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 beeradvocate.com 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.