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Reviews on PubCrawler from chris bushman
Other Reviews by this User
December 21, 2014 @ 06:11 PM EDT
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Reviews By
chris bushman

Beer Reviews

Restaurant Reviews


Beer Reviews from chris bushman
Average Rating
Beer Quality
Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Great Great Great

Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Establishment: Beerbistro, Toronto, ON

After learning that I had to travel to Toronto on business, I spent a couple of months researching the beer scene in Toronto. I flagged about 5 top spots to visit. I turned out I could only visit three, but, luckily, Beer Bistro was one of them.

Incredibly great! Perfect balance between local brews and exotics. Beer cuisine 80% prepared with beer.

Beer menu, written by partner, and famous beer writer Stephen Beaumont, makes great reading during your visit. My visit was 3 hours.

My server, Vickie, knew more about beer than many beer bartenders I have experienced.

I visited two other top beer spots in Toronto and this was easily my #1 pick.

If you have one choice in Toronto, this is it.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Establishment: Stuffed Sandwich, San Gabriel, CA

They moved and just reopened at their new location about 6 blocks from their original location.

Somewhere around 800 different beers. How can you go wrong?


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good So So Good Great Good

Establishment: Cat n' Fiddle, Los Angeles, CA

I have lunch here a couple of times a week, since I work less than a mile away. They have about 8 tap handles so the beer variety is marginal but the quality is good. They also have a smallish selection of bottled beers. Most of the beers are the standard popular Brit beers, nothing to write home about. They have Guiness and Boddington's on G-gas. The best part is the great bartenders/servers. Many of the female employees are total eye-candy! Valerie, the bartender on M,W,Th noon is a delightfully cute, totally fun, bundle of sexy energy. John, the chef, does a swell job of everything I've tried. If you ask for something "rare", you actually get it that way. It's wonderful to find such a nice patio in the middle of Hollywood. Yes, a lot of movie-type folks hang out here, but that's just because it happens to be in our backyard. The biggest downer of the whole place is the owner-bitch who lurks in the shadows much of the time. Just go home and let the great staff take care of business. If you use the valet parking, I hope they don't crash your car and if you park on the street, make sure you're not a minute over your time or you may get towed. Welcome to Hollywood, what's your dream?


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Good Great Great

Establishment: Barney's Beanery, West Hollywood, CA

Barney's changed ownership in late 1999, so I must revise my previous report. The new owners have opted to significantly reduce the numbers of beers on tap, and in the bottle. There are deletions (like Samiclaus) which are heartbreaking. It is still a pretty good place to hang out, but it has lost some more of it's old Hollywood charm. If you want world class selection of bottled beers you now have to go to the Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! So So Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Establishment: Bonaventure Brewing Company, Los Angeles, CA

Wow, what a pleasant surprise! Brewpub starved LA with a good one right in the middle of all the nothingness. I heard about this place because of my beer calendar. June 25th featured the Bonaventure Hefeweissen. The beer calendar author rarely raves about beers but he raved about this one, "…one of the best in the country…". Naturally, I had to try it. I took the subway from Hollywood, where I work, to downtown. The hotel is a 3-block walk from the subway station. The brewpub is on the 4th floor and features a bar, restaurant and a delightful beer garden. The brewhouse is TINY! About the size of my garage, it looked to be a 5bbl all-grain system with only 3 fermenters. Even with the severe space limitations, they manage to put up 4 beers, the hefeweissen, a blond ale, a pale ale, and a stout. I'm a homebrewer and have different beer tastes than the average pubcrawler. Let me preface my evaluations with an explanation of my beer tastes. I really don't care much for wheat beers, they're interesting, but don't knock my socks off. I tend to enjoy really hoppy and rich brews like stouts, robust porters, IPA's, barleywines, Belgian dubbels, and American browns. Here's my rating, on a scale of 1 to 10: hefeweissen 10, blond ale 7, pale ale 6, stout 4. The hefeweissen is the tastiest I have ever had. The beer calendar mentioned licorice and ginger flavor notes, which I didn't find. Because of the flavor comments, I expected an estery brew, perhaps fermented with Weinstephan yeast which yields banana and clove esters. That was not the case, this is just a wonderfully crafted, refreshing, GABF gold medal contender in the American wheat beer category. WARNING: the hefeweissen is a seasonal, call ahead to make sure they have some for you!!! The blond is designed to satisfy the Bud crowd. The pale is a little maltier and hoppier than the blond but so close that it barely counts as a different brew (commercial agenda wrote this recipe). Sierra Nevada pale ale it isn't. The stout is true to style in that there is significant roasted barley in there, but the backup beyond that just plain wimps out. It's dry and drinkable but Guinness and Murphy's are NOT worried!!! The usual tight, stout head (even without G-gas) was sort of dishwater-like. The food seems to be wonderful. I had a "Santa Fe" chicken sandwich, which was very nice. It looks like there are enough great choices on the menu that I'll be able to try something different the next 10 times I visit. Wish I worked next door because happy hour (3PM to 7PM on weekdays) sports a menu where it looks like all the food is about 40% off regular prices! All the people that worked there seemed happy and fun. Happy brewpub employees make for happy brewpub customers. Give me a call, I'll meet you there some lunch hour for a hefeweissen!


