My Secret Garden

It’s not a bar. It’s not fancy. It’s exactly what this town needs and, frankly, I’ll probably regret telling you about it.

Just when I thought every cool beer spot in Rochester to be overwhelmed by fellow beer lovers, I have found a small slice of bliss at Malt & Market’s new beer garden. Owner Rohn Wallace converted the outdoor area behind his Monroe Ave specialty beer store and deli into an agreeable, peaceful little fenced-in beer garden. You can buy a growler of whatever five beers are on tap, or select single beers out of the specialty case, and enjoy them on premises outside in the sun or under shady table umbrellas. It’s a concept you find all over Europe, and it works well here too.

The kicker is, nobody knows about this place. Wallace has not really marketed the beer garden, and both times I’ve been there, my buddies and I were the only patrons. This makes it a hell of an alternative to expensive, crowded pubs. It’s not so good for Wallace though. He could use the business. Stop in, grab a beer and escape the world for an hour.


Rochester, get ready for the Tap & Table

The Tap & Table, still something of a work in progress

Joe McBane is not one to shy away from ambitious goals. He took a leap of faith back in the day when he signed on to work at The Old Toad, an ocean away from his native Sheffield. When he opened his own place, the Tap and Mallet, he stayed true to an uncompromising vision of what a beer bar should be, gutting and reconstructing the building in the process. But opening his new restaurant, the Tap and Table, before July might be his most challenging task yet.

The Tap and Table will be different from the Gregory Street gastropub. Of course they’ll go heavy on the craft beer, but this place will have a full bar and broader menu which will lean heavily on locally sourced ingredients. The main draw, however, is going to be location.

This place is going to be pretty amazing. It’s located in Corn Hill Landing, on the water, with a view of Rochester’s prettiest side (that is, when the view isn’t cluttered up with local attorneys filming cheesy commercials). But that waterfront location forces McBane’s hand. He NEEDS to be open to catch the summer traffic. Knowing Joe, he’ll get it done, probably with just enough time to spare to let him enjoy a pint on his new patio.

Sometimes that cat just needs a-killin’

“So we took a couple of firkins,” Jules Suplicki, bar manager of The Old Toad explained in her cute English accent “And we mailed ‘em up to Allagash. We had no idea what they’d put in them. They shipped them back filled with Curieux.

“Cask-conditioned Allagash Curieux?” I asked, demonstrating my devastating logical abilities.

“Yeah. This is the first time that it will be availoable in Rochester on Cask.”

Jules was excited enough about this to print up a bunch of signs and make the tapping of the Allagash uber-beer a full fledged event. This Friday, January 11th, the two casks will be broached, and this Beer Advocate ‘A’ rated beer can be freely enjoyed by everyone who isn’t afraid to fill out a credit application.

I’m just saying… it won’t be cheap. but by the end of the night it’ll probably be gone.


Out on the town with the new DSLR

In the interest of bringing Beercraft readers the finest quality beer-oriented photography, I headed over to the Tap & Mallet to practice large-aperture shooting with my new Canon Digital Rebel XTI.

I forget which saison this is

Rohrbach McBane’s Best Bitter meets Gaffel Koelsch

I should’ve used a smaller aperture for this shot


Beer School this Thursday

Oh, how the time flies. Once again, Bruce and I will host Beer School this Thursday at Monty’s Korner, at the corner of East and Alexander in scenic Rochester, New York. This week’s topic: winter ales.

Winter ale is a complex animal; a canvas many brewers use as a showcase of creativity. Often it’s a strong, tawny spiced ale with a great deal of malt sweetness. The spices vary from clove to cinnamon. Every now and then, there’s a hint of cherry, raspberry, or some other weird-ass fruit combination.

If it’s within your power, come join us at 7 pm. The tasting is free, and involves pizza. Hey, it beats the hell out of Christmas shopping.


A step away from the norm at Monty’s Krown

Monty’s Krown is a cool bar: a well-worn neighborhood dive with a very good IPA selection. Lots of musicians and scenesters hang there, but it’s cool anyway. Plus, they have a “Family Guy” pinball machine.

I like the Krown because it’s comfortable. It fits like an old shoe. The people are laid back, it’s not a meat market, and everyone’s respectful of everybody else, so the vibe is very good.

Anyway, The Krown could always be counted on to have the best IPA selection in town, but not a great deal of variety beyond that. Starting next week, however, Manager Jen Clark will be stocking Duvel (bottled) on a regular basis. And nothing beats good Belgian beer when you’re trying to light up the “Stewie” target in Family Guy Pinball.


The Tap & Mallet: first (and second) impressions

Rochester’s newest beer bar has been open for nearly a week now, and despite my weekend trip to the Ellicottville beer festival, I’ve been able to hit the place twice so far.

