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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010

For the Brickskeller, the end is near

By Fritz Hahn

As stories began filtering out yesterday that the Brickskeller's last day might be Dec. 18, I started feeling nostalgic for the place. (We've tried to contact the owners via phone and e-mail to confirm the closing date, but have not heard back; some Brickskeller employees have told me that the sale of the building won't be finalized until Dec. 23, which means the bar could theoretically stay open until then.)

My most recent visits to the Brick had been okay-to-bad -- apathetic or missing servers, musty atmosphere and the tired ritual of having to order two or three beers just to get one, because the bottles on the menu aren't the ones in stock. It's easy to see why so many beer drinkers these days are into ChurchKey, Rustico or Birreria Paradiso, not the Brick.

But figuring I might not be able to see the place much longer, I decided to meet a friend at the bar for old time's sake.

I have some fond memories of the Brickskeller -- beer tastings led by some of the world's top brewers and authors, especially the great Michael Jackson; happy hours with friends and colleagues at the huge tables in the back room; furthering my beer education by tasting exotic styles that, until the last few years, only the Brick really offered. And when I grabbed a seat at the upstairs bar last night, the 12 choices on the draft list reminded me that the Brickskeller's selection can be as impressive as any in D.C. This time, several taps were given to the beers of Lost Abbey and Port Brewing Company -- cult brews from Southern California that rarely make it to the D.C. market. The hoppy, citrusy Wipeout IPA, for example, is certainly a beer you don't see every day.

But when the upstairs bar closed and we had to join other stragglers downstairs, I began to remember why I didn't frequent the Brick as much as I used to. The dining room had a dank odor. The menus had pages missing.The first two beers I asked for weren't in stock. The third arrived in a bottle, but without a glass. And then our server disappeared. We finished our beers and sat there with empty glasses waiting for someone to show up. By the time they did, we were ready to go.

What are your favorite Brickskeller memories? And what do you think will become the city's most famous and tourist-worthy beer bar when it closes? Share your comments below.

By Fritz Hahn  | December 8, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Comments

I'm sad I didn't get to go to the Brickskeller when it was operating properly. I went about 3 weeks ago, and basically asked the waitress what they had in a particular brand of beer then ordered from there...it shouldn't require two trips by a waitress to order a beer.

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | December 8, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

My memories of the Brick go back to 1987, when I drove up from VA Beach for a tasting.
I moved to Fredericksburg in 1996, and have made it to many other tastings since. The best was the aforementioned Michael Jackson's 60th Birthday celebration. MJ selected the beers, the jazz music and read some of his favorite poetry.
As for the next tourist worthy beer bar, I imagine RFD will give Churchkey a real run for the money!

Posted by: beerking1 | December 8, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

The earily 80's is when I found out about the Brickskeller. Friends and I would drive in from Columbia to expand our beer tasting pallets and knowlage while enjoying the earthy confinds of downstairs. I still have the menu of beer choices from back then which I carried with me around the world during my time in the military. I think I drank my way thru about a third of the 700 or so choices. While I am sad to hear about the rundown nature of the place the memories still remain. Just like the Orleans House it will be missed, but I think I have just enough time to make one more trip. Prost!

Posted by: JoeCitizen | December 8, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I agree about the service. One time I went there and couldn't order anything on tap because a boy's (read, boy, not beer drinking adult) birthday party was booked for the first floor.

That being said, we did have a fantastic waiter once who put up with our attempts to collect a fantastic number of bottles to take home for homebrewing, even bringing them from other tables. We probably had close to a hundred bottles on our table when we left. Too bad that it's closing - though the service was questionable, I enjoyed the ambiance far more than RFD.

Posted by: liz222444 | December 9, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I left DC about 5 years ago but will always remember 10 years of great times at the Brick. Whether it was after work with a friend over burgers and beers we'd never heard of in the basement, or 20 people packed around one of the upstairs tables on a weekend, so many great memories. Even though I haven't been back to the Brick in 3 years, will try to make it for one last round next week. Shame about the service. They used to have some of the best waitresses in the city.

Posted by: hugh_hill4 | December 9, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I left DC about 5 years ago but will always remember 10 years of great times at the Brick. Whether it was after work with a friend over burgers and beers we'd never heard of in the basement, or 20 people packed around one of the upstairs tables on a weekend, so many great memories. Even though I haven't been back to the Brick in 3 years, will try to make it for one last round next week. Shame about the service. They used to have some of the best waitresses in the city.

Posted by: hugh_hill4 | December 9, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

i came to dc in 1997 for college, and my 21st birthday started at the skeller. i've been there too many times to count. when i left dc for a year in 05 and came back, i did notice a decline in the service and selection, but will always have only fond memories. i still have the beer list from that 21st birthday.

first, dr dremo's (bardo) went away, now the skeller. hopefully the red lion will hang around for awhile, or i will be out of nostalgic dc bars

Posted by: nicholas_johansen | December 9, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I started going to the Brick weekly in '87 when the Micro craze was just heating up. As sous chef of a small cafe in Herndon, I would take the Bar Manager to educate him on beer style. One night the waitress informed him he had a call waiting at the bar. Our owner had called to inform him he had to be at work the next morning, I was so incensed at being interrupted in our sacred sanctuary of beer that I ran to the pay phone, called our boss and told him we quit. The chef at the Brick saw the whole thing and never let me forget it. 24 years later I got married and we speny a night of our honeymoon at the Brick. I planned to take my new wife to the Smithsonian and as we headed out she noticed the bar had just opened and suggested a quick beer. 13 hours and a $1000 later they closed the bar. We drank Westvleteren 12(only one in the U.S.) finishing with Dofish head 120 and a Thomas Hardy '86, the bartender said what next? I replied, how bout something light and fizzy. like a foghorn! They even let me in the cooler to look for beer that wasn,t on the menu. Sorry Dave.but I drank your Vermeer, and it was delicious!

Posted by: chefjimm | December 10, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

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