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! Great Great Awesome!

Establishment: Rohrbach Brewing Company, Rochester, NY

Rohrbach's is my pick for Rochester's best brewpub. They seem to be the most serious, by far, about brewing. When I was there, they had a good variety that showed a pretty good diversity of styles.

The kolsch was very light, delicate, and flowery with a reminiscence of cherry-like flavors in the finish. The Scotch ale, though not enough to knock my kilts off, made a pretty tasty dessert and made the walk back to my hotel seem shorter. I tried all the house brews except for the blueberry ale (because I hate blueberries) and enjoyed every one.

There are two locations. This trip I visited only the original location, which is located in the basement of an old building known as "German House". The brewhouse here is rather small and limited compared to the impressive facilities at their newer location. John, the very enthusiastic owner, gave me a bit of a tour.

I heard that the brewer, Jason, recently hurt his back and has to stay home for a while. I hear that he sneaks in to check to make sure everything is under control while he's out. This dedication shows in the brews.

There were 7 house brews available. They tell me they usually try to have a couple more than that. The repertoire is around 38 different beers. They stock a variety of commercial bottled beers if you really must have that Genny Cream Ale or Bud Light.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Lousy Great Great Great

Establishment: Empire Brewing Company, Rochester, NY

Empire's my pick for Rochester's second best brewpub. When I visited they had about 5 house brews available but no commercial bottled beer making for a very limited selection.

The house brews were all good but not really too amazing and not very diverse. The stout had a bit too much roasted barley for my taste. A sign over the bar listed awards the brewery has earned at beer competitions. There was a Gold Medal on the list for their brown ale but it wasn't available. I thought that was a bit cruel of them!


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Great Good Good Good

Establishment: Distillery, Rochester, NY

Distillery - the name should tell you something about their seriousness about being a brewpub. Since beer is obviously not distilled, it's clear that brewing beer is not their top priority. As a brewpub, they are my #3 choice in Rochester.

There were four unremarkable house brews available. They did have a good variety of commercial beers on tap and I saw them serving a lot of margaritas.

The décor is great and they have a great assortment of small patio seating areas on the roof.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! So So Good Awesome!

Establishment: Barney's Beanery, West Hollywood, CA

Barney's hasn't changed much since I last visited 35 years ago. Last time I went, my best friend had a bowl of chili spilled on his white dinner jacket (which he paid $.50 for at at an auction at the Florence Critendon home for unwed mothers) by a drunk waitress. The management was kind enough to have it cleaned for him. It cost them $7.50 in 1964 dollars!!!

Since I was 17 last visit, I really didn't pay much attention to the beer selection. But now I'm an old beer geek and I was absolutely amazed. They had a line of tap handles about a mile long - I guess about 30 brews on tap.

I ordered a steak sandwich off the daily specials menu - it was OK.

As I ate, I read the bottled beer menu. This took quite a while since they have a couple of hundred beers. When I got to Switzerland, I saw Samiclaus 1997. I asked the bartender, Jolene, if they really had it or if it was just an old menu. She checked and came back with a big ol' "We're down to the last 8, so pace yourself!" At 14.7% one bottle WAS pacing myself - I had to go back to work after lunch.

I thought that since Samiclaus is no more, that I might have to go through life never having tasted one. I'm really glad that Jolene and Barney's could accomodate me. It was WONDERFUL! Incredibly complex - a cross between sherry, cognac, and barleywine - amazingly wonderful garnet color, aroma almost as awesome as a sexually aroused woman - a perfect sipper. A film writer at the end of the bar had one too. His 3 word review was, "Oh My God!" I think he liked it.

I'll be going back there for lunch a lot since it's only 3 miles from where I work. I'll check back here and review all the rest of the beers they have, but please be patient, it may take me a couple of weeks.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Great Great Great

Establishment: Back Street Brewery / Lamppost Pizza, Irvine, CA

I've never been to this place. My wife and daughter found it for me, tried it for me, reported the results to me and brought me a growler (now THAT'S Love!). Apparently they just opened in Feb 99. My wife did the tasters and really loved the stout. She decided to bring me a growler of it but they ran out! She had to settle for the pale ale. Very respectable but a little tame for a hophead homebrewer like me. In addition to good beer, they reported friendly people, good food, and nice atmosphere. When I finally get to go in person, I'll be sure to report back with more detailed findings.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! Great Great Awesome!

