Want a nice craft beer? That should be easy enough, even the humblest dive bar can't seem to get by these days without at least offering a little something for the craft crowd. But where does one find the BEST craft beers? That's a taller order, which you'll find much easier with this guide to the best beer bars* in 10 of DC's most popular neighborhoods.
*Before your beer-fueled anger flares up, please note that we’ve excluded brewpubs because they’re a different category altogether.
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ChurchKey (info and address)
ChurchKey is still the top craft beer behemoth of Logan Circle (and quite possibly all of DC). More than 50 drafts are divided by flavor profile and are ready for your consumption by four-ounce tasters or full pours. Bring your reading glasses, or better yet a monocle, to tackle the bottle menu -- it’s 29 pages long. For best results, follow CK on Twitter for real-time updates on what they’re tapping.
Burger, Tap & Shake / District Commons
Feeling charitable? The first Monday of every month, these neighboring spots enlist the help of the thirsty masses to clear out the mile-long beer lines before they’re refilled the following day. All drafts are $3 until the kegs kick. Even though they have fun picks like Rogue "Good Chit" Pilsner and Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA, they claim the Allagash White always kicks first.
Meridian Pint (info and address)
Looking to brag on social media that you were the first to try something? Pull up a bar stool at Meridian Pint because they’re way on top of new releases. Their 24 draft beers change as often as your Facebook status and hail almost exclusively from DC, MD, and VA. Then, there are about 140 bottles to tempt you.
Smoke & Barrel (info and address)
The beer program at S&B also leans local -- like the Lost Rhino Saison d'Anomalie that even utilizes malt from nearby Copper Fox Distillery. But, they’re not afraid to cross state lines for something cool like Off Color Dino'Smores. A former Goose Island guy created this campy beer that incorporates graham cracker, cocoa nibs, and vanilla. Too out there for you? Find something straightforward on a list of 23 drafts, 18 bottles, and eight cans.
Jackpot (info and address)
Cha-ching! Get it? You have a new place to drink craft beer in Chinatown. You know these skilled beer selectors from Ironhorse and Laughing Man. The difference is you still have a chance to snag a seat at this new, somewhat austere basement bar that plays ‘90s music with pride. The brew list is ever changing, but odds are there will be some Ommegang, Rogue, Founders, Goose Island, and Devil’s Backbone.
Birreria Paradiso (info and address)
To reach beer paradise, just walk down a flight of stairs inside the Georgetown location of Pizzeria Paradiso. The original beer list there was drawn up by a pro -- Thor Cheston -- who recently opened his own brewpub, Right Proper. Be sure to try The Moon -- a pale wheat saison brewed with sour oranges. It’s the first in a nine-part series of collaboration brews with 3 Stars.
Smith Commons (info and address)
Smith Commons stands out from the pack because of its extensive offerings of large format bottles like Firestone Walker Sucaba (a barrel-aged barley wine) that weighs in with a 12.5% ABV. They also spread the regional love by offering drafts from nine different states. The best day to imbibe might be #Common Mondays, when happy hour lasts all night long on the second floor with special beer promotions.
City Tap House (info and address)
Mt. Vernon Square
Calling all Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder fans. City Tap House will serve you 3 Stars Ebony & Ivory -- a casked version of their Southern Belle Brown Ale spiked with cocoa nibs and vanilla bean. So smooth. The newcomer to the craft beer scene has about 40 drafts organized by categories like this one: Bitters, Browns, Scottish & Barley Wines. Yea, that’s just one category.
The Bier Baron Tavern (info and address)
Even their slogan, "Over 600 Beers from Around the World", is exhausting and intoxicating. Thus, you’re going to need multiple trips and plenty of friends to explore their menu, which reads like a newspaper. You might remember this underground lair by its former name -- The Brickskeller. Bonus: they’re likely to serve up burlesque or a live band with their blonde ales.
Breadsoda (info and address)
Billiards, craft beer, and an Austin Powers shag-pad atmosphere sound good? Pay a visit to Breadsoda, which boasts a beer list of about 50 drafts, bottles, and cans (a few of them being of the domestic macro variety, but it's all good). Pay special attention to crafty cans like Ten FIDY Imperial Stout from Oskar Blues. Breadsoda’s out to prove cans aren’t just for lagers. Tell your friends the name’s a nod to prohibition-era beer made with baking soda.
