Young and Hungry

Tap Lessons: Advice for the Brickskeller’s New Owners

Advice for Brickskeller's New Owners

Last week, about 20 drinkers who once considered the Brickskeller home—either because they had worked at the bar or because they practically lived there—dropped by the subterranean saloon for one last taste. They had heard rumblings that the Dupont Circle institution, the place that pioneered the craft beer movement in D.C., had been sold. More to the point, they heard that Dave and Diane Alexander, as part of the sale, were taking the name with them.

As far as these romantics were concerned, come November, the Brickskeller as they knew it would be gone forever.

Their source of this name-hoarding tip was likely the DC-BEER e-mail list, where on Oct. 1 retired Mid-Atlantic Brewing News writer Gregg Wiggins posted the following quote from Dave Alexander, with the bar owner’s permission: “No one will ever own the Brickskeller who’s [sic] last name is not Alexander.”

Much commentary followed the post, trying to parse the odd diplomatic statement from Alexander, a man better known among his peers for his cold, sometimes accusatory bluntness. Several commentators came to the same conclusion as a DCist poster had earlier in the day: The Alexanders plan to keep the name for themselves, no matter who the new owner is.

What do they want to do with it? I wish I knew for certain. The two times I tried to talk to the Alexanders, Diane didn’t want to comment and Dave hung up on me. Perhaps they plan to open another bar under the same Brickskeller banner or pass the name along to a confidant who would treat a new-look Brickskeller with the respect it deserves. Or maybe they somehow would attach the moniker to their Regional Food and Drink (RFD) operation in Chinatown.

It’s easy to understand why the Alexanders would want to hold onto the name. Diane Alexander’s grandfather, a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu, invented the “Brickskeller” handle in 1957 as a clever variation on the German word, ratskeller, or a tavern located below street level. The tavern was already notable by the time Diane and her husband took over in the early 1980s. The couple proceeded to turn it into an icon, known for a 1,000-plus beer list, often cited as the largest in the world.

You don’t exactly just give that brand away because you’re ready to sell some property. But here’s the thing that has been eating away at D.C.’s beer community: Who precisely would want to buy a deteriorating dive bar and the ramshackle inn above it without the Brickskeller name attached? Or without the faded museum of beer cans tucked behind those Plexiglas panes in the darkened saloon?

“Don’t get the name? Don’t get the memorabilia? Don’t bother,” says Dave Coleman, the beer director for Big Hunt, offering a touch of Alexander-esque bluntness.

Coleman knows a little something about the brew business. He and his business partner, Mike McGarvey, will open their own D.C.-based brewery, 3 Stars, sometime next year. Coleman believes that whomever buys the Brick would have to essentially treat it as an overhaul. The defining brick walls could stay, Coleman thinks. “Just about everything else” would need to be gutted.

The skanky carpet would need to be yanked out. The restrooms, which evoke 1970s New York City subway stations, would need to be renovated so you could enter without holding your breath. The microscopic kitchen, with its reliance on the deep-fat fryer, would need to be modernized for contemporary tastes. “It’s so gross,” Coleman says about the kitchen. “It’s so gross.”

By Coleman’s best guess, it would take at least a half a million dollars, and likely more, to renovate the Brick to get it up to snuff. Without the drawing power of the Brickskeller name, why would anyone want to take on such a financial burden and risk? Particularly when other, more modern beer emporiums, like ChurchKey and Brasserie Beck and the Biergarten Haus, have eclipsed the Brick in terms of ambiance, draft beer selections, and sheer drawing power?

Almost everyone I talked to for this article seems to want the Brickskeller to continue operating at its present location, even if it had to change names. The saloon is too historic and too important in beer circles to lose to the vagaries of business. And Brickskeller in another location just wouldn’t be Brickskeller. It would be the equivalent of selling the space for Ben’s Chili Bowl and trying to relocate the historic soul-food diner in, say, Georgetown.

Greg Engert, beer director for Birch & Barley/ChurchKey, strikes a personal note in his affection for the Brick. “The Brickskeller means a lot to me,” he notes. “What the Brickskeller offered me was a veritable liquid library where I was able to research the finest beers of the world and meet some of the legends in craft beer and beer writing. Simply put, I would not be where I am without my experiences at the Brickskeller.”

Adds Engert: “I’d like to see the Brickskeller get back to being the institution it once was—a storied venue with not only an exceptional selection of bottled beer from all around the world, but one that can effectively inspire new generations of beer lovers.”