Establishment: BJ's Pizza, Grill and Brewery, Brea, CA

Sometimes the first visit to a new brewpub is so much fun that one tends to get caught up in the moment and get less than objective. Today I visited BJ's in Brea for the second time, and am happy to report that I was even more impressed. This time there were actually 10 house beers on tap at the same time! I sampled the Nutty Brunette and Magnolia's Peach. The Nutty Brunette was an American brown ale that was not very nutty and not very hoppy but a pleasant and very drinkable beer. Magnolia's Peach is a peach flavored wheat based brew. This is the first fruit ale that I've tasted that I liked. The flavor was subtle and tartly refreshing. It was NOT the run-of-the-mill "Kool Aid" style I've often sampled elsewhere. I also discovered that they have two ciders on tap. Also, after talking to enthusiastic assistant brewmaster Toby, I found out that they have a real live cask conditioned ale that they tap every Thursday night. He says that the ale is to strict CAMRA standards which, of course, includes proper dispensing with the traditional beer engine. It generally runs out on Sunday. Dined on the baby back ribs this trip and enjoyed them quite a lot. This place is worthy of even more in-depth investigation! The only problem I have found is that the beer mats that I take notes on are a little small .


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! Good Great Awesome!

Establishment: BJ's Pizza, Grill and Brewery, Brea, CA

This place is like a beer-lovers dream. The all-grain brewhouse makes 6 full time house brews, and 1 special rotating house brew. BJ's is a chain and this location brews for many of the other locations - it looks like a busy operation. There are about 6 guest micros and imports on tap and 4 Belgians on tap. The Belgian beer menu has 22 different beers listed. The house brews were all good quality, some very tasty, some not quite to my liking. The Blond (kolsch) was tasty but a bit too tame for my taste. This is a good real beer starter for the Bud Light crowd. The Hefeweizen has a nice clove note to it. The Piranha Pale ale was my favorite - the plentiful Cascade hops make it very tasty and refreshing. The Jeremiah Red (Irish strong ale) was quite malty and a bit sweet and very light on hop influence. The PM Porter was very smooth and not very roasty, good session beer. The Tatonka (Imperial) Stout was pretty sweet with substantial body, full flavor and significant alcohol influence. The BJ special was 20th Anniversary IPA - it was fairly tasty but I don't think it was nearly hoppy enough to make it all the way to India. I thought the Piranha Pale Ale was a better IPA than this IPA. They have a brewery tour on the first Saturday of every month, and beer appreciation night the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30PM when they bring in dozens of interesting beers from around the world to taste. John, one of the brewers stopped by and chatted with me for a few minutes - how fun! What more could a beer geek ask for?!?!?! Oh, the food, I had a steak sandwich for lunch, it was OK, since the name Pizza is in their name, it probably would have been a better choice. They have a very full menu.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Good Good Great

Establishment: Hubsch Sudwerk Privatbrauerei, Davis, CA

There is no rating category for ambiance which, for this place is a shame, as it may be the best part. There is a very large outdoor beergarden which is truly civilized and delightful. Inside the copper and brass brewing system is an awesome centerpiece. It looks too good to be operational but it is. I'm told it's a pain to brew on it since the brewer has to fight with the bartenders for elbow room. There are some small open fermenters in an adjacent room with big windows. I'm not sure if they still use the open fermenters since the frat guy went for a swim in one on a dare. They didn't even know what had happened until they found his wallet at the bottom. When I went to school at Davis we were into more cerebral pursuits, like putting a cow on the roof of the Student Union. Hey, at least we didn't ruin any beer! Food wise, I had the sausage sampler, very nice. Good sauerkraut and German potato salad to go with it and three kinds of mustard to choose from. The beers were good quality, not really amazing but very much better than any macrobrew. I applaud their making lager styles, it's a little more difficult and a takes a bit longer but it's a refreshing change from all-ale brewpubs. It's a good thing this place wasn't in business when I was in school because it's a great place to play hookey! Go for it Aggie!


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Awesome! Great Great Awesome!

