The Brickskeller (officially The Brickskeller Dining House and Down Home Saloon) was a tavern in Washington, D.C., located near Dupont Circle across from Rock Creek Park and on the edge of Georgetown, in the Marifex Hotel (now the Brickskeller Inn) building. With 1,032 choices of bottled beer on the beer list, the Brickskeller is listed in Guinness World Records as "the bar with the largest selection of commercially available beers."
The Brickskeller was established in 1957, by father and son Felix and Maurice Coja, along with their wives Marie and June. Their daughter / granddaughter, Diane Alexander, was then the owner together with her husband Dave. June died in 1998 and Maurice sold out his shares to Diane in 2004. After a long search for a buyer, on December 7, 2010, it was announced that the Brickskeller would be closing for good on December 18, and re-opened a few days later under new owner, Megan Merrifield, as the Bier Baron.
The Brickskeller had selections from around the world, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, as well as a large selection of domestic brews. The menu included a large selection of Belgian beer, varieties of wheat beers including Paulaner and Hoegaarden, as well as other European brews including Herold microbrew from the Czech Republic. The beer list also included ordinary varieties such as Bud Light, Miller, and Rolling Rock, which some people ordered. Often when ordering beer at the Brickskeller, they were out of one's first choice and sometimes the second choice. Some question how many selections of beer the Brickskeller really had in stock. Dave Alexander admits that availability can be a problem, especially when dealing with overseas wholesalers and importers. When it opened, the Brickskeller had 57 selections of beer.
The lower level was the main section that was open all the time. On the lower level, only bottled beers were served, while the upstairs level also served draft beer. Soon after R.F.D. opened, the Brickskeller added a Belgian draft system in the upstairs dining room, expanding the number of taps. The Brickskeller also serves cask ales on the upper level. The Brickskeller also had more than 50 aged beers, and four varieties of mead ("honey wine"). Numerous beer cocktails were on the menu, including "Maui Mouthwash", which contains Malibu Caribbean White Rum with Coconut, fruit juice, blue curacao, vodka and golden lager, and Smack & Tan.
During the 1970s, beer-can collecting gained in popularity, and The Brickskeller took advantage of that craze. They served beer in cans, which were opened from the bottom, so the collectors could take home cleaned cans that looked "unopened" when set upright. Some collectors were underaged, so they would come into the bar with their apparently well-to-do fathers, and have hundreds of dollars worth of beer, opened from the bottom of the can, and then dumped, as the underaged beer can collector only wanted the cans!
The Brickskeller served standard American pub food, including spicy chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, potato skins, chicken tenders, and burgers. Other menu items included spinach and artichoke dip, pierogies, spiced shrimp, salad, and sandwiches. The kitchen at the Brickskeller was small, however, thus limiting selections they could offer on the menu. The Brickskeller was open for lunch on weekdays, and opened at 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Brickskeller was a "hole-in-the-wall", with a rustic saloon motif. On the lower level, old barrels were made into bar stools. The entire place was decorated with old beer cans, bottles, and other memorabilia. The Brickskeller have auxiliary seating in an upstairs dining room, which was open every day except Sunday as well as for beer tastings and other special occasions. The Brickskeller added televisions upstairs in 2003, so it could show March Madness and other sports events.
The Brickskeller was popular among the 25-34 age crowd and older, but was somewhat expensive and a little too refined to attract a large crowd of people in their early twenties. Capitol Hill aides, diplomats, tourists, and beer aficionados frequent the Brickskeller. Celebrities, including members of Pink Floyd and Queen Noor of Jordan, have also stopped by. Notorious spy, Aldrich Ames, also came to the Brickskeller, where he met with Soviets. Owner Dave Alexander alerted authorities, once he saw Aldrich Ames' picture on television.
The Brickskeller hosted monthly beer tastings and sponsors other events. The Brickskeller sponsored a number of educational events at the National Geographic Society, as well as Smithsonian seminars held at the Brickskeller that drew top experts, and speakers including Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery and Dick Yuengling of D. G. Yuengling & Son.
Dave and Diane Alexander opened a sister location called R.F.D. (Regional Food & Drink) in 2003 in Chinatown, near the Gallery Place Metro station, at the former Coco Loco site. R.F.D. occupies a larger space than the Brickskeller did, allowing the owners to do things they couldn't do at the original location, such as provide a very large selection of draft beer. At R.F.D., there are approximately 40 taps, which was more than any other place in all of Washington until the Birch & Barley and ChurchKey opened in October 2009. R.F.D. has taps in both the front and back rooms; In the back room, the trunk line from the cooler to the tap is very short, with the keg box located right behind the bar. The tap system uses a 75/25 gas blend.
R.F.D. has a greater selection of food than was possible at the Brickskeller, which had a very small kitchen. The chef, Diane Alexander, who trained at L'Academie de Cuisine in suburban Maryland, serves many dishes that are cooked with beer. R.F.D. serves standard American food, along with a selection of seafood and other regional dishes. Despite the large selection of beer, R.F.D. Washington is family friendly, with families eating there before/after Washington Capitals or Washington Wizards games at the nearby Verizon Center or when sightseeing downtown. R.F.D. is also good for groups and has outdoor seating in its courtyard.
The Brickskeller Inn opened in 1912. The hotel remains open, as a small European-style inn that offers single and double rooms.
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