As you’ve probably seen by now, DRAFT’s 100 Best Beer Bars is out, and I’m sure many of you have picked through it with a fine-tooth comb. A lot of travel, research and, of course, drinking went into formulating that list, but sometimes in the world of print, even the most heavily-researched pieces get thwarted by the vagaries of business. For those living and drinking in the Washington, D.C. area, one bar on our list may have come as a shock. Last month, the stalwart institution The Brickskeller closed its doors. As a former longtime resident of the area, I was sad to hear the news, but there’s a silver lining to this cloud. The Brickskeller’s name may be gone, but its enthusiasm for good beer lives on. Late last month the bar reopened as Bier Baron under the ownership of Megan Merrifield and her husband. After speaking with Merrifield, there’s just cause to be very optimistic.
Opened in the 1950s, The Brickskeller developed a reputation by offering more beers than anyone around, at its highest count more than 1,000. Later, it also developed a local reputation for not keeping those beers in stock. Merrifield’s first course of action, with the help of many experienced staffers who stayed on board through the transition, was to pare down the beer menu.
“In terms of the 1,000 number, it was more arbitrary,” says Merrifield. “You could order five or six beers and they might not have them. We just scaled back to something that was more attainable, 500 names that we’ll keep available. We utilized the expertise of the staff, who’ve been here for years and years. They know what the regulars are looking for. On top of that, we let them pick and choose some fun ones to order.”
Bier Baron will also install additional taps, raising the number from 12 to roughly 50 after renovations are complete. In addition, look for more beery events as the bar gets settled into its new skin (a Dogfish Head tasting kicked off the event schedule last week). Merrifield aims to have one special brewery event each month, as well as the reintroduction of Beer School, a weekly course open to the public that covers everything from style tastings to beer and food pairings. And, of course, the food pairings will be aided by an evolving menu, one that already features new items like Parisian mussels, applewood smoked bacon burgers, Sicilian pizza and, coming soon, homemade manicotti.
So, it seems for now that all is well and fine in the D.C. beer world. For those of you in the area, we’d love to know what you think about the new digs.