The home to one of DC’s largest beer collections will be back come November. Bar ChurchKey and sister dining room Birch & Barley in Logan Circle will reopen after a year and a half-long pandemic hiatus. They’ll have a new chef, and—for the first time—bottles and cans available to go.
Chef Jon Lavelle joins Neighborhood Restaurant Group from Denver, where he most recently worked at locally focused restaurant Fruition and bar-centric spot the Way Back. His entirely new modern American menu at Birch & Barley aims to use plenty of fermented products—a nod to the beer-making process. Among the highlights: a long-and-slow-fermented sourdough focaccia with cultured butter and sweet potato miso, as well as a rye rigatoni with pork ragu amped up miso, soy, fish sauce, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. Other staples will be more straightforward, like a burger or a simple half-roast chicken with super-crispy skin.
At ChurchKey, the upstairs bar, that housemade sourdough will become the base for pizzas with toppings like miso, garlic, and celery. Bar snacks will range from classic tater tots to lamb tartare with sorrel and fermented chili.
ChurchKey will also return with 50 drafts and nearly 500 cans and bottles, including many of the rare and hard-to-find beers the bar is known for. Five of those draft lines will be converted into side-pull taps, which are popular in the Czech Republic for creating a long-lasting “cappuccino-like foam” on lagers.
“A lot of people have gained appreciation for aromas and taste in beer, but the texture is something that’s under-appreciated still,” say beer director Greg Engert.
Meanwhile, about 300 of ChurchKey’s cans and bottles will be available for retail sale. Expect styles from all over the planet—from four-packs of hazy IPAs to one-off sours and stouts. While the bar won’t have a dedicated shop, per se, the to-go list will be available on-site and on online-ordering platform Toast for pick-up. (Delivery may be a possibility down the line.)
Although ChurchKey tends to be mostly known for its beer selection, the bar will also feature a respectable cocktail list incorporating ferments and ingredients from the kitchen as well as sustainable and local wines. “I always like to say ChurchKey is a bar that happens to have 500 beers,” Engert says.
The spaces have also made some cosmetic and structural upgrades to bathrooms, floors, furniture, and kitchen equipment. There’s also a new HVAC.
“In some ways, this is like a total opening of a restaurant rather than a reopening,” Engert says. “But it’s still going to be very recognizable.”
Neighborhood Restaurant Group has been slowly reopening a bunch of its long-shuttered places. Georgetown Belgian beer bar and restaurant the Sovereign returned a few weeks ago. Still to come: Vermilion and Columbia Firehouse in Old Town, and Hazel in Shaw.