From The Washington Post
AS IT HEADS TOWARD its golden anniversary, the Brickskeller Dining House & Down-Home Saloon -- known as "the Brick" to its legions of beer-quaffing fans -- has become as much of a Washington institution as the museums and monuments.
This famed tavern, located under Dupont Circle's Marifex Hotel, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as "the bar with the largest selection of commercially available beers."
Up to 110 beers per page fill the small, booklike menu, arranged alphabetically by country, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. "The last time I looked at the [inventory] spreadsheet, there were 1,032," says managing partner Dave Alexander, with about a third of those coming from the United States.
It's a far cry from the 36 beers available when Diane Alexander's grandparents Marie and Felix Coja opened the Brickskeller in 1957. The number of beers climbed over the years, eventually hitting 51. Alexander says it really took off in 1976: "For the bicentennial, someone said, 'You should get a beer from every state.' " It sounded like a good idea to the Cojas, but these were the days before multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns and national distribution. So the Brickskeller's owners bought a refrigerator truck and set off on a cross-country road trip to pick up beer. Alexander says they visited Coors in Golden, Colo.; picked up some Anchor Steam in San Francisco; stopped off at Seattle's Rainier Brewery; and even took a long drive up the Alaska Highway to Anchorage, where they picked up a case of Prinz Brau on the day production began. (Thankfully, Diane's family owned a restaurant in Hawaii and could send them beer from the 50th state.)
By the time Dave took over day-to-day operations in the '80s, there were more than 400 choices, mostly available in cans. Within a few years, the number had almost doubled. And when the craft brewing movement took off in the 1990s, Alexander began ordering more and more, pushing the selection over 1,000, and, he says, occasionally more than 1,200 different beers found their way into the inventory. Word began to spread around the world, and the Guinness Book of World Records came calling. When the stock was officially counted in January 2002, the total was 1,072 various brands and styles.
Not just content serving beers, the Brick has hosted regular tastings since 1985, introducing Washingtonians to new beers from around the world and educating them about the history of various brands and styles with notable guests such as Dick Yuengling, the president of America's oldest brewery, or legendary British beer author Michael Jackson.
The Brickskeller also hosts programs with the Smithsonian's Resident Associates; Anchor Brewing Co. owner Fritz Maytag, who is frequently credited with starting the microbrew movement, appears there Sunday with fellow trailblazers Fred Bowman of the Portland Brewing Co. and Don Barkley of the Mendocino Brewing Co.