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Birch & Barley / ChurchKey
Taps: 55 / Bottles: 500
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
$$$ - a bit pricey
[ Bar, Eatery ]
1337 14th St NW
District of Columbia
phone: (202) 567-2576
(Place added by: drabmuh on 10-27-2009)
Ratings & Reviews
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| Reviews: 92 | Show All Ratings:
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$$
Cabbed it as far as we could before traffic started to stop, and now we’re doing a lot of not moving at all. Screw this, let’s get out and we’ll walk the rest, which we did, leaving the girls the cab for their afternoon play, and away. Not too far to go but had to push through the sidewalks jammed with onlookers. While Ed marched in the pride parade, Mike & I headed in & upstairs and got set up...
Looong straight orangey wood with alt key drawings topped bar with a patterned wallpaper base and foot box, seating 20 on reddish leather swivel chairs, and a 4 seat piece on the end for those who don’t play well with others. A piece of the barback holds a pair of 25 row tap towers, with mostly nondescript handles, and 5 handpumps in between. 2 & 3 door coolers running the length, otherwise. Light wine & booze shelved, and magnums & big big bottles atop over those. 4 flats running the wall over the barback (Oh, so sad, Red Sox, losing to the Nationals), and glassware dangling from the underside of the keg storage cold room piece space above.
White wall of brick over the bar and red wallpaper on the opposite wall, with some space towards the rear holding bottles shelved displaying goods for salesing. Wood plank floors, black ceiling with blended ductwork, large ornate drop lamps to the rear over center, track spots, & wall mounted fixture pieces.
8 booths adjacent to the bar; difficult to navigate by which I mean, get in & out of, due to their weird corners. Rear room loungings back there, with low cushioned benches and moodiness. Up front, a dozen 2-seat tables along the walls on elaborate backed cushiony things, and a pair of long hightops down center. Large circular chandelier overhead, big windows over 14th NW, and red curtained frontings.
50 taps, and just more than ½ of them Shorts beers for the event they’re doing today. I am not listing all this shit, but I will tell you that the draft menu is broken out by ‘character’; malt, roast, smoke, fruit & spice, tart & funky, crisp, hop, & authentic cask ale. You can go full on glassful or sample beers in 4oz tasters, priced between $2 on the low end and $4.50 for the heavy hitters; the exception being the Avery Samael’s Ale 2012, which went for $7 (yeah, fuck that).
We just sampled a whole lot of this and that, 9 of them from Shorts; Sustenance Black Bier, Publican Porter, Bellaire Brown Ale, Thundeur (black ale brewed w/charred pine needles, branches & cones), The Soft Parade (rye w/raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, & blackberries), Pineapple Side-Down (duh), Nicie Spicie (wheat beer w/lemon & orange zest, coriander, & peppercorn), & The Curl (Impy Pils w/Amarillo), Huma-Lupa-Licious IPA (a 140 IBU IPA), and a handful others; Boulevard Saison Brett (Tank 7 on Brett), Bluejacket/Funky Buddha/Cigar City collab Snack Attack! (all salty caramel peanutty), Bluejacket/Devil’s Backbone collab Black Berliner Techno Weisse, & Flying Dog Disobedience (Abbey Dubbel w/maple syrup). The best of ‘em were Shorts Publican Porter & The Curl, and the Boulevard Saison Brett. Mind you, Ed is hating on the place saying he can’t find a beer he wants.
The aforementioned 5 handpumps, if you really must know; Shorts Franken Pils (India Cream Ale) & Anniversary Ale Blood Orange Wheatwine, Flying Dog Disobedience, Founders Red Rye & Centennial IPA.
And a bottle list of holy shit, ‘cause they’ve got one of those, you know, with (like) 500ish entries, including 50 cider, Gluten Free & N/A offerings, and another 56 reserve (vintage) list entries. Some of these are absurdly pricey (Drie Fonteinen Snozberry Kriek for $75, WTF? and the Abbaye Du Saint Bon-Chien 1.5L for $130 is a bit painful, too. My price gauge (lovely) Orval tells the tale at $13, meaning ‘above the norm’.
Checked in on the food menu, and ordered a few snacky snacks, as they be. We split the Arrancini (peas, mint & Manchego risotto balls), Asian wings, and the fire roasted Shishito peppers (with a spicy harissa peanut dippy sauce). This was the Shishito pepper introduction for the boys, they were solid; not up to Anselm snuff, but still really good, as was the Arrancini.
Did I mention the keg storage ev-ery-where? (Including under my seat at the booth). Pretty damn strange. Dug the tunes, although Ed is now hating on the Flaming Lips ‘Yoshimi’. Our server knew a lot about a lot; line cleaning, beer availability, etc. It’s a great house, and filled in real quick behind us, timing being everything, post parade. Excellent selection, good foodings. I was quite pleasantly surprised. Wonder what goes on downstairs?
