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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 over 1200 choices of bottled beer in the coolers, over a dozen keg beers and real ale in cask the Brickskeller from her beginnings as the first restaurant ever to offer customers a Beer List to introducing many thousands of beers to the city, the country and the continent the Brickskeller made Washington DC the best place on earth to sample and learn about beer.
The Brickskeller was established in 1957, by Felix and Marie Coja. granddaughter Diane and Husband Dave Alexander ran daily operations from 1982 til selling the building and moving all Brickskeller tastings and events to their restaurant, RFDWashington at 810 7th at NW.
the Brickskeller was a matriarchal corporation. Marie was the first President and Diane the last. Felix, who was a Cordon Bleu trained Master French Chef, ran an import company, disassociating himself from the restaurant to start Wide World Imports. He was the first and original importer of such fabulous beers and Cantillion, DeDolle, Schlenkerla Rauchbier and Scheidmantle introducing the North American continent to these fantastic gems.
During the Alexander's years at the helm they received a Guinness World Record for the largest selection of beers commercially available, Dave was the first bar owner and fifth American to be knighted into the Confederation of Belgian Berwers in their over 600 year history, he received the Best Beer Bar in the. Country from the Adams Beverage Media group and the first landmark lifetime achievement award they ever presented and too many aol, washintonian magazine, Washington post and city papers best beer bar and best beer selections to count. In 2015 Dave and Diane were honored to receive the Brewers Association special recognition award for our efforts to promote American Craft Beer. The Brickskeller sold New Albion, Sierra Nevada when they were brewing in the quanset hut, New Belgium when they were brewing at home, Dogfish Head when they were brewing on their original keg system and began a program of bringing east and west coast brewers together in our extremely well receive Lupulin Slams and for over thirty years have presented dozens of refional brewers offering their winter brews in December and their strong ales in February. in regard to our beer tastings... In the early 1980's Dave began the first ever (and. Longest running) sit down, show format educational beer tasting series.When he decided to hold a beer tasting the typical responses were either... Why? We know what beer tastes like. Or.. Do we spit it out? Over the years Dave presented over 600 events featuring too many firsts to list. Brewmasters, writers, experts in the brewing arts came to their stage from all over the world. Hundreds of American brewers as well as brewmasters from Europe, Africa, Scotland, China, Japan, it's a very long list. Their events attracted so much attention the Smithsonian Institution decided to get into tasting programs with their Smithsonian Associates program. over the years Dave presented over 150 events in conjunction with the Smithsonian and the Beer Institute. those shows were so well received we branched off into Philosophy On Tap programs with the Smithsonian as well, presenting over 50 of those incredible evenings. That led to special single night programs with the wife of the owner of the famous pre dictatorship Cuban Havana Tropicana Club, an evening with Dylan Thomas and many more truly special events.
The family did NOT sell the Brickskeller. we ceased daily operations when we sold the building it was located in but kept all right to the name and still use it today in our beer tasting series and other events. Dave and Diane relocated. To Nashville, turning over daily operations of RFD to our son Josh. they now are involved in songwriting and have a publishing company named Brickskeller Music.
The Brickskeller had selections from around the world, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, as well as a large selection of domestic brews. The menu included several hundreds of Belgian beers, Dozens of varieties of wheat beers including Paulaner and witbiers such as Hoegaarden, as well as other European brews including Baltica 6, the definitive Baltic porter, Herold microbrew from the Czech Republic. The beer list also included ordinary varieties such as Bud Light, Miller, and regional favorites like Old Style, Point, Rainier, Henry Weinhardt, Leinenkugel, Yeungling, Rolling Rock and in their time Knickerbocker, Rhinelander, Stony and many others. In 1957 the Brickskeller opened with over 50 beers, at that time the worlds largest selection of beers. In her many firsts, along with first presenting a "beer tasting" the Brickskeller was the FIRST restaurant to offer a beer LIST.
The Brickskeller also first presented real ale in cask. The Brickskeller also had more than 50 aged beers, and four varieties of mead ("honey wine"). Another first was a beer cocktail menu featuring numerous beer cocktails 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 but remarkably efficient. the staff calls it a submarine kitchen, putting out an average of over 650 dinners a night. The Brickskeller was open for lunch on weekdays, and opened at 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Brickskeller had a rustic saloon motif. On the lower level, old barrels were made into bar stools. The worlds largest selection of antique beer cans along with so much beer memorabilia adorned the turn of the century hand fired brick walls people called it a "Brewseum" The Brickskeller seated 450 on both floors. Upstairs was where they held 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 crows being so close to the Georgetown, George Washington and American Universities but in fact had a demographic most bars would kill for. Politicians, Capitol Hill aides, diplomats, tourists, celebrities like Quentin Tarentino, Jerry Seinfeld, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Brooke Sheilds and beer aficionados regularly frequented the Brickskeller. It was quite common to walk they the dining room and hear half a dozen languages being spoken. Dads would bring sons in to show them where they drank while in college and look to see if their name was still scraped into the ship room wall, which it was. Notorious spy, Aldrich Ames, met with his Soviet counterparts in a dark corner of the dining room
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 Bert Grant, Russ Scherer, Fritz Maytag, Ken Grossman, Tomme Arthur, Vinnie CilurO, Aram Avery, Larry Bell, Kim Jordan, Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery and Dick Yuengling of D. G. Yuengling & Son.
While Dave was first to ever present a beer tasting in the very early 1980's he didnt realize what a monster he was creating. He began videotaping his events in the late 1980's and ended up creating was is without question the most exhaustive and complete video history of the birth of craft beer and the history of brewing, right from the horses mouths running from the late 80's to the present. His library has more than 600 videos and a thousand hours of film featuring many hundreds of brewmasters, writers and experts in the brewing arts from all over the world.
The worlds foremost authority on beer, Yorkshireman Michael Jackson first came to the Brick in 1973 and became a regular visitor whenever visiting the states. He liked to peruse our menu to see what beers he might want to write about and breweries he might wish to visit. Over the years we held over thirty events with the Bard of Beer, who would stay in our hotel whenever visiting Washington. Dave hosted his 60th birthday party in the upstairs space and in return, Michael graciously offered to host our 50th anniversary party. Sadly he passed just before that could happen. Dave was so saddened by his loss he decided there would be no special marking of the restaurant passing this incredible half century marker so on the day of our 50th, Oct 7, 2007 decided to just open for business as usual with no signage or advertisement to mark the occasion.
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 building was first occupied in 1912. Felix opened his Brickskeller replacing the former occupant, the Robert Peter Inn, in 1957. The hotel remains open, as a small European-style inn that offers single and double rooms.
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