Sunday, August 19, 2007

Boscos Restaurant & Brewing Co (Nashville, TN)

This Boscos is just outside of the downtown Nashville area past Vanderbilt University with other shops, restaurants, and stores associated with an off beat neighborhood. Seems to be far enough from the Broadway tourist district to be comprised mostly of locals, at least that's how it seemed near happy hour. The shiny brewhouse is up on the second floor and the whole place is well decorated, and, most importantly today, the air conditioning is very cool in the Southern heat.

Most of the beers were very good with one a couple of klunkers. The Bombay IPA was a clear favorite of mine, a very well done American IPA, and evidently a local favorite since many people were ordering pints of the same.  The Stout and Isle of Skye were close behind.  Both wheat beers I tried were under par but serviceable.   The Bombay was going on cask at 5:30 and all the regulars were there for a pint (cask rotates--one a night when offered), but I wasn't able to handle another pint before heading to other pubs yet that evening.

At least 5 veggie options on the menu, including a bean and goat cheese tamale which I was talked out of by the bartender for a thin crust California pizza, which was very good.

Overall, a great stop, friendly with lots of personality for a place that's a mini-chain.  The wait staff seemed more interested in talking to each other than the customers on occasion, but not bad. Boscos is well worth the stop.

Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery (Nashville, TN)

Hit Blackstone right after Boscos, which was a good stop, so didn't really know what to expect at Blackstone. Walked into the dark bar/restaurant area in spite of being bright and sunny outside to the green slate main bar in a horseshoe with the brewery behind glass and open to the street. Seemed elegant and airy. Bartender immediately got to me in spite of having her hands full with every stool taken. Of the beers, nothing was really bad--but not outstanding either. Very consistent and well brewed beers, whereas Boscos has a couple of better beers and a couple worse than Blackstone. Of all of them, the kolsch, Chaser Pale, was the best done in my opinion, and I don't really like kolsch generally, so this exceptionally bright and clean ale was a pleasant surprise. The rest were all similar in quality from the Hefeweizen with a good yeasty bite and clove nose to their very drinkable and roasty St. Charles Porter. All in all a good stop. Well done, but not a lot of variety, doubt it would be my local if I lived in Nashville, but nothing wrong at all with a couple of pints on a hot afternoon.

Beer Sellar (Nashville, TN)

First stop of the night life tour of Nashville down by the river in the tourist district near Broadway. Street was lively, but the Beer Sellar seemed a little slow on a Friday night--but it was early though. Looked to be about 45 taps and a fair range of local beer including Yazoo, Blackstone BBC, Abita and Schlafly, but also a lot of the usual suspects like New Castle, Dos Equis, Blue Moon, etc.

The bar is downstairs, a cool, cellar-like environment in an old buidling with rock walls and a wood beam ceiling.  Nice long inviting bar and the bartenders seemed to know their craft fairly well. Both of my beers were well served, fresh and clean. Got Abita Purple Haze on tap for the first time, and extended my Blackstone collection from earlier in the day.

Seemed liked the place could become a meat market later on with kids a lot younger than myself, so I moved on.  Good place to learn about beer and have a couple, though I learned the next day that Flying Saucer is probably more of the real beer geeks destination--a lot more beers and a much bigger range to tantalize someone who's drank it all.

Broadway Brewhouse Midtown (Nashville, TN)

Good music in this very large place on Broadway in the middle of the tourist district, but not as crowded as Big River down the street.  There seemed to be more local people in Broadway, as opposed to the stuff shirts in Big River that caused me to walk out (and recognizing every beer on tap from drinking the chain elsewhere a year ago).

Broadway Brewhouse has a great selection of beers, many local, though I didn't get a clear count. I had a Terrapin Rye Ale on draft, well served, but not as good as I had read about.  Highland Gaelic was next, which is well worth the effort--a very good amber ale.

Had a veggie burrito that was odd but turned out well.  Seemed a bit cold at first but it really grew on me. The cheesy southern styled sauce with the standard rice and black bean burrito was a nice twist for a new flavor.  However, a local at Blackstone said to eat at the Mojo Grille, so that's why I held out.  Non-veggie items may be better, but I don't do that.

Overall, a nice stop if I'm there but won't work overly hard to ever get back. Served the purpose that night. Again, the crowd seemed young on a Friday night and bent on other things that just beer, but everyone around me seemed to be drinking well.