10-25-2012 02:52:20 |
More by slander
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$$
In a rare occasion of wifeless road-tripping, I visited the famed beer haven ChurchKey with a friend from Spain.
The ambience is cool and warm, upscale, with lots of beautiful people and the occasional nerd. There is a long bar, dim lights and a nice industrial look. Lively but not crowded on a Monday night. Even when standing by the stairs we didn't feel crowded or awkward, as it might happen in other bars. There are communal tables and a communal atmosphere. We were SO cozy! Came back the next day.
Draft list is pretty impressive, 55 taps divided by styles and with some rarities like Brewdog Paradox Smoked Cask or Horn Dog 2009. I love the servings: "4 oz" and "Glass". It's nice being able to have multiple beers instead of whole pints!
Prices appear to be expensive, but they really aren't too bad for a lot of those 4-oz servings: $2.5 for 2009 Horn Dog and Bell's Expedition, $1.5-$2 for a lot of IPA's, DIPA's and lagers...
Service was truly exceptional. Bar was pretty packed, but I was instantly approached by several bartenders. At the tables, servers and busers do the rounds, ensuring you'll never be out of beer, water, food. I value great service. I found it here.
Food- not as varied and upscale as downstairs at Birch and Barley but still incredibly good. Bar food down WOW. We had the arancini (risotto balls) and burger. That burger! Veal, beef, pork, SHIT! Good....
Watching the snow outside from that warm interior, sipping on multiple Imperial Stouts, laughing in good company...
I love ChurchKey.
01-12-2011 14:22:33 |
More by DoubleSimcoe
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $$
Finally had a chance to stop by and see what all the fuss was about. After my last experience, when I ended up leaving due to a mis-understading regarding opening bell, I was all set to pan this place. What can I say? They won me over; this is a fabulous place.
As one goes upstairs to Church Key, you're immediately struck by the size of this place. From the outside, I expected something fairly small and intimate, but the place goes pretty far back, and so has a very long bar to the right as you get upstairs. There are also a goodly number of booths, and the lighting (gorgeous chandelier) is outstanding. This place just exudes class; I can't think of any other way to put it. This would be a great first date place, or even a cool place to bring family and friends.
Of course the tap selection is exceptional and is clearly well thought out. Also, the 4 ounce option is an excellent alternative; giving one a chance to try a number of beers without needing a taxi and without breaking the bank. Also, at least on this day, my friendly and knowledgable bartender was very generous with the size of his pours.
What can I say? This place is outstanding and is very highly recommended. A shame it's already so damn popular. :-)
11-12-2009 01:06:21 |
More by johnmichaelsen
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5 | $$$$
ChurchKey - memorable NYE visit. $150 open bar
difficult to judge the atmopshere on NYE - our party was dressed perfectly nice (well, me at least) but were still underdressed. There were no identifiable beer nerds in the crowd that i saw, but i imagine thats differerent on another night. i'll move on.
ChurchKey is located above birch and barley (cant comment on that place) - well decorated, new and trendy. The bar is long and situated across from a line of booths. Spacious place.
we didnt have the luxury of examining the bottle list, but there 40-some taps on a well organized tap list. highlights for me included goose island dominique, allagash interlude, and dfh palo santo. There was a ton of other scarcely reviewed offerings, including some strange canadian micros.
service was very strong, but the crowd was controlled and gratuity was included.
not sure what the food is like on a normal night, but the hors d'oeuvres were on point - lots of flatbreads, croquettes, sliders, etc. Tasty, and not pretentious
prices listed were certainly expensive, but twas an open bar for us
01-05-2011 01:54:37 |
More by dirtylou
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5 | $$$
Friday afternoon, in town for the weekend. Facebook advertises a new IPA at ChurchKey; I'm in. Missed this place last week, visited on Monday (they're closed).
Atmosphere: We were in ChurchKey, the upstairs bar. Among the first in, we had our pick of the place and grabbed a table overlooking 14th St. There are tables and bar seating, including a semi-private dining area on the 2nd floor. The first floor, Birch and Barley, is more of a sit-down restaurant. The bar is nice, long and overlooking many tempting tap and bottle offerings.
Quality: A top notch place, everything was firing. The seating is comfortable; staff friendly; beer good. And the building, a converted garage, looks cool too.
Service: Friendly and regularly at the table, our servers recommended beers and cheeses. Visits were plentiful, although I'm sure that the undercrowded time of day was a factor.
Selection: A+. I counted at least 50 beers on tap and many, many more bottled. I didn't see a stinker amongst the list. By the way, that list is segregated by style and goes from mildest to strongest based on the style. A nice listing. From the list, I tried two DC Brau beers, The Corruption and The Public. I liked them both with The Corruption taking the cake.