Establishment: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA

Thirteen incredible craft brews on tap all at the same place. Some beers that are not distributed outside the brewery. This is Mecca for followers of the art. There is none better. The beer garden is very pleasant. The brewery tour by head brewer Steve Dressler was incredible. These folks are THE class act in the microbrew world. They are an eco-aware responsible corporation that care so much about humanity that they want to make sure that we have only the very best brews to quench our thirsts. Bravo! Cast a vote for the art and science of brewing - drink their fabulous beers.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Awesome! N/A Great Great

Establishment: San Jose Tied House, San Jose, CA

There were about 8 house beers on tap when I visited. I tried six and passed on the Passion (fruit) Pale Ale and the New World Wheat. All were enjoyable but all were a bit on the tame side for my tastes. The stout was like a hearty brown ale or maybe a wimpy porter served under nitrogen. I do applaud the use of nitrogen - I know it's an extra hassle for the establishment and I appreciate the effort but the stout needed to be stouter. Nice casual, friendly, open, uncrowded atmosphere. A pleasant place to hang out and quench a thirst. The very bright, savvy, beer informed, gorgeous blond female bartender with the sparkling eyes and inflamatory smile made me wish the beer was as attractive so I could move to San Jose.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Lousy Great Great Good

Establishment: Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, San Jose, CA

Hooray for a brewpub willing to buck the ale only trend. The lagers I sampled were very well crafted. Unfortunately there were only three house beers available, and they were obviously aimed at pleasing the mainstream customer. They were very similar to each other, only timid variations on the theme were evidenced. Descriptions of the brews were misleading. The "highly hopped" Pils was "just barely hopped." The "sweet" Marzen was maybe just barely. The "full bodied" Dunkel was medium to light bodied. All were quality lagers but were not different enough to provide any degree of welcome variety.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Good Good Great Good

Establishment: Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery, Santa Fe, NM

In the heart of the artsy-fartsy downtown area. Hard-to-find upstairs location. Probably could be considered one of those 'in places'.

Primary focus of this brewpub is food. The dining area is huge, the bar area relatively small. The brewing hardware is not displayed. It's a full bar with many patrons drinking things with cute little umbrellas in them. Only a couple of real beer drinkers in the audience.

Bartenders were fairly knowledgeable about the beers. The descriptions of the beers on the beer list sounded great, but were not accurate. Words like "bold" and "agressively hopped" were not backed up by the taste test.

Younger crowd, good place to meet new drinking buddys of the opposite sex.

Pleasant place to have a couple of beers but not an earthshaking experience.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Awesome! Great Great Awesome! Awesome!

Establishment: Second Street Brewery, Santa Fe, NM

This is one of those places where you find that you're surrounded by real people. This is THE place in Santa Fe, New Mexico where the locals go for the best brew there is.

When I visited, I ended up sitting at the bar with three fellow homebrewers. Two were locals. One fellow was sitting with a half gallon growler that was half full of yeast that Ron, the owner/brewer had given him for his homebrew. This guy was just hanging out, having a couple of pints, waiting for the beer that he had just brewed at home to cool down enough to add the yeast. He told me that here, they're happy to fill up any growler from any brewpub (I thought that sounded pretty classy).

The fellow to my left was a construction worker on his way home from work who just stopped by for some hearty pub grub and a pint of Stout.

Ron, the owner/brewer, was a mechanical engineer/homebrewer with a good paying job in Walla Walla, Washington. One day he said, "This engineering stuff is no fun, I'm gonna go open a brewpub somewhere."

He quit his job and went to brewing school. Afterwards, he found a brewpub in Ohio that wanted to upgrade from their extract system. He bought their small Grundy system and modified it for all-grain brewing. He installed everything himself and had it up and running in November 1996. When he's not in the back brewing, he keeps the lights off to save electricity. The copper and stainless isn't very flashy that way, but that's not what counts. It's been almost a year since he started and he's brewed about 600 barrels, not a lot, but every pint has been a labor of love.

At the 1997 GABF, his Oatmeal Stout won a bronze medal! Pretty impressive for a new guy in the brewpub business! It all goes to show that it doesn't take a well-funded, giant industrial machine to make a great brew, just a bit of personal integrity.

The Second Street Brewery is in a hard-to-find, low-key residential/industrial area. It's an outwardly unimpressive facility, but, it represents the essence of the spirit of American enterprise, and the realization of a passion for great brewing. If you want glitz, look elsewhere, if you want to drink great beer with great people in Santa Fe, NM, you've found the perfect place!!!


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Good Good Great Good

Establishment: Wolf Canyon Brewing Company, Santa Fe, NM

This brewpub is located in the middle of nowhere. When I called for directions, they mentioned their sign in the middle of a field as the final landmark. Luckily it was illuminated. Probably due to low overhead, prices were reasonable.

The hardware here is awesome. I'm told that all that stainless steel cost around $3 million!

The beers were pretty good, nothing amazing, but a cut above the average brewpub.

The service was great, except for the fact that the servers knew almost nothing about the beers. They really worked at being extra nice, but without much substance.

Food was better than the average brewpub fare.

I was told by locals that the quality of the brew was not consistent. Also, that they only refill their own growlers (rather snooty, I thought).


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