I had three days off and no plans, so the fiance and I decided to pick a place and go. There was recently a thread on ratebeer claiming a lot of places get spam high reviews and mentioned The Birch. I was skeptical at first too. So I tried it out for myself! The location is very odd, 50 yards from an industrial loading dock and in a sort of low-income neighborhood. Next door seems to be a popular Mexican restaurant and bar. Parking along the street seemed to be enforced by resident permit, but around the corner closer to the dock entrance there is unlimited parking after 6PM I think. The inside is modest, homey, tavern-like, definitely a localsí bar with a lot of regulars, dark lighting, chalk board tap list. 20 Taps about with a lot of variety and nearly everything being odd or difficult to find. When I was there it was "43 Hours of Dark" where everything on tap was relatively dark including Nogne O DH2 on tap, which Iíve never seen before. Also a lot of one-offs from B. Unitedís Zymatore series, some of which were very good. The staff are pretty much the bar owners, who chatted with us and made us feel at home. After ticking the tap list, I was asking about some bottles in their cellar that were on display. Unfortunately, those bottles are for display only and I guess are the ownersí own private cellar. A bit of a tease but okay. But, the bottle I asked out was suddenly popped and sitting in front of me compliments of the house. What!? I ran to the car to bring some special beer to share as well. Really neat environment. Went back the next day to try the cheese plates and new things on the tap list. Likewise, we got to split an odd bottle from the cellar that the owners picked out for us. Awesome!
PROS: homey environment, rapid keg rotation, rarities/one-offs, amazing staff, crazy licensing here to allow bottles to go/bottles to bring in/growlers to go, informal bottle share ability
CONS: bizarre location, fairly pricey, cellar is not for sale via bottle list, minimal food/snack options though the cheese/olive/sausage plate is nice for palate cleansing.
So a must go location for any beer hunter/nerd and remember to eat beforehand and bring some special beers to share with the staff.
TheBeerGod (109) Newport News, Virginia | November 28, 2012| Updated April 6, 2013
Well maintained bar in the middle of a "nowhere" part of Norfolk. That notwithstanding means nothing compared to what is inside. Though high priced, the beers therein are typically hard to get and worth it, for the most part. The food is a bit on the lax side and the bare minimum of whatís required. Either way this is a worthy stop for any beer hunter in the area.
Ben and his wife took really good care of me here, and the free samples were flying left and right. The place was full, but the crowd was very mellow for a Saturday night, with jazz playing in the background, and everyone gathered around the Big Board. Draft selection was terrific, but the bottle selection was amazing - and whatís on the card is the tip of the iceberg. Not bad for what looks like an old gas station. One change Iíd make is that Iíd add a complete cellar inventory. Great place.
Stopped by on my last night in town, fully expecting to be disappointed - I mean it canít possibly be as good as the hype, right? Well, it is. This is probably the best beer bar I have been to. Ambiance is spartan but utilitarian; this place is about drinking good beer. Service is great, and the staff really know their stuff. Tap list is phenomenal, like nothing I have seen outside of Belgium. Bottle list is pretty impressive as well, and apparently what they show is much less than what they actually have in the back. I canít wait for my next trip out East so that I can stop back in.
After a few recent visits my rating of The Birch is in need of a refresh. The location seemed difficult to find at first but now seems very easy. The decor is simple but thoughtful and efficient. The service is top notch, not only from Malia (the owner) but her staff. The selection, while not expansive, is incredible with selections you will not find most places. The food is simple and not elaborate but pretty incredible. They have a great selection of cheese plates, charcuterie, and grilled cheeses. Some of the beer prices may seem higher than other bars but consider the line up. And if you are interested in trying several beers they offer half pours at a very reasonable price. Overall, I am totally impressed with this place more now than when it first opened. Rarely do I learn something when I go to a bar but I always leave The Birch pleased with what I have found there.
The Birch is by far my favorite beer bar. The food selection is small, but thatís because the focus is all about the beer. The staff is incredibly knowledgable and freindly. I always find something new when I go there.
kindacold (17) Norfolk, Virginia | February 3, 2012| Updated June 26, 2012
This is by far the best beer bar I have ever been to. Most decent bars, at least in the Hampton Roads area, have a predictable selection that, while good, cannot compare to the rare and unusual selection of beers that can be found at this bar. If I can name more 10% of the beers on the draft menu at any time, it is only because Iíve been there too frequently.
Additionally, the ambiance is perfect. A good music selection played at a comfortable volume, no televisions, and the small space encourage conversation and tasting rather than staring at a sporting event.
Their specialty is not food. The food menu is limited, but what they do have is outstanding. I refuse to buy grilled cheese sandwiches at a restaurant, except here. Their cheese boards are also the greatest Iíve had in this area, comparable to some of the 5-Star B&Bs and Inns that I have worked for.
Come here, and drink up. If you are worried about your wallet, order half-pours.