Food: Finger food, tapas style, to full on meals. We settled in with a cheese plate (at $16 for a plate, you think that they'd spare more than one small wedge of each). Boos for that. The pups had some Mac & Cheese sticks that they gobbled up.
Pricey with smaller portions for some of the lighter foods (cheese included). A top-notch listing though that is worth the visit. As we shuffled out, the place was starting to fill up.
05-21-2011 01:37:48 |
More by akorsak
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$$
was pretty excited when ChurchKey opened just about a block away from my temporary abode on Logan Circle...after a few visits it's high time for a review
the atmosphere has great potential, but the noisy throngs that have packed the place since opening have made visits a bit of a hassle - bar seats have been impossible but we've been lucky enough to score table seats each time after a short wait, music playlist is one of the best around - big credit to any place that greets my first visit with a Deerhunter tune, the lighting is dim and decor is rustic-modern with a mix of polished metal, wood, brick, and cinderblock, long bar with a few tvs, booths line the wall with tables filling out the streetside space, in back is a nice lounge area with stacks of half-filled beer cases
selection and quality are the truly world-class aspects of ChurchKey, the 50 drafts and 5 casks continually boast exciting rarities, and the rotation has been constant with at least 2-3 new drafts on every night - keeping yours truly glued to their twitter feed, haven't even glanced at the 500 bottle list, glassware is diverse and matched to the style being served, particularly impressive is that the bar keeps three coolers at different temperatures to suit the needs of any style
table service has been a mixed bag for me - always friendly but I've had a couple experiences that threw me off: on one occasion the bartender or server took the liberty of replacing my ipa order with another of the style because they had run out of my preference; on another, my cask selection was served in a cocktail glass instead of a snifter, followed by a wait of nearly 45 minutes for an order of poutine and then no napkins or silverware - some of this would be easily excusable at another establishment, but not at one that places such great emphasis on their beer savvy as ChurchKey; of course I realize that my experience seems to be the exception and that this may improve over time, so any appropriate edits will be made
the poutine was tasty but really nothing special - barely warm, just fries with a light sausage gravy and cheese curds
beer prices are DC-honest and some even relatively cheap, the small poutine portion was certainly on the expensive side at $10, 4 oz. samples are available at a discounted price
11-26-2009 21:05:32 |
More by blackie
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$$
A "World Class" beer bar has finally arrived in the nation's capital! For beer lovers living in this city, its nightly beer scene once overrun by nomadic tribes of pretentious young things seeking $5.00 Bud Buckets, this is a cause célèbre.
Birch & Barley and Churchkey (BBCK), consists of two establishments: downstairs is Birch & Barley, a rather upscale restaurant that regales hungry patrons with an eclectic menu of seasonal cuisine; upstairs, atop a stairway of corrugated black steel awaits Churchkey, the aforementioned "World Class" beer bar and subject of this BeerFly review.
Once you have climbed the stairs, sheer Beervana beckons. You are in a long and narrow room; hanging from the high ceiling above are several large cast-iron church lights to ensure your quaff has an atmosphere of intimacy. To the right, in front of several large windows, is situated a regal looking lounge area furnished with comfy banquettes embroidered in gold and orange. This area gets packed early.
Then there is the sleek and handsome bar. At seventy feet long, and embedded with printed churchkeys, it runs nearly the entire length of the room and extends towards the rear, where there is a smaller - and quieter - lounge area containing a few small tables. Beyond are the bathrooms. The audio-visual stimulus is provided by several muted flat screen TVs hovering over the taps and a very decent, but well modulated, music system. Besides a great selection of beer, any patron of Churchkey is guaranteed an evening of aesthetic pleasantness.
Once seated in one of the plush swivel stools, I eagerly summon the draft menu from the friendly bartender. It lists fifty craft beers from around the world, many of them new, or rare, to this area. And, if this is not enough, Churchkey also offers five hand-pumped cask conditioned beers. (During this particular visit, I savored Sierra Nevada Celebration and Oliver's Dark Horse, the latter is a porter brewed by Oliver's in nearby Baltimore.)
And wonderful as it is given the contents contained therein, the draft menu is conveniently divided into such categories as "Crisp," "Malt," "Tart and Fruity" and "Hops" in order to ensure that discerning beer aficionados can find that perfect something for their perfectionist palates. But wait ... there's more! All drafts arrive in their appropriate glassware and, due to three temperature controlled vaults, are served at their optimal temperature. But wait ... there's even more! Churchkey also stocks over 500 bottled beers, all of which are listed in a big black binder kept behind the bar; it is yours to peruse for the asking. (Try not to drool.) Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a taste for craft beer; for these sad souls, BBCK serve a myriad of wine, spirits and cocktails. And if some of the beers are rather exorbitant, it is simply because many of them are just hard to find. For example, while a 10-ounce snifter of Brewdog Paradox goes for $10.00, Churchkey gives you the option of a 4-ounce pour; these "samples" can vary from $1.50 to $5.50. This in itself makes BBCK economical. (So, let's have no more threads on the prices, shall we?)
