I heard the news today that David Scot “aka Beer Guy Dave” Alexander (May 8, 1950-November 12, 2023) passed away yesterday after a two-year battle with cancer. Dave was well-known in beer circles for the beer bar he took over in 1982 with his wife Diane in D.C., the Brickskeller, which at one time was in the Guinness Book of World Records for offering the most beers of any bar. They sold the bar in 2010, but also opened R.F.D. (Regional Food & Drink) in 2003, eventually closing it in 2017. Dave retired to Nashville, and in fact that’s the last place I saw him, when the Craft Brewers Conference was in town. Pull out a rare beer from your cellar tonight and join me in drinking a toast to Beer Guy Dave, a.k.a. Dave Alexander.
I corresponded with Dave’s son Josh this morning, and he shared the following details:
Dave, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer around Thanksgiving of 2021. For two years he found and beat it. Just a month ago on October 8, 2023 Dad was playing music with his church group on stage in Nashville doing what he loved best. A little over a week ago, he complained of being dizzy and his balance was off. He went into the hospital and they found that cancer mitosis has spread to his brain and was untreatable. Dave passed comfortably in hospice in Tennessee on Sunday November 12th at 8:10am (the address of RFD was 810 7th St. FYI) with Diane by his side.
He is survived by his wife Diane, his three kids Shawn, Josh, and Kimberly as well as his five grandchildren Anthony, Caden, Emma, Claire, and Evan.
The Brickskeller, of course, was legendary, not only for its beer selection, but also its beer events. My first visit to the bar was well before I was even in the beer industry, when I visited it around 1983 or 84 when I was living in North Carolina.
This is a history of the bar from its Wikipedia page:
The Brickskeller Dining House and Down Home Saloon (now the The Bier Baron Tavern) was a tavern in Washington, D.C., located near Dupont Circle across from Rock Creek Park and on the edge of Georgetown, in the Baron Hotel building. It was founded by Felix Coja and his wife, Marie.
Felix and Marie were originally from the French Mediterranean island of Corsica and immigrated to the United States after World War I. Coja, a Cordon Bleu-trained Master French chef, found work in Washington, D.C., at the Blackstone Hotel on 17th Street NW.
Following his time at the Blackstone, Felix and Marie acquired The Robert Peter Inn several blocks away near 22nd and P Street NW. They changed the name to The Marifex Hotel and established the Brickskeller restaurant in 1957, as a rathskeller-type eatery.
In the 1960s, their son Maurice and his wife June further developed the property. In 1982, their daughter Diane and her husband, former bartender Dave Alexander, took over the daily operations. On December 18, 2010, the Alexanders sold the building and business, which was renamed The Bier Baron Tavern.
The Brickskeller had over 1,200 choices of bottled and canned beer in the coolers, over a dozen keg beers, and real ale in casks. It was the first restaurant of its kind to offer customers a beer list with thousands of beers from around the world.
The Brickskeller featured beer from around the world and a large selection of domestic brews. The menu included several hundreds of Belgian beers, dozens of varieties of wheat beers like Paulaner, and witbiers such as Hoegaarden.
It also offered other European brews including Baltic porter Baltica 6 and the Herold microbrew from the Czech Republic. The beer list also included Bud Light, Miller, Old Style, Point, Rainier, Henry Weinhardt, Leinenkugel, Yeungling, Rolling Rock, Knickerbocker, Rhinelander, and Stony.
In 1957, the Brickskeller opened with over 50 beers, offering a beer list, beer tastings, and real ale in casks.
The Brickskeller also had more than 50 aged beers and four varieties of mead (“honey wine”). Its beer cocktail menu featured numerous beer cocktails, including “Maui Mouthwash”, which contained Malibu Caribbean White Rum with Coconut, fruit juice, blue curacao, vodka and golden lager, and Smack & Tan.
In the 1970s, it became a gathering spot for beer can collectors. A customer could ask that the can be opened from the bottom, enhancing its value as a collector’s item.
The Brickskeller served standard American pub food, including spicy chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, potato skins, chicken tenders, and burgers. In the 1980s, the Brickskeller introduced buffalo meat burgers and buffalo pizza.
Other menu items included spinach and artichoke dip, pierogies, spiced shrimp, salad, and sandwiches. The staff called the kitchen a “submarine kitchen”, putting out an average of over 650 dinners a night. The Brickskeller was open for lunch on weekdays and opened at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Brickskeller had a rustic saloon motif. On the lower level, old barrels were made into bar stools. Upstairs held beer tastings and could be reserved for special events. The Brickskeller added televisions upstairs in 2003 to show March Madness and other sports events. The Brickskeller could seat 450 guests on both floors.
The Brickskeller was close to Georgetown, George Washington University, and American University. Politicians, Capitol Hill aides, diplomats, local university students, DC residents, and tourists were regular customers. Over the years, celebrities like Quentin Tarantino, Jerry Seinfeld, members of Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Brooke Shields, and Jim Morrison visited.
It became known as a destination for beer aficionados from around the world. The spy Aldrich Ames met with his Soviet counterparts in a dark corner of the dining room.
The Brickskeller frequently hosted beer tastings and sponsored other events, including many educational seminars at the National Geographic Society as well as Smithsonian seminars. These seminars drew top experts and speakers, including Bert Grant, Russ Scherer, Fritz Maytag, Ken Grossman, Tomme Arthur, Vinnie CilurO, Aram Avery, Larry Bell, Kim Jordan, Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery, and Dick Yuengling of D. G. Yuengling & Son.
And here’s a few more photos I have of Dave.
I specifically remember an event at RFD where we screened the new documentary film “Beer Hunter: The Movie,” which I think was around ten years ago.