After previous highly-successful visits to their sister restaurant, Rustico, in Alexandria, VA, we finally managed to fit in a visit to ChurchKey, which opened last year to great acclaim. Unlike some revered beer destinations that don’t quite live up to perhaps unrealistic hype, ChurchKey exceeded all expectations. The interior is laid-back in design, yet sleek, with tables by the window and cozy raised booths near the fifty-plus tap bar, which is clearly the focal point.
And it’s a thoroughly-impressive tap list, helpfully laid out in categories that are equally approachable by hardcore beer geeks as well as the uninitiated (one minor complaint – that list could be updated more frequently on their website). Information for each beer includes the brewer, style, origin, ABV, ideal serving temperature and usual serving glass, although each item was also available as a 4oz taster (even the five cask ales) – something our party made much use of. But the bottle list is not to be overlooked – it contains well-curated rarities from around the world as well as traditional favorites; you know it’s good when it comes in a binder, and you don’t have to go to your fourth pick to actually get something that’s in stock. Given the weather in DC in summer, finding Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse on tap was certainly welcome; having a waiter who understood ‘and I’d like the woodruff on the side’ was even better; indeed, the service was outstanding throughout our visit (something that isn’t always true when you bring a small child with you, even at a quiet lunchtime).
The food is also very tasty and should not be overlooked, but you’re no doubt wondering which beers were top of the list on this visit. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale offered a spicy fall preview, while Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes was an unusual combination of heather, malty and peaty goodness. Although we tried a wide variety (thanks, again to the handy 4 oz tasters), one of my favorites was Brewster’s Brewery Mata Hari – something that will be receiving its own review in the near future.
So while there is not a terribly convenient Metro stop by ChurchKey, you should still seek it out if you happen to be in the District; there’s something for every palate or mood, and the friendly, well-trained staff make a visit even more pleasant – it’s all rather tremendous.
1337 14th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20005-3610