Judging Restaurants/Bars – The Brickskeller

The Brickskeller is located at 1523 22nd St NW. I was talking to some folks about beer recently and the Brickskeller came up. I hadn’t been in years but always thought they had a pretty good reputation. The folks I was talking to couldn’t disagree more. So what do you guys think – good spot for beer? For food? How’s the service?

You can see their beer list here and their their menu here.

46 Comment

  • The beer menu is vast, but they’ve got a reputation for being out of stock on many offerings. I had my first blueberry beer here though, so I can’t complain too much.

    • I had to order at least three times before finding something they actually had.

      • Ditto. I had a horrible experience at Brickskeller and have not returned since. The bartender was rude, they were out of 3 beers I tried to order (and every time the bartender went to the back to look for it, it was not without a look of disdain), and when I took a chance that they might actually have my 4th choice of beer, the bartender magically sauntered back with one lone bottle of my 2nd choice beer.

      • I had to order at least three times before finding something they actually had.

        This – they’ve been half-assing it for years now (though I still like getting a drink at the bar upstairs, where they have taps.) It would be nice to see the Brickskellar revive now that they have Churchkey, Meridian Pint, RFD, etc. to compete with, but I’m guessing they’ll just quietly close sometime in the next few years instead.

        • I agree that the expanding scene should encourage Brickskeller to step up their game. RFD, however, is owned by the same company that owns Brickskeller.

      • i repeated that exact same experience about 3 times before i got wise and stopped going. in the meantime, RFD opened, then granville moore, then churchkey, then meridian pint…etc. there are far too many great beer bars in the city to warrant going to brickskeller.

  • In 1995, this is the first place I ever used my fake ID. I’ve probably a hundred times, although the last time I can remember going was probably in 2005.

    For the memories, I will always love this place, but it kind of sucked the last time I went. Back in the day it had the best old school juke box imaginable and was really the only option for good beer. And they really did stock all the beers on the menu. Last time I went, it was top-40 crap pumped in over streaming music, and they only had about a quarter of their listed beer.

    Plus the food has always been awful. In a good way when you’re 19, but not so much when you’re 30.

  • They are hit or miss. I like picking random beers every time I go there. If you do this- make sure to pick 3 since they will be out of the first two. As for service- hit or miss as well. I have had great times there and other times where staff was rude. If the bartender catches wind that you are waiting for a table they will not serve you even if you are sitting at the bar.

    The food on the other hand is delicious and cheap. Excellent Reuben.

  • It is really annoying to have to come up with a list of 7 beers and hoping they have 1 of them. if you can’t maintain a beer list that big, don’t have it. not worth it.

  • It’s the kind of place that everyone who loves beer should visit at least once, but it seems like these days they’re really just resting on their laurels. They might have a world record for the most beers on the list, but as someone mentioned above, before you order one, you should make sure you have three or four backup choices ready. The basement bar is the coolest part though, with a huge collection of dusty old beer cans on display.

    Might not be a bad place to grab a burger, but I wouldn’t venture beyond that, as far as food goes.

  • I love them. and I hope they never change a thing INCLUDING being out of beers all the time. At a time when DC didnt have much of a beer selection they were there doing their thing. Long before DC became the beer city it is today. Ill admit I dont make it there as much as I did in highschool and college breaks. but when I do make it there it is such a comfort that its still the same. This is one of thos places that if we lose it we will be losing an old treasure in the way we did with AV

    • This may have been true 10 years ago, but how is the Brick a good option when you have Paradiso, ChurchKey, Meridian Pint, etc. etc. popping up all over the place? They all may not have the depth that the Brick purports to have (although ChurchKey has a MUCH more interesting selection that probably comes close when you factor in how many beers are actually in stock; plus 6 casks that are always available!). Give me a place that actually has edible food, a well thought out selection of rotating drafts and I’ll go there 9 times out of 10 over the Brick. It has it’s place, but it’s rapidly diminishing in the face of better beer competition in this city. I think they’ve lost a LOT of talent to the new places that have opened up; the service has taken a steep dive (as if it had very far to go in the first place)

      It’s a real shame because I have some incredible memories of nights spent around big tables in that dungeon of a bar.

      • 100% agree. Brickskeller will always hold a special place in the hearts of beer lovers in their 30s/40s/50s who were once in their 20s, but it’s a different world out there now.

        ChurchKey and Paradiso(s) demolish the gray bearded Brickskeller (and terrible cousin bar, RFD).

