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.



15 thoughts on “The Tap & Mallet: first (and second) impressions

  1. Thanks Mark. I am glad you had a great time. The selection of beers will of course change and I will make sure there are some good session choices available. Keep up the good work of sreading the beer news around Rochester and beyond. Cheers, Joe.

  2. My wife and I were right back there last Sat evening for some beers and dinner. Great time both nights. (Baked?) Goat cheese and shallot appetizer, fish and chips and Tandoori chicken sammy were tasty. The MBB is quite a nice brew and agreed, could easily make a session out of it. Right now there are 55 BeerAdvocates sigend up to attend the BA night there this Sat. easliy the most attendance of any Roc BA event to date. Gotta stop by this week and give Joe a heads up (forgot to save the phone # from the credit card receipt).

    Maybe we’ll see you there.


  3. Mark,

    Look for our article this week to be about the south wedge, but mostly about the Tap and Mallet. We mentioned Mcbanes Best Bitter (Which I loved and had 2 of sandwiched around a dogfish head 60 min) and gave Bruce his credit.



  4. My friend Tyler and I both ordered what was ostensibly the McBane’s Best Bitter, but both of us found it to be quite lacking in bitterness. It even had a tinge of sweetness in it. Could we have been served the wrong beer? We loved it, but it definitely wasn’t something we’d call a Bitter.

  5. Scott, that’s because the McBane’s is modeled on a true English bitter, which is somewhat obtusely named because they’re not really that bitter at all. In England, Pale ale and IPA both outbitter bitter by a fair degree. And if you’re used to strong-flavored American pale ales and IPAs, nothing from England will seem bitter to you at all.

    I know it’s silly, but that’s how it is in the UK. If it’s any consolation, their money is fucked up too.

  6. Yeah, your review pretty much echoed mine dead on, only it was more well-written than a review from me would have been ;p The discussion about what is meant by a true English “bitter” reminded me of the one *personal* complaint that I had that was not covered in the review, though by no means would this apply to everyone: I am self-confessed hophead, preferring ridiculously over-hopped IPAs above all other beers. I know, it destroys your palate and it is such a limiting way of viewing beer, but what can I say?

    I didn’t discover the tap for the Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA until right before I left, as it wasn’t on the beer menu. That certainly satisfied my hop craving, although it would be cool to have one or two more IPA choices. I’d also like to see a special, too, for us penny-pinchers πŸ˜‰ But I understand why Joe is reluctant. If nothing else, $4.50 pints will keep out the drunken frat boy Blue Light crowd… But then what happens to the drunken beer lovers?! heh…

    That’s my two cents, at least. Overall, though, I was really impressed with the selection and the obvious pride taken in the beer. Will be going there again tonight to check out the food.

  7. Nothing wrong with enjoying the super-hoppy stuff, either. Even I get in the mood for a Titan IPA from time to time.

    I’ll be there tonight too. Look for the doofus in the Duvel shirt.

  8. This entry got my husband very excited– he knew that Joe was opening up a new bar, but had forgotten when it was supposed to open (or just never known exactly when– we’re bad people who only make it out to the Toad and such infrequently since moving to the SW side of the city). So tonight we’re moving happy hour over to the Tap & Mallet, and we’re very excited– it’s sounding like T&M is very similar to Monk’s in Philly, and we love Monk’s too much for the good of our wallets. The husband is excessively excited about the MBB in particular, and I’m just happy to be able to get Doc’s Draft on tap.

  9. Mark,

    Thanks for the reply. It all makes sense now πŸ™‚ Tried the MBB again this past Saturday evening, and I think it’s been refined over just these two weeks, even. It was outstanding! The Tuna I had was excellent, as well.

    Sad to report that they were out of the Chocolate Indulgence, though, which is perhaps the last hope for my girlfriend to like a true beer πŸ™‚

    Sidenote to RHarperswife: Doc’s is the most frequent cider on draft at The Old Toad, as well.

  10. Hubby and I are moving back to the CNY area from Athens, GA. We frequently go to Snellville, GA to “Summit’s Wayside”. Their beer selection is phenominal and it is a place we will miss greatly. I’m hoping that the Tap and Mallet can come close to Summits although I don’t believe anyplace can compare. Anyway- can’t wait to visit you all!

  11. Monika, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And if you’re not thrilled by the tap lineup on your first visit, you can expect it to be substantially different the very next day. Tons of rotation= an awesome time. -Mark

  12. Well, they’re trying to get in good with the neighbors (very residential street). The bar there previously had a lot of noise complaints and the Tap is trying really hard not to rekindle that animosity from the residents. They’ve posted signs asking for patrons to be considerate as they’re leaving.

    So I’d suggest that the Tap and Mallet is not the environment most conducive to extra-loud Harleys. But if you wanna wear chaps and fringe jackets, I’m sure the staff would be fine with that πŸ™‚

  13. LOVE The Tap and Mallet!!! Great rotating beer selection, food, and service. It is tough to get a seat sometimes, but that only goes to show how popular it is. My only (tiny) issue is with the ambiance…the lighting could be softer, at least in the side room. Also, after being in the dim of the bar, walking into the bright white restroom can give you a headache.

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