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Birch & Barley / ChurchKey
Taps: 55 / Bottles: 500
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
$$$ - a bit pricey
[ Bar, Eatery ]
1337 14th St NW
District of Columbia
phone: (202) 567-2576
(Place added by: drabmuh on 10-27-2009)
Ratings & Reviews
| Reviews: 92 | Show All Ratings:
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5 | $$$
My wife and I were in DC for a day so I wanted to check out a great beer bar to hit up late in the afternoon. I checked multiple reviews and this place sounded right up my alley.
We went up the stairs where the guy was there to check our IDs. Kind of weird at 4:30pm in the afternoon, but no biggie. We sat ourselves and the beer wall is incredible. A ton of draft selections and many bottles in the coolers. After perusing the menu for a long time we found great choices to drink.
After a few, we decided to order food, and this is where the place went downhill very fast. I'm not sure why, but our server was quite rude to us with any questions we had on the food. He refused to change the lettuce type even though they make all salads fresh. We settled on other food choices, which were barely above average and very expesnive for the portion size we got.
Overall I loved the beer selection, the atmosphere is phenominal, the beer selection is solid but the service sucked. I doubt I will go back and instead check out other local places.
01-09-2012 16:28:48 |
More by steebo777
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3 | $$$
Headed straight upstairs for a Barley Wine Tasting, this place can be a bit confusing for a newcomer as it seems like it's a sit down restaurant, but upstairs is a seat-yourself bar. As with any place that's decent in the city, it's best to come early to get a seat, especially if there's a special event/tasting going on.
Let's start with the mediocre- the food is nothing special, though you'd never really know that staring at their rather pricey menu.
The real reason to come is the beer. A great selection of beer on draft and many more in bottles available though be prepared to pay. The servers are very knowledgeable about the beer they serve and I very much enjoyed discussing the different beers with our server. All in all a very nice bar to go to for a drink.
01-04-2012 16:29:15 |
More by mxmcmillan
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$$
I was lucky enough to come to this place on my first day in DC on 11/10/2011. Upon arriving my girlfriend and I were seated in these weird small yet comfortable chairs, it was very busy so I was afraid we would get rushed service. The server came over and took our drink orders. I tried three of their samplers including a Gonzo Barrel aged imperial porter and a life and Limb. My girlfriend had a Geuze. The food was ok but nothing extraordinary. I could see myself coming here at least once weekly if I could. I hope I can come back here someday. I really felt at home here even though the crowd looked a bit stuck-up. The service was as good as it could be in a very busy place like this.
11-29-2011 05:34:59 |
More by ChanChan
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 1 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$$
My wife and I were in DC for the weekend and thought we would give Church Key a shot as it gets such good reviews, etc.
I guess we arrived (Tuesday night) about 30 minutes after they opened. Got our ID checked by the bouncer (?) at the top of the stairs and then moved forward confused. I have never been in a "nice" beer bar/restaurant that does not have a hostess or a sign or whatever. We figure out that we should seat ourselves and head over to a table.
As soon as we sat down, a guy came over and gave us some water. About 10-15 minutes later, I had almost finished my water, and we had not even seen a menu. I saw a guy (manager?) bring some beer to the table next to us, so I started staring at him, and finally he came over to the table. He seemed mildly surprised that no one had come by. He gave us some menus.
The beer menu is great. A lot of different beer. Serving size, glass, and temperature on the menu. Well done there. They were having a special Belgian beer thing that night, so the options were quite extensive. It was shocking though that with the exception of 1 DC Brau beer there were NO DC, VA, or MD beers on the menu, and the DC Brau beer was a collaboration beer brewed by Epic. I like to try new regional beers when I travel, but maybe we just caught them on a weird night.
So, after looking over the beer list the guy who gave us the menus came back and asked if we had any questions. We didn't and hadn't decided yet. Eventually our waiter came over. I am not a big stickler for formalities, but he never really said anything. He just looked at me, and I just ordered. When he brought us the beers, I had to quickly order us some food before he ran off.
Food came quickly and was pretty good. Tasty but the prices were kind of high for what it was. I get it. It is the city. Everything is more expensive. Whatever, I can put up with that.
We finished our food and beers and again found ourselves staring at each other with empty plates and glasses (no water to sip this time). We had planned to order some more food and a few more beers. We waited some more. And some more.
