The Tavern Formerly Known as Brickskeller has both a name and opening date: Bier Baron, the successor to Washington’s most storied beer bar, will open for service Wednesday, Dec. 29 at 6 p.m. On that night, the walls will be decked with the same antique cans, and the kitchen will pump out the same pretzels and pierogies, but one thing is gone for good: the bait-and-switch beer menu.
“On opening, we will have 500 different beers, and every one of them, without question, will be available,” says new owner Megan Merrifield.
Previous owners Dave and Diane Alexander bequeathed to Merrifield and her husband 350 different beers to get them started, and the new owners have been working with purveyors to shore up the offerings. Some of the rare inherited bottles will not be restocked, but Merrifield says the staff will monitor the menus diligently, “crossing off line by line” beers as they disappear.
As for the name, after their first choice, “Rock Creek,” turned out to be taken, Merrifield turned to the public for help—a strategy that didn’t quite work.
“So much of the Internet feedback, I would say 85 or 90 percent, incorporated something with the word ‘brick’ or with the word ‘skeller,'” Merrifield says.
That’s not quite the image they were after, besides whatever legal problems it could bring about. (Most of our commenters’ suggestions, such as “Lurch and Burley” and “John Boehner’s Tears,” might have fallen to the same fate.) A family friend came up with “Bier Baron,” which will also lend its brand to the building’s upstairs lodging—Hotel Baron, which they estimate will open in six to eight weeks.
The new owners tried to keep as many people in their jobs as possible. Beer operations are in the hands of two Brickskeller floor managers, and although bar manager Rachel Murray is off to Bourbon, she might offer consultation and pick up the occasional shift.
Merrifield is also bringing in some culinary firepower, working with Zak Miller, pastry chef at PS7, to revamp the menu with items such as housemade pretzels.
If you’re trying to find the new bar at 1523 22nd St. NW, look for the barren, not the Baron. The Brickskeller sign is gone, of course, and Merrifield says their new canopy won’t be up until Friday. (Turns out, it’s tough to get custom-made art, done fast, in the snow, the week after Christmas.) But even though Bier Baron has a long list of improvements ahead of it—menu, beer taps, renovations, tastings—one week is an awfully quick turnaround time for opening D.C.’s newest beer bar.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery