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The Birch

Not Rated.
The BirchThe Birch
BA SCORE
100
world-class

34 Ratings
Ratings: 34
Reviews: 23
rAvg: 4.7
pDev: 6.17%
Taps: 22
Bottles: 100
Cask: Y
Beer-to-Go: 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:
None, yet.

(Place added by: DoctorB2B on 01-03-2011)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 34 | Reviews: 23 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of TappaKeggaBrew
3.98/5  rDev -15.3%

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.

TappaKeggaBrew, Nov 14, 2013
Photo of RonJeezy
4/5  rDev -14.9%

RonJeezy, Mar 13, 2014
Photo of Fluffheady
4.19/5  rDev -10.9%

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.

Fluffheady, Nov 24, 2013
Photo of abenf
4.31/5  rDev -8.3%

Norfolk doesn't deserve The Birch. It's a bar for the sake of beer and they don't take that lightly. The selection is crazy and the people are super friendly/helpful/attentive. The food is pricey nuts and cheese and not much else, but then you're not going here for the food. Especially great that it's next door to Tortilla West so that after you're done giving your wallet a work out with premium beer you can go and give it a break with some Tecate while eating insane nachos.

abenf, Jan 17, 2013
Photo of ThomWade
4.34/5  rDev -7.7%

Above average atmosphere, product selection, and service make this a Class A establishment. Locating this beer bar in out of the way West Ghent in Norfolk Virginia was a great decision; a unique location for a unique bar. The owners are very knowledgable and ready to share their insights and recommendations about the well rounded selections.

ThomWade, Mar 16, 2013
Photo of clayrock81
4.36/5  rDev -7.2%

I'm trying to temper my review so I don't make this sound like beer-ven on earth, but damn what a cool spot. I'll start w/ the cons - can get crowded quickly due to rising popularity and smallness, and a few beers are gonna set you back. However, those are trivial complaints. If you're from out of town and visiting hit this spot for the basics, they gave a large selection of taps and bottles and there will be diamonds in the rough for most BA'ers. Now what seperates this beer bars from others in the area that make it a must-go for locals and tourists alike? First the serivce - the servers walk around the place rather than maintain a few table so I had 3 servers BS w/ me (knowledgeable and friendly) and never was left w/ an empty glass. Second, the vibe - no TVs or shitty music here; they have laid back music in the background w/ soft lighting and everyone is close so it's a communal, tightknit effect that doesn't create a zombie atmosphere (just go to a beer bar where everyone watches sports or can't hear b/c of music). Also, unlike other beer bars around here, this place has two things going for it that make it top notch to me. They keep their selection up-to-date as possible so much that I saw a server erase the draft list (on chalk board) and write a new one - that never happens at the Tap Houses or Bier Garden. And unlike those places that will serve wine or crap beer to cater to all comers (and the BG seems to get a lot of people who order generic German beer (at least what I've seen)), this was truly a beer community. Men, women, young, old - were all trying really good and diverse beers from approriate glassware (another +). Never seen that in other beer bars around here. In conclusion, check this place out (and next time I go I'll try a cheese board).

clayrock81, Mar 28, 2011
Photo of beerchicky
4.4/5  rDev -6.4%

The Birch is by far the best beer bar in Hampton Roads and has quickly shown itself to be a world-class establishment offering amazing beers with top-notch service in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

There is no bad beer at The Birch. The expansive list of drafts and bottles changes regularly and features nothing but the absolute best beer available to the area. It's a heaven for beer geeks looking for something they've never had before, but it's also a great place for the more inexperienced beer drinker to try something new and to get expert suggestions from the great staff. While some previous reviews have mentioned the lack of more accessibly priced beers, I'm happy to report that The Birch menu now features a $3 can of a rotating "Hipster Beer" and at least five different $5 American drafts. On Fridays they also offer a beer and cheese tasting menu of three pours and three cheeses for $15. It's a great value, and a fun way to try new things. Yes, the more esoteric and rare beers are going to be more expensive, but even those prices hardly seem unreasonable given the quality of the selection. Ben and Malia work hard to ensure that they carry only the best beers. If it's at The Birch, it's going to be terrific. I never feel like I am being taken advantage of when I get to order from such a well-cultivated list.

The food menu is limited, but what The Birch offers is truly fantastic. The cheese boards are generous and offer high-quality and unique products designed to pair well with the beers. There is a nifty guide on the back of the menu to help you choose cheeses that will best complement your beer selection, but don't hesitate to ask for advice. The staff is incredibly knowledgable and will help set you up with the perfect board. And don't underestimate the goodness of a grilled cheese made from great ingredients! These things are delicious! The menu has been slowly expanding as well to include things like "hop-inspired" grilled cheeses and special creations made to pair with featured beers. The focus of The Birch is clearly on its beer, and you'll probably want to go somewhere else if you're looking for a large dinner menu. Still, the cheese boards and grilled cheeses make for tasty treats that just really hit the spot when matched with these lovely beers.

