The Birch

Not Rated.
The BirchThe Birch
BA SCORE
99
world-class

24 Reviews
Reviews: 24
Visits: 40
rAvg: 4.68
pDev: n/a
Taps: 22
Bottles: 100
Cask: Y
[ Bar, Eatery ]

1231 W Olney Rd
Norfolk, Virginia, 23507-1314
United States
phone: (757) 962-5400

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @thebirchbar

Notes:
Place added by: DoctorB2B on 01-03-2011

No notes at this time.
Place: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 24 | Visits: 40
Reviews by FenwaySquid:
Photo of FenwaySquid
5/5  rDev +6.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Stopped in a few weeks ago but the visit is still etched into my mind. This is easily one of the coolest bars I've ever visited.

The atmosphere was great. No tv's blaring out sporting events (which normally I'd love) or loud music. Overall it was quiet and inviting, the decor inside was perfect. I felt like I'd be comfortable hanging out there for a while.

Service was fantastic. The guy working the bar (I think the owner) was quick and obviously knew his stuff and was ready to offer recommendations.

The selection is world class. I don't know of any other establishment with that many beers available. It's also the first bar I've ever seen without a typical swill tap (pbr, bud light, etc.) to help pay the bills. The only knock I can find is it's lacking a little as far as session beers. Most everything's high ABV, which makes having more than 1 or 2 risky if you've got to drive.

I didn't try any food, but the menu's pretty small. Grilled cheese sandwiches, soft pretzels, or cheese boards. They've got quite the selection of gourmet if you're into that kind o thing.

For value it is a little pricey. I don't think I saw any bottles or drafts for less than $5, and most were more than that. But in the end it's all worth it.

Overall, like I said at the top this is one of the coolest bars I've ever visited, period. I loved the atmosphere and the selection is insane. I do wish they'd get some more low gravity stuff and expand the kitchen. Then again, if it's not broken, don't fix it, right?

Bottom line, if you're in the Hampton Roads area you need to find your way over and check this place out. (1,617 characters)

More User Reviews:
Photo of oldn00b
4.91/5  rDev +4.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Photo of ccnorthwest
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5

I loved the atmosphere and interior of the place. They have a great bakery next door that will deliver pizza to you while your drinking at The Birch. They have some sometype of member program there because their were quite a few bottles behind the counter in the fridge that were not for purchase like Cantillon and Three Floyds variations. (340 characters)

Photo of ShanePB
4.49/5  rDev -4.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75

Photo of Boone757
4.61/5  rDev -1.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

Photo of chipmontero
4.65/5  rDev -0.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Photo of Sonofalime
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of LambicKing
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Late to the review party here, but:

First visited The Birch in January 2011 when was living in Belgium and temporarily in Norfolk for school...The Birch had only been open for a couple of weeks at this point. At the time, Ben and Malia were the only bar owners in Norfolk with a consistent supply of interesting and proven European beers. Both of them were quick to geek out with me and other customers over beer. How refreshing...most bar owners couldn't give a damn about talking at length with you, they just want your money/business. When asked where I live (Belgium at the time), I remember Ben saying, "I fucking hate you" with a smirk on his face. Ha!

Fast forward almost a year, I was now living in the Hampton Roads area and visited The Birch when I could and was happy to know Ben and Malia were cool with folks bringing things to share from time to time. Very cool. I'm now gone from the area and in Florida, but whenever I'm back in town, The Birch is one of my mandatory stops. Period. Even if just to say hello to Malia and a few old beer friends.

Ambiance is awesome...simple and inviting. Soft background music adds to the experience without drowning out conversations. No TVs...huge plus. Never overly crowded, but there's always a consistent crowd...perfect for old fuckers like me over 30. People are here simply for the quality of the company and quality of the beer.

Food is solid and gradually improved over time...nice selection of charcuterie, gourmet grilled cheeses and other tasty snacks to pair well with your pour of choice. IIRC, get the Tilquin sandwich!

Beer selection is better than any bar in Hampton Roads (even though I scored a '99 Cantillon Gueuze in 2012 at The Bier Garden). Lots of interesting European choices and they are also open to the idea of carrying the better American offerings as well.

Prices are right in line with the quality of beer you receive. You can't expect a $5 snifter/tulip (because fuck shaker pints) from a keg that costs $400-800, in some cases. Malia certainly makes sure customers are happy. She knows her beer and will tell you about it with a smile.

There's a reason Jean Van Roy trusts Malia with hosting Zwanze Day. I look forward to the day when I can visit again with Mike, Dick, Abe, Seth, Tim, Chad and all the other degenerates. Do yourself a favor - visit The Birch if you are in the area. You won't be disappointed. (2,428 characters)

Photo of John_Beeryman
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of BoilerUpNavy
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of Beer-A-Lot
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of dollybil
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of newcomer81
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of Flowyn82
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of Mantooth
4.86/5  rDev +3.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

One of the best beer-geek bars I've been to. An amazing assortment of drafts, and a great selection of tough-get bottles - all 20% off if you're taking them home. No sports vibe, or chain feel, just a bar dedicated to the love of beer. The cheese plates looked good, we didn't eat, and they had a neat guide for pairing brews and cheese. Our bartender was very knowledgeable. If you're a true beer geek, you'll love this place. Not to be missed. (445 characters)

Photo of RonJeezy
4/5  rDev -14.5%

Photo of EvilBambi
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of bcp5296d
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of seanchai
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of ohhsnap
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of Fluffheady
4.19/5  rDev -10.5%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Really great spot. They have some amazing exclusives on draft, and they obviously have ridiculous connections. The ambiance is great, and I wish I lived around here so I could hang out here more often.

