Monday, May 24, 2010

BRC Gastropub part II

For a number of reason's I've been neglecting this blog for the past few weeks. The good news is that I have a few things that need posting, some are new beers that I've tried, other's are posts like this one about restaurants and bars. You may remember a few weeks ago I wrote my thoughts on Houston's new gastropub BRC. Well one of the things that I didn't focus on during that review was the beer. I thought then that it was a disservice to not talk about my thoughts on their beer menu, beer service and all points in between. With that in mind I headed (with my in-laws in tow) to BRC for an early dinner on Saturday and came away with some good news and unfortunately some bad news thoughts on this new establishment.
The Good news? Well, the food continues to be great. With a large party (6) we were able to try a few different appetizers. My wife, the lover of all things pickled ordered the amazing pickle jar again, while we also ordered the Crab Cake Beignets and the Boudin balls. Both orders were small (3 each) but we were able to split each one in half so everyone at the table got at taste. The Boudin balls were outstanding. They may not remind me of the ones I got in Louisiana, but they were crunchy on the outside and hot in the middle with great flavor. The Beignets were a little bit on the doughy side for my tastes, so the texture wasn't necessarily to my liking, but the flavor was spot on. For dinner I got the much talked about Dr. Pepper fried quail with blue cheese potato salad. Awesome. The sweetness of the Dr. Pepper, I mean you could taste it! It was really quite genius, just very very good. The blue cheese potato salad was mixes of blue cheese tangy explosions, celery crunch, and potato. A great wonderful combo.
Other good things? Well the beer for one. There were things on the draft wall like North Coast Le Merle, and while Bear Republic's Apex was gone it had been replaced with a Beglian IPA, Crazy Ivan from the same brewery. They are striving to have great beers on tap and so far are doing a pretty good job. I also noticed that they had expanded the big bottle list, one of the things I had asked for before.
Unfortunately there are two sides to this story which means there is some bad news to report and that's regarding the beer service and really all that encompasses. The first thing you notice when you open up the beer menu (yes the same one I lauded in my initial review) is there are a number of beers crossed out. Now this is bound to happen at a place that doesn't stock kegs and kegs of the same boring beer, but how does one know whats on tap? My first reaction of course would be to ask the waitress what was available that wasn't on the list, and here of course was the problem: She had no idea. She wasn't rude or discourteous exactly, but she just wasn't up to date with what all was new on the draft wall. So I walked up to the bar to get a look at the tap wall to see what I wanted (Bear Republic Crazy Ivan!), and got it poured into a frosty ice cold mug! What? If your restaurant is touting its great beer list and how it cares about craft beer, it shouldn't be pouring beers into what is essentially a frozen mug. Do they serve ice cold wine too? I doubt it, and that my friends is my biggest gripe. I want restaurants to care about beer service as much as they care about wine service. That doesn't mean I want to take beer to the sometimes over the top pretentious level that wine can be taken to, it means that I want folks to care about the temperature the beer and how the serve it. Is that too much to ask?
So where can BRC go from here? Like I said the food is outstanding, as is the beer they serve. However they need to do a couple of things that I think would really help them out: 1) Post updated beer lists as new kegs are tapped and old ones discarded. How do you do this? Well there are a couple of options here: a) go the Gingerman/Stag's Head way and print out a new beer menu when kegs are turned. Unfortunately this can get costly. b) Go the Petrol Station/Flying Saucer/Anvil route and post new beers somewhere like a chalkboard. This is relatively easy, although you need to do it somewhere that everyone can see it which would be difficult for the folks out on the patio. c) train the waitstaff to know what's on tap at all times. Again difficult to do if there are a lot of kegs that have been rotated since the last update to the menu.
2) Get rid of frozen glasses. As a sticker at a local bar says "frozen mugs are for wimps". Craft beer doesn't need them. At the very least choose what beers your going to serve in them, I can appreciate the appeal of an ice cold beer on a hot Texas Summer day while sitting on the BRC patio.
3) Get more beer glasses than just shaker pints. No, you don't need 16 different beer glasses, but all beer shouldn't go into shaker pints and a restaurant/bar is doing a disservice to the beer drinker if they serve their beers like that. This will be especially true if BRC gets big bottle formats of Beglian Ales.

I love what BRC is trying to do, combing good homey American food, with a great beer list. In the two times I have been there, Chef Jeff Axline has shown how much he cares about the food he is making. I only hope that they'll show the same care to the beer that they are serving. I don't want to be all negative, I'm incredibly impressed by the list of beers they are putting together, its by far one of the best of any restaurant in Houston, but if you are going to do it, do it right, that's what I am asking.


Jay said...

When I went to BRC, I noticed that they were out of all of their IPA's, they had been replaced with Sierra Nevada and other "general" beers. Also, their beer list had several beers miscategorized. However, the food was good and I'm really glad to see another bar that serves craft beer in the area.

Steve said...

That's a little disappointing to hear, we had such a great time during our first visit there. Serving craft beer in a frozen mug is unacceptable. At the absolute least, they need to ask if you want one. Not being able to tell me what is currently on tap is extremely annoying and shouldn't happen in a place that wants to be known for having a great assortment of craft beer on tap. Going the extra step of using the correct glassware also shows that you respect and understand the beer that you're serving.

Khloe Jorasu said...

Yea...they pass on the craft beer, and do better with the food. But certainly nothing I'd go out of my way for

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you should open your own place??? Just sayin'.

And then you could add what BRC has on bottom of the first page of their beer menu that the items are subject to availability.

Barleyvine said...

I understand that the beer's are subject to availability, and as stated in the post, I understand that kegs will be rotated just as they are at many other places around town. That's not my issue. My issue is that they currently have no way of informing the customer whats on tap if it's not in the menu. I think BRC is a great place, I just think they need to work on ways of keeping their customer informed of whats on tap. What's wrong with that?

Unknown said...

Sorry that you had a disappointing experience. I wish you had come the next day as the menu was reprinted. Our opening has been an incredible ride. Due to our limited storage and level of business it has been difficult maintaining inventory. In one day we can float a Racer 5 keg, Tap an Apex to replace it and a Crazy Ivan later that night and pray that something will be available to replace that the next day. Weekends I am out of luck on deliveries. The staff is told at the beginning of each shift what products are out of stock and the additions that are made on the fly to keep things flowing. I am on hand every day and night talking to tables about new selections and offerings. Our beer system utilizes a glycol pump system pushing the beer 115 ft to the taps. It is generally about 35 degrees and temperature variations occur as the walk in storage is opened and closed for food service all night long. Most of our guests so far have wanted the beers extremely cold. The default has been that except for the nitro push(mostly European and North Coast Old Rasputin)most guests have preferred cold pint glasses for all the pilsners, lagers, pale ales and IPA's. We can ask each guest if they would prefer a chilled glass to help the situation. I have some specialty glassware ordered but most American craft barware is not always available. I don't want to serve Devil's Backbone or Pranqster in a glass that says Chimay. Defeats the purpose of offering the American craft experience. As a proprietor and purveyor of wine, beer and spirits for 20 years I try to stay attuned to the needs of the majority of our clients. Our cask conditioned ESB from Real Ale was gone in a day due to the diligence of our staff's reccomendations. We will grow and adapt to serve our guest's needs as best we can. That's what we do, offering selections of food(made from scratch daily), artisanal beer and wine at a fair price. An honest and noble business to be in. Keeping people happy, one meal at a time.

Barleyvine said...

Mr. Ross,
First off, thanks for taking the time to post a response on the blog. I really do respect what BRC is doing, I just think there are things that could be done better. The good news for all of us is that you all are working on making things a great experience for craft beer lovers. I will continue to go to BRC (I love the food and the beer you're serving), and will continue to post my thoughts about this place on my blog and twitter feed.
Sounds like I need to head up there soon to get some of your cask beer! Thanks again.