It was a cold, rainy afternoon yesterday, which made an pilgrimage to ChurchKey sound irresistible. And in fact, it would have been perfect if it wasn't so cold upstairs when I first arrived.
But one sweeping glance (which turned into several) at the cavernous room, as well as an initial flip-thru of the even more-cavernous beer list, and the afternoon chill was quickly forgotten.
The stats for ChurchKey's beer program are awesome: 55 beers on draught, all of them available in either 4-ounce pours or full glasses. 5 of these were cask ales. 331 bottled beers on the list (not including an impressive selection of ciders).
Those numbers alone (assuming Greg Engert can maintain the currency of the list a year from now (easier said than done, and many restaurants with large beer lists will have a high percentage of the beers 86'd, which is a sign they aren't doing their jobs)). Anyway, as I was saying, those numbers alone are impressive, but the way ChurchKey has the list organized is like nothing I've ever seen before. It is a flat-out brilliant beer list, the best I've ever seen in terms of organization, and I'd like to give an extended standing ovation, with multiple curtain calls, cigarette lighters burning (no, no, no - I outgrew that ten years ago at the Beck concert), shouts and screams of "Encore!", and my absolute highest praise to whichever genius is responsible for coming up with this presentation.
No matter how much I rant and rave about the way this beer list is organized, I cannot do it strongly enough. Based on easy-to-use classifications and descriptions, It tells me exactly the beers I want to hone in on, and exactly the beers I want to stay away from, based on my own personal tastes and preferences. Thank you, thank you, thank you for having come up with this exceptionally useful format, which should be a model for all other restaurants to follow.
I started off making my own flight of 2 4-ounce glasses of German Lagers, and then continued with a flight of 3 4-ounce glasses of Scottish Cask Ales. The three Scottish Cask Ales they're offering are shockingly different, one from the other, and having them side-by-side was an education bordering on a revelation.
The only food item I tried was the Green Eggs and Ham
($3), one-and-a-half little duck eggs, deviled and filled with a greenish liquid (unusual), and each topped with a chintzy little pea-sized nugget of rock-crisped duck pancetta. These were merely decent, and even at three dollars, I wouldn't rush to order them again. Still, my total bill for the evening? A mere $22.55.
It's important to realize that the tiny little area off to the side of the bar (if I'm not mistaken) is basically the entire kitchen of ChurchKey, and consists of one person working two panini presses, one microwave oven, a fire-engine-red Anvil charcuterie cutter, and a tiny counter space for putting it all together. The flatbreads, and probably some of the other more elaborate items, are cooked downstairs in Birch & Barley's kitchen, and run upstairs.
However, Birch & Barley's menu is not available at ChurchKey, so even though you're drinking beer at the highest-possible level, you're still limited to a very basic pub menu (not a bad thing, because it includes some worthwhile items, such as Nathan Anda's charcuterie). Incidentally, because ChurchKey and Birch & Barley are two completely different experiences, each with their own menu, they are being split into two threads, with Birch & Barley's being here
. (Unfortunately for Birch & Barley, their hit count will be artificially low since I just spun it off into its own thread this morning.)
ChurchKey is the finest beer hall that the Washington, DC area has ever seen. Is it the finest beer-drinking establishment in the United States? I'll leave that question for others to discuss.
P.S. Michael B, could you contact me please?