These are clearly difficult waters to navigate. The Alexanders, it seems obvious, have no intention of conveying the name, the Brickskeller, with the sale of the bar and inn. So where does that leave a potential new owner? Are people drawn to the location because of the Brickskeller name and reputation, or because of the space’s 1,000-bottle concept, or because they simply like the idea of slumming it in an increasingly sterile Dupont Circle neighborhood? Then there’s another puzzle to solve: How far can a new owner push a renovation project without slipping into cocktail-lounge territory and losing all of the joint’s original charms?

Assuming the next owner’s position is to keep the space operating as a beer emporium—and not treat the entire property as a tear-down for its valuable real estate—it would take a lot of work to make the saloon a viable player in the modern craft beer marketplace. For starters, the draft system needs to be expanded and updated, says one source who prefers to remain anonymous lest he offend Alexander. The draft lines apparently run 25 feet from cooler to tap handle, running some of that length under non-temperature controlled floorboards, which can wreak havoc on beer, particularly cask ales. Those conditions need to be fixed.

Greg Jasgur, beer manager at Pizzeria Paradiso, echoes a similar sentiment when he says the bar needs to serve draft beer on both levels, not just on the upper one. Jasgur wants to see more adventurous selections at those taps, too. “The draft beer is a little on the safe side,” the Paradiso manager says.

Almost everyone I contacted mentioned that the new owners must fix the longest-running joke in D.C. bar circles: the Brickskeller’s beer list, which at one point promised as many as 1,300 different bottles and cans. The list has a higher AWOL rate than U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War.

“Even if you tried really hard, you’re probably not going to be able to get” all the beers on that list, notes the Big Hunt’s Coleman. He thinks as many as 25 percent of the bottles on the Brick’s list are unattainable on any regular basis. Coleman, and others like him, would like to see a smaller, more manageable, perhaps more reality-based beer list. The biggest crap shoot in D.C. bars could then officially come to an end.

But the new suds emporium also needs to become an active member in the growing fraternity of gastropubs and beer-driven restaurants, a couple of sources say. Coleman, for instance, thinks that in recent years Dave Alexander has grown tired of the endless amount of work it takes to maintain a bar with the Brick’s scope and history. He may also be sick of the new army of online critics who lob grenades his way almost daily. “He realizes the amount of energy to do it is not what he wants to do anymore,” Coleman says.

This may help explain Alexander’s behavior of late: Several sources tell me the man behind the Brick has largely isolated himself from the new generation of beer directors and managers, thinking that the younger set is merely trying to steal ideas and concepts that his saloon pioneered years earlier. The new owner, one source says, needs to repair the rift left behind by the old Brickskeller and become a willing participant in city-wide beer events.

Then again, maybe everyone has this all backwards. Maybe, as one source tells me, the proper thing to do is abandon the old Brickskeller entirely—ambiance and name and everything—and just develop a different beer-forward concept. “It seems that many people are sour on that name,” the source says of the Brick, and the new owners would not have “a lot of time to change their minds, especially with the level of competition in the city.”

Besides, with a fresh concept, the new owners would be able to trumpet a vision of their own, not trade off the rich history of a bar that has seen far better days.

Brickskeller, 1523 22nd St. NW, (202) 293-1885

Eatery tips? Food pursuits? Send suggestions to hungry@washingtoncitypaper.com.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Wilbur Gains

    The author of this article is clearly pretty ignorant about the Brickeller. Dave and Diane did not take over the Brickskeller in the 1980's. That's when Maurice Coja (Diane's father) allowed them a share in the bar. Mr. Coja is the man who turned the Brickskeller into an icon. Dave and Diane did not get majority ownership until Diane's mother died about 10 years ago.
    Since then, Dave and Diane have driven the place into the ground. Anyone who knows Dave at all knows his hatred of Maurice Coja consumed him for 20 years (he always felt under appreciated), and he's selling the Brick to help finance RFD; a business that does pretty well, but has a HUGE rent.
    The fact that the history of the Brickskeller is discussed without mentioning Maurice Coja not only shows what little research this author did, but is really a travesty. When the Brick opened, grandpa Coja was an old man, and Maurice was the point man from the beginning. He and his wife loved and cared for that place for 40 years. Maurice now lives in Florida with his second wife, but I hope more people realize who were the real founders of this classic institution which is closing unnecessarily.

  • http://film-blender.blogspot.com/ Chris

    If I was even in a position to purchase The Brickskeller (I'm certainly not) - there's absolutely no point if the name doesn't come with the purchase.

