A Happy Birthday at Church Key

Every year the main part of my birthday I actually care about is the birthday dinner. My birthday is really close to Christmas which is definitely always bigger than what happens on my birthday; therefore, I feel slightly underwhelmed.  I mean, you just did a whole holiday where you are with literally every family member imaginable.  So, it just seems like my birthday is slightly less exciting.  Don’t get me wrong, I am always happy staying home with my wife and celebrating a holiday.  I would kind of love to do the entire holiday season this way; however, it just seems slightly less exciting.  Back to what actually took place on my birthday.

I took off from both of my places of employment for my birthday.  It was slightly difficult this year to get that done.  Taking off from the teaching job is never really a big problem, but I wanted to find someone to work at the restaurant for both my birthday and the Superbowl.  So, I’m very happy for the bartender Darren.  He really helped me out by switching both of those shifts.  I spent the morning and afternoon doing basically nothing.  That is really all I wanted to do.  I woke up at 10 am, I made myself pancakes for breakfast, and I played a lot of Modern Warfare 3 during the day.  It was amazing.  Towards the evening, my wife got home from work, we took the dog for a walk, and we set out for Church Key for dinner.

Last week I did a little post on some of my favorite bars.  Two of them were found around DC, while one of them was located in NJ.  The two I listed in DC aren’t considered big beer bars or anything.  They are close to my house, and they have some pretty good selections.  For my birthday, I really wanted to step it up and head out to what is considered one of the best beer bars in all of DC.  When we first moved to DC there was only one place to really go in DC for a wide selection of beer: Brickskeller.  Brickskeller, from what I  hear, had a huge selection, but it never really had everything in stock.  Therefore, about a year ago, it had to close its doors.  Thus the tables turned, and Church Key has taken its place as the stand out beer bar in DC.

Church Key is located on the second floor above its counterpart Birch and Barley.  We walked up the stairs and asked about a seat for two.  They informed us that it was free seating.  Definitely not a big fan of that.  I don’t like standing around trying to fight others for a table.  We managed to get the end of a hightop that seats six, but we had to sit there for 10 minutes before we even got water, and another five before we even managed to place an actual order.  Regardless of the slow start, we managed to finally get in some drink and app orders to start things off.

Since my wife was treating me to dinner for my birthday, I felt a slight responsibility to not pick the priciest bottles on the menu.  I really could have gone off here, but I tried to control myself.  We put in some appetizers, and I decided to start it off with a Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye.  I tried this at my local beer store when it was released, but a little dixie cups worth wasn’t enough.  I had wanted to buy a six pack of this one, but I kept finding other stuff I’d rather have.  So I kept putting it off.  Finally I managed to have a decent portion of it.  I really wanted to start with something hoppy and work my way into something darker.

I decided to try a few little 4oz samples between each full bottle of beer.  This way I managed to try more and drink less.  Therefore, after my first full pint, I tried a little glass of the Brooklyn Mary’s Maple Porter.  While Brooklyn isn’t one of those breweries I really seek out, I wanted to try this one for the maple aspect.  It had a much lighter touch than I was expecting.  I really thought it would have a much more syrupy taste, but it did end with a slightly bacon smokey taste and really didn’t overwhelm with sweetness.

My second full sized beer was listed as Scheldebrouweiji Oesterstout.  I really chose this one because it sounded super unique.  It is a Belgian Stout that is filtered over New Zealand oyster shells.  I have no idea why filtering anything over oyster shells would be good, but it sounded interesting enough to me.  It was really nice to have this stout for stout month, but it had a ton of carbonation and Belgian yeast to make it lighter and interesting.  It had some great rich taste to it, while using the yeast to keep it spicy and interesting.

I decided to head back to the tasting with my next selection.  I went with a New Holland Brewing Company beer called Envious.  Although sounding really interesting, I thought it sounded really strange with a description on the menu that involved both pear and champaign,in the end the flavors just seemed to not stand up to the food I was eating.  I think I blame it on the enchilada and buffalo chicken flatbread more than I do the beer.  The beer was probably really flavorful.

Finally, I ended my night with a big and bold imperial stout.  I knew I eventually wanted to progress down to a stout for February, but I didn’t know which one it would be.  I decided I wanted an imperial one, but I tried to be a little more cost efficient, so I went with the one that was the cheapest on the list.  It was still over $10 a bottle.  I ended up ordering a Central Waters Brewing Company Satin Solstice, which apparently doesn’t get ordered too often.  I was told they didn’t have any in the refrigerators, and they needed to head to the cellar for it.  After waiting a little while for it, I was very pleased with the ample coffee and chocolate flavors I was greeted with.

Despite some slow service to start off with, I was really happy with how my first visit to Church Key ended up.  I can’t wait to head back and put an even bigger dent in the selection they have there.  Ultimately I’ll love any place that hands you a binder for their bottled list.  If you’re ever in DC, you definitely need to hit up Church Key.  You’ll be so happy you did!

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1 Comment

  1. The one time I visited Church Key, I sat at the bar ahead of the dinner rush. Even at the bar, the service was so-so, but I didn’t go there for the service. That beer menu is dangerous, especially when you glance at the cellar list. Did they have anything in casks?


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