Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ChurchKey: The Beginning

The enormous commitment and care that today’s brewer gives his or her craft is echoed and honored in the service of beer at ChurchKey. For hundreds--if not thousands--of years, the brewer’s art has evolved and developed in every corner of the globe to encompass an extremely broad range of traditions, styles and flavors. While some countries and regions, like Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain, have long been known for the quality and time-honored methods of their brews, others--like France, Italy, the United States, and even Scandinavia, are just now appending their own distinctive chapters to the voluminous story of brewing.

At ChurchKey, the classics and the cutting-edge are celebrated alike, with a relentless commitment to capturing the full spectrum of flavors offered by the myriad means of crafting artisanal ales and lagers . To that end, we’ve designed this concept upon the following touchstones:

Selection | 555 unique labels culled from over 30 countries, including 50 draught beers and 5 authentic cask conditioned ales in fluid rotation. We’ll also provide a multitude of exceptionally rare, often exclusive, beers on draught, cask, and among our 500 hand-selected bottles. A Cellar Stash list of osbcure and vintage bottled beer, representing our commitment to the maturation of fine ales, will wow the most experienced beer tasters.

Storage | We have taken extra care to showcase the flavor intentions of the world's best breweries in our attention to beer storage and service. Three distinct temperatures zones will insure that the various styles of draft, cask and bottled brews attain their highest flavor expressions. The flavors of the most complex beers will no longer be numbed by excessive chilling, and yet crisp and vibrant brews will tantalize at colder temperatures

Service | We’ll provide a depth of glassware, often traditional, but always appropriate, to perfectly tease out the nuances of each style on our list. Our staff will be trained to understand these nuances so that each beer is served both with its proper glass, as well as properly poured into its specific vessel.

Experience | This approach to the myriad manifestations of beer has passionately occupied my mind ever since I took over the Beer Program at Rustico Restaurant and Bar in Alexandria. As I tweaked Rustico's beer list, its storing and serving methods, its beer cellaring and its training methods, I was always dreaming of that next level of beer appreciation and celebration. This idea kept evolving as the members of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and I set forth to make this dream a reality. In ChurchKey, my passion for beer, and food, as well as great wine and cocktails, is writ large. Oh, and a more recent interest, traditional Cider, will also make an appearance: in one of the largest, and most carefully selected, lists in the area.

Dining | We're psyched to have Chef Kyle Bailey at the helm on this project. Kyle not only brings limitless talent from behind the stoves, but actually understands beer in a way few other chefs I've met do. In fact, he even makes his own beer at home! The way he puts it, “Throughout school and up until this point in my career, the focus has solely been on pairing food with wine, and while I love wine, I’ll let you in on a little industry secret – chef’s drink beer. The opportunity to design a personal menu that brings together pure, simple ingredients and draws its flavor inspiration from beer – well, that’s just a phenomenal, compelling place to be as someone who’s really passionate about both.”

Of course, this intense level of commitment has made the design of ChurchKey both a logistical challenge and a remarkable opportunity. For example, the issue of temperature was an important one for us early on. When beers are served at extremely cold temperatures, one’s taste and olfactory sensors are numbed and neutralized to a degree where the sensation of quenched thirst is solely sensed. But real, full-flavored and aromatic brews are never merely restorative. The heaviest and most complex brews require a higher serving temperature, to release the aromas locked within. 54 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

At this temperature, flavor is more easily recognized; the volatile aromatic molecules are energized to escape from the brew and to develop the increasingly inviting nose.

54 degrees is the provenance of high-octane beers, the German Eisbock, the Russian Imperial Stout, the American Imperial IPA, the Belgian Quadruple…

These beers will have the most flavor compounds, a high degree of residual sweetness, and a more apparent alcohol character. Thus, 54 degrees will release complex aromas but also guarantee some chill to keep the brews from being cloying. With a nice cellar coolness, these imperial ales (and on a few occasions lagers) will appreciate a bit of carbonation, hop, and even acidity to remain velvety not sticky. 54 degrees will also insure that the brews don’t show off too much of their boozy underpinnings. No beer will benefit from the deadening effect of too much warmth, nor too chill.

To enjoy a perfectly poured goblet of Trappistes Rochefort 10, you certainly don’t need to know that; but at ChurchKey, we think it adds depth to the experience. You’ll experience these stories when you visit us.

Please be sure to visit www.churchkeydc.com and sign up to receive more information on our progress as we prepare for opening day, and we sure hope to see you in person shortly thereafter.

Greg Engert
Beer Director, ChurchKey