Shiner Wild Hare

Shiner’s Wild Hare is a pale ale and 5.5 ABV.  The appearance is orange amber and the nose mostly grain.  The flavor follows, wet and bready but not at all unpleasant.  There is also a definite apple character to the nose and palate.  I would have like more of a bitter hop bite on the finish but it’s clean.  The mouthfeel is also a little thinIMG_0155 but  makes up for it in crispness.  Not a stellar craft brew by any means but just fine.

Souther Tier Imperial Compass

Southern Tier Imperial Compass is a 9 ABV American Pale Ale.  The appearanceIMG_0153 is hazy gold with a large pillowy head and the nose sweet floral and hop.  The palate is sugary sweet with those floral rose hips turning into a bitter hop finish.  The mouthfeel is sparkly but very well rounded.  This is a very unique pale ale and absolutely worth trying.  STB continues to impress.

Founders Dirty Bastard

Founders Dirty Bastard is a Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy, 8.5 ABV and 50 IMG_0152IBU.  The appearance is a dark ruby with a dark fruit malt nose.  The 7 malt varieties give to a deep and complex flavor balancing so well with the 50 IBU bitterness and masking the higher abv level.  The mouthfeel is smooth and rich and a peaty smoke rounds out the back end.  This is a great example of the variety and glad to be able to use my Scotch Ale Thistle glass.

 

Magic Hat Encore

Magic Hat Encore is an American IPA with a wheat base, 45 IBU and 6.4 ABV.   IMG_0149The appearance is hazy orange and bubbly and the nose grassy malts and citrus hop.  The flavor hits you with a big bready tang up front but finishes with that IPA hop bitterness.  I’m very torn on this one, those flavors are a bit out of balance.  The aftertaste is a little too bitter, like biting into a grapefruit rind.  Worth trying for a curiosity but I won’t need to again.

Naked Dove Brewery Canandaigua, NY

Naked Dove Brewing

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Naked Dove Brewing sits on the outskirts of idyllic Canandaigua, NY. The building is nondescript enough, a bare bones garage type structure at the end of a gravel drive. Right inside the front door sits a bar and merch area. The bar top itself is simple metal and totally devoid of any seating. I really appreciated the stark aesthetic, it felt cozy, casual and intimate. And what can I say, I like to stand when I drink. This was only further emphasized by the high exposed metal beam ceiling and laminate flooring. Something between folk and classic rock poured out lazily through a radio, that’s a great choice for the setting.

At least at this point Naked Dove does not offer any food. I thought they would probably do well to offer something to nosh, but good for them, keep the operation tight and keep doing it the way they want. This is a real nano-brewery, and while you can find their beers on tap locally they have yet to get into bottling but may plan to do so in the future. We were helped by Don, a corporate refugee with a kindly and excited demeanor. This is someone that loves what they do and can’t wait to impart their knowledge and passion on to others. We even got what he described as the medium version of how the brewery got its name. I won’t spoil that so you’ll have to take a ride for yourself.

The sampling deal is simple, six beers for three dollars and you get to keep the little logo glass. You even get a discount if you buy some merchandise. After samplings for two and a three dollar pint glass my total was around seven bucks, that’s just a steal. I threw in a bottle opener key chain for an extra three but left the change from a ten. A long and hot car ride home precluded a growler purchase but this was also more than reasonably priced. I enjoyed all six of the beers immensely, four regulars and two seasonals. The order given to the sampling was also spot on and well thought out.

Windblown Amber Ale 5 ABV & 25 IBU
Dark red in appearance
Sweet biscuity caramel malt backbone with just enough bitter hop finish
Crisp and medium mouthfeel very sessionable.
Great start

Bare Bock 6.5 ABV & 25 IBU
Dark, foamy head
Burnt sugar and dark fruits on the nose and palate, light bitter finish
Sweet and mellow mouthfeel, lower carbonation
Very clean finish

Starkers IPA 5.6 ABV & 60 IBU
True to style appearance and nose
Super fresh hop profile, pungent and oily but no hop bomb
Simcoe, Amarilla & Cascade hops
Crisp and sessionable

American Brown Ale 5.2 ABV & 35 IBU
English characteristics but hopped up nicely with Centennial hops
Very nutty palate
Well carbonated & drinkable

45 Fathoms Porter 5.6 ABV & 40 IBU
Almost black with a hint of deep red
Roasty & toasy malts, true to style
Nice coffee & chocolate notes

Berry Naked Black Raspberry 4.2 ABV 15 IBU
Fruit / veg beer with a nose of sweet fresh raspberry
The raspberry does not dominate the palate but sits nicely on the malt backbone
Lower ABV/IBU makes a nice finishing note

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Stein’s Camillus, NY

Stein’s

Stein’s restaurant of Camillus is a bit of a mixed bag of successes and shortfalls. The space is divided into two sections, a typical bar area with high tables and bar games and the other more of a banquet with sit-down seating. The sparse interior and very white walls give to an Elks Lodge atmosphere, only exacerbated by the white drop panel ceiling. However, nicely framed photographs of early 20th century Camillus residents and locales are a nice touch and tie in well with the community. I was also pleased with the classic wood flooring. This is not a case of mistakes in the decor, just not enough, and that can be fixed with time. One strange auditory effect was a periodic beeping. I asked what this was and some regulars just laughed. Apparently the alarm system gives off a periodic double beep that sounds like a camera focusing.