    I've been going to the Brickskeller off and on for the last 4 or so years. Even within that time frame, I've seen not only the quality of the establishment slip further than it was when I first arrived, but eclipsed by a half dozen superior beer bars that I've frequented more in the last 4 months than I have visited the Brickskeller in the last 4 years.

    If sources are correct about Alexander, it would explain a lot.

    -The place latches onto the Guinness World Record gimmick, though I'd be hard pressed to imagine they have more then 300 beers there at one time. I haven't heard a story of anyone who has gone there and left with a *perfect* track record of selecting beer and not been sitting right there at the bar, with those beers in plain sight. The terribly out of date menus are a joke. The entire inventory should be readily available for printing (they're using plain printer paper for goodness sakes!). This should be updated weekly, bi-weekly at the latest. I had a menu that was at least 6 months out of date (likely close to a year old) one visit. I suspect they just keep printing the same menu anyway, since "new" offers are regularly not on the menu. (Hint: if you search for it, you could find the print date on some menus).

    -The service has been terrible all but one visit. I suspect the waiter I had during my single fantastic experience there was nabbed by a better bar or restaurant not soon after I was waited on him. Most were overworked and on the "slower" nights - some just appeared to be simply not attentive to the customers needs.

    -The food hasn't really been all that good. It's decent bar food, but I've avoided eating there since there are far better establishments that serve far better food in the neighborhood.

    -I've gagged almost every single time I'm forced to use the bathroom there. Terrible ventilation and it always feels like a sauna in there.

    The Brickskeller could have kept up with the times. Rustico and Pizzeria Paradiso opened years ago. Churchkey not long after that. The Alexanders should have been taking notes. Their once unique establishment is a dinosaur, likely frequented mostly by loyal patrons and those people who are going there only once to say they did. Complaints about the used-car salesman bait-and-switch beer list could be snuffed out in days - set up a system to keep track of the beers they actually have in stock and keep patrons aprised.

    So... no name on this bar? Expensive refit required? The place is basically nothing without the name. If someone does take on this endeavor, I wish them the best of luck and may even take a look when the inevitable renovations are complete.

  • Gregg Wiggins

    Tim, thanks for correcting my (quickly typed) typo on DC-BEER.

  • http://twitter.com/monkeyrotica monkeyrotica

    They started going downhill when they sold the old 45 jukebox. I can't imagine them doing such a top-to-bottom rebuild and keep a name that has such negative connotations. Brewpubs with cask ales and seared ahi tuna sliders and charcuterie is what sells.

  • Tim Carman

    Wilbur,

    I was not trying to overlook Mr. Coja's contributions, which, as you note, are significant. This article was not focused on the history, so much as the recent past. As far as the phrase "took over" the Brickskeller, I didn't mean to imply the Alexanders had full ownership (which the Wiki entry explains in some detail), but had more or less taken over the operations. You can read about it in Dave Alexander's own words. It's an interesting read: http://peoplesdistrict.blogspot.com/2010/05/david-on-brickskeller.html

    Thanks for chiming in and giving Mr. Coja his due. Your words will be part of the record on this story now.

    -Tim

  • John Foulke

    I for one have fond memories of many a night at the Brickskeller. I always enjoyed the cavernous lower bar with its eclectic music that was played at a decent decibel to allow for serious discussion of beer. The upper bar used to be too loud and smoky. I will miss being able to bring visiting friends there. Given a choice between going to be Brickskeller and RFD, I would choose the Brickskeller. The Brickskeller is well worth the walk from the metro.

  • Lyle C. Brown

    Tim,

    Despite your comments that you intended to focus on the recent past, it appears you are more interested in focusing on blemishes than reporting anything else.

    Your primary source seems to be "Dave Coleman, the beer director for Big Hunt", whom you quote repeatedly.

    You justify this by stating: "Coleman knows a little
    something about the brew business. He and his business partner, Mike McGarvey, will open their own D.C.-based brewery, 3 Stars, sometime next year."

    Now, no offense intended to Coleman, but since when does being ready to open a brewery sometime in the next year (something I will believe when I see it, based on previous brewery opening intentions versus reality), qualify someone in how a particular bar should be upgraded, and what it would take to run it correctly? I honestly don't know Coleman at all, and don't know
    what he has or has not done for Big Hunt, but that is exactly the point.
    Your listing of his supposed "credentials" does not give this reader any confidence that his opinions mean anything.

