established second-wave U.S. brewers like Dogfish Head, Stone, Allagash, Bell's and Avery. We love attending their events, which bring some of the biggest names in beer to DC, and we learn a ton every time.

But since bar manager Greg Jasgur has been directing the beer program at Birreria, his cutting-edge list has kept us up to date on the most interesting and innovative trends in beer. His stock includes many of the same big name breweries and beers available at The Brickskeller and RFD, but if it weren't for frequent trips to Pizzeria Paradiso for tastes from his constantly rotating draft selection (which we check online like it's viral), we would not have experienced such a wide variety of new beers or know as much about the exciting things that Scandinavian, Italian, and what we'll call "third-wave" U.S. craft brewers are doing.

Obviously, ChurchKey is now filling the same role for us, and we welcome it whole-heartedly. While there are always at least 4 drafts we have never had (and often a few breweries we have never even heard of) at either Birreria location, we are usually unfamiliar with as many as 15 or 20 beers on ChurchKey's draft list. (A matter of scale, we're sure.) In fact, their 50 drafts and 5 casks keep us so occupied that we haven't felt the need to crack the bottle list binder yet. But we hope more of our neighbors will take note of what is going on, and has been going on for years, at Birreria Paradiso in time for the next reader's poll.

Agree? Disagree? Let us have it.

  • JB

    Birreria also has happy hours.

    They earn more points in my book for being generous to beer lovers.

  • big list means zip if I can’t get it

    BP is pretty much the only reason to go Georgetown, ever. Wonder how long before Churchkey and the Paradisos teach the Brickskellar folks that it's better to have fewer brews actually *in stock* than just a bogus list of beers we'll never taste!?

  • Rob

    I agree with the comment about Brickskellar. I've made it a habit to have 3 choices ready before the server comes over. Plus, their servers seem to rotate between clueless and informed (but with something to prove).

    I've only been to BP a couple of times, but was pretty happy with what they had. Thanks for mentioning them! I still need to go to Churchkey though. Will make it a priority now.

  • Jason

    Agreed, Birreria Paradiso is fantastic. That it was missing from the Best of D.C. craft beer selection is one reason I'm unhappy with the Best of D.C. lists.

  • Rob, a different

    A small group of beer geeks, myself included, have been calling Paradiso home for a good few years now. At first it seemed like a well-kept secret that fellow enthusiasts shared only with each other; when the media passed it over, nothing seemed awry. But now, the word is out, and both locations are constantly at capacity---there is no longer any justification for this place not making, or even topping, the Best Of lists.

    Sure there are flashier warehouses (Churchkey) and bunkers of more historic import (Brickskeller), but Paradiso has perks that set it apart.

    The happy hour: You can get some of the best beers in the world at Bud Light prices. Probably DC's best venue for turning people on to beer.

    The list: It's well-curated and constantly rotating. They're loyal to quality and never to any particular brewery. This might bug the distributors, but the customer wins.

    The one-offs: Greg is very proactive, willing to travel and personally chauffeur in kegs that no one else can get.

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