At this point we figured out that they don't seat people, and it is a first-come, first-served deal. I have never seen this in a nice establishment. It is kind of nuts. It was at this point I could see everyone starring at me while I took the last sips of my beer, inching closer and closer, and licking their chops at the opportunity to pounce on the table when we left.
But, we were still planning to order more beer. I have never been in a beer bar and been able to go more than 1 minute with an empty glass without being asked if I needed another beer. But we had been sitting there for at least 5-10 minutes. By then I was annoyed and ready to leave. A friend texted and said that they were somewhere else that seemed to actually be serving beer, so we decided to go join them. Finally got the attention of the waiter and signaled for the check.
Waiter put the check down, and I was not quick enough to get my card down before he ran off. We sat there again for 10-15 minutes, but it seemed longer as the people who wanted our table kept getting closer and closer. They even offered to go take the check to the waiter for us. Eventually we paid and left quickly. I think a fight might have broken out for the table (I kid, but you never know).
Overall: Great beer list, expensive, but the option to get small pours gives you the opportunity to try a lot of fun beers. BUT, you can't try many beers if no one seems to want to serve you beer. I would go back again if I could get a table straight away. There is no way in hell I would stand there hovering for a table for hours...life is too short for that nonsense.
11-17-2011 18:05:26 |
More by Hotlanta
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5 | $$$
Was in D.C. for a conference so this was a must visit.
Atmosphere is upscale and hip. Extremely long bar with tables on the sides and end. Dimly lit and lounge-like. Nice.
I like that they serve draught beer not only in the proper glassware and at the proper temperature, but also in matching logo-glasses.
Service is good. Bartenders are pretty attentive and food comes relatively fast after its ordered considering how busy it was when I was there. Even at the tables, there was always someone ready to serve you another drink.
Selection is very impressive. Taplist is about 30 beers long and the bottle list is pretty mind-blowing. There's not a whole lot of rarities here but they have just about everything that's distributed in D.C. along with a number of vintage items... everything that you could want in a night out with friends.
Food was decent. Had the chicken confit, tatter tots, and fries. Nothing really stood out but nothing was bad either.
The food was a bit overpriced but the beers on draught were fair. Bottle list prices were a bit outrageous on some items but for the most part, even those were par for what you'd expect to pay at a bar in the nicer part of town.
Definitely worth a visit and based purely on a selection point of view, by far the best bar in D.C.
11-17-2011 02:06:08 |
More by SpeedwayJim
District of Columbia
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5 | $$$
Simply put, Churchkey is the best beer bar in DC. This place should be on any beer-loving visitors to-do list, right along with visiting the Capitol and national mall. I won't restate what many others have already written, but here are a few random thoughts.
Location - it is great for most visitors who stay in the district, either a short cab ride or even walkable if you are near Chinatown/Metro Center, Dupont, or U St. If you were thinking of searching the boards for "where should I go in DC," don't waste your time - go straight to Churchkey. Even if you have the misfortune of staying in VA or MD it is probably worth a trip into the district.
Service - all the Neighborhood Restaurant Group places have great service, but it is impressive that pretty much every server and bartender can advise you on anything on the menu. Management obviously spends a lot of time allowing staff to sample everything and discussing the menu.
Small pours - I love having the ability to get a 4oz taster of anything on draft. It isn't the most cost effective method, but it allows you to try a lot in one night.
Food - the snacks upstairs are tremendous, particularly the bread board, disco fries, tater tots, and potato croquettes. But if you want something more substantial, get a reservation downstairs at Birch and Barley. The food alone is good enough to make it one of DC's top 30 restaurants in the Washington Post's dining guide and when you add the beer, it is nearly impossible to beat. If opentable doesn't have anything, they have a few seats at the bar that I believe are reserved for walk ins (although I think that is true for only the bar with the beer organ, not the bar stools that look into the kitchen). My wife is not a wine person and she likes going because of the food and wine list.
I have a couple, minor quibbles. It is often pretty busy. However, I go a lot (I live within walking distance) and am usually able to eventually find a seat and they do a good job of not allowing so many people in that you can't move, so it is never crazy packed. People often stop in for a drink or two and leave, so even if you have to wait outside, you rarely have to wait long. Second, they keep the lighting fairly dark upstairs. This is a very minor complaint - it isn't as though it is too dark to read a menu or anything - but it would be nice for it to be a little lighter to better appreciate the appearance of your beer.