    Regardless of who speaks well or ill of the Brick, no other beer bar in DC will ever have the claim to having hosted Michael Jackson's 65th Birthday Party, the 1st
    Lupulin Slam, nor having been the long time event home of beer guide Bob Tupper and far too many others to mention here. Better, different, more current or even more extreme beer selections (esp on draft), sure, but there is more than that to a good beer bar!

    Simply put, The Brickskeller is a beer icon in DC, if not the nation, blemishes and all. I have been going off and on since 1987, and nothing can replace it.

    For clarification and consistency sake, my credentials are as Plank Owning Head Brewer for Battlefield Brewing in Fredericskburg, BJCP Master Beer Judge, GABF Beer Judge, and long time attendee at numerous special beer events at the Brick.

  • CTR

    It's always fascinating to read a bunch of comments about how negative a story was and how evil the writer is BEFORE you read the story itself. I just did that, and all I see in Carman's piece is good reporting about a placed that is beloved, that has "original charms," that people have strong opinions about, etc. If there's a negative spot in this, it's the sour note that neither Alexander would talk. When people take that approach with the press and then bitch that their perspectives weren't addressed, my sympathies are minimal.

  • Chuck Triplett

    I'm sorry, I love the place. The Bricks holds a special place in my heart. I've been going for nearly 35 years. June of 1976 to be exact. I have so many fond memories of friends I have made there, brewers I have met there, and beers I have sampled or quaffed there. I learned a great deal about beer and brewing, and met many celebrities of the beer world at tastings and dinners over the years including Michael Jackson on several occasions. I recall drinking New Albion Stout there in the late 70s. Beer from the first micro or craft brewery. There were many beer firsts for me at the Bricks. I love the place - warts and all.

    BTW This article seemed a little mean spirited and slanted.

  • Bottom Fermenting Yeast

    Thank you Wilbur for your lauding Mr. Coja. Despite what personal problems he had with Dave Alexander or his daughter Diane, he treated the people who worked for him with respect and genuine concern. I am one of the Brickskeller veterans who was forced, for the love of my job, to lie to customers on a regular basis, to have to justify why the stench of rotting rats was wafting through the restaurant and to apologize to patrons whose beer drinking evening was ruined when (yes, this is not a legend) a rat the size of an armadillo fell out of the roof and onto their table. When Dave took over "full operations" I had to deal with the rantings of a man with a severe Napoleon complex; he was sexist, degrading and jealous. Never a thank you for an extra shift worked, never a pat on the back for selling what over the years amounted to tens of thousands of dollars in stock (yes, I could sell beers people hadn't ordered but knew they would enjoy rather than force them to choose another beer "temporarily out of stock"). I wanted to write this comment and give a shout out to all the people that I worked with over the years at the Brickskeller; the ones who made showing up to that den of filth worth all the struggle in the world. You know who you are and you know that for a long time, YOU held that place together. I am happy that Greg Engert learned the skills that launched his successful career (PS: Greg Engert is an amazing person and am so thankful for what he has done for DC), but what I took from those dank rooms, lukewarm coolers, leaking fixtures, broken toilets and yes, often times warm lager, is far greater than the savoir-faire of working with beer; I left with lifelong friends. We are a family of sorts and I am grateful for every one of your quirks and ticks, all of your cigarette breaks and our long conversations over shift beers. You are my sisters and my brothers, and every sip of every beer I ever drink reminds me of all the great times together and yeah, sometimes the bad times too. Cheers to the staff of "The Brick."

  • Wilbur Gains

    I too am a former employee, and I agree with your sentiments. I had some wonderful times there and made some great friends.
    Tim, sorry if I seemed harsh. I just really feel Mr. Coja never received enough recognition.

  • ArlingtonAaron

    Brickskeller: A big part of the history of beer culture in DC, and maybe even the US. It introduced so many of us to now favorite brews, and introduced others to the very concept that you could care about beer at all.

    But now? Grotty little shithole. A zombie of an institution. Let it fade away...

  • quetzal

    Angles rules, all others drool

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  • Barbarossa

    I know exactly why Alexander is holding on to the name. He is a greedy SOB!! By not including the name, he is eliminating any local new breed to take that dump and turn it into something the Alexanders would never do . . . a congenial neighborhood bar with a professional kitchen and wait staff and visionary management. The gambit is to holdout the name, guaranteeing that only some mega-corporation can afford to buy the place AND the name. Leaving a hole where the inn was and screwing the loyal locals one last time as they ride, laughing, into the sunset with their bags of money.

