Beertown (Waterloo)

There are at least four analogies that I’ve half-written to sum up my feelings towards Beertown, the glitzy brewpub in Uptown Waterloo and the latest addition to the Charcoal Group’s holdings in & around KW.

Most of the analogies are positive – it’s hard not to like a place that has beers like Innis & Gunn and Maudite on tap, and their burgers are great. Equally so, and somewhat improbably so, is the Beergarden salad, seen at left. Poached pears, beet strings, radishes, Napa cabbage, craisins, and candied pecans add texture and flavour to one of the most inventive and delicious side salads I’ve seen in a long while. Moreover, my weakness for terrible puns remains intact.

I liked that their menu caters to a wide variety of beer enthusiasts, which definitely makes Beertown more friendly for groups, not all of whom might be equally passionate about the pub’s namesake beverage. Depending on your level of interest, there’s a comprehensive book that describes everything on tap, then divides up the bottle list into ales and lagers, and then into subsections (the ale category features fruit ales, dark/brown ales, amber ales, IPAs…); a subtle, helpful “if you liked this, consider that.” There’s also at least three ciders available, an intriguing list of beer-based cocktails, and a short but robust wine list with a “good-better-best” ranking/pricing system that at once seems oddly honest and eye-roll-inducing.  Regardless, five points for featuring wines from Malivoire, one of my favorite Niagara vineyards!

Grab the Flying Monkeys coaster – it’s good for a free brewery tour!

Choosing by not choosing, I went with the Tour of Beer, a sampler paddle of four ales which showcased an interesting mix of ale varieties and flavours, some new and some well-loved (and some, like the Smashbomb IPA by Flying Monkeys, almost too hoppy to drink without the savoury flavours from my burger to mellow it.)   To run with the restaurant-as-student-type analogy, Beertown’s definitely One Of The Cool Kids; a football player, perhaps, with a ready smile, a knack for throwing shindigs, the best beer fridge in town, and a weakness for classic rock anthems and the latest indie hits. From Welcome to the Jungle to We Are Young, the music was upbeat and lively, though increasingly auxiliary as the night went on and the conversations got louder.

This is the case even if you are, as our table of four was, tucked away in a corner behind the bar. Although the brewpub’s ambiance is modern and welcoming, with cool touches ranging from using mini-kegs as seating area dividers to the warm glow of the tungsten lights overhead, several building materials (tin detailing on the roof; tiling) reflect sound instead of absorbing it.  On the upside, we weren’t shouting, no voices were lost, and when our food arrived – in a timely fashion especially for a busy Friday – we weren’t talking much, digging in to our burgers, salads, and chicken entrees with gusto!  I still have to quirk an eyebrow at their choice of programming – I’ve never mourned the loss of the NHL season more than the moment of looking up to the flatscreen over my head and seeing Scooby-Doo, not Sidney Crosby.

Service was good; as a newer establishment, there will always be some wrinkles, but they’re a hard-working team. S’s half-chicken entree with side salad was served as a quarter chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, but our server was quick to bring out the salad once S noted the mix-up, and one of the kitchen staff arrived soon after with the other chicken portion. (Tables seem smaller, so at this point, we were almost out of tabletop, but we made it work, and our server checked in regularly to see if we needed anything or to clear empty glasses.)

As an aside, our hostess pointedly asked if we were celebrating anything – so it’s likely worth mentioning to yours, if you are when you visit! A pint on the house, or one of their decadent brownies with a sparkler on top, could be a lovely addition to your night.*

(* = these ideas are conjecture/wishful thinking; no sparklers or free pints were witnessed over the course of our meal.)

It’s not a place to go for soulful conversation or a quiet night out; even early in the evening, Beertown’s received lots of buzz around town and so is both packed wall-to-wall (with lots of very pretty/handsome folks) and unabashedly loud. But if you’re looking for a lively evening with friends and an opportunity to try a couple of new brews, Beertown could definitely be just what you’re looking for.

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