Every weekend a huge portion of the GW student population opens a bottle of beer. From frat parties to bars and even in the most cramped quad in Thurston, beer is an integral part of the weekend – and, for the Monday and Tuesday night slackers, the week as well. But even if you never drank the same beer twice in one weekend – a Corona at McFadden’s, a Bud Light in Georgetown, Rolling Rock at the keg party – you still couldn’t sample a wide variety of beer, and you certainly couldn’t call yourself a beer connoisseur.
That’s where the Brickskeller comes in. A “down home saloon” in Dupont Circle, the Brickskeller boasts more than a thousand beers. It even holds the Guinness World Record for the most varieties of commercially available beer. What does this mean? If you walk the 10 blocks to Dupont, you are going to get a beer education, my friend.
When you approach to the Brickskeller, you will doubt you’re in the right place. But don’t worry, it really is located in the basement of the Marifex Hotel. Walk up the stairs and through the main entrance. Directly to your right will be an old, wooden door that you might think will open onto a medieval festival. Instead, walk down the stairs on the other side of the door, and be sure to check out all of the antique beer bottles and cans on display. When you get to the bottom floor, you are immediately drawn to the bar, which stands in front of a long cooler with glass doors that display a vast beer collection. It’s like Mecca for frat boys. As you stare at all of the pretty bottles, you must choose to sit at the bar on the large cushioned stools or get a table with your friends.
If you choose to sit, walk farther into the “saloon,” deeper into the cavernous restaurant and back in time. Seating is cramped, so shimmy in and get used to the congested environment because you’ll probably be there for a while. The most interesting decoration in the Brickskeller is the carving wall, a wooden wall in the back of the restaurant covered in carvings. But these aren’t the lovers’ initials one might expect. Instead, the wall boasts individuals’ initials and more Greek letters than one could count.
But don’t start searching for “Fraternity Life” camera crews. During dining hours the crowd is of the older variety – leave your tight pants and tank tops at home. The Brickskeller is also not a place to try your fake ID.
The crowd is a lot more diverse than the average bar in Georgetown can boast, and it can get just as crowded. But considering the beer selection, this isn’t a surprise. From the standard Corona to the unusual “Taj Mahal” beer from India, the Brickskeller has the largest variety of beer you will ever see. Be adventurous and try something you’ve never even heard of. All the major countries are represented, as well as ones you wouldn’t expect such as Bolivia, Ghana, Lithuania and Kenya.
Each of these beers is served in a bottle, and each comes with a different glass in which to pour them. There are the standard pint glasses, more ornate glasses more suited for fruity mixed drinks and the occasional small wine glass. Thomas Hardy’s Ale comes in such a wine glass. The beer is bottled and aged and has a bitter taste but no carbonation. Another good English beer is Samuel Smith’s Pure Lager, a tasty alternative to the more common Smith’s Nut Brown Ale.
There are even beers for those who hate beer. Try the De Troch beer from Belgium. It comes in many fruit flavors such as strawberry and banana and doesn’t have that beer taste at all.
The one downside to the Brickskeller is that the bar is not always well stocked. With such a large variety, it is virtually impossible to keep a large quantity on hand; however, an adventurous beer drinker on the day before a shipment may think the variety is severely limited. Also, these bottles cost a pretty penny – anywhere from $3 to over $25. But while the average bottle is $8 or $10, the price will be worth it as you guzzle down your new favorite.
If you don’t only want a liquid meal, use the beer to wash down some dinner. The saloon offers standard pub fare with a few twists. One good appetizer is a set of two or four pierogies, potato pasta that has been filled with cheddar cheese and fried or steamed with onion and butter sauce. What is unusual about the Brickskellar’s pierogies, though, is that they are fried like French fries instead of the more traditional way in a skillet.
For a meal, the “Baconless Cheddarless Burger” is OK and the fish and chips are good, but neither is anything to write home about. Even with the unusual choices of a buffalo burger or steak (which are real buffalo meat and not always available) or sandwiches like the Monte Cristo or the “Up-Town Louisiana Rich Girl,” the food is definitely not the reason to spend an evening at the Brickskeller.
While the beer is great and the food is good, the service is lacking. Expect to wait for your orders, especially on weekend nights. And “Brick” lovers will tell you stories about wait staff complaining about small tips.
The servers probably don’t have an extensive knowledge of the thousand beer choices in front of you, so the man to go to is the bartender. They are generally more knowledgeable, more attentive and a lot more fun to talk with.
For beer lovers, not only is the bartender their friend, but the Brickskeller is their Mecca. For GW students, the bar is a nice alternative to the GW scene. Plus, after tasting six or seven different kinds of beer, the Brickskeller is close enough to walk home to sober up.