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Birch & Barley / ChurchKey

Not Rated.
Birch & Barley / ChurchKeyBirch & Barley / ChurchKey

112 Reviews
Reviews: 112
Visits: 238
Avg: 4.44
pDev: n/a
Taps: 55
Bottles: 500
Cask: Y
[ Bar, Eatery ]

1337 14th St NW
Washington, District of Columbia, 20005-3610
United States
phone: (202) 567-2576

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @churchkeydc

Place added by: drabmuh on 10-27-2009

No notes at this time.
Place: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 112 | Visits: 238
Reviews by Sludgeman:
Photo of Sludgeman
4.15/5  rDev -6.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25


Visited Church Key multiple times - weekdays and weekends, early and late, during events and not.

Overall, this place is on my list when I need a special beer. Its a beer drinkers bar . . . the bar upstairs tends to be too crowded and service suffers. Sitting at the bar in the Birch & Barley is much prefered. Go early and leave early, the experience will be much better and you'll most likely get the beer you are looking for. Not kid friendly except early. Can be too dark for some of us whose eyes are little older. They REALLY need to resolve the dishwashing detergent odor issue noted below.

3/26/2013 - A Wednesday during the Craft Brewers Conference. Super crowded. A new line up of beers special for the night. Cool stuff.

A - The restaurant is less crowded and has a better atmosphere.

Q - I have to ding them this time. 3 of my 5 tastes had that dishwashing detergent odor. Could not taste, but the odor was clearly evident. Thought it was maybe the beer the first time. Sitting at the bar in the restaurant watching the bartender put glasses through the dishwasher. When she pulled the glasses out she would do a quick rinse on the glass washer before pouring a beer. I mentioned it to the bartender and she agreed. Without my asking she credited two of the beers. She was more attentive to rinsing the glasses before a pour.

S - Service in the restaurant is much better than in the upstairs bar.

S - Unbelieveable. Top notch.

F - Somewhat narrow menu but the food was good. I had the pieroges and the chicken rosemary flatbread. Both were yummy and arrive quickly.

2/2/2013 - Arrived about 6pm looking to have a few beers before we headed down the street for dinner. This was the first time I had visited. ChurchKey had been on my "to visit" list for quite some time and I finally made. Unfortunately I was underwhelmed.

A - When we walked in the first thing we noticed was the stale beer smell. Reminded me of my fraternity bar where I paid $0.25/beer. I can get over the smell, but for paying the prices the least they can do is keep it clean and somewhat fresh smelling. It was crowed (not complaining, popular places get crowded) with a good vibe. Seating is a challenge. And the lighting is quite low, making it difficult to read the beer menu.

Q - No complaints

S - Waiter was friendly and helpful, but the service was very slow. Busy and crowded means slow, but it was almost an hour between my first and second beers.

S - Beer selection is great, both on tap and by the bottle.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of costanzo_mike
4.61/5  rDev +3.8%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Photo of Cpmitchno1
4.58/5  rDev +3.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5

Photo of Cynic-ale
4.01/5  rDev -9.7%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 3.75

Photo of benzalman
4.39/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Photo of jrfehon33
3.76/5  rDev -15.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 2.25 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5

I visited Church Key while on a business trip because it has a reputation for a wide selection of beer from around the world. I wasn't disappointed. Their draft and bottle lists rival that of any bar in the states or Europe. The vibe and food are good. If you don't care about cost this place will quickly become your favorite. However, their pricing is flat out greedy. I hate to knock a place that obviously prides itself on quality and selection. I appreciate both. However, a great bar cares about its clientele through a number of other avenues, most importantly providing fair pricing. Church Key simply doesn't do that and so my trip last month will be my one and only.

 676 characters

Photo of DovGibor
3.95/5  rDev -11%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3.75

I've been to ChurchKey three times and it's always an interesting, albeit imperfect experience. Their selection is amazing. It leans more towards sours than most places, and the general public. I'm not crazy about their classification system, but if you know craft beers, you'll eventually find what you're looking for. They have an amazing wall of vintage beers above booths, and cases with illustrious names on them stacked above the bar.