The real allure of The Birch though is in the friendly, attentive and knowledgable staff. Malia knows her beers inside and out. Describe what you're interested in and she'll bring you the perfect beer. "Mama Birch" is great fun. She keeps busy waiting tables, but she seems to remember everyone's names and she'll find time to ask you about your family or a vacation you might have mentioned. Charlotte is a newer addition, but she has proven herself to be both knowledgable and hilarious. My best advice is to keep to the tables where you'll have less of a chance of encountering the owner. That's a guaranteed bad time. He can be intolerably rude or if you're lucky, he'll just ignore you and your order. If you can navigate your way around him and let the ladies help you, you'll love The Birch.

Oh, and the atmosphere: It's completely relaxed with none of the meat-market scene you might find somewhere else. There are also no TVs which, frankly, I appreciate because it's more conducive to conversation. The place is a magnet for beer geeks, and I often find myself in a friendly chat with my bar mates. It's not unusual to find folks who are willing to share a bottle with you or even to see people generously offering tastes from something in their cellar collection. If you like beer, then you are going to love The Birch.

beerchicky, Apr 30, 2013
Photo of seanchai
4.5/5  rDev -4.3%

seanchai, Dec 31, 2013
Photo of Flowyn82
4.5/5  rDev -4.3%

Flowyn82, Apr 14, 2014
Photo of electricbrewer
4.6/5  rDev -2.1%

Just opened in the Norfolk/Ghent area. I walked by this place a many of times wondering...what is it? Now I know, this place is the best beer bar in Norfolk... and they have only been open a short time. Other places in the Hampton Roads area struggle to have a beer list so diverse as this one.

I was very impressed by the assortment of styles. This place has a beer for every style, and not just any beer, but exceptional examples of the style. I mean Mikkellar on tap!?!?!? I don't think the other places in town even know who Mikkellar is and the fine beers they make.

Look out for this place, it's going to be the beer place to be in Hampton Roads.

I can't wait to go back... and it's adjacent to tortilla west. 0.75 cent tacos monday and teusday nights.... awesome beer selection next door! Oh man, I'm getting thirsty....

electricbrewer, Jan 05, 2011
Photo of galengueuze
4.63/5  rDev -1.5%

The Birch just opened up the first of this year and it's been having a great run so far. I really like the whole atmosphere from the music to the lighting. The draft list is impressive for a bar in Norfolk, usually always 21 beers on tap, and their planning on always having a beer on cask. The bottle list is nice as well, not sure how many are stocked but looks like a great selection. Everyone there is friendly and even under pressure they still take care of you. I would recommend to anyone looking for an alternative to Cogan's or Taphouse. I went almost everyday last week and each time was worth it! The Birch is a welcome addition to the area and promises to be the new craft beer spot for Hampton Roads.

galengueuze, Jan 19, 2011
Photo of KalH
4.63/5  rDev -1.5%

Can't tell you how exciting it was to finally get a craft beer bar in the Norfolk area of Virginia. Its something that has been long overdue, and in January, our patience was rewarded with The Birch.

Having frequented The Birch since its opening day, all I have to say are good things about this place. Its an inviting environment with an incredible selection of craft beer on tap and best of all - great owners. The duo who run The Birch are some of the best people I've ever met and have continually been nothing but great to the guests who have come in. Its refreshing to see owners that take pride in their establishment and you can tell that they really put their heart and soul into being the best.

Their knowledge, along with their staffs, is exceptional and you'll find an ever growing variety of new selections both on-tap and in the bottle. You'll find that rare beers make there way on-tap pretty often and a cask of something worth trying. There is really something for everyone here whether your a craft beer enthusiast or new to the world of beer. The prices are a bit high though.

Highly recommend this place if you are ever in the Norfolk area and make sure you get a growler filled while you're there!

KalH, Jul 18, 2011
Photo of BoilerUpNavy
4.75/5  rDev +1.1%

BoilerUpNavy, Jul 06, 2014
Photo of EvilBambi
4.75/5  rDev +1.1%

EvilBambi, Feb 21, 2014
Photo of LambicKing
4.75/5  rDev +1.1%

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.

LambicKing, Oct 05, 2014
Photo of bcp5296d
4.75/5  rDev +1.1%

bcp5296d, Feb 20, 2014
Photo of JJStout83
4.78/5  rDev +1.7%

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.

