1,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

By Fritz Hahn
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, August 16, 2002


    Bottles at the Brickskeller Hundreds of exotic beers, including Delirium Nocturnum from Belgium (right), are available for sampling at the Brickskeller. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/washingtonpost.com)
Some people will do anything to get themselves in the Guinness Book of World Records. Step forward Danny Capps of Madison, Wis., who spit a dead cricket 9.17 meters. Or Norwegian Per-Arne Stromnes, who continuously headed a tennis ball for 43 minutes and 20 seconds. And spare a thought for Jackie Bibby of Texas, who sat in a bathtub with 75 live Western Diamondback rattlesnakes.

Dave Alexander, the owner of the Brickskeller, didn't break a sweat to get his bar's enormous beer selection into the book. In fact, he didn't even try. "I didn't go looking for [the recognition], because once you do, that's like having a target on your forehead," he says. "But over the years, I've heard people boast about having the most beers, but they'd all say, like, 5 or 600, and I'd chuckle."

Last November, Alexander was contacted by a researcher for the Guinness Book. In the course of researching another topic, she'd come across an article about the Brickskeller and its vast inventory. "She asked if we really had more than 800 beers from 50 countries, and said if that was true, I should file a claim [to be in the book]," Alexander recalls. "I told her, 'I'm not sure where you got your information, but it's incorrect. We now have over 1,000 beers from 56 countries.'"

When Alexander took over the Brickskeller in 1983, the bar offered less than 500 beers, although that was still a pretty hefty number in those days. Within a few years, he was stocking more than 800. In January, when the inventory was officially counted for Guinness, the total was 1,072 beers, but Alexander still thinks that's low.

"We usually have over 1,100 in stock, sometimes over 1,200, but I like to say 'over 1,000' because things go in and out of stock so quickly, and new beers are arriving daily." And those numbers aren't being padded. "The criteria was how many different varieties and brands we have, not how many things are on the menu. For example, we have Fosters in 12 ounce bottles and the [25 ounce] oil cans, and Guinness in 12 ounce bottles and also in pub cans. Each of those only counts once.

"I had to submit all kinds of documentation that was independently verified. I sent them the menus, inventory lists and photos of the storeroom. Also, two respected people in the industry had to back my claim; I had Greg Kitsock, the editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and Michael Jackson [a world-famous British beer writer, known as the Beer Hunter] to do it."

The Brickskeller will be listed in the 2003 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the bar with the largest selection of commercially available beers. In mid-August, Alexander received a large plaque, which now hangs near the bar's entrance. "Honestly, I was hoping for more," he says. "I really wanted them to send me a giant bottle of Guinness or something."

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