        • I agree, the nostalgia is there, but I doubt Brick will fold just because a couple other bars in other parts of the city offer similar or better fare. Remember, the rapid gentrification of lower NW is creating new demand on top of what was already there. It’s not zero sum.

          • I meant ‘demolish’ as in they’re far superior. Agree that The Brickskeller will not be going out of business anytime soon. Someone to come in a spruce the place up a bit would be nice though.

      • I completely agree. Besides the frustration of ordering 3 or 4 times before they have something in stock, I prefer ChurchKey any day of the week for selection (especially since they have more on tap)

  • Place was great when there were no other bars in D.C. stocking a variety of really good beers and staff that knew their s*&t. Now, they’re terrible in comparison.

    They won’t have what you want, but they can recommend a beer that’s nothing like it. “Well, we’re out of Baltika 8, but we do have this Belgian tripel that I’m sure you’ll adore.”

    Oh, and the food is, and always has been, pretty mediocre at best. At best.

  • And I should add that once in a while you’ll end up with a server who is really knowledgeable about beer and will help you decide on what to order with recommendations and tasting notes, but you’re just as likely to end up being served by someone who doesn’t really care.

  • Ditto on what the last couple posters said. Love this place for their vast selection of beers, although they tend to run out of the rarer kinds. So pick out a few beers before ordering and you should get something.

    I’ve eaten here a couple times and I really like their sandwiches. They’re nothing fancy, but they’re decent nonetheless.

    Best advice: come for the beer, stay for the food (if you’re hungry). Otherwise I’d suggest hitting up the crepe place around the corner, Crepes a Go Go I believe?

  • I hope the notorious dcist commenter monkeyrotica has something to say here. 🙂

    • I have absolutely nothing to add to what has already been said. Brickskellar is that old girlfriend you used to love but dumped because they never could get their act together. She’s gone and it’s time to get on with your life.

  • I worked there for about 2 years in the early 2000s.

    Being out of beer has to do with when they get deliveries from certain suppliers and yeah, it’s frustrating – both for the customer and the server. But a decent server would be able to tell you as soon as you ordered that something was out. But, whether you got a half-way decent server was always a crap shoot.

    The staff was all over the place. Some of us were really on top of our jobs; others would come in high as a kite or wasted drunk. Back then, there was definitely a mentality among some of the bartenders/managers of looking out for their own and screw the customer; I benefited from that, but it certainly didn’t always make for a good experience for the customer. The customer was rarely right and it sometimes felt that the Brick was a place to come hang out and occasionally wait on tables, when you felt like it.

    I don’t think it’s any secret to say that the place was never all that clean; downright filthy might be a better description. I ate the food most nights, but it really wasn’t ever that good and I knew not to order certain things.

    Haven’t been back in several years, but would doubt that much has changed. Around the time I left, they were opening RFD and it was very much the favorite of the two; a lot of the “preferred” staff was moved over there. But that’s when they were also trying to make RFD into a fancier place than it became. I don’t see much difference between the two anymore.

    • You’re right about RFD. I had high hopes for the place, but the atmosphere is seriously lacking and the service is terrible, and after giving them two or three tries over the years, I’ve given up on the place. That neighborhood in general has dropped off my radar anyway.

    • Filthy is unfortunately my main impression. Out of the maybe half-dozen times I’ve been in there once I saw two mice chasing each other across the dining room, another time a friend had a ticket from the kitchen cooked into her burger.

  • Absolutely horrendous service. Slow. They ignore you while they chat with their friends (I’ve been there because it’s close to a destination I’m otherwise going, 5 times in the last six weeks). One female bartender in particular…young…probably new at this…is the worst at serving her customers.

  • DC has become a damn good beer city to the point where Brikskeller is irrelevant. Ordering at Brikskeller requires a corporate decision tree – if they don’t have this, I’ll get this. If they don’t have that…. Their sister bar RFD is a lot better at having in stock what is on their menu.

  • As others have said, it’s a throwback to a time when exotic beers were, well, exotic. I first visited in the mid 1970s, when kids (like my brothers) who collected beer cans & bottles could go and receive a sack with five random empties in it.

  • Yeah, when I was in college I thought this place was interesting. Now I find it disgustingly dirty, and with a sham beer list.

    There is no way this place can compete with Churchkey, etc. I wonder what sort of business they currently do; it could be returned if they do a remodel, bring in decent food, and actually have a beer list that reflects the beers they are able to regularly stock.