  • Jimmy

    The service there was/is terrible. Never had the beers on the list. Not going to miss it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/FlyingDogJT JT

    I think that we the craft and artisanal beer community of DC need to beware of continually bickering and in-fighting.

    Certainly, the Brickskeller has what some might call character & others think of as slumming it, but no matter, the history alone stands at the foundation of what all of us are continuing to build upon and when we seek to devalue the past we endanger ourselves of ruining our collective and hopefully communal future as a craft beer city.

    In short, chill the fuck out, and respect your elders.

  • Samuel Augustus Jennings

    On September 4, 2010 I was abruptly handed a notice by the desk clerk to vacate the Brickskeller Hotel in 45 days. The centrally located boarding house had been my home for over 9 years while serving as a handy refuge for the homeless, misfits, and mentally challenged. Most rooms have been empty for the last 5-6 years after rents were drastically raised. Long gone were the Japanese tourists and European backpackers looking for a cheap overnight stay in DC. Many paraded through the halls wrapped in towels or totally naked as they traipsed in and out of the common bathrooms. The place was always sold out with a long cancellation waiting list. By September 2010 the Brickskeller was a ghost town except for 3 other long term residents like me who wanted affordable housing in pricey DuPont Circle. I haven't checked with the Landlord-Tenant Court yet but I suspect we have no rights since we signed no lease and were paying on a weekly basis. I will not miss the Heartbreak Hotel.

  • Dan F

    Having actually never been to the Brick since living in DC (for about 3 years now), and understanding Lyle's sentiments (and have judged with him in the past) about its storied history, I'm not entirely disappointed of its demise. DC is growing in its fantastic beer bars, future brew pubs, etc; and the Brick just seems to retain some charm it earned in the 90s. With the economy as it is currently, you can't hold onto old chops and hope to stay afloat. Restaurants/bars must innovate to remain current, excitable, and popular to be successful. It seems the Brick hasn't. Perhaps a shame that an "institution" has failed, but hopefully it'll be used for something successful in the future.

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  • In-the-know

    Wilbur’s comments set the stage for warm reminiscences and reality. Creating icon’s like the Brickskeller is not quite spontaneous combustion, but more so like the spread of bamboo or like something that spread insidiously. Initially, it attaches itself to you so that you get drawn back. And after a while you can feel it inside of you. The draw of the Brickskeller was due to the magic of “the old man” Felix (Diane’s grandfather) and the creativity and acumen of Maurice. Together they created and built the Brickskeller..My little story is intended to add to what has been said with full recognition of Mr. Carman’s point that he did not intend to do a history (I think one would entertain readers with the glories and adventures of the Cojas and the Brickskeller.)

    First. Felix was a consummate realist. Reality took shape between his fingers, hands and mind. A short man, with a wonderful Corsican dry sense of humor, he was a character and a”show me” guy. Come to him with a proposition, such as buy this machine and it will shine your shoes and comb your hair, he response was “Show me.” Tell him about a business deal that will yield so much as a dollar more, you had to have the materials and ways of proving it. Otherwise forget it.

    In 1962, Felix designed and built a “computerized” type of cash register long before the Micros (acquired Sweda. that grew out of Sweda Corp. that got the idea from Felix. Beta tested the machine at the Brickskeller of the world got to this point. These were the machines used in the handling the business of the Brickskeller after it was opened in 1957. It was a mechanical precursor to the range of products that spilled forth from the new industry during the late 60s. Before the automated cash register, in 1937, built his own TV. All this from a chef. Felix’s magic really shone when he developed the automated bar machine and with Maurice, they built the cabinetry for the world’s first automated bar machine.

    Was the bar machine a work of art or a a piece of machinery? It was both. The cabinetry was as finely finished as a beautiful piece of furniture and as finely tuned as a computerized device. To a large degree these two inventions were in a sense the heart of the Brickskeller. Add to them, the ingenuity provided by Felix, his wife Marie, son Maurice and his wife June, and the combination led to the Brickskeller.

    The Brickskeller had two strikes against it when it opened in 1957. Opening a bar whose business featured 51 brands of beer was contrary to the then current wisdom. Beer meant Miller’s, Bud, and Schlitz. Also, calling itself a saloon was not cool and it could not have a sign because. D.C. law prohibited advertising a bar in a residential zone. So for eight years, Brickskeller success depended on the viral network at the time, word-of-mouth. Without advertising, the Brickskeller operated in the same mode as the “speak-easy” establishments of the Prohibition period, stamping the bar with an irresistible cachet. “I know a great place that does not advertise.”