JJStout83, Oct 16, 2013
Photo of porknwhiskey
4.8/5  rDev +2.1%

Had to work in Norfolk for a few days and did a search for "beer bars" in town. I knew when I checked out their list I was going to have to spend some time there. When I arrived the staff / owners were extremely friendly and engaged me to find out my likes. After that it was a non stop string of suggestions (sours mostly because damn I love 'em) that all hit home. Their list is pretty euro-centric but they also had some american craft beers. Lots of Belgian and Italian selections including a number of sours the night I was in. I picked up a few bottles before I left of extremely hard to find beers. Definitely one of my favorite beer bars. They had a light food menu but it appears there's always a food truck right outside, which the night I was there also rocked. I highly recommend making a detour to go here.

porknwhiskey, Oct 08, 2012
Photo of abrahm
4.8/5  rDev +2.1%

After chasing beers for years in Hampton Roads, I was lucky to stumble upon this place. On Jan 3 2011, I wandered next door from my favorite watering hole to discover The Birch, and I have been a regular ever since. The atmosphere is wonderful. There is no shortage of chairs. There are no TVs. The background music is great. The lighting is almost perfect - I only wish I could turn up the lighting for a moment to take a better look at some beers before I drank them. The beer selection is daunting, fresh, and never the same. Virginia's distributors are the only thing holding this place back. The proprietors genuinely love beer. The beer is served in appropriate glassware. The atmosphere is friendly and inclusive. And to top it all off, you can buy beer to go before midnight.

I'm not going to say this place changed my life, but this place is certainly responsible for launching me on a journey to discover beer and what beer can be.

abrahm, May 27, 2011
Photo of Zraly
4.81/5  rDev +2.3%

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.

Zraly, Jul 12, 2013
Photo of Hanzo
4.84/5  rDev +3%

Visited last night for a taste of Parabola. Atmosphere is excellent, very laid back, relaxed and welcoming vibe. Fantastic selection of beers in both bottle and on tap. Beers are served in proper glassware and the service is top notch with a polite check in every ten min or so as I sipped on my delicious beverage.

The prices were a tad high in my opinion but that will not stop me from coming back. I highly recommend this place if you happen to be in Norfolk and are looking for a fantastic beer bar.

My only suggestion is to expand the food section a bit, would have been nice to have something besides grilled cheese to appease the wife though she did love her "craft" ginger ale she had.

Hanzo, Jun 07, 2012
Photo of Cubatobaco
4.84/5  rDev +3%

If you are not looking for this place, you're not going to find it. A friend of mine mentioned to me that this place sold growler, so I decided to make the trip and check them out. I believe I have found my new hang out on Saturdays.

It is located back off the road a little, tucked away in an industrial area that hardly has any traffic. The inside is dimly lit by low wattage lights and white strands of lights draped over a line of empty growlers at the top of their shelves. On the chalk board to the left, you will find their list of brews, most of which are amazing, giving you the country of origin and price per glass or growler. The bar is in an L-shape and behind it you will find a giant cellar with bottles that you can purchase or a line of taps for what is ready to be served.

I could go on and on about the service Ben and his wife provide, but I will leave it to you to experience it. They are always changing up the menu and the taps are never the same. Do yourself a favor and visit this place. The prices are amazing and if you see a bottle you would like, and you want to take it home to drink, you'll get 20% off. Enjoy your stay! I'll be there this Saturday for sure.

Cubatobaco, Jun 20, 2013
Photo of Geuzedad
4.86/5  rDev +3.4%

Just got introduced to this place by my son. To say I was totally blown away would be an understatement. The atmosphere was perfect, great music, no rowdy crowds, well lit, and great patrons enjoying great beer. Next were the owners Ben and Malia. Two wonderful people who's knowledge of beer is amazing. They are both very friendly and inviting and make sure your experience is superb. Next were the beers. What an amazing assortment. Something for every taste and a selection like none I have seen anywhere else in the Tidewater area. If your looking for a great experience and the opportunity to sample some of the best hard to find beers then the Birch is for you!

Geuzedad, Feb 21, 2011
Photo of Mantooth
4.86/5  rDev +3.4%

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.

Mantooth, Apr 09, 2014
Photo of Anyportinastorm
4.9/5  rDev +4.3%

I've recently moved away from the Hampton Roads area and I would like to say that the Birch was somewhat of a light in the darkness for me.

Living in a predominantly military area it can be excruciatingly difficult to find a watering hole that's as comfortable and pleasant. The ambiance truly is one of a kind of the Norfolk area and the eclectic music selection is always interesting at the worst. It's always nice to get away from the Navy or ODU bars for a change.

Ben and Malia do a wonderful job of keeping their patrons satisfied with their wealth of knowledge of what they're selling. The rest of the staff is surprisingly knowledgeable about the selection and if they can't answer a question they tend to find the answer quickly.

The selection is impeccable. There isn't really anything else to be said.

As far as I know the food is very good. I've only ever had the grilled cheese sandwich, cheese boards and some mixed nuts. It's not often that you find such a small a place on the East Coast that serves sandwiches on sourdough, so that is a major plus in my book. They also serve soft pretzels and popcorn that always smell great.

All in all, at the Birch you get what you pay for. If I ever return to Norfolk I'll be sure to be a regular customer again. Especially if they keep that Faro.

Anyportinastorm, Sep 30, 2011
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The Birch in Norfolk, VA
100 out of 100 based on 34 ratings.