Friday, April 14, 2006

CONTRACT BREWING, RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE

One poorly-kept secret is just how many upscale restaurants now have “house” beers on tap, usually named after the restaurant, which are made by an unrelated local brewer. Being naïve and ill-informed, I usually just assumed that this beer would be a watered-down version of something I’d really want to drink, and have almost always ordered something else. In an effort to dig deeper and find the story behind the story, I did some reconnaissance at TRES AGAVES Mexican restaurant in San Francisco this week. They have both Chimay and Anchor Steam on tap, but peeking at me from one of the taps was “Tres Agaves Mexican Dark Lager”, with a pair a come-hither eyes at the top of the tap itself. Hey – I know those eyes. Could it be that the SPEAKEASY BREWING COMPANY actually makes a dark Mexican beer for this new hipster joint by the ballpark (which, I might add, is part-owned by motherf**kin’ SAMMY HAGAR!!!)? Dashiell Hammett would have been proud. Piecing together the clues at my disposal, I prodded the bartender, who, under duress, confirmed my suspicions. He spilled the beans on the whole endeavor. Turns out that Speakeasy does this for several restaurants in the area, with multiple types of beer being brewed for dining patrons only. Given the brewery’s burgeoning reputation, this is a good thing, and bodes well for beer drinkers the world over if this contract-brewing-for-stand-alone-restaurants trend catches fire. It also increases your chance of tasting something special in one location only, something that only you and your dining/drinking companions will be able to brag about to the world at large. Think of the one-upmanship possible! Imagine the jealously spilling out on the Beer Advocate message boards!

The beer? It was OK. Like most folks, I believe there’s a time and a place for Mexican beer, and that time and place is usually 5pm on a beach, or 7pm at a Chevy’s over chips. “Mexican dark lager” is almost oxymoronic to my ears, but it was a slick black beverage with a deep lager smell and a smooth delivery. Could have been the power of suggestion, but I swear I tasted lime and sea salt in there – lime for sure. Despite how dark it was, it worked well with the chips they did in fact bring us, and I reckon I could have another one if placed in such a situation again. But I wouldn’t bring it home for the weekend, so let’s give it a 5/10 for now & give a round of cheers for the contract brewing trend that may end up being a fait accompli in finer restaurants 5 years from now.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ran into the same thing @ Everett & Jones with their Saucey Sistah Ale. I imagine they contract out to an East Bay brewery. Beer was ok at best.

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