After finding a seat I made my way to the bar where Sarah greeted me fairly quickly. When I asked her name she asked mine, that’s a nice personal touch and it goes a long way, great example of a hospitality natural. I spotted a prize glowing red behind the bar, Campari, an Italian liqueur made with herbs and fruit. You often don’t see Campari in even more well stocked bars and after confirming they had sweet vermouth I got to order my favorite drink. Now I can’t blame Sarah for not knowing the Negroni, she’s not a ninety-seven year old Italian man. I’m happy to say her first one was excellent and I was glad to teach someone a new drink. The Negroni is simply one part Campari, one part sweet vermouth, and one part gin stirred over ice and garnished with an orange slice. Some folks might alter the ratios slightly or use lemon instead of orange, but that’s just nonsense. You can order one straight up but the rocks version is far superior as the ice continues to mellow the glorious medicinal bitterness. Your choice of gin will subtly but indelibly influence the finer aspects of the Negroni, and I’d recommend something like Hendrick’s or Bombay. Since this is basically three shots of liquor I’d only recommend one or two, anymore and I can’t be held responsible for your actions. My choice of beer was Saranac Legacy out of Matt’s Brewing in UticaNY. This is a simple east coast style IPA marking the brewery’s 125th anniversary and derived from a recipe handed down from the founder. The hop profile is more of a pineapple tangerine and sits nicely on the sweet malt backbone. Your west coast IPA’s tend to have more of an aggressive pine and grapefruit hop. 6.5 ABV and 60 IBU is a good place for this beer, sessionable and crisp with decent enough character. However, the temperature seemed just a touch high which might reveal a less than optimal tap system. My last drink of the night was a Baby Guinness shot, Kahlua topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream. This was absolutely delicious and a great choice for a quick after dinner shot. I’d easily recommend any and all of these three drinks.

If the spirits experience of Stein’s was a high point the dining fell short. The burger was decent and cooked fine but was truly just a by the books hamburger and devoid of any personality or nuance. The Mac & Cheese, cheekily named “Not You Mama’s Mac & Cheese” came out at barely room temperature. You can tell chef Mike had a hand in cooking a lot of this food, as in chef Microwave. I suppose the name is accurate because my mother could do more with a box of Kraft. The BBQ chicken flat bread was serviceable but again just by the numbers and forgettable. The last dish sampled, the “Hardcore Fries” was a grease bomb of cheese, chili and bacon but decent enough for bar fare. Before I sound too critical I’ll say the food was passable enough, just not very inspiring. There is some potential here for improvement.

 

I had a nice time at Stein’s, even if the decor and food was forgettable. Service counts for a lot in my book so while I can’t rave about Stein’s, I can give it a modest recommendation. If you need a break from the village spots give it a try.

Cheers – Michael Cross

 

Sammy Malone’s Baldwinsville, NY

Sammy Malone’s

 

Sammy Malone’s of Baldwinsville carves out a welcome niche in its already soaked downtown.  I happened to walk in hearing Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love pumping through the speakers, and that’s just immediately cool.  The atmosphere is fairly typical bar but it’s refined, with mostly framed posters and neatly aligned brewery mirrors.  I don’t love carpeting in restaurants of any kind but it didn’t stand out too much.  The barrel ceiling with thin wood slat work is a nice architectural note.  According to my wife who is much smarter than I am that’s called bead boarding.  A separate space overlooking the river makes for a great secondary dining room, giving you some respite from the louder bar area.  And if you have been reading my columns you’ll know how thrilled I was to not see that Red Bull refrigerator glowing behind the bar.

By the time I bellied up to the bar Caitlin had my order down.  She covered the entire bar and dining area with seeming ease.  That’s a skilled and competent bartender.  Some believe the phrase “belly up to the bar” goes back to when there was no drinking age and if your belly hit the bar you were old enough to drink.  That’s probably a bit of a tall tale and realistically refers to a time when bar stools were less common.  Indeed many old school bars in Europe have no bar seating.  I typically try to sample a cocktail and beer but Sammy’s is absolutely a beer spot.  They advertise “34 craft beers on tap” right on their menu.  I was disappointed that they do not offer samplers or flights of beer, apparently they did without much success in the past.  But it should be noted Caitlin was more than happy to offer samples if requested.  My first choice was Dogfish Head American Beauty, a 9 ABV 55 IBU American Strong Ale.  That’s a bit of a catchall for anything above 7% and can refer to many styles of beer.  At $7.50 for a 9 oz serving you do pay a bit much but I would defend that price.  This is a limited time offering of a specialty beer.  All sorts of bearded and bespectacled beer geeks would nod in approval.  This is actually made in cooperation with the Grateful Dead and their fans who voted on adding Granola to the recipe.  This gives to a caramel malt palate that finishes with a mellowing sweetness.  My next drink was Union Jack from Firestone Walker.  This is another popular American IPA that comes in at 7.5 ABV and 75 IBU.  This is all west coast IPA with those sweet malts balancing the citrus hops perfectly.  The 7.5 is absolutely hidden on the palate so these could get dangerous.  My third sampling was a more interesting concoction.  A “Snakebite” is Guinness and cider, typically Angry Orchard which is made by the folks at Sam Adams.  The creamy character of the Guinness really pairs well with the sweet fruity cider enhancing both nose and texture.  I was surprised that I liked this so much and I would absolutely recommend trying this or the other two mentioned.