    Go there on many any evening the place would be bustling. For all of its crowdedness, each table had its privacy. Move tables or chairs around so all your friends would sit at one table, Maurice would ask “Do I move the furniture at your house? He would be glad to move you to a larger table but it would be him doing it. Come with a problem and no one to talk to, there was Maurice, always willing to listen. He believed the people who worked there worked with him not for him. “They’re people too.” He would say. They deserve dignity too. You’d never find a customer giving a server a bad time and getting away with it.

    Along with fairness, charisma, and remarkable capability, here’s a guy brighter than the average bear. A steel trap mind and business acumen that is hard to beat. Had this kid ever gone on to college he would probably have been a successful trial lawyer arguing cases at the appellate level or higher. He read law books for fun and could understand and rebut nuances. Had he undertaken engineering, his list of patents would have significantly added to Felix’ list. Not bad for a kid who barely finished high school.

    He almost had a clairvoyant aspect to him in his sensing trends. When he saw something emerging, he’d assess his resources, evaluate customer and business conditions and act. Some of his innovations in the club were to be the first folk-singing club in Washington with local and national personalities. The led to the Brickskeller becoming a folk-rock club with Joe Corey and the Crusades in 1968. Maurice was one of the first adventurers into after-dinner theater with performances of (tales) The Decameron (Boccaccio). The Upstairs, built for the performances and dinner and dancing, then became the Game Room with the largest dart club in the U.S. The Game Room hosted the first U.S. Open Dart Championship. That bring in small bands with local and national personalities and start the series of bringing in beer brewers from around the world for beer tastings. That was sometime after he set the Brickskeller on the road for becoming the beer house with the most brews.

    Brickskeller “Firsts” included bringing Coors to the East Coast as well as many other U.S. brands as well as international beers. Maurice had his own truck roaming the back roads and highways of the U.S. to bring back interesting new beers.

    Many evenings, you could find Maurice at the round table in the “Ship Room”, between the two sets of arches that separated the bar from the dining room. You could almost say that Maurice had a personal “salon” with invited friends and guests talking about any subject you wanted him to. A debater extraordinaire, no matter what side you wanted to take on any subject, you could be dazzled with his array of facts that could prove you wrong. Discussing any subject with Maurice could be intimidating, overwhelming, exhausting and fun. You could disagree and possibly worn out at the end of the discussion or closing time (whichever came first.) If you drank, you’d be worse off because Maurice never drank on the job. Off the job, he might have a beer, but you never saw him drunk. Qualities that are hard to find in many businesses, maybe more so in the restaurant and bar businesses, Maurice’s value system was based on :integrity and reality. Forget about snow jobs. Probably got that from Felix. June didn’t suffer fools too well either.

    Dedicated to their customers and the business was part of the underpinnings of the Coja mind, body, soul. They rarely took vacations. Until 3 a.m. at the earliest, they ran the Brickskeller every day. They closed twice a year, Christmas and New Year’s. The people who worked there were devoted to the Coja’s because they were cared.. Maurice and June were there the longest because Felix was getting old. Maurice greeted the lines of people coming down the steps waiting for tables. Everyone got seated in turn, including President Johnson’s daughters, Lucy and Linda, who were regular customers. Sometimes, lines poured up the stairs and out the door under the canopy.

    If one had Maurice as a friend, they were a winner. Of the many stories is one where Maurice ran to the hospital in a snow storm to get medication that had to be refrigerated for a friend’s son because the friend had to be out of town. They don’t come any better.

    Many stories really tell what made the Brickskeller an icon. But in reality, take away the Brickskeller name, and you see Maurice Coja, unique unto himself with assets of Felix, Marie and June

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  • Ace

    The brickskeller name will be leaving with the previous ownership, but the establishment endures to offer the same world renown selection of beers! The new owners are international hoteliers with properties around the globe and in our nation's capital and are proud to be part of this famous DC beer-tradition. They intend to give it a much needed face-lift while preserving the same local flavor and atmosphere

  • The Great Northwest

    Wow...couldn't believe it when I heard the news. I literally grew up in that place in the early 80s, right on the cusp of the change in the drinking age. I've been back a couple of times in the last two years or so and kinda wondered what had happened.

    No matter how it ultimately went down, the institution does deserve some respect. I drank a lot of great beer there (and some shitty stuff too). The place is responsible for my appreciation of craft brews, an important part of my life. For that, I'll be pouring out a little Abyss for the stanky, sleezy joint that was the Brickskeller.

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