Opening night was still a mad scramble. The Tap opened at 4 on Friday. I got there at 4:03, and there wasn’t an inch of unoccupied bar space to claim. Staff were still installing furniture, artists were hanging their work, and a thin layer of sawdust kept settling on every surface, despite valiant attempts by the servers to wipe them down.

This caught my attention for a good second and a half before I turned to the beers.

The Tap and Mallet has absoulutely the most eclectic beer selection in Rochester. Even the most jaded beer geek will be impressed. Where you expect Franziskaner Weissbier, you get Koenig Ludwig Weiss. And there’s Cantillon where the Leffe Blonde normally goes. The selection goes on and on. Rarely do I walk into a bar in which I’ve tried less than three quarters of the beer, but the T&M may have my number (at least, for the shortest of terms).

I thought I’d get cute and order a bottled Kwak, figuring I’d stump them on the fancy glass. But lo! They served it right up in the stupid bulb -and-wooden-support contraption you see at bars in Brussels. The T&M (and the distributor of their Belgian beer, Beer Lover’s Paradise) doesn’t miss a beat on this stuff.

Of course, I spent most of the night drinking the house beer, McBane’s Best Bitter, for three reasons. 1) at 4.2%, it was the only “session” beer on draft. 2) It’s brewed by my good friend and alleged co-columnist, Bruce Lish, and 3) it’s damn good. (look for a full review on as soon as I get motivated).

I think the lack of lower-alcohol beers in the tap lineup is a bit of a drawback; t’s hard to spend a long social evening with your friends quaffing imperial stout and tripel. But since the tap selection will probably rotate frequently, I’m certain beers of all ABVs will come and go. Plus, you can hardly blame owner Joe McBane’s desire to put his best foot forward and really wow Rochester beer lovers.

My friends and I had the distinction of being the first people to order food, so ours the first meals the spankin’ new kitchen, and new kitchen staff, handled. Aside from my simple caprese salad coming out after everything else (which I really couldn’t give a crap about), everything went pretty smoothly. The frites are served up Belgian-style and crispy, with mayo on the side only if you ask. My friend Carl’s pork tenderloin was out of this world, and Nancy’s bean and chorizo stew didn’t disappoint either.

Sunday’s chicken wings proved decent, but not great. They’re a bit small and a bit dry, and inexplicably come 10 to a portion as opposed to the customary dozen, which makes the T&M a pricey stop for this traditional Western New York staple. My buddies and I (usually 7-10 people) go out for wings every Sunday, but at that price I’m having a hard time persuading them to make the Tap our regular place.

Speaking of price, you can, unfortunately, expect to pay a premium for the beer. Most pints were going for $4.50. It’s understandable, seeing as how craft beer prices are rising nationwide, and many Belgians are freakin’ expensive, but it would be awesome to see Joe take pity on the masses and run a special on his house beer. Seeing as how it’s flying out of the place, though, I cant see what his incentive to do so would be.

But you get what you pay for, and at the Tap and Mallet you get a selection of beer that will blow your mind, good food, and a great ambiance in which to enjoy this combination. Also, my friends Marlene and Kari are servers there, so you’ll get fast, attentive service, as long as you don’t ogle their womanly bits.


Opening night and Irish music

It’s finally here.

The Tap and Mallet, the best beer bar in the history of the human race (all the way back to the Cenozoic Era) is opening today at 4:30 PM. It’s on Gregory Street in Rochester, NY. This is the only time I could say that some of you readers are unfortunate NOT to reside in Rochester.

Alas, arduous as it may be, it is my journalistic duty to attend the opening. But first I have to go to Swan Market to eat heavy German food and run some Quality Control on their Spaten taps.

Oh, did I mention that Bruce’s beer is on cask at <a href=”http://www.theoldtoad.comThe Old Toad’s Firkin Friday? That’ll be my next stop, after which Bruce and I must head down to <a href=”http://www.montyskrown.comMonty’s Krown to perform in our Irish band (The ‘Sisters of Murphy’)?

Shit, at least we’ll be in the correct frame of mind for Irish music.


Celebrate 10 years of Ommegang at Monty’s Krown

Jeez, it’s been 10 years since Brewery Ommegang set to the herculean task of brewing authentic Belgian beer in Cooperstown, New York. Despite ups and downs along the way, Ommegang, now wholly owned by Belgian brewer Duvel, has reached the 10-year milestone.

There’s a party for this tonight at Monty’s Krown. Brewery reps will be there to share Ommegang’s latest release- Chocolate Indulgence.

Ommegang’s stunning brewery in Cooperstown, NY

Also, The opening of the Tap and Mallet (formerly the bar with No Name) has been pushed back to next week due to governmental red tape. Apparently, getting a bar open is a royal pain in the ass. Be patient. It will be worth it.