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (Nashville, TN)

If I lived in Nashville, I think I'd find a place with in walking distance of the Flying Saucer and start working immediately on my UFO Club membership immediately to get my plate on the wall.  Big place with a decent crowd by noon on a Saturday.  Dozens of taps and three pages of beers to choose from--selection is not an issue.  I found a dozen beers that I had never had the opportunity to drink, and those I was able to do were well served with the bartender pouring each beer correctly to style.  Very fun.  They even have thematic draft samples to give budding beer geeks a taste by style or country or by whatever you make up. I was confused why there were so many waitresses standing around in their skimpy beer goddess outfits, but many of them were serving at the beer festival later in the afternoon (my reason for being in town).

Stopped in mainly for food before the Music City Brewers Festival and had my hopes reasonably low after visiting another of the group (they don't like being called a chain--says so on the menu --they're a "family" of like minded beer businesses).  After a mediocre Highland Kashmir IPA (the rest of the Highland beers during the week were superior), I moved on to BBC Jefferson Reserve Stout, light for the style but solid and oaky, a very excellent and well poured bottle of Old Stock Ale 2007, and a draft of Unibroue Blanch de Chambly for the road.  Good set of beers that made the festival a bit rough with the front load, but hard to resist since I knew I wouldn't have a chance to stop at FS later.

For food, I settled on the Goat Cheewe Pizza Slice that was very excellent and about the size of 1/3 a standard large pizza--pricey but awesome.  I'd come back for just this. Few other veggie options at all.  Later in the day the selection and few food items caught up with me, so I paused for an hour or more during the festival.

Great stop and the local beside me said it rotates often enough to always get some thing new. He should know--he and several members of his family had done a full 10 UFO rounds at 200 beers a round (just like Old Chicago, swipe the card, but more selection). If Hooters ever got great beer, it would be just like the Flying Saucer.

Calhoun's Microbrewery (Knoxville, TN)

Made this a quick stop while waiting for a friend to get off work.  Of course, I pick a BBQ rib joint to hang out--vegetarian. No veggie choices, SURPRISE, but what I pieced together from side menus was good.

As for the beer, Calhoun's is a part of a chain of associated restaurants, and the beer tastes chain-ish. The Summer Wheat was light and thin, but the Cherokee Red Ale was a malty Irish Amber with a mild hop bite that was more than drinkable in spite of the racist name.  Otherwise, not much except the Tuckaleechee Porter.

Not a place I'd ever return to unless I had a group of carnivore friends looking for a meat fix that happens to come with slightly better than mainstream beer.

Downtown Grill & Brewery (Knoxville, TN)

Hit downtown for lunch and found the Downtown Grill & Brewery full of locals for a noon meal on a Monday. Very lively and full at midday. Sat at the bar and got really good service, and a rack of samples.  My lunch was good.  Some veggie options, and I ordered the Cheese Quesadilla with Portabella mushroom. Sad I didn't return for another one after eating at La Costa, a supposedly upscale restaurant, the next day.

An odd bar with a large uncomfortable lip, but the drinking made up for it.  All where solid to drink, including the lightest, the Downtown Blonde Ale which was a kolsch. The Downtown Nut Brown and the New World Porter were the strongest of the group. Woodruff Brewing Co seems to be the name of the brewery, which serves some beers locally in other bars under the Woodruff name.  At La Costa, I had the Oro--which was so bad I nearly didn't finish it and was glad when the second Woodruff beer there was out.  I don't think it was the brewer on this one--I think La Costa is a wine beer that doesn't clean its lines and doesn't move enough beer--very poorly handled beer, especially considering that the Downtown brews were all clear and consistent in their quality.

Brew kettle is smack dab in the middle of the two story restaurant, but was unfortunately not up and running yet at noon on Monday. Really puts the beer dead center in the bar, and emphasizes the brew pub difference. I like places that do this and make it front and center for beer education. Sounds like they may be at capacity since they don't really have many seasonals, just the regulars plus contract. The Alt was the seasonal and the bartender said it was well liked locally (I thought it was ok).

Good stop in Knoxville, and if I find myself in Kville again, it'll be the first place I hit.

Preservation Pub (Knoxville, TN)

I was planning to drink Preservation Pub a bit longer--a really good extensive beer selection in bottles and several drafts including Stone, Rogue, local beer, plus good standards.  Hole in the wall beer bar in the downtown Knoxville area on the Market Square. Nice pub, but no food except free pizza from a local place they have sent over and all you need to do is add to the tip for the delivery guy.

I had a Highland St. Terese's Pale Ale, which was the best of the Highland beers I had had during the week, though the other Highland brews were very good as well.  Went for dinner across the square, and didn't make it back is all--tired.  Nothing to do with the bar.  I would gladly return.

