October 24, 2008

Cash on the Barrelhead

The Barrelhead.

Man, that holds a lot of memories for me. I have been going ot the barrelhead for almost 25 years now. It all started with hearing about the restaurant from my father who would attend dinner meetings planning out the yearly fishing trip to Canada with his buddies. Then our family started eating there. It was love at first bite.

In high school, I remember eating there probably twice a week. Once would be with the family for our typical dinner one night a week there and the second would be convincing my friends to chow on the weekend. I managed to rotate between the bacon cheeseburger, patty melt, turkey club and pizza. Like some of the rest of you, I even remember getting scolded for moving a chair on my twenty-first birthday, in which I was guided on a trip of mixed drinks since I hated beer with a passion.

The Barrelhead.

The wife and I still talk about going there the first week after the transfer of ownership from Kitty and Ed to the mayors brother and watching the new owner fondle (in a naughty way) some married female friend in full view of his customers. I felt that crushing weight of knowing I had let my wife talk me out of eating there right before the tornado hit and thinking I might never get the chance again. Seemed ridiculous anyway since we boycotted the restaurant during the Springfield-only smoking ban.

The Barrelhead: Excellent

The Barrelhead's beer selection is fairly unrivalled in Springfield in any restaurant and most bars. They advertise around fifty (iirc) beers on tap and have quite a bottle selection to boot. They provide the consumer with a beer list which is mostly up to date at any given time so it might be wise to saunter up to the bar for a look or ask the wait staff for any updates.

While The Barrelhead still caters largely to the BMC crowd, they have made some pretty hefty strides in balancing that with a broad selection of both imports and craft brewers. The imports are pretty much al InBev and the crafts are mostly regional which i consider a plus.

I am paring down their massive list to what I consider some of the beers that will appeal to a more discriminating taste. They have all the big boys and the 'craft subsidiaries' like Leinenkugels and Blue Moon. The imports may mostly be InBev products but they are worth a shot since they can be quite tasty.

The list:

Stella Artois
Amstel Light
Strongbow (Yeah, a cider!)
Spaten (Light Lager)
Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock <=Dark Lager mit kick)
Spaten Oktoberfest (I had this and felt it was quite good.)
Koestritzer Schwarzbier (ein anderes dark lager aus Deutschland)
Warsteiner (pilsener)
Hoegaarden (Belgian wheat)
Koenig Ludwig Weiss (German wheat)

Craft Brewers:
Sam Adams Boston Lager
Sam Adams Octoberfest
Schlafly Pale Ale (Nice to see considering the dominance of InBev/A-B products)
Goose Island Honkers Ale
Goose Island India Pale Ale
Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale
Boulevard Pale Ale
Boulevard Wheat
Boulevard Bob's 47 (Maerzen/Oktoberfest style)
New Belgium's Fat Tire
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Spoetzel's Shiner Bock
Woodchuck (Yeah, another cider!)

Possible: It is easy to see at the bar they distinctive bottles of Boulevard's Smokestack series and, while not having ordered it while at The Barrelhead, I do hope they maintain stocking choices like those.

I would hope that the range presented here is enough to cover most drinker's tastes and, while there really isn't anything all that uncommon, I do feel they have done a pretty good job at catering to the beer drinking crowd. Pair that with their quality pub food and I think most consumers can go away happy.

One thought I do have is that someone there must either love wheat beers or believe that they will pull in non-beer drinking consumers. There are a total of at least 9 wheat choices including the BMC products. That is quite the choice for wheat drinkers. I wonder if they have invested in orange orchards.

The Barrelhead: Excellent

October 12, 2008

Bedrock 66 @ Hoogland and Jimmy Oh's (kind of)

I know the Bedrock 66 shows at the Hoogland aren't a restaurant, bar or a store that sells beer but I did not go to lot of places that qualified. I did go to Jimmy Oh's but nobody apparently knows what beers they have without physically pulling out all the bottles. Big clue here: If you don't know what you have, write it down. I mean, you had a wine list. Therefore I cannot really grade them with any accuracy.

Jimmy Oh's: Incomplete

Anyway Friday night was the Bedrock 66 series show. We had dinner at Cafe Brio since it is conveniently close and I know what I am ordering. Their review still stands but they have added a new seasonal: Unibroue's Ephemere which is a Belgian wit with heavy apple flavor. I found it horrible but I shy from the Belgian styles. The party out-voted me 2 to 1 on its tasty goodness. If you like cider, you like wheat beers or you love Unibroue (Quebec) or Belgium itself, then go grab a bottle with dinner.

Some posts ago I lamented the loss of the Underground City Tavern and its choice musical acts. I was gently reminded that the brains behind their selections is know a part of hosting the Bedrock 66 series of concerts to bring some musical variety to Springfield. Now I knew some of this since I had attended the very first show of the series but slacked off in my determination to support this worthy endeavor. The wife and I had nothing to do on Friday and knowing of this impending date we decided to make a go of it.

The show itself was a double-bill of one, Otis Gibbs, and the ensemble, Boulder Acoustic Society. The show was a blast. Otis Gibbs was an excellent musician who had great tunes on the guitar and whose voice is a fine instrument itself. Boulder Acoustic Society is a melange of violin, bass, accordion and drums. I can't quantify their music but I think I heard elements of classical, rock, bluegrass and gypsy. I heartily recommend everyone to google said groups.

The shows are sponsored by the Boston Brewing Company therefore the only beers sold will fall under the Sam Adams brand. This isn't a bad thing although it does limit choice but Sam Adams does have some range to them while only lacking the depth multiple brewery choices provide.

Bedrock 66 concert series: Acceptable Plus

They don't rate a good since Sam Adams is your only choice but they did manage a short range of beer:

Sam Adams Boston Lager
Sam Adams Boston Lager Light (should you need to concern yourself with calories)
Sam Adams Boston Ale (hoppier than the lager)
Sam Adams Black Lager (a schwarzbier)

They have provided a pretty short list of hoppy to malty and even tosses in a light beer for your light friends. We aren't talking the finest brews of each style but Sam Adams is the most plentiful beers many of us are happy to have. They also work as a nice gateway brewery to lure beer drinking buddies to the Elysian Fields of beer. My only real complaint with the beer selection is that Sammy produces so much more and it wouldn't be that difficult to add one or two more options.

Bedrock 66 concert series: Acceptable Plus

October 1, 2008


PAO or Pao, I don't really know. Pao is ,iirc, Pacific Coast cuisine which features American fare with elements of Asian fused together (that might be totally off). The wife and I enjoy eating there albeit a bit infrequently. Their meat dishes are quite tasty and it certainly makes you feel slightly more cultured for having dined there. They offer sushi which may be of interest to some. I don't like cooked fish let alone uncooked fish.

Pao: Excellent

Pao definitely added some brews to cater to the uncommon palate including a few that you are unlikely to see in many other restaurants. Their stock seems a little Rogue heavy which typically suits me fine as I am a fan of Rogue's brews. They also benefited from the major inroads New Belgium has made in Springfield so if Fat Tire is your new favorite then you are in luck at Pao.

Their beer list is as follows, minus the BMC products which are plentiful:

Rogue Dead Guy (Maibock)
Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar (a nut brown ale)
Rogue Shakespeare Stout (a nice dark ale. quite tasty.)
Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale (apparently soba is buckwheat. I don't like the flavor.)
New Belgium Fat Tire (amber ale)
New Belgium 1554 (black ale)
New Belgium Mothership Wit (wheat beer)
Boulevard Wheat (a good wheat but why no other Boulevards)
Sam Adams Light (if you are watching your figure. at least it has more taste.)
Sam Adams seasonal (Oktoberfest right now)
Xingu (the Brazilian black beer)
Sapporo (it's a light lager but one that extends to the end of the Edo period)
Amstel Light

Pao has a pretty wide range. You don't often find Rogue's Soba ale outside of the rare bar or so and there should be something for every palate except possibly the hops lover. I don't understand why someone might carry Boulevard's wheat beer but not their excellent pale ale. Perhaps the head chef did not feel the overpowering aroma of hops would mesh well with his culinary offerings.

I heartily recommend Pao for the experience to pair some quality food with some quality beer. I would suggest, having not actually tried, pairing the Rogue Morimoto Soba with some fresh sushi. Let me know how that turns out.

Pao: Excellent


Alright, I'll admit I went to AZTCA for lunch about a week ago. I already find myself in a rut and you readers may notice I have yet to hit a single bar which makes me either very responsible or very lame.So here goes: time to get back in the swing of things.

AZ-T-CA has to be my solid number two Mexican joint. My first love is, as it should be yours too, Emilios. However Emilios serves breakfast and lunch and has a dearth of brews in their establishment so time for number two. AZ-T-CA has some great food and I highly recommend anything featuring their green sauce. It is most tasty. Their beer is predominately Mexican which fits their style so I am not complaining. It is accompanied by 7 other domestic lagers and several imports. Their lineup, like most of the common Mexican beers found in the states are lager heavy. This is a conundrum for me since lagers need nice cool temperatures which Mexico is not seemingly known for. I have no recourse but to blame the German and Austrian immigrants that brought their lager love to Mexico.

AZ-T-CA: Poor

AZ-T-CA is just too lager heavy to receive anything more than a poor rating. I'll freely admit that if you love Mexican lagers than you could do little better than to stop by and have a nice Bohemia or Negra Modelo and the Texas Chimichanga (mmm Chorizo!). That said, if you wanted an ale or anything remotely uncommon then AZ-T-CA is not for your palate.

AZ-T-CA only carries bottled beer as well as some spirits. The beers are as follows:

Corona Extra
Corona Light
Dos Equis Special Lager
Dos Equis Amber
Modelo Especial
Negra Modelo (your darkest choice)
Several Bud products including Bud Light Lime
Mil Lite
Coors Light

Not a lot of variety outside of light lagers. Probably your best choice might be the Negra Modelo. At least it has some color and malt flavor. Of course if it is really, really hot out like it might be on a normal Mexican Summer day then all choices are equally good. Mexican beers have their place even if that place is only on a beach actually located in Mexico. If you aren't there, hopefully near the brewery manufacturing your beer of choice then you may be disappointed in your choices. AZ-T-CA is doubtfully known for their beer selection but does have pretty good food. Go grab something tasty and then grab a favored bottle when you get home.

AZ-T-CA: Poor