Overall though, this place is tremendous. If you are visiting DC, make sure you make it here.
10-30-2011 15:36:38 |
More by cbbjr
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$$
This review is for Churchkey:
Churchkey is the upstairs bar from Birch and Barley. I had the pleasure of visiting for the first time tonight, and afterwards wondered why it took me so long to go. This place rocks! The atmosphere was fairly subdued. I was there on a Tuesday around 6pm, and got seating fairly easily. It got more packed by 7pm, but never crazy busy. Exceptional vibe in this place- pretty relaxed, and never too loud. The quality of brews here are exceptional. I was there for the Rumpkin Keg... but had 4 oz samples of 4 different beers. Nothing but the best here. The service was outstanding as well. Our waiter definitely knew his beer, asked me the proper questions about what I liked, and seemed to know every beer on the menu. Very cool. He was also very relaxed and never rushed us. He checked in w/ us quite a bit to make sure we were doing alright. The food was pretty amazing too. I had one of their flat bread creations, and it totally rocked my world. Prices are a little high, but it IS Washington DC, and the draft list was so great I didn't care. Plus, if you do some of the 4 oz. pours, you can try different beers a little cheaper. All in all, this is the best bar I've ever been to- and I'm already looking forward to going back! If you're in DC- you owe it to yourself to visit this place. You won't regret it.
10-19-2011 02:58:05 |
More by jayhawk73
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$
Churchkey is a Beer Lover's Paradise! I was in DC on business and found this place on a friend's advice.
Atmosphere: I didn't have some of the issues others were with crowdedness. I went at about 4:30pm on a Friday and it was fairly empty, though it was filled more when I left around 6pm. Still plenty of room though!
Quality: Nothing but the best brews.
Service: These guys know what they're talking about. Because there's such a vast selection, they can help you narrow it down if you have a style or preference that you are interested in trying. Extremely knowledgeable.
Selection: There selection is unbelievable. They have just about anything you could possibly want (they still had six bottles of Founders CBS when I last went).
Overall a great experience and something I would definitely recommend to anyone who loves beer.
10-17-2011 01:51:55 |
More by scninmer08
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $$$
Dropped by during a 12 hour lay-over flying out of reagan. Did not have much expectation but was awed by the place. 5 beer engines and a bottle list that weighed in like phone book. Amazing vintage selection (JW Lees dating back to '98). Multiple fridges set to specific temperatures for different styles. Glassware of every type imaginable. Only critic was it seemed to be a little understaffed. Waited about 15 min for a beer, but the servers were very knowledgeable.
World class establishment without a doubt.
09-20-2011 23:17:03 |
More by chrisrhoppe
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$$
This review is of ChurchKey (I haven't been downstairs to Birch and Barley).
I've been here twice now, and can honestly say it's one of the best places in the world for draft beer.
The atmosphere is very chill. Low-key, industrial vibe. Long bar with a good view of the taps. Bathrooms are a bit small, but who cares? There are even some flat screen TVs above the bar in case you really can't bear to miss the game in lieu of a crushingly delicious beer adventure.
All of the lines I tried (about 30 at the time of this review) have been very clean, and the beer at the peak of freshness. Beers rotate out rather quickly here, so nothing sits in the line for long. Cold-water glass chillers are a very nice touch, and help tame some of the more difficult pours. Casks are as fresh as can be.
Servers are very helpful and friendly. They are more than willing to help you decide on something, and are quick with the pours. During Zwanze Day this year they adapted to the difficulty of getting everyone their beer in a fair and timely manner. Glassware is always clean and matched properly to the beer.
The selection here speaks for itself. Rare and hard-to-find drafts from around the world are always available, as well as a healthy selection of local and regional craft brews. The menu is written out in a way that makes it very easy to find the kind of beer you're interested in, focusing on flavor groups instead of country of origin, "style", etc. 4 oz. tasting pours are available and reasonably priced, allowing you to try multiple beers during a session without worrying about overconsumption or breaking the bank.
I haven't actually tried the food here, so I won't assign it a rating. Friends who have ordered food have always raved about it, however, so I would still feel comfortable recommending it.
Overall, a fine establishment that embodies beer advocacy. Should be at the top of any beer lover's to-do list when in the DC area.
09-19-2011 17:58:25 |
More by afdempse
Birch & Barley / ChurchKey in Washington, DC
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