Bluegrass Brewing Co-East St. Mathew's (Louisville, KY)

I've been drinking Bluegrass Brewng Co's brews at Great Taste festival in Madison off and on for years, and have fairly high rankings for their brews. So I was pretty excited to finally get to Kentucky to hit the place in person. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

Just didn't feel like a very friendly place. Maybe it was me or I didn't hang out long enough, but I felt like the outsider sitting alone with locals staring at me w/o comment, which doesn't often happen in many brewpubs in spite of how often I do this. Also, the service was slow, and though I intended to eat here (lots of veggie items beyond standards), I settled up for my rack of samples and left shortly for Cumberland.

Now a great beer can go along way to forgive atmosphere or attitude.  Unfortunately, I only found one beer--the APA that really matched my expectations. T he rest were all good--from the Summer Wheat, El Jefe Hefeweizen, Nut Brown Ale, and Dark Star Porter.  All good but not excellent.  I had read something similar on BA, and found it to be true.  Also, at a later pub stop, a local there made a comment the BBC is having "problems."  She didn't elaborate but clearly wasn't surprised by my experience.

Cumberland Brews (Louisville, KY)

Cumberland Brews was a really great stop at this tiny pub not far off campus in a artistic/alternative area of Louisville.  Nice local neighborhood that has lots of off beat cafes, music stores, etc.  A brewpub with one row of tables with just enough room between them at the bar to walk and have chairs by the bar.  I've seen numerous homebrewer set ups that are the same size or bigger. It's just behind the bar and in the store window for all to see.  Not sure how they keep up with demand--guessing they work a lot.  Friendly place, good service, and a unique feature in the menu in which all of the waitresses backgrounds, hobbies, interests, goals, etc were outlined is a small paragraph for each.  Different and I liked it.

Nitro Porter was very good, along with the Nut Brown.  The Summer Wheat was one of the few wheat beers I liked on this trip because it had a clean wheat bite and taste. The Cream Ale was more of their domestic clone, so that's maybe why the wheat beer, which seemed to be the domestic clone in many pubs, was better here.  Also on tap was a very good Pale Ale and a Meade, though the latter needed some work yet.

Several vegetarian options on the menu, and Ihad the Veggie Burger on the recom of the bartender. Generally I would avoid the veggie burger, but in this case it was a combo of a falafel patty base with a portabello mushroom and pepper jack, guacamole and cheese--things I love in isolation and are great together on a burger bun.  Choice two that I want to have next time is the Cumberland Framers Potato Skillet--local veggies, potatoes and cheese baked together.  Next time.

As I add this BA review to my blog six years later, this is the the one pub from this trip that I think about occasionally and long for a return.  Truly hope that I am able to return some day.  Sadly, the skillet doesn't seem to be on the menu yet, but the veggie burger has in its original form, plus several other options that look good to try.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Front Street Brewery (Davenport, IA)


Very cute bar with free parking across the street. Old brick building with a real homey feel and playing some really nice jazz to sit and drink to in the afternoon. Also, the only non-smoking place I hit in the Quad cities. Very comfortable, and the bartender was friendly and a good server who knew the beers fairly well.

However, my overall of impression of the beer was low. Two locals seemed to have the same opinion and ordered mixed drinks. The Old Gold was excessively cloudy and the Raging River amber ale was astringent and tasted like hard water. Other beers, especially the Hefe, lacked body. The Bucktown Stout had a bit more body and was my favorite of the lot, though that's not a high opinion. The pretzel with nacho cheese was  better than at a ballpark.

Near the end of my short visit, a former local, now retired to Arizona, was stopping in with a friend for old times; according to him, the place has changed over the years, losing some of its character and quality of beer. Overall, it seems like a really nice place with lots of potential that's maybe not being exploited.

John S. Rhodell Brewery (Peoria, IL)


John S. Rhodell is a pub in a downtown, rejuvenated river front area next door to an Irish pub that seemed to be doing good business as well in the late afternoon. Rhodell is a clean, well kept bar that's full of locals. The clientele seemed a bit upscale for the honky tonk motiff after work drinkers in ties mostly. Friendly; I got lots of enthusiastic advice as to what to order. It is also a brew on premises and the small kettles are in the back, and the brew club was later that night as several people were trucking in bottles. Didn't see a separate brewery for the stock, so not sure where the pub beer is brewed and didn't have time to ask.

As for the beer, it was a good stop and worth getting off the freeway a mile or so. Parking across the street from the bar and free. The Honey Pilsner was clean and bright with a pleasant after taste, and the Belgian Farmhouse was peppery, strong bodied and interesting. The Oatmeal Porter was solid, smooth, and medium bodied with a slight coffee taste. Only the Angry Angus didn't strike my fancy; it was too bit astringent and seemed off balance to me. My final beer was a draft of Summit Hop Head IPA, which lived up to its name. A clean pale ale with lots and lots of nose, a dry finish and a little grassy in the taste.