1. Birch & Barley1337 14th St NW, Washington
2. Burger Tap & Shake2200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington
3. District Commons2200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington
4. Meridian Pint3400 11st NW, Washington
5. Smoke & Barrel2471 18th St NW, Washington
6. Jackpot726 7th St NW, Washington
7. Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown3282 M St NW, Washington
8. Smith Commons1245 H St NE, Washington
9. City Tap House901 I St NW, Washington DC
10. Bier Baron1523 22nd St NW , Washington
11. Breadsoda2233 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington
Birch & Barley is the restaurant located below infamous beer bar ChurchKey in Logan Circle. It serves a simple and elegant menu of seasonal American food, but its claim to fame is the 500-plus beer list that rivals anything in the area (except of course, its upstairs sibling). The upscale restaurant serves a multi-course tasting menu with an optional beer pairing, but you can also order à la carte. Brunch rocks too, especially the freshly-fried donut holes.
A Washington Circle counter-orderer describing itself as "no-nonsense", BT&S eschews rubber chickens and flower lapels that shoot water at you in favor of rough-hewn reclaimed wood, a giant multi-color wall with George Washington's portrait (by noted urban street artist Jazi Rock), and tabletops made from sugarcane.
Upscale dining with an American tavern inspiration, District Commons elevates comfort food with a fresh raw bar, hearth-fired flatbreads, and a carving board slicing local and sustainable meats. Come in for the rotating pre-fixe family meal served nightly at 10p or just sample one of the 99 beers on the wall.
Columbia Heights' Meridian Pint always has its finger on the pulse of the craft beer scene, offering its customers the latest and best domestic brews in its rustic, Americana dining room -- where you'll find people noshing on bites like nachos, burgers, BBQ pork sandwiches, and wings -- and in its basement that boasts table taps from which you can pour your own beers. If that weren't enough, there's even weekend brunch with breakfast burritos, chicken & waffles, and huevos rancheros.
Smoke & Barrel has meat that is smoked with reclaimed bourbon barrels. In fact, not only do they have great smoked meats but they also have a great beer selection (25 cans and another 25 drafts) as well as 45 bourbons and whiskeys (not to mention their beer/shot combo "boiler crafters").
Jackpot is a bare-bones basement bar in Chinatown that's got your fix when it comes to craft beer -- they've got a rotating list of over 20 brews at a time.
Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown is actually TWO layers of paradise: delicious pies ranging from simple Margheritas to 10-ingredient Sicilianas on the first floor, and a beer haven with 16 taps and 263 bottles downstairs.
There's something to please everyone at Smith Commons: a sweet, exposed-brick, vintage atmosphere and 3rd floor roof deck, delicious offerings like short rib tacos and Sous Vide Moulard Duck Breast, and a craft beer list full of drafts from nine different states.
With 60+ brews available (40 via tap), City Tap House is your destination for craft beer enlightenment. With a sizable menu of bites like brick oven pizza, Craftwiches, and three different kinds of mussels, you can settle in for the long haul and taste a range of brews.
The famed Brickskellar's changed its name and tweaked its offerings, adding fifty craft brew tap lines (25 on each floor), eats like the spinach/feta-stuffed Spanakopita puff pastry, and weekly updated beer menus.
Breadsoda is a dimly lit, retro, wood-paneled billiards hall that serves a huge list of sandwiches and beer and hosts a fierce ping pong competition on Tuesday nights. Whether you favor a game of pool or skipping the rental fees in favor of darts or one of the many board games like risk, trivial pursuit, and connect 4, checkout the 50 plus beers (12 on tap) that range from domestic to craft. As far as food goes, the sandwiches are hearty and diverse: The Breadsoda comes with turkey, swiss, mustard, tomato, and coleslaw on pumpernickle, the Reuben is a familiar favorite with salty corned beef and sweet Russian dressing, and the BBQ is piled with chipotle pulled pork on a juice-soaked potato bun.