Norfolk’s ‘The Birch’ Wins America’s Heart and Taste Buds
Not many bars get the recognition of being voted among the top beer bars in the U.S. This honor has come true right here in Norfolk for The Birch. Awarded the No. 5 Best Beer Bar in America, this locally-owned establishment located in the Chelsea district has a beer for the conservative taster all the way to the adventurous connoisseur.
The Birch was given the award by USA Today. Three expert beer judges narrowed down the categories to 20 bars, with the final 10 determined by popular vote.
For the best beer bar, the description from USA Today states, “Stellar selections of local, rare and unusual brews, knowledgeable bar staff to help narrow down the choice and a great atmosphere make these beer bars must-visits for any craft beer enthusiast.”
The Birch indeed delivers on this definition. With concrete floors, wooden tables and chairs, a log bar and dark green leather chairs, the atmosphere greets you with comfort. The garage door in the front opens to create a breeze and leads to a small patio. Dark-green walls, exposed metal heating ducts and simple wooden art complete the relaxed vibe. The easy-going staff greets you with a smile, hands you a seven-page list of bottled beers, a small food menu and points to the large, chalk written draft board.
The draft board offers 21 different beers. The Evil Twin brewery makes an Aun Mas Café Jesus imperial coffee stout, which offers a strong coffee flavor with hoppy finish. If dark beer is not your style, try the Berliner Weiss from Off Color brewery, which is slightly sweet and very refreshing.
For a local Virginia beer, try the Icelandic sea salt gose from the Escutcheon brewery, which provides a light hops flavor and crisp finish. For those who enjoy sour beers, the oak aged elderberry sour from the Cascade brewery is a perfect balance of tart and sweetness from the berries.
The seven-page bottled beer list is broken up into categories: light and refreshing, Belgian and Trappist, hoppy and bitter, fruity, dark and complex, tart and barnyardy, sour and wine-like, roasty and malty, ciders, and meads. They even offer a few selections of dog beer. That’s right, man’s best friend can now also enjoy a drink with you.
They also offer a small board of draft ciders and mead. If you enjoy honey, the Viking Blod mead from Denmark is the way to go. With slight carbonation and not overly sweet honey finish, the Viking mold mead is surprisingly refreshing.
If any of this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. The impressive staff can easily offer suggestions based on your preference. For the drafts, half pours are offered so you can sample or build your own flight. The draft menu changes as soon as the keg is tapped out. The bottled beer menu is changed out weekly. Growlers are offered to take home a favorite, which is recommended since the menus change frequently.
Their small food menu includes 14 options of cheese, nine options of charcuterie and 10 unique grilled cheese sandwiches. You are able to mix and match the cheeses and meats to create your own charcuterie board. The grilled cheeses are inspired by the extensive list of beers.
With tasty beers from all over the world, delicious snacks and chill atmosphere, it is easy to see why The Birch was voted one of the Best Beer Bars in America. They are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. until 12 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m. They are also open the first Sunday of each month for brunch from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.