We here at WCP HQ finally unleashed our annual Best of D.C. issue yesterday, and I guess I should say this out loud so that it’s official: 2010 is the year of ChurchKey, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer emporium near Logan Circle.

The watering hole dominated the Food & Drink section this year, winning two categories outright and even inspiring one writer to find the Best Alternative to ChurchKey when the 14th Street joint is three-deep at the bar and you can’t even see the beer taps, let alone get a pull from one. ChurchKey’s owner, Michael Babin, also earned the nod for Best Restaurateur, in large part for his role in granting beer equal rights in the wine-biased world of chef-driven restaurants.

Orr Shtuhl wrote this about ChurchKey in awarding the place Best Beer Bar/Best Beer Menu:

Honorifics alone cannot express the importance of ChurchKey for D.C. and for (I’m only partly exaggerating here) the United States of America, which right now is collectively discovering good beer, as if 300 million people realized overnight that there was juice beyond Sunny D, burgers beyond Big Macs.

With its ever-changing lineup of five casks and 50 taps, shelves of beer that stretch to the heavens, and a customer capacity that threatens to summon fire marshals, ChurchKey’s import is its spectacle. Its bible-length menu hushes conversation. The bar is a cathedral to beer.

I think this passage gets to the heart of the issue: Beer was never supposed to play the role of buffoon, as defined by Budweiser or Miller or Coors and their endless attempts to equate suds to couch potato-ism, football, and impossibly under-dressed women catfighting over whether one brand tastes great or is less filling. Beer has an authority and an air of sophistication all its own, as countries like Belgium and Germany and England have known for years.

ChurchKey has just tapped into it.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery