Monday, November 29, 2010

In the Land of the Blind, the Man with One Craft Beer on Tap is King

Not every bar is the Flying Saucer. Not every restaurant has a tap selection like Barley's. Not every dive is as dive-y as Swagger. This wasn't exactly a revelation and it certainly won't surprise anyone... but some places just don't have a whole lot on tap worth drinking. My formative years were spent in bars where the most interesting thing on tap was Boulevard Wheat. I thought we had hit the big time when Goose Island 312 started showing up at my local watering hole. The passage of time may make the heart grow fonder, but I can't really call those the good old days when it comes to beer. Most establishments have come quite a ways in the past five or six years in regards to having a variety of craft beer on tap. I recently made a number of stops around the KC area at bars I'd never thought to visit before, mostly because I didn't think I'd be able to find a decent beer there. What could have been a soul crushing bar crawl through KC's Bud Light soaked underbelly, actually left me rather surprised...

All Star Pizza, Parkville
I don't get up to Parkville often. Well, I drive by Parkville occasionally, but I hardly ever stop. I hadn't heard of All Star Pizza before, but I'd gotten an email earlier in the week about how the owner put in a new set of taps and is trying to bring more craft beer in. I had a friend coming to town from St. Joe and I told him to meet me there and we'd go check it out. Originally, the plan was to go to the Flying Saucer for trivia but this happened to be the night of the K State game at the Spring Center so we changed plans. All Star Pizza is a smaller sports bar/pizza kitchen with 16 taps. There was the usual Bud, Miller, Blue Moon, Boulevard Wheat, Pale Ale, Fat Tire and a few other New Belgiums. Nothing mind blowing but there was Affligem Blonde, Ellie's Brown and a keg of Hoptober. I got a pint of Schlafly Winter ESB, which was quite good, and ordered the Boulevard Battered Chicken Tenders because I enjoy the convenience of fried chicken in finger form. I'm not being facetious here, really, I like chicken tenders. I ended up trading a chicken finger to Adam Westcave for a slice of pepperoni pizza. The pizza was solid, I'd go back and try it again some time, but I'm already looking for excused to go back for the BLVD Chicken Tenders though.

I left All Star Pizza impressed. There wasn't anything mind blowing about their selection but considering 11 of their 16 taps were craft beers and we enjoyed the food, that was a win in my book. I did notice my receipt listed by Winter ESB as a Schafley beer, nothing terribly amusing about that but a similar thing happened at our second stop...

The Tap Room, Saint Joseph
I'll be the first to admit, St. Joe shouldn't be on anyone's list of craft beer destinations. It certainly isn't on mine. However, I was in town the day after Thanksgiving and decided to stop and get a beer, a friend suggested The Tap Room is worth visiting. I had a lot of trouble with the name of this place... If you're going to call yourself The Tap Room you'd better have a good beer selection, but having lived in St. Joe, I knew better than to expect anything close to what a place called a tap room should be. When we walked in I immediately saw a couple familiar faces at the other end of the bar, it was Bud, Miller and Coors. The Tap Room had 8 taps and a sink full of ice and Miller Lite cans. There wasn't much notable except for the New Belgium 2 Below and a silver Goose Island tap head that said Matilda at its base. Matilda isn't a rare beer by any means but there aren't that many places in Kansas City that have it on tap, I was shocked to find it in St. Joe of all places... I hastily ordered a Matilda and got a Bud Light shaker pint shortly thereafter. Part of me wanted to ask for a snifter but I decided to buck up and enjoy my generous pour of Matilda instead.

Two of my St. Joe friends, Bartles and Jaymes, were at the bar with me. Bartles got a pint of 2 Below and Jaymes asked for a bottle list. The bartender, who I'm pretty sure celebrated her 21st birthday earlier that week, just gave Jaymes a confused stare. It finally clicked for her and she started rattling off their bottle offerings, they had the usual suspects: Bud Light, Stella, Newcastle (all of which were also on tap...) and Shoo Fly Pumpkin. Jaymes ordered the Shoo Fly and seemed surprised when he was handed a Schlafly Pumpkin...

The Tap Room didn't really live up to it's name but I still had a good time there. I'm not convinced the management (not to mention the employees) know what they're doing, or even what they want to do, with their beer selection, but it's definitely the best I've seen within a 30 minute drive of St. Joe. I'd go back again, but only because it's the only place in St. Joe where you might find something exciting on tap. Our stop at The Tap Room is what made me think of the line about how in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king... well, in St. Joe, the man with one decent craft beer on tap is king, even if he has Bud Light on tap, and in cans and in bottles as well. Oh, and his bartenders pronounce it Shoo Fly...

Lewellyn's Pub, Overland Park
Continuing my weeklong run of trips to bars I'd never been to before, I met up with Fancypantsbeer for a completely platonic visit to Lewellyn's on 151st in Overland Park on Saturday afternoon. I had no idea this place even existed before I was told to look for the old church with beer signs in the windows near the corner of 151st and Metcalf. Sure enough, it's a bar that is in an old church building. It's a pretty neat setup they've got, and the place looks more like a renovated barn than a church on the inside. The draft selection isn't too bad, I didn't count while I was there but I remember there being around 20 taps. The selection was the best I'd seen all week, there was Lagunita IPA, Schlafly Christmas, McSorley's Black and a lot more taps, at least three of which were ciders. There was a cooler with several Smokestack bottles and some of the Schlafly 750s as well as Duvel and some other import bottles. I had a Schlafly Christmas and then got a big bottle of Biere de Garde before I realized I was drinking in an old church with a guy I met on the internet and headed back to civilization.

151st and Metcalf isn't exactly a destination for most folks, and I doubt I'd make the drive that often when there are other bars a lot closer to me, but Lewellyn's was pretty cool. It was definitely different... Next time I've had my fill of drinking $7 beers in Westport or in a strip mall in the suburbs I'll gladly make the trip to Lewellyn's for a change of pace. The same goes for All Star Pizza and The Tap Room, their selections aren't as broad as the Foundry or Flying Saucer but it's nice to know there are alternatives out there in parts KC that'd I'd written off as craft beer deserts.

Know of any smaller, lesser known bars or restaurants that have a tap or bottle list worth mentioning? Leave a comment and let us know.


3 comments:

  1. Minskys pizza on Barry Road....I likes!

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  2. I would say Waldo Pizza, but that place has gained (even more) popularity over the last few years, so its not really "small" anymore.

    Still one of my favorite dinner and beer spots along with FS and Swagger.

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  3. The Drop is a lesser-known place with an outstanding beer selection -- nothing on tap which is disappointing, but the beer list is outstanding.

    Obviously Grinders is a great option for good beer selection option - as is Blanc (although maybe the & Bottles takes it out of the not-well-known catetgory).

    Also for restaurants, Westside Local has a great selection as well.

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