The Birch

BA SCORE
100
world-class

43 Ratings
The BirchThe Birch
PLACE INFO

Type: Bar, Eatery, Beer-to-go

1231 W Olney Rd
Norfolk, Virginia, 23507-1314
United States

(757) 962-5400 | map
thebirchbar.com

Notes:
No notes at this time.

Added by DoctorB2B on 01-03-2011

PLACE STATS
Score:
100
Ratings:
43
Reviews:
26
Avg:
4.73
pDev:
5.29%
 
 
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Ratings: 43 |  Reviews: 26
Photo of Boone757
4.61/5  rDev -2.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

Photo of seanchai
4.5/5  rDev -4.9%

Photo of Mantooth
4.9/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 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 rjp217
4.81/5  rDev +1.7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Photo of clayrock81
4.36/5  rDev -7.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

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).

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.69/5  rDev -0.8%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Photo of avisong
4.95/5  rDev +4.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Photo of ShanePB
4.49/5  rDev -5.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75

Photo of Fluffheady
4.19/5  rDev -11.4%
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 oldn00b
4.91/5  rDev +3.8%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 5

If someone is visiting the VB/Norfolk area this is my #1 craft beer recommendation. The list is usually up to date online so you can have a pretty good idea what's on tap before you show up.

Some grilled cheeses are available on site and pizzas can be had from next door. Sometimes they do food trucks on site as well.

The big draw, really, is the beer. They have mini festivals of their own for a week every few months with a different theme - dark beers, hoppy beers, sour beers etc. They pull out some true gems for those. It can get absolutely packed but they're very efficient in their service. Highly recommend checking out even if for one flight before moving on to somewhere else for dinner.

 709 characters

Photo of John_Beeryman
5/5  rDev +5.7%

Photo of bcp5296d
4.75/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of Cubatobaco
4.84/5  rDev +2.3%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

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.

 1,193 characters

Photo of BoilerUpNavy
4.75/5  rDev +0.4%

Photo of RonJeezy
4/5  rDev -15.4%

Photo of Anyportinastorm
4.9/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

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.

 1,312 characters

Photo of Hanzo
4.84/5  rDev +2.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

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.

 695 characters

Photo of ccnorthwest
4.75/5  rDev +0.4%
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 Zraly
4.81/5  rDev +1.7%
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

Photo of Geuzedad
4.86/5  rDev +2.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

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!

 668 characters

Photo of FenwaySquid
5/5  rDev +5.7%
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

Photo of LambicKing
4.75/5  rDev +0.4%

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 Beer-A-Lot
5/5  rDev +5.7%

Photo of DoctorB2B
5/5  rDev +5.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

The best place to go in Hampton Roads for craft beer on tap. The taps rotate on a near-nightly basis from one outstanding beer to the next. Opening day they showed what was to come when they had Firestone Walker 14 on tap ... I mean who else around here can say that? As far as I know, no one.

The bottle selection is just as nice. A couple of weeks ago, I split a bottle of Ola Dubh Reserve 30. Again, who else around here can say that? No one.

The rare beers are here to stay (relatively speaking anyway, because they sell out quickly).

I haven't had the food so I can't speak to it, but they offer different cheese to pair with many of the beers as well as an adult grilled cheese that I've been told is AMAZING!

I've been there since day one, and I'll be there until I leave this place.

 798 characters

Photo of TappaKeggaBrew
3.88/5  rDev -18%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 2.25

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; the owner is extremely knowledgeable if you have specific or detailed questions, but she's also a beer snob in the worst sense of the term: She talks down to you if you don't have cicerone-level beer knowledge.

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 a 6-ounce half pour, or $10+ for the full pour, is pretty steep by any standard (and they have a habit of under-filling the glasses on top of that!)

I'd put The Birch in the "special occasion" category, for when I want to meet a friend to taste something new and unique. But when I want good food or I want to quench my thirst for a reasonable price, Norfolk has many other, better options.

 2,094 characters

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The Birch in Norfolk, VA
4.73 out of 5 based on 43 ratings.
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