Dish: Goodbye, Brickskeller. Hello, Bier Baron.

An edited excerpt from the Going Out Gurus blog (voices.
washingtonpost.com/goingoutgurus):

Perhaps it’s only appropriate that the Brickskeller, the storied beer institution off Dupont Circle, will assume an air of royalty in its next life. The new owners of the historic saloon have renamed the place Bier Baron; it officially opened for business Dec. 29.

Dave and Diane Alexander closed the Brick after service on Dec. 18, leaving behind a wealth of memories. They also left little time for Megan Merrifield and her husband to give the old tavern a good scrub and a fresh identity before reopening.

“We’ve scrubbed and scoured and dusted,” Merrifield says. “We’ve got brand-new linens in. The bathrooms are much nicer and in more sanitary working order.”

So why did the new proprietors decide to rush into the beer bar business?

“Any time you leave something closed for an indeterminate amount of time, people forget about it,” Merrifield says. “The Brickskeller is definitely the focal point of anyone that cares about beer in Washington, D.C., at this point. And if you stayed closed for two months to make everything exactly perfect, I think people find new haunts.”

Fortunately, two former Brick employees decided to stay on, and they’ve helped the new owners in their crash course in the beer business. For opening day, the Bier Baron planned to have 500 beers to choose from, Merrifield says, as well as “300 beers that Dave left behind.”

“It was quite philanthropic on his part,” Merrifield adds about Alexander.

So there’s enough stock to satisfy the demand on every one of those 800 beers?

“The 500, absolutely,” she says. “The 300, that’s kind of on a first-come, first-served basis because it’s the blow-out stock of the Brickskeller.”

What’s more, the old Brickskeller approach of cataloging brews will be history.

“The menu is no longer going to divide the beers by country,” she says. “It’s going to divide them by flavor profiles essentially. ... We’re going to try to make it a much more approachable beer list for everybody, not just for beer connoisseurs.”

The food menu will be a work-in-progress. The Bier Baron opened with some minor changes, like higher-quality bacon on the burger, high-end Wisconsin products on the cheese plate, house-made desserts (like a red velvet cheesecake), and fresh Uptown Bakers breads. The larger menu revamp, created by PS 7’s pastry chef Zak Miller, won’t debut for another few weeks.

“We’re going to make house-made pretzels,” Merryfield says. “We’re going to make house-made dips, house-made pizzas. We’re going to make some kind of fun Cajun popcorn for appetizers. We’re going to do a lot of really neat things, and almost everything will be house-made.”

If you’re wondering how Merrifield and her husband (who prefers not to see his name in print) landed on the name Bier Baron, it had nothing to do with a public contest to rebrand the saloon. A family friend from Austria suggested it.

“We heard literally thousands of names, and it’s one of those things, even when you’re naming your child or naming your puppy, something just kind of fits and kind of hits you the right way,” Merrifield says.

— Tim Carman

carmant@washpost.com

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