As for the bar food, the menu consists of fresh, well made cuisine that is leaps and bounds beyond your typical pub grub. As is the beer menu, it is broken up into the following criteria: "Plates To Share," "Poppers," "Salads and Sandwiches," and "Flatbreads." I dined on a goat cheese Panini with some (ala carte) tater tots on the side.
Those wishing to avoid the horrific hassle of driving and parking in the District, can get there by Metro. For me, the Red Line's Dupont Circle Station is the most convenient and a 20-minute walk (along P Street) from BBCK. It is also easily accessible from the Shaw-Howard University Station (Green Line). McPherson Station, on the Blue-Orange Line, is also a 20-minute walk Or just grab a cab. If adventurous and thrifty, you can take the 14th Street Metrobus (No. 52) that passes by the front door.
They open daily at 4:00 pm, so grab your ID and get in line. (A minor quibble is that it doesn't open earlier - perhaps, this will change some day.)
After a year and a half of delay and anticipation, Birch & Barley and Churchkey has been a long time in coming. To those of us truly passionate about beer, it will become our haven and it will be cherished. Thanks to Neighborhood Restaurant Group - who also own the fabulous Rustico - for daring to take "beer bar" to a new level.
01-12-2010 20:23:24 |
More by jjboesen
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | $$$
Churchkey is by far the best beer bar in the Washington region, and an absolute must-stop if you're in the area.
The 2nd floor is a long room with some booths, tables, and lots of bar seating. There are a huge number of taps and bottles, plus a few casks. Fantastic selection with a wide variety available, and a few truly unique options. The bartenders are incredible, and really know all about the beers they are serving.
I once went early on a Thursday right after opening, and one of the bartenders introduced himself. I went back late the next night with some friends, and he remembered my name.
This place does get very crowded, especially on weekends. I suggest going at 4PM on a weekday if you can.
12-04-2010 17:15:32 |
More by shivtim
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4 | food: 1.5 | $$$
If this place was in, say, Denver or Philadelphia, I would say it was good. But being that it is in a historically beer-deprived city like DC, it qualifies as great. I went upstairs to Church Key, so I can't say anything about the Birch and Barley downstairs, but the upstairs is dark and atmospheric. It has a long bar and a fairly limited number of tables (relative to demand) facing toward a big spread of windows overlooking the street. I had heard it was insanely crowded at night, so I went at around 2 p.m. on a rainy Saturday afternoon. And guess what? It was insanely crowded. The beer list, however, is worth the crowd - dozens of draught offerings, dozens more good looking bottles. I find the list heavy on the Belgians and darker beers - not as much for hopheads, but still a worthy lineup with at least something for everyone. They offer reasonable pint or 10 oz tulip prices and charge a dollar or two for four ounce tastes of all of them. They also have five or six cask beers (I had a Weyerbacher Hops Infusion on the cask system). The menu is simple but high end - good looking selection of sandwiches and cheese plates. I had the poutine - delicious. I found the food prices kind of steep, however. Service was crisp, not overly friendly, but quite efficient and direct. All in all, I recommend.
UPDATE: Do not, whatever you do, eat downstairs. I stick by all the things nice I said about the upstairs bar, but the downstairs restaurant is AWFUL. The service is slow and gratingly pretentious. The food is just simply bad (the pork belly is a gob of gooey fat, the brat burger is lifeless and dull, the truffle mac and cheese has no truffles - and no salt for that matter. The "Fois Gras" is cheap, badly seared duck liver (and yes, there is a difference), the lamb loin did come with sausage and smoked bacon, if by that you mean a tiny flake of each). And the prices are absolutely outrageous, both for food and beer.
Avoid the downstairs...
03-13-2010 22:14:00 |
More by Seanibus
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.25 | service: 2.5 | selection: 5 | $$$
For CBC week I wanted to give this one place a go. Knowing it would be busy, I factored that into the ratings.
Upstairs...line to get in (downstairs restaurant could have stayed opened later...they would have filled the place...). Hot and stuffy. Packed with beer geeks, some smelled.
Long, skinny bar, bookended with seating areas. Beers all over the bar back wall. I think 5 double door coolers packed with bottles. Maybe 30 tap handles. Great selection.
Service was slow, but friendly. I didn't envy the waitstaff. Busy busy busy. This is a good place for beer, probably awesome when not this busy
03-31-2013 16:45:15 |
More by Mebuzzard
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Birch & Barley / ChurchKey in Washington, DC
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