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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, RFD Washington 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.
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 has 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.
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.
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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