  • If you go during the afternoon and sit at the bar it should be fine. If you go when it is busy, good luck ever getting a beer or food. Last time I went, the server came by on average of once every 10-15 min, each time to tell us the beer we wanted was out of stock. Attempts to flag him down and tell him new selections were fruitless.

  • comments exactly as expected. it’s interesting to me only as a reminder of how much DC has changed in the past 20 years.

  • They are in every guidebook for tourists as the cool place with the crazy beer list, which will probably take at least another 10 years to go away. So, as long as lazy tourist guidance points the way to Brickskellar, they won’t change.

  • The world’s largest beer list – and smallest beer supply.

    I stopped going because it takes 15 minutes just to order a beer. 5 minutes each time you order one they are out of stock on.

    My new, go to beer place is Churchkey. They have more beers on tap, and almost just as many bottles as the Brick, but theirs are almost always in stock. Just be prepared to fight the crowds on the weekend.

  • I’ve lived next to brickskeller for the past couple of months but haven’t tried it yet because some of the reviews about bad food and such have scared me off.

  • Thumbs down. I’ve recommended folks not go to this place for a long time now.

    It’s a place that I go to every couple of years and every time I am reminded why I don’t go more often. Service is bad, staff is not friendly, food is unremarkable, etc.

  • Blech. It was probably great back in the day when it was impossible to find unusual beers anywhere else, but they just can’t compete anymore. Every time I’ve gotten dragged there (probably a dozen times over the past 3 years) the place was filthy, the food was bland and greasy, the service was brusque and pain.ful.ly. slow, and they were always out of the beers I want. It’s annoying to have to dip into my 4th/5th/6th choice just to find something that they actually have in stock.

    If you’re going to throw down a significant amount of money to go out and drink fancy beer, go to Churchkey – it’s worlds away in terms of food and beverage quality, service standards (despite being slammed every night!), and atmosphere.

  • they have a great selection. unfortunatly anytime i order my favorite, they are out. service is bad, food not so good either. i like the old basement atmosphere though.

  • Worst bar in town. Bad food, always dirty, didn’t have 2/3 of the beer on the list, expensive.

    I rather go to recessions.

  • Times (and DC’s beer culture) have changed, but the Brick hasn’t. That being said, a trip to the Brick can be enjoyaable, in a dive bar kind of way. Sit upstairs where you have a choice of both drafts AND bottles (and they do get some good rotating drafts in there). It’s not nearly as crowded as Churchkey and you can play darts. As for food, the only thing I ever order is the buffalo burger medium rare. Not great, but not a bad accompaniment to the beers.

  • Ok, I understand that your site mainly acts aggregation of various social and political topics where many put in their input, and it performs that well, but why not go into these places every once in a while and try it out? Maybe ask the people who work there a few questions. Just something besides a picture of the exterior, and a “what do you all think”.

    • That’s a valid comment. PoP does a tiny bit of original reporting and interviewing. I’d like to see him up that too.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        I appreciate the suggestion but I think you guys are missing the PoP philosophy. This site has never been about in depth reporting. And I’m not a reporter. That just ain’t what I do. If I gotta label myself I’d say I’m more of a connector/facilitator.

  • My turn: The Brickskeller, stay away.

    I haven’t been there in years. Last time I went I smelled mold. I’ll echo just about everyone above about the annoyance associated with having to pick three beers to find one they have in stock. There are so many better options these days that I can’t imagine wanting to go there again.

  • This place sucks. It jumped the shark years ago, for the reasons that everyone cites:

    1) they claim to carry hundreds of beer, but you have to pick several beers because they are usually out anything exotic, but they fail to change the menus because they want to keep up the illusion of having a lot of different beers.

    2) the wait staff in unknowlegable and management is rude

    3) the food ranges from mediocre to pathetic and

    4) if you want to eat there, look around…seriously, look around. That place isn’t exactly what I would call hygenic.

    And whoever said that they are out of beer all the time because of the suppliers? Give me an effing break! They are out of beer because they are too cheap to buy enough to keep on hand (inventory costs money!).

  • Good beer, horrible food. I have finally learned my lesson and now I eat before I go.

  • They should just close. The last time I was at Brickskellar (3 yrs ago), it made me depressed. Truly, it was so pathetic & frustrating & ugly that I gave up on what was to be a crazy night & just wanted to go home & cry.

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