My in-laws were in town over the weekend, which usually means at least one restaurant meal per day. (This is because they are generous, because it’s more work to cook for visitors, and because we have a plethora of nice restaurants in town.) This weekend was no exception, so I got to sample some beers that I might not buy at home, and also had an opportunity to reflect on the fact that there’s not necessarily a correlation between the cost or quality of food and the selection of beer at a restaurant.
Our first meal out was at Providence Coal-Fired Pizza (here’s their website), which has great food at a reasonable price and an interesting selection of draft beers. I actually had a fun conversation about the beer selection with one of the valets while the other was retrieving the car. (And can I just say that complimentary valet parking in downtown Providence on a busy Saturday night when the garages are charging from $10-20 is not to be sneezed at!) He remarked that although most patrons love the beer selection, he has seen a few come out with their attitude at varying points on the spectrum from peeved to indignant that one of the big brand traditional lagers was nowhere to be found. Last Saturday they had twelve different beers on tap, all of them craft brews (including one from Dogfish Head which has just returned to Rhode Island after a long absence). I ended up settling on the Sam Adams Rebel IPA, a West Coast style IPA with lots of hops which apparently is a new release, since it is being featured on the Sam Adams web site. Sorry there’s no picture–it was pretty dark in the restaurant and I was focusing on our visitors, the pizza, and the oven-baked wings seasoned with rosemary, sea salt, and lots of onions.
On Sunday, we did lunch at McCormick and Schmick’s. If you’re not familiar, this is a high-end chain featuring a lot of seafood on their menu. We managed to catch the tail end of the Restaurant Weeks prix fixe special (it was actually supposed to end Saturday) which meant a starter, an entrée, and a dessert for $15, which is a pretty good deal. Two of our party raved about their herb-crusted haddock, and my fish and chips was also very good. The beer selection, however, was pretty pedestrian with lots of familiar lagers (though mostly imports rather than domestic). I decided to go for the most exotic selection which was Blue Moon. This isn’t a beer I’d normally choose and I probably haven’t tried one for several years, but since I’m on a mission I gave it a chance.
Blue Moon is actually a subsidiary of Miller/Coors (it’s brewed primarily in Golden, CO which is, of course, the original headquarters of Coors) but it is clearly intended for a different market. Though there are now a lot of different beers with the Blue Moon label, their standard offering is an unfiltered Belgian style witbier which uses wheat and oats in addition to barley. The beer was nice and smooth with a noticeable citrus note (it’s sometimes served with an orange slice to pick up the citrus flavor) and without the overwhelming “wheat beer” taste that I often don’t enjoy, so even though I probably won’t bring some home any time soon, I’m glad I gave it a try.
On Monday (MLK holiday), we went to the local mini-chain Gregg’s (four restaurants scattered around the state). If you’re not from around here and are of a certain age, you might understand when I say that Mrs. Dr. Dave and I compare them to the Big Boy family restaurants we grew up with, but with a full bar for the grownups. Our kids have grown up on mac and cheese from Gregg’s, and we keep going back even though the adolescents are eating more (and more expensive) adult fare. This particular location only has bottled beer, and I wasn’t in the mood for anything really heavy so I ended up with a Guinness Black Lager. This has the color you would expect from Guinness and some of the same malty-ness, but with much less body and more pronounced hop flavors than the familiar stout. Again, probably not something that I would bring home but an interesting experiment.
Some random notes as I finish up the Ipswich Winter Mix. It wasn’t just the undercooked onions that I was tasting with the flagship Ipswich Ale last week–even with a properly cooked dinner (I was off kitchen duty this time) there was still a prominent flavor that I didn’t find myself enjoying. The Rye Porter is still an interesting change of pace, though I haven’t yet figured out exactly what the rye is doing (but I have another porter coming up sometime soon which may help me sort that out). The Winter Ale was definitely the winner in this group and one to put on the list to seek out in the future with a nice balance of malt and hops.
Tally is now up to eight different beers as we approach the end of January. Cheers!