The staff was a little awkward. When we asked why they served so much Belgian/German beer - which is fine!!!! We just wanted to know their inspiration - they said ’to be different’. Interesting, because we all know the first generation of US craft beer bars were heavily Belgian/German. Is this the first ’retro’ craft beer bar? (Or was I too dense/drunk to take a joke? Probably.) I also felt a familiar vibe from the management - a vibe I’ve experienced before - when someone has a bar they obviously know is good, but competition in the area is so limited they become a little ostentatious. Meh. They were so damn nice I honestly didn’t care.

Go here. It’s a special place. (895 characters)

Photo of TappaKeggaBrew
3.98/5  rDev -15%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 2.5

The Birch is a bit of a dive, and for that reason it will never have mass appeal, but it's a great place to expand your beer horizons.

Off the beaten path, this place is never over-crowded, yet word of mouth and reputation have guaranteed that it's never empty. The wooden decor and bar are a throwback, almost reminding me of a saloon in the old western movies. Also true to the old saloon, it's dimly lit and a little grungy.

The selection of beers on tap is excellent (I think about 20), and they're constantly being rotated -- it's not just American microbrews, but also some very unusual foreign styles. If trying new and diverse on-tap beers appeals to you, you've come to the right place. The bottle selection is good, but I've certainly seen better (and they seem to have trouble keeping them all in stock).

The waitstaff are friendly and decently knowledgeable, although I'd recommend talking with the owner if you have specific or detailed questions. Service is hit-or-miss -- sometimes I've been well looked after, but other times a well-meaning but overworked bartender/server can take 30 minutes to "make the rounds" among the customers (a long time to wait when your glass runs dry or when you're ready to pay and leave).

I have been disappointed in the food: it's a mix of average bar-food and tiny cheese plates, and it's really overpriced for the amount you get (but this is a BEER bar; nobody comes here for the food).

The price for the beer vs the amount you get is also high -- it's a great place to come and try new stuff on tap, to be sure, but $5+ for an 8-ounce "half pour" ($8-10 for the full pour) is pretty steep by any standard. I'd put The Birch in the "special occasion" category, for when I want to meet a friend to taste something new and unique. (1,783 characters)

Photo of JJStout83
4.78/5  rDev +2.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

This is a new spot for me. I've been a few times but I am truly impressed. Ben and Malia are so nice, and they really know their stuff when it comes to awesome beers and food pairings. The progressive grilled cheese menu and cheese boards were an unexpected but pleasant change to the usual bar fare forced upon patrons at nearly every other watering hole (this was a very welcome surprise). The constantly evolving "on tap" menu ensures that you will never get bored with stagnate offerings or the tire old "mill hunk" brews. Special events including, "43 Hours of Sour" and "Raise a Glass to Find a Cure" present an even greater range of phenomenal beer to choose from. The Birch is warm and cozy, yet very efficient as a business. The atmosphere has a laid back fluidity about it-familiar without being overbearing. It may seem pricey to a novice but to someone who knows what they are looking for, you definitely get your money's worth. It is a small yet knowledgable team of beer and food lovers. I hold this establishment in the highest regard, it is a haunt I will enjoy for a very long time. (1,099 characters)

Photo of timc13
5/5  rDev +6.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

This is the best craft beer bar I have ever been too. Unbelievable selection both draft and bottles. If you are any where near the hampton roads area and you love craft beer, do your self a favor and go and check them out. You will not be disappointed. (252 characters)

Photo of Zraly
4.81/5  rDev +2.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5

There really isn't much I can say that hasn't already been said about The Birch. So rather than writing a thesis on its merits, here is a quick summary of The Birch:

This is THE place for anyone who cares about and loves beer. Always a class-act selection of B. United imports, as well as a few local and USA craft brews to round out its usual offerings. Excellent cheese plates and as of recent, they also offer goat cheese truffles, making this an incredible place for a night cap.

There are no burgers here, no Bud Lite, and I very much love this place for that exact reason. Ambiance is always chill, and it is a premiere spot to take your sweetie and/or someone you are trying to impress who also happens to have good taste. Even if the person doesn't have good taste, they'll know they should and what that is once they leave here.

Service is excellent. Ben is fabulous, Malia seems to do a fine job of keeping emails and social networking sites up-to-date, and Mary will works her ass off anytime we are there. We are so happy The Birch has been successful so far. If you are in Norfolk, please go to The Birch. (1,122 characters)

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The Birch in Norfolk, VA
99 out of 100 based on 24 ratings.