Remember Anthony from Day 6? Well, would you believe I ran into him a few weeks ago? I like Anthony a lot. He unfortunately has a pretty nasty drinking habit which has left him homeless for years. But if you haven’t read his story or would like to see a video of how he is doing now, check out his updated blog post here.
Day 194 takes us to a local watering hole. The Brickskeller has been a fixture in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood for the last 53 years. It’s a unique locale and arguably a bit “touristy.” However say what you will, I enjoy a visit to this institution now and then.
As you walk up the stairs of the entrance and pass through the outermost door you find two doors to your right and a reception of sorts far in the back. The reception is for the Brickskeller Inn, which I know little about. I seem to always get distracted by what’s behind the two doors on the right before I can make it back to the inn. Both doors remind me of something out of a medieval castle. The first one leads downstairs where there is a labyrinth of rooms separated by hand-fired brick walls. I chose the second door which reveals a dimly lit windowless space with a bar surrounded by 12 stools. Further to your left are dozens of tables, dart boards, a juke box and lots of beer memorabilia.
I take a seat at the bar and study the ten pages of beers that boast close to a 1,000 beers. They are always out of a lot of beers, so you have to get two or three choices ready.
I sat there writing up some of my blog entries – sometimes I write them out by hand first. I eventually got a little hungry. Much of the food is mediocre at best in my opinion; you don’t come here for the food. Having said that, the Garden Burger is outstanding. It’s a vegan burger made with mushrooms, black beans, brown rice, onions, chipotle seasonings, etc. I almost exclusively get that when I order there. I order one and a Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA to wash it down. The Snake Dog IPA I found to be quite delicious and went very well with my burger! Hats off to the Frederick, MD brewer!
Right before my burger comes, I notice two guys to my left who appear to be brothers. I thought I would invite them to be my 194th recipient. Brian and Shawn in fact are brothers. Brian is a civics teacher from Charlotte, NC and his younger brother Shawn lives just over the state line in Hardy County, West Virginia. They refuse to accept the $10 saying that someone else in the bar would surely do something much more amazing with the money than they would since they were “already like 15 beers in” as Brian put it. They were looking to continue their evening and I sent them to Adams Morgan where they were sure to find a lively crowd.
I then thought I would give it to my server/bartender. As she delivered my delicious Garden Burger, I asked her if she would accept my $10 and she readily agreed. Megan, a 23-year-old self-proclaimed army brat, lives in the Colombia Heights neighborhood of DC and has been working at the Brickskeller for nearly four years.
A group of three people take Brian and Shawn’s spot at the bar and I overhear the one member of their group comment that “Megan has been here for ever. She’s good.” This guy seems to be a regular as he asks Megan, “Do you have a couple of my usuals on ice back there?” The Brickskeller is also known for having slightly warmer beers than what many are accustomed to drinking.
Megan stops by as she brings the gentleman his beers and I ask her what her favorite beer is. “That’s hard. Right now I would have to say it is the Lagunitas Maximus Double IPA.”
Bartending for four years means two things. First you probably know a lot about beer. Second, you probably have seen some crazy stuff. Megan knows her beers pretty well and has seen her share of crazy stuff too. “I once saw a five-foot waitress knock a guy out.” Wow…note to self: tip five-foot waitresses at the Brickskeller well!
Speaking of tipping, I also asked Megan for some thoughts on the age-old tradition. “Tipping says something about the service but it also sends a message about the person who is leaving the tip,” she says. “Sure there are times I haven’t been a good server, but I still tip pretty good when the service is bad.” I don’t know if I agree with that. As a former waiter and bartender, I am a firm believer in tipping commensurate with the level of service. If I get lousy service I don’t have a problem with leaving a lousy tip.
Megan excuses herself again to wait on some thirsty patrons who sat down on the other end of the bar. Social Distortion’s Story of My Life fades off the juke box and gives way to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.
When Megan comes back she says she will probably buy a beer or two with the money at the end of her shift. “We are allowed one beer under $5.00 for free after our shift.” Well, my ten spot will come in handy if she wants to order up her favorite from California brewer Lagunitas which sells for $6.95 for a 12 ounce bottle. Cheers!
The Brickskeller is located at 1523 22nd St NW, Washington, DC 20037.