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Birch & Barley / ChurchKey

Not Rated.
Birch & Barley / ChurchKeyBirch & Barley / ChurchKey
BA SCORE
100
world-class

218 Ratings
Ratings: 218
Reviews: 114
rAvg: 4.53
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

Notes:
Place added by: drabmuh on 10-27-2009

No notes at this time.
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Ratings: 218 | Reviews: 114
Reviews by dexterk1:
More User Reviews:
Photo of qchic
4.21/5  rDev -7.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

Been a couple of times, both when it was quiet and also when packed. Great selection--menu is separated by style and a sample size is offered for half the price of a full pour. Fair pricing, especially for the area. They seem to get some limited beers and feature events and releases. Service has been decent, efficient, but don't expect warm and fuzzy. I'm sure I won't be the only one to mention the parking, as in there is none. It may be a while before I return as there are just too many other beer bars to explore, but it's inevitable that I'll be back.

Photo of JMay419
4.66/5  rDev +2.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Great beer list and taps. Can get crowded, but worth it.

Photo of crc1935
4.51/5  rDev -0.4%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

Great place, but the crowd...

Photo of JackRWatkins
4.6/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 3

exquisite selection knowledgable staff, great bar

Photo of DavidSomers
4.71/5  rDev +4%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5

Needs vegan options For food. But beer selection and service is world class

Photo of therackman
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%

First class place. I showed up on the day of the dominion 25th anniversary celebration and was fortunate to enjoy a bell's two hearted on cask, victory dirtwolf and dominion the dream 25th anniversary black IPL. 50 beers were on tap and hundreds of other bottles available. Atmosphere was a bit dark, but friendly crowd. The service was top notch. When asked, the bartenders explained how much work went into changing 50 kegs over the night before in preparation of the 25th anny party, flushing all the lines with cleaner then water before changing over the kegs. I was impressed by three different temperature controlled coolers housing the kegs to serve at optimal serving temps. This is a must stop in the DC area and only a short walk/bike ride off the metro red line.

Photo of MMarkMelly
4.5/5  rDev -0.7%

Great Place for Suds & Buds

Photo of srletend
4.5/5  rDev -0.7%

Awesome selection, attentive and knowledgeable staff.

Photo of ONovoMexicano
4/5  rDev -11.7%

A superb beer selection is what you'll find here, as well as some good food with an emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients. That's a good formula for me.

I had the bratburger, which came with fries, and was comped some green beans that were probably the highlight of the meal. Well, except for when the bartender (I was sitting at the bar) gave me a small pour of Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier to complement the brat. It was a match made in heaven. The juicy, smoked flavors of the brat paired with the campfire, smoked ham flavor of the beer was a brilliant combo. Kudos to the bar guy for that.

And kudos to ChurchKey for the enviable tap selection. There was recently a sort of tap takeover by an Italian brewing outfit, Brewfist, so many of their brews were on tap. I wasn't crazy about any of them but they do some wild brews that were worth at least trying. Also available were some relatively local breweries like Union and 3 Star Brewing which are doing some good things and had beers I enjoyed. The real beer geek in me thanks Churchkey for having Cuvee Delphine by De Struise brewers on tap. That's a beer I'd be hard-pressed to find, or even be on the lookout for, anywhere else.

Overall, this place offers a fine-dining experience (complete with a very dim-lit ambiance) and craft beer galore. You can kill two birds with one stone. Woohoo.

Photo of clayrock81
4.16/5  rDev -8.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

This might not be the greatest beer bar I have been to or drinking time/experience I've ever had but as I review this place it might just be after all. The draft and bottle list is impressive and the four oz sample you can get for any draft is great. I would say that the four ounce samples are pricey but then again this is DC so that might be norm for area. The setup is great too (I went in afternoon so no idea if crowding is problem at night) - plenty of bar seats and booths, TVs turned to ESPN channels (pleased me), low lighting and music so you don't have to shout and the vie is more relaxed. Perhaps only complaint is it seemed to take a while for our food which didn't bother me. As for beer selection I still stand by my first sentence that it's not the greatest beer bar b/c they do get stuff from everywhere and stuff I can't find anywhere else with exception of Philly. A must go for anybody hitting DC.

Photo of WicksCherrycoke
4.56/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4

Yes, this should be your first stop in DC (I'm local). The beers are the point here but reviewed separately. Regarding the place itself, the bar at CK makes it easy to spend long hours sampling their enormous selection of drafts and bottle reserves; substantial/expansive bar, well spaced and padded bar stools w/ armrests, attentive/knowledgeable bar staff, B&B chef make great bar food and pairings. I appreciate the seclusion and the throwback lounge vibe (although some may not); i.e. bar is up a long stairwell with a rather dark interior, no outside views from bar-some window seating is available.

About half of CK has excellent TV viewing (from bar, booths/tables) and staff is good about tuning in your game but don't expect sound, you're here to drink, so are the people behind and around you.

Draft and bottle menus well organized (profile, style, product and servicing details), easy to review and select. Although I have not made it through the 555 lineup, the published selection of drafts and bottles appears to be accurate and up to date only because I have been coming here for about 4 years I have not encountered any instance where something was out or unavailable (and I have tried).

The 55 daily drafts can be sampled (4 oz.) but if you want to dent the 500 bottle lineup bring a friend (or make one).

A phenomenal place..

Photo of 4thelvofbeer
1/5  rDev -77.9%
vibe: 1 | quality: 1 | service: 1 | selection: 1 | food: 1

I have no idea how this place is rated a 99. Let me explain why I will never return to this place again and why each category is rated as a one. Visited on Sunday, 22 June, 2014. I wish I could rate it a zero, but one is the lowest. After looking for a parking place for close to a half hour--- seriously, there is no place to park around this area and the restaurant has no parking--we paid $17 to park in the Washington Plaza Hotel. All parking garages close to the restaurant were closed or full. So, after you screw around looking for parking, get ready for the most expensive, overpriced beer menu on the planet! What a rip off! Prices are DC and then some...just plain price gouging going on here! The food menu is really mediocre...and calling it mediocre is a gift to this place....better said, the menu is shit. Massively overpriced small portions. Crappy choice of appetizers, lame entrees and a joke of a flatbread layout for a place that supposedly prides itself on its beer list. Nothing good at all to complement your overpriced beers. Service is inattentive. You would think our server had a dozen tables of her own, when there was only us in her section and she was nowhere to be seen when we needed something. Glasses sat empty and we had to flag her down for overpriced refills. Our entree plates sat, empty, on the table for 15 minutes before we asked a busboy to remove them. Overall terrible experience and will never be going back. Waste of time and money....zero.

Photo of Brdlist
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Went to Churchkey for the first time after a wedding weekend - it was a Sunday night and the weekend after SAVOR. It wasn't very crowded and we sat down immediately. My overall impression of this place was amazing!

A- It was dark as others have reviewed, but in a very cool loungy type way. I tend to run warm so the 60 something degree AC was perfect. I think it's kept this way because they have a massive shelf, right above the table, where they are aging some of the rarest beers in the world, and multiples - what I would have given to have 10 minutes with that shelf

Q- what can you say? It's an expensive place to eat or drink, but you definitely get what you pay for. Everything was very clean and modern.

S - Now I read a few others where the service got dinged a little bit, but again, there was noone there and we had prompt and accurate service, at times even two staff attending to us. They were very conversational, sampled some of our rarer beers with us and even brought my friends girlfriend one of their personal sweatshirts to wear as she was chilly - top notch guys!

S- this is a dream selection - if you're not familiar with DC law, they have almost no distribution laws and can serve pretty much whatever beer they want. If you're willing to pay top dollar, you can knock off some serious whales from their bottle list (I never even got into the drafts, they were nice, but my eyes blew up in the bottle list). I got to have ADwtD ($60), BA Sump ($60), Between Two Staves ($50), Mad Meg ($37) Bible Belt ($20) and a couple other long time wants. This place is awesome!

F- Very good, I didn't eat much but it tasted great from what I had - definitely a gastropub type fare and we didn't go, but the restaurant downstairs was pretty hyped for being great. Our menu items were mainly modern takes on traditional bar food.

V - Like I said, between two of us, we knocked out $450 in a sitting no problem, if you're looking for economy, this is not your place, but if you are looing to spend some good money on some even better beers, this is a can't miss

Overall very high ratings for this place, great staff, cool vibe and oh yeah... THE BOTTLE LIST!
I'll be returning in a week or so, cannot wait!

Photo of Sludgeman
4.13/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

UPDATED

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.

Photo of atigerlife
4.58/5  rDev +1.1%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

One of the great beer bars that I have visited. Take the metal stairs on the left side of Birch & Barley and head upstairs. I was there on a Sunday afternoon, so it was rather mild. I'm sure it must get packed during more normal hours.

Rather dark interior. Nothing fancy to look at. About 20 seats at the bar with a number of booths against the wall. Not a huge place. 3 TV's behind the bar. Music was quite nice.

The star of the place is the beer selection. Behind the bar are the fridges with perhaps 500 choices of bottled beer. Perhaps 50 beers on tap. Most impressive, there were 5 cask ales. Not too many bars have that, which shows a real dedication to beer.

Menu was quite limited. I had a flatbread, which was quite tasty.

Bar tenders seemed very knowledgeable. I was quite impressed when a German couple sat down next to me and one of the bartenders spoke to them in German! Overall, the bartenders were not particularly attentive or friendly to me, especially considering that it was a rather slow period. But, they did their job.

I liked that you could get the tap/cask beers in 4 oz testers as well 7 ounces. Nice to have choices.

Overall, amazing place. Can't beat the beer selection. If I'm ever back in DC, I'll definitely be heading back over.

Photo of Mnmaverick
4.94/5  rDev +9.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I visited Churchkey for the first time last week, and was absolutely impressed by the selection and staff. They had a phenomenal lineup of tap beers, of which I tried the following: Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, Foothills Sexual Chocolate, Struise Cuvee Delphine, Mikkeller George!, Evil Twin Justin Blaeber, and Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron. Thank God for the 4oz. pours! Hard to find a tap lineup like that anywhere (disclaimer - they had a barrel-aged stout event a few days before, so I doubt they normally have those on tap).

The staff was great, and the bartender even gave me the George! and Justin Blaeber for free.

Awesome place, not to be missed if you are in DC.

Photo of D-18V
4.48/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75

I've been to ChurchKey several times as I am a nearby resident of DC. I have never, however, been downstairs to the partnering restaurant type ambiance, Birch & Barley. First time I went to ChurchKey, Great Lakes Christmas Ale was on tap. It is a little pricey, and if you are trying to not spend money, this is not the bar. However, if you are looking for something delicious and maybe, have something rare in mind, this is your first bet for bars in DC. Today's the first of April and I had a KBS 2014 chased by a Hopslam D IPA (no fools). It was a spring day and everything was right with the beers I had; no doubt it would be more pleasant if the bar managed to let a little more light in somehow.

Photo of WheelsPSU
4.39/5  rDev -3.1%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

Went to ChurchKey for the first time this past Saturday. Was very impressed with the 29 page bottle list of over 500 bottles/cans. I got a DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon and a Lagunitas CouchTrippin Fusion 19 which the waitress didn't even know they had because it hast even come out yet!
Food was good. I had the jerk wings and they were not dripping in sauce, which was appreciated. I would make this a weekly stop but I live in NY so that would really put a dent in my wallet. Anyway, loved this place.

Photo of Cubatobaco
4.64/5  rDev +2.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5

My girlfriend and I were in DC for the weekend and decided to hit Churchkey up for an appetizer, beer and a glass of wine for her. Albeit it was very crowded, we lucked out and got a seat. I'd recommend getting there early. The beer selection is off-the-charts!!! I was able to land OTWOA there. The food was fantastic! Definitely get the grilled cheese and bread board if you go. The waiter, who's name escapes me, was very attentive for as busy it was. He was personable and even recommended other beer places/shops to go to while in the city. The wine was even great! I would love to go back and eat at Birch & Barley. Well worth visiting!

Photo of HardTarget
4.88/5  rDev +7.7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Above the restaurant, up a steep stair, a shotgun barroom with windows at the front and bathrooms in the back. Long bar fills 2/3rds of the room with a great mix of booth, table, bar chairs. Mostly wood, seats aren't the most comfortable, the large crowd that gathered were middle upper class young and lively.

Quality Everything sampled was clean and excellent.

Service: Fantastic. Both servers we encountered were very knowledgeable and obviously loved beer. Friendly, took great care of us even after the place got very busy, we never sat without a beer or water. I really was impressed that the menu (which is impressive for several reasons) listed serving temperatures.

Selection. The night I visited they were just putting out at least 30 English kegs and casks adding to the 30 or more other taps present for an event. The bottle list is a phone directory. I recognized almost nothing. What I did, I recognized as high quality choices. This is graduate school for beer drinkers.

Food: What I had was good (the fried mac and cheese) but not great. The servings, like the beer sizes were small, which is fine as the price reflected that. Very good for bar food, but I wouldn't recommend going in hungry.

Photo of adam42381
4.78/5  rDev +5.5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

We visited Churchkey last summer with friends before heading downstairs for dinner at Birch & Barley. The beer selection was phenomenal. I can’t imagine a beer selection being any better than theirs. The beer service staff was very good and knowledgeable. I’d definitely head back any time I’m up in the DC area. I’d say it’s a bit overpriced, but I expected that so it wasn’t a surprise. The food at Birch & Barley was fantastic. The waitstaff was quick to offer a beer selection to pair with the food which was a huge plus. If you are looking for an upscale meal to go along with an excellent beer, you can’t go wrong with Churchkey / Birch & Barley.

Photo of chiva
4.94/5  rDev +9.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Showed up on Mar. 25th weekend latenight, after being in the area and having planned on visiting. The exterior is quite unassuming for what you experience. Superb selection, clearly an order of magnitude above any beer centric bar you would typically visit. Servers are clearly well versed in beer and beer brewing and are willing to share their knowledge. Servers are awesome and deal skillfully with the crowd, not rushing past patrons with questions etc. but still maintaining a very efficient level of service.
Extensive beer list, will keep revisits interesting.
Beer list annotated with proper glassware, and serving temperature.

Photo of jophish17
3.86/5  rDev -14.8%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5

Visited last week while in town for the holidays

ChurchKey is one of those places that I've heard about for years, before craft beer really exploded. The selection is legendary, and I was happy to get a chance to finally check it out after being in the area twice in recent times.

I visited around 10pm on a weeknight, but the bar was still packed, as were most of the booths. The space was kinda chic, but I do think it was a bit too dark, which I can appreciate at a place like monks, but It doesn't match he rest of the feeling at ChurchKey. I liked the lounge-like areas, but overall I just don't think the atmosphere was special.

I managed to find a seat at the bar and began to ponder my first beer. 50 or so drafts, a few casks and about 500 bottles, so I had my hands full. Both beers I had were great pours, and in appropriate non-branded glassware. The selection of draft beers was both diverse and well thought-out, and it the highlight of the bar. I loved that they offer 4oz. pours, though rare beers + DC meant that they could easily exceed 1$/oz.. Ouch!

I had an appetizer but I won't rate their food on that - I will say that the menu looked promising. Prices were high, even for me coming from a city with relatively high bar prices, but that's DC for you.

Service was probably my least favorite part - my bartender seemed detached from reality. I'm not sure if he was high, or just not interested. Even when we did communicate, it seemed forced and as if I was a bother. On top of that, the super long bar with only two bartenders made it difficult to get quick service (I don't think it's fair to blame the workers for that). The only real disappointing aspect of the evening.

ChurchKey lived up to the hype, and is somewhere that I hope to return to someday.

Photo of Bifpocaroba
4.44/5  rDev -2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 3.25 | selection: 5

One of the best beer selections I've ever seen. We really liked this place, great crowd. The bartenders though knowledgeable can be hard to track down if your standing and not seated at the bar. If your looking for an unparalleled beer selection than this is the place. Overall this place is a Home Run.

Photo of GregKeith
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

Good Lord!

I ate/drank there this week during DC Restaurant Week. The menu was 3 courses with optional beer pairings (no brainer - duh). The food was world-class. The beer pairings were nearly perfect. The beer selection was vast - hundreds of beers I've never had and some I've never heard of. The bar staff was extremely knowledgeable although the atmosphere was so noisy I couldn't always hear what they were saying. It's a little bit pricey but not really considering the quality. Definitely best of class in DC.

Beers (all draft): Bells Experimental 2013-3 (I think - it was an off-menu recommendation), Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale, La Cholie Fraulein (doppelbock from Canada) and Panking Pole (a dry English cider). All excellent and all well-paired with the food.

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Birch & Barley / ChurchKey in Washington, DC
100 out of 100 based on 218 ratings.