For the food we went with a couple items new to the menu, a pizza with caramelized onions and bacon and a buffalo cheese dip which were both ready in just under ten minutes.  The dip was a bit of a salt bomb but perfect bar food and made with good ingredients.  This is the kind of food that makes you want to drink copious amount of beer.  The pizza was serviceable but not great, this isn’t going to be Sammy’s wheelhouse.  However, the overly doughy bread worked to soak up all that beer nicely.  Their old guard dishes include mostly salad and sandwiches which they do exceedingly well and I could only recommend from previous experience.  I suppose offering more is a smart move even if the original dishes so outshine the new.

Despite some issues with the new food items Sammy Malone’s is a great bar and one I always recommend to friends.  They seem to do a brisk business and have a loyal crowd.  You might be able to eat and drink cheaper but this is a quality spot, and well worth the trip.

Cheers

Michael Cross

 

Radisson Ale House Baldwinsville, NY

Radisson Ale House

 

The Radisson Ale House sits on the Radisson Greens Golf Course in the Lysander community and is quite the gem of a destination.  At first glance it is like almost every other golf course clubhouse you’ve ever seen, and that’s fine.  The atmosphere borders on sparse but it comes off clean and classy with none of the more tacky trappings of your typical bar.  The space is divided into a bar area and separate dining rooms delineated by two tone ceiling tiles, a nice subtle touch.  Its apparent when real consideration is given to overall design and it makes a difference.  That’s the difference between a cohesive atmosphere and slapdash decoration.  I could do without seeing that glowing Red Bull refrigerator everywhere I go but apparently I’m losing the battle on that one.  The recess lighting is very pleasing but I did find the space just a bit too well lit, I know I look better in mood lighting.  Aside from the several televisions adorning the bar a projector screen sits in the dining room, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.  You could do a lot worse for a spot to watch a game or bring your kids for a nice dinner.

Behind a very bustling bar Lianna greeted me quickly and courteously, you can always tell when someone is a worker, they never stop moving.  A clubhouse like this may never be able to have a full bar but it was exceedingly serviceable, with a full compliment of draft and bottled beer, wine, liquor and mixers and what appeared to be one speed rack.  Despite the chilly temperature I ordered a gin and tonic.  A G&T is a classic warm weather drink but I don’t care, it’s April.  A gin and tonic sounds easy but I’ve been served enough flat tonic water to fill an above ground pool.  Glassware also counts, save the pints for drafts and invest in some highballs.  I am glad to say mine was spot on; nicely carbonated, properly measured and served in a highball with a lime garnish.  A golf course clubhouse better knock that drink out of the park.  Vodka and all its plethora of candy flavors dominates the American liquor industry but give Gin a chance.  I also had to try the Radisson Rad Ale, brewed by Saranac.  The details of this one are apparently a bit of a secret but I got the characteristics of an Amber or red.  Saranac does brew both an Irish Red and a Red IPA of which I was reminded.  The appearance is reddish amber without much head or lacing, the nose sweet malts.  The taste follows, those caramel malt notes turning into a lightly bitter hop finish.  I’d be surprised if the ABV was north of 6% so while I can’t rave about it you could easily quaff a few with your dinner.

Before I opened the menu Lianna recommended the Balsamic Pesto Nachos with chicken, and twelve minutes later I was glad she did.  This was a well thought out appetizer and could very well be a meal, which worked out well since the kitchen closed at nine before I could order anything else.  The salty olive component set off the dairy nicely and the chicken was cooked well.  The nachos themselves were more of a crispy triangle cut bread than a traditional nacho chip.  I don’t tend to get into price because you generally get what you pay for, but it should be noted my bill for two well cocktails, a beer and said appetizer was around 20 bucks, that’s a great value.  I also heard it from the manager that there would be some new menu items coming soon.

Aside from some personal quirks of taste I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Radisson Ale House.  I tend to look at atmosphere, food and spirits and quality of service as the big three criteria and each met or exceeded my expectations.  There will be some definite limitations a space like this has like a more modest bar and dining menu and earlier kitchen hours.  But if you can forgive those shortcomings I would absolutely recommend getting out of the village, weaving your way around Radisson and finding the Ale House.

Cheers

Michael Cross 

Pizza Man Pub Baldwinsville, NY

Pizza Man Pub Baldwinsville

 

The origin of the word “Pub” comes from Public House, fundamental to the cultures of England and other European countries and later New England.  Indeed the Public House was often the heart of the community.  Pizza Man was founded in 1973 and added the bar side in 2007.  Pizza Man Pub, locally just called “The Pub” imbibes the spirit of the hometