July 05, 2007

They called it beer.

A couple of months back I caught wind that another brewery was opening up at Cherryvale Mall. At that time no one knew exactly when it was going to open for business. Earlier today Bruce asked me if I wanted to head to Granite City Brewery to check it out. There had been no advertising that they were open. Or if there had been, I completely missed it.

After work we met there to check it out and see what itís like. The place was packed. We just wanted to sit at the bar, but there was no room. We ended up having to get a table in the dining area. The place was filled with your yuppie suburbanite crowd. Sadly enough since I had just come from work, I kind of fit in wearing my shirt and tie. Yea, itís that kind of crowd. To make matters worse, the atmosphere was crap. This is your standard cookie cutter, Chicago chain restaurant in the mall look and feel. I guess it's fitting since it is a chain brewery. The only thing different was the big stainless fermenting silos in a glass-partitioned section of the building. Really, they could take those out, add more tables and slap a ďPanera Bread CompanyĒ sign out front and you wouldnít know the difference. Anyone that lives in the Chicago area knows EXACTLY what Iím talking about.

We kept telling the serving staff we didnít want food, we just came to sample some of the beer, yet they kept trying to sell us food. I guess itís their job, but it was annoying. Then AFTER we ordered our first pint and are discussing which one of the four brews they had we wanted to try next the waitress advised us that they have a ďsamplerĒ tray. Yea, that would have been nice to know prior to half way through the first pint. But itís new, so Iím going to cut it some slack. However, you think they would advertise it on their beer menu, but they donít.

But lets get down to the nitty gritty of the whole thing. What was the beer like? These arenít going to be my normal reviews, as I didnít bring a note pad, and Iím pulling it from memory, so youíre just going to get the basics here. BTW, I may screw up the names a little, remember, no note pad.

American Light Lager: As I read their description I told Bruce it was going to be like a Miller Lite, Bud Light, or Coors light. When they brought the samplers they described this one almost EXACTLY like that. It was very light bodied and watery. There was almost no taste to it, and the scent was minimal. It was like a watered down Miller Lite. It was weak, lacking, and very disappointing.

Benedictine Bock: This was one I was going to choose for my second pint before we found out about the sampler. Again there was almost no scent to it. In fact with all the background smells, I really couldnít single out this beer, and it was right under my nose, literally. It was also light bodied and watery, but it had a darker richer color. The flavor was rather disappointing. It was weak and they described it as having a hint of chocolate to the flavor, but one couldnít really taste it. It was better then the American Light Lager, but not by much.

Double Pull:
Itís half American Light Lager and half Benedictine Bock. Iím going to sum this up by quoting that old anecdote, ďTwo wrongs donít make a right.Ē

Dukeís IPA: They described this one of having a grapefruit flavor to it. They werenít wrong. It smelled like grapefruit, it tasted like grapefruit, and if they jammed any more hops into it, I think the bitterness would have caused my face to implode from the pucker. Now, I will invalidate my review of this beer up front. I do not like IPAs, so itís hard for me to review them honestly. Iím pretty much set at hating them. But from what the staff said, no one has liked it. I about fell out of my chair laughing when Bruce suggested they hook up a hose to the tank itís in and wash down the parking lot with it. I donít know what the parking lot did to him, but damn, thatís just harsh.

Bad Axe Stout: This was the pint I ordered first. I like stouts, Iím fonder of the European stouts over the American ones, but I still like all of them. Rarely do I find one that I donít like. Well, I canít say I didnít like this one, but Iíve had many more that were better then worse. It was a light-medium body. There was a good creamy feel to it, but the overall body was again watery. It was way too bitter for a stout, they went too heavy on the hops. There was something amiss with the malts as well, and Bruce nailed it on the head; it tasted burnt. I think they were trying for a good roasted malt flavor, and over did it. It really was not a complimentary flavor to the beer.

That was it for their beer on tap. They have some others coming up in the following months and they have some seasonal ones as well. Overall I was not impressed at all with the quality of beer. I found it to be rather disappointing. Yet, I am going to give them another chance. In October Iím going to head back and see if maybe a couple months of practice might help out the brewmaster. Then I can also check out the quality of their seasonals. At this time Iím just not holding my breath.

The worst part is that after leaving I felt like a bad man. Not because I didnít like the place or their beer, but because I went to a brewery other than Carlyle. The urge to drive down there and drink a couple of pints to plead for atonement (and wash the bad flavor out of my mouth) was over whelming.

People if you are in the Rockford Area and want a good locally brewed beer. Do yourself a favor and go to Carlyle. What do you expect from a brewery in a mall?

Oh and Bruce has a much shorter and more to the point version of this post.

Posted by Contagion in Alcohol at July 5, 2007 08:57 PM | TrackBack

Sounds like a chain we used to go to in Florida - Hops.

The salmon ROCKED. The beer? Not so much....

Posted by: Tammi at July 5, 2007 09:26 PM

Just thought I'd mention something I found out when learned about this place getting ready to open - although it's named "brewery," they don't actually brew on site. They do all the brewing in a central location, tanker-truck it to their individual locations, and then only do the actual fermenting on site.
So, the "newbie" excuse doesn't really hold for these guys, as it's not this branch actually doing the brewing.
I expect it's more likely that they're all watered down because they're trying to look "upscale" to the... Bud Light pallette *cringe*.

Posted by: Shadoglare at July 5, 2007 10:02 PM

I'd heard that about them too. I didn't take the time lastnight to find a link or anything on it. When I was there I questioned them about brewing and they claimed to do it all there. But then again this was the same person that was stated the Bock was like a Killians Red. They obvsiously have no idea about beer basics.

The brewing process is the start, but the fermenting process can make or break a beer. If they ferment it too long or not long enough it will taste different. If they don't properly clean the tanks, it will taste different. If they don't properly flush the tanks it will alter the taste.

Posted by: Contagion at July 6, 2007 06:17 AM

I'm sure the fermentation can make a difference, however the issues you & Bruce were talking about sound more like a recipe issue rather than a fermentation issue - but I'll admit you're much more the beer expert than I am.
I haven't been in this place yet, but yeah, looking at the photos on their web site the first thing that popped into my head was "Oh, hey, it's Old Chicago with a different sign hung on the wall."

Posted by: Shadoglare at July 6, 2007 07:21 AM

Eh. Screw that.

I'll stick with Carlyle's

Posted by: Graumagus at July 6, 2007 08:22 AM

Yeah - I have been to the brewery you described in MadTown. I was *not* impressed with the beer. had a great sandwich, though!

Posted by: Richmond at July 8, 2007 11:58 AM

Sounds like a Moe's Family Feedbag. I wonder if they were actually fermenting in the silver cannisters or if they were just for looks...

Real breweries don't sell food. :)

Posted by: Ogre at July 9, 2007 12:52 PM