Overall, a strong brewery in Peoria and a place, if I needed to spend a night in Illinois for some reason, I might set up shop here to explore a few more of their brews or the bottles behind the bar. Compared to the Quad Cities earlier in the day and the beer in Bloomington/Normal that evening, this was a very good stop and easily the best of the day except for maybe Bent River.

Illinois Brewing Co (Bloomington, IL)


I had a hard time finding this pub. Center Street twists and turns in the downtown, but just look for the local civic center and walk across the street.

The bar itself is a random collection of cheap breweriana and bikini clad posters, wood floors and a wrap-around bar a mirrored far wall. Feels a bit like an overused college bar. Serviceable staff with a very nice and good looking waitress with a tatto covering much of her back, who was the highlight of the stop.

The beer was mediocre with the Big Beaver Brown Ale being the best, in my opinion, but still a bit thin for being a brown ale. The Killer Bee Cream Ale had a bitter, astringent taste that was off for the style. Overall, the set of beers is on the lighter endthe brown and an IPA the strongest of the beers. Also, the guest beer was PBR and the guy beside me was drinking Miller Lite from the bottle, so guessing the style selection serves the customer base.

Overall, an ok stop since I was there and wanting to find a brewpub. The pizza was fine, though a bit like Tostino's and the conversation was similar.  Place has a real hole in the wall feel, including a range of customers from middle-aged dead-end to borderline goth plus a few hipsters hitting a shots before going clubbing. I was there early, so maybe it changes later with music. The downtown area and Bloomington/Normal are on the edgy side of urban areas in spite of being near the university (and I lived in LA for six years).  Even my motel in Normal came equipped with it's on local police on bicycles. An interesting stop that I haven't quite figured out yet.  Please play it safe if you head down here later in the evening.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bent River Brewing Co (Moline, IL)


Feels like going homenorthwest Iowa in farm country—small town bar except brew tanks and fermenters are crammed behind the bar. Coming in the back door, I walk right into the brewery. Overall feel of the place is a bit run down, or not completely refurbished from an older place—like I said, homey. Good lunch crowd, many seemed to know each other and all seemed very loyal to BR.  At Great Taste a week later, I saw a lot of BR t-shirts sported, so a good following.

Bartender was very friendly and helpfuloffered to switch samples out for the four at a time I wanted.  Fourteen on tap with a full range of styles. Brewer Rick ended giving me several additional samples as well and doing a very good job of selling his product.

All of the beers were solid for the most part. I didn't like the Replica Ale, but that's not a regular brew but a part of the state organization group brew, so that doesn't matter much. The Pale Ale is regular and dry hopped version were both good, though I preferred the standardscleaner and better balanced. The UnCommon Stout was voted best beer in the Quad Cities and the guy beside me was a very enthusiastic supporter of it and at least two other people came in and got growlers while I had lunchthough I wasn't crazy about it myself.  Adequate but not great.

Veggie burger was on the menu of general pub fare, but I wasn't  in the mood so got the cheese quesadilla—did the job but not mind blowing.

Overall a fine local and I'm curious what the evening atmosphere is like. Seems like Bent River is working hard to do a good job, and generally is; it's a brewpub with serious potential that will continue to improve because of their attitude.

Blue Cat Brew Pub (Rock Island, IL)


Blue Cat is in an older building down by the river and across the street from a riverboat casino. The place is refurbished to urban chic painted ceiling, exposed duct work, stone tile bar, etc. Nice atmosphere but a little sterile. Good crowd after lunch and the menu looked tantalizing with some veggie options and upscale pub fare.

The brewhouse is enclosed behind glass on the other side of the bar. A brewer named Bernard was working and gave me some background on their beers. Looks like they good with the standard five plus a seasonal which was a peat smoked scotch ale that is brewed and aged for the local highland games every year.

Overall the beers were a bit thin and not to my liking. The Coriander and Orange is obviously going for the spice of a wit but the mouthfeel was too light even for an American wheat beer. Others suffered similar problems. The Mississippi Mocha Stout was a passable coffee stout. The Scotch Terrier was good, but you really gotta love smoke and peat for this onea bit much for me in spite of liking big flavor to compensate for my under-performing taste buds.

Blue Cat has some solid beers and a decent place to hang out. Not exceptional but a good local pub. My expectations were high from tasting at the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison over the years.  But, like other breweries, the one-offs served at a festival don't always match up to the everyday taps.  If in town though, I wouldn't go out of my way; I might stop at Bent River, but probably not here. But, if there for other reasons, a perfectly ok place to drink.