Ale where you’d least expect it.
As regular Beercraft readers have probably surmised, we spend a good bit of time in beer-oriented bars. We like the boisterous social aspect as well as the common cause to enjoy one’s fill of good beer.
Still, occasionally a bar just isn’t what suits the mood. Sometimes, the music is too loud. Sometimes, a Buffalo Bill is punching a cop. Sometimes it’s 11:30 in the morning.
Fortunately, Rochester has plenty of places to have a good beer in a more convivial setting; places with good food, small room sizes, and perhaps the odd overstuffed couch or two.
For example, there’s our favorite place to drink beer in the city: Swan Market. This dinky German Deli, located at 231 Parsells Avenue, serves comically large pork-oriented German lunches every Wednesday through Saturday. When owner Barry Fischer bought the place from Gunther Schwahn , he signed on for a sausage-making apprenticeship with the master butcher.
Schwahn, a local icon, world traveler and golf god, can still be seen (and heard) in Swan Market’s dining area during the warmer months, telling hunting stories in his nigh-incomprehensible Rhineland accent, giving out samples of his Wurst, and sharing a few rounds of beer.
Swan keeps a selection of German beers on draft. Spaten, Warsteiner Dunkel, and Franziskaner Hefeweizen are the usual culprits. Numerous other brands of German, Dutch and American bottled beer sweat fetchingly in a refrigerated case.
Swan is spartan, a small rectangular room with bench seating, a live accordion player on the last Thursday and Friday of every month, and service by the glass or pitcher. The trick in going to lunch there is working up enough motivation to leave once the Helles is flowing and the tall tales are flying.
Folks who prefer southwestern food with their beer might want to head over to John’s Tex Mex at 489 South Avenue, near Alexander Street. In a society of mega-chains and corporate dining, it’s heartening to find places like this- a storefront converted into a cozy 5-table restaurant, with pleasant servers and a laid-back attitude.
John’s Tex-Mex serves hearty, simple comidas: fresh soft tacos, rice and beans, burritos the size of a donkey’s head, etc. They also sell a range of bottled beer to quench the burn of spicy food. It’s cheap, too. On our last trip to Johns, they offered a Samuel Adams Summer Ale special at $2 a bottle.
If your drinking is to take place later into the evening, relax with a bottle of Old Speckled Hen in one of the easy chairs at the Boulder Coffee Company, 100 Alexander Street. Along with the expected hoity-toity coffee beverages, Boulder has a full spread of craft beer, wine and liquor. Currently, they’re featuring Magic Hat, Saranac and Ithaca beers as well as the aforementioned English ale and an assortment of mainstream brews.
It’s also a good place to catch a band. Boulder recently opened an expansion which nearly doubled the café’s interior volume and added a full-size stage.
The evening scene at Boulder is vibrant, youthful and upbeat. The artsy crowd seems to feel comfortable mixing with older urban professionals in an environment that’s eclectic, but not overly so. It’s a welcome twist on Rochester nightlife.
The great thing about Rochester is that folks here appreciate their beer. Consequently, you can find really good stuff right under your nose if you just look beyond the big bars and restaurants.
Of course, we’ll be happy to do your searching for you.
In other beers:
The 2007 Flower City Brewers’ Festival kicks runs from 5-10pm on Friday, August 17 at Frontier Field. This is always a fantastic event. Pay $25 ($20 in advance at http://www.fcbrewfest.com/), get your glass, and sample beer from over 20 brewers. We suggest devoting extra sampling time to the Flying Bison, Lake Placid, and, of course, Rohrbach tents.
Once you’ve sampled enough beer, you might get the irresistible urge to dance around. To facilitate that, there’s live music from The Buddahood, Teressa Wilcox and Jumbo Shrimp.
The Flower City Brewers’ Festival is always well-attended and lively, and this year’s move to the baseball stadium can only be an improvement, simplifying parking and allowing more space for the brewers to stretch out. It’s a great time for experienced beer geeks and people new to brew.
Bruce is a certified beer judge and commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.