Service is great for locals, not so great for everyone else. The lighting tends to be dim, but so are many bars. The menu is limited, though good. I've had enjoyable appetizers on two visits. On my most recent trip I needed dinner and ordered a burger. The bun was burnt and I would have sent it back for a new bun, but I'm not a local and after 5 minutes of trying to wave down my server I gave in to hunger and just ate it.

It is warmer than is comfortable, and I think this is a problem. They go to great lengths to serve their beers at proper temperature and in proper glassware. Separate draft lines and coolers for three temps. Remember all those illustrious vintage beers? They're all stored at this uncomfortable temperature. Why go to such lengths to serve a 10 year old beer at 55º, when it spent 9.5 of those years at 80º? Maybe I'm missing something, but it made me wonder.

I'd still recommend visiting if you're a craft beer fan in DC. Just don't have too high expectations for the experience.

 1,470 characters

Photo of Sammy
4.54/5  rDev +2.3%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75

Photo of FyreStorm
4.34/5  rDev -2.3%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 5

Visiting from Ontario, did my homework and made sure to make this place a priority. The decor is subdued as is the lighting...it's not a 'show' bar, but at the same time the couches and furniture do provide some comfortable perch to imbibe your brew.

The bottle selection is next to none. Staggering menu with tons of choices in every variety.

My wife and I took advantage of the healthy draft list and sample 4oz available to work our way thru about 20 selections on two separate visits.

Service was attentive but not hovering.

Overall I can't imagine visiting DC and not popping in here.

 595 characters

Photo of VeganUndead
4.69/5  rDev +5.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Photo of DerekCarruth
4.79/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4

As far as beer places go, this is going to be hard to beat. Man, the selection is spectacular. 45-50 beers on draft and about 300-400 bottle options, maybe more. If you can't find an outstanding beer in your style you are never going to. As far as beer bars go this is top of the class. Well done.

 302 characters

Photo of mkholmes25
4.43/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

Photo of needMIbeerinMD
4.59/5  rDev +3.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Photo of Flying-ABV
4.9/5  rDev +10.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

Fantastic!! 700 beers in the book and about 3-dozen on tap. Serving temps of 42/48/54F. No nitro taps but great atmosphere beer and food. Bar upstairs and restaurant down. I'd keep coming back for sure!!

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Photo of mjstern70
5/5  rDev +12.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

This place is beyond words. You must go there if you're in the area at all.

76 characters

Photo of cshafer7
4.29/5  rDev -3.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.75 | food: 4.25

Photo of chinchill
2.91/5  rDev -34.5%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 2 | service: 3 | selection: 3.75 | food: 3

Visited the upstairs Churchkey pub only as the downstairs area was closed.
Loud and crowded bar, which I can put up with to some extent.
Not acceptable is the fact that the beer I ordered seemed to be infected. The brewery may be to blame, in part, but the pub is certainly ultimately responsible. To add insult to injury, they billed me for 50% more than the price listed on their menu. Somewhat minimal service staff never checked to see if the beer as satisfactory.
Even without this, the beer list, high pricing, and mediocre facility are far from world class; the high rating is beyond comprehension.

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Photo of ChrisinRI
4.75/5  rDev +7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Photo of N17shelfside
4.43/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.75

Photo of stevoj
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.75 | food: 3.75

A nice cozy upstairs bar, dim industrial feel, My one beef was the lighting, impossibly low lights and small type on the menu made it almost impossible to read. Decent food, I did not get a chance to see the bottle list buy heard it was pretty good.

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Photo of Highbury09
4.4/5  rDev -0.9%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5

Photo of whitenads
4.85/5  rDev +9.2%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75 | food: 5

Photo of vonnegut21
4.41/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Photo of Siggy125
4.65/5  rDev +4.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Photo of Devman171
4.65/5  rDev +4.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

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Birch & Barley / ChurchKey in Washington, DC
98 out of 100 based on 112 ratings.