Mesa Eric

Reactions to and impressions of commercial and home made beers and beverages. Travelling and experiencing beers from around the world.

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Mesa Eric

Postby fitz » Thu Apr 17, 2003 5:13 am

Eric,
Went by your old stomping grounds last night(Nail City Brewery/River City Ale Works) I have to say, I am disappointed about what it is becoming. The beer was mediocre, and the serving Wenches didn't know a Pilsner from a Porter. They couldn't remember what the house beers even were. The beer isn't made there anymore, it is shipped in from Pittsburgh, So there are these beautiful SS Fermenting tanks going to waste. The food was mediocre at best also. The food has changed drastically in the last 6 Mo. I had a a porter that tasted like a badly done German Bock. What a shame! Wheeling may be expanding due to some recent business deals, and there isn't a good brew Pub around.
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A continuing shame...

Postby Mesa Maltworks » Thu Apr 17, 2003 10:03 pm

Well... I'm sorry to hear it, but not suprised. Once Wynkoop wasn't involved with the pub, it was sold to an investment group from Pittsburgh (which, among other restaurants, owns the Foundry Ale Works, which is where the beer you had is brewed.)and a local man serving as one of the managers. They always viewed brewers as "fry cooks" likening the complexity of commercially producing beer to broiling a chicken breast. Therefore, they were not interested in paying for a knowledgable brewer. Don't misunderstand my statements to say they are not nice people, just clueless when it comes to beer. I educated staff (now all gone) and managers during my tenure, but these guys there now don't see the need to know anything about the brewpub business, but wish to run a restaurant by day and a "drinks" bar by night. They have been focusing on the 21~31 market with DJs and laser lighting, mixed drinks in test tubes, Corona & BudSABMillerCoorsLite. It is almost as if they are trying to turn the place into a New York style trend bar.

This is a shame. It is in one of the most beautifully restored locations for a brewpub I have seen ! Wynkoop put over $2m into it's construction. It got a national restoration award when it was opened and was featured in several professional architectural magazines.

As far as I can see, the fault rests with the majority owner of the Foundry Ale Works. He is/was not minding shop. One thing I don't understand though is that the beer you were served was that bad. I have known the Foundry's brewer, Aaran, for a good while. His beer has always been acceptible at The Foundry. I wonder wheter you may have gotten a glass from their recently departed brewer.... I know that he had brewed a number of batches with Rob Cassel, their former brewer, before his departure. It is possible this is what occured since the staff wouldn't know the difference.

Among many others, one of their problems is some of the equipment is damaged and some has outright failed due to misuse and neglect of maintenance. The worst example of this is that their steam fired liquor tank died and they did not replace it. So you have to heat the mash water in the kettle and send it into one of the conicals so you can then dough in and later sparge the mash... This means you can never use one conical for fermentation as one must always be available as a hot liquor reciever. Then there is the problem that you have to send the water in very hot so by the time you need to sparge, it is around 170. This means water adjustment by pH (their average pH there is ~9.8 to 10!) cannot be done because of adding cold water to hit dough in mash temperatures increases the pH unpredictably. You have to adjust the pH in the mash tun which is time consuming, difficult and unreliable. Another really bad thing is that when their glycol chiller that cooled the draft lines died, they tied it into the glycol system that cools the fermenters and supplies the heat exchanger with cooling media for knocking out wort. The controls that lock out the fermenters when the glycol temperature rises did not work either. So... what happens when you chill for pitch?.... you end up heating the beer in the lines going to the bar causing rampant foaming and rapid oxidation and you send warm glycol into the fermenter jackets and warm up the fermenting beer. Great huh?! They also don't have an operational filter... a big problem when you need to condition 20 bbl. batches.

They lack the interest or/and capital to repair the problems. One thing that is not their fault is the fact it's capacity is grossly overbuilt. It has a 20 bbl. Specific Mechanical system with 4-20 bbl conical fermenters and 8-20 bbl. conditioning/serving vessels downstairs. For a city that only has ~100,000 people and little (so far) downtown activity... this was a big mistake.

Regardless of how well respected John Hickenlooper is (owner of Wynkoop in Colorado), I believe he was lucky with his first pub and lacks the acumin for other ventures. They supposedly researched this and other locations demographically. So how the hell did they end up sizing the brewery this way? So far, he is 4 for 4 in external failed brewpub ventures. The last to fall was in Indiana which he divested from 2 months ago. Now he is back to where he started. Personal opinion: I heard what was supposed to be a keynote address by Mr. Hickenlooper at last year's Craftbrewers Conference in Cleveland, OH. He rambled without a defined purpose, topic or message for 30 or so minutes. Just to check that I wasn't clueless, I looked around the room to gauge the reactions of the best known and respected Craftbrewery owners/brewers and beer press (Papazian, Jackson, Miller were there as well) in the US. They all had "huh???" looks on their faces. I was seated with the publishers and editiors of Midwest Brewing News, East Coast Brewing News and American Brewer Magazine. All at my table were asking what the hell he was talking about and making (quiet) joking comments. He was later the subject of converstion at after events... and not in a good way. Take it from me.... between his stupid expansion attempts and my personal experience with his presence... the man is a FRUITLOOP!!!

Eric
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Too many comments

Postby fitz » Fri Apr 18, 2003 3:49 am

The beer wasn't undrinkable, just not to any style I can think of. It wasn't great either. The glass was definitely a dishwasher glass, and the little bit of head in it looked as it it were a krausen of actively fermenting wort.
The food was more "presentable" instead of tasty. The took the plates out of the dishwasher, and sprinkled them with dry parsley. I quess this was for effect. Anyway, maybe I'll go back in about 6 months and see if it gets better. It can't get worse unless the start selling fishsticks and tater tots.
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Whats wrong with tater tots???

Postby dartedplus » Sat Apr 19, 2003 7:06 pm

c'mon now, I happen to like tater tots!!!
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Not for $4 for 8 of them

Postby fitz » Mon Apr 21, 2003 4:03 am

I like Tater tots too, but not for $4 for a side dish. This place is trying too hard to be big city, whan it could be a great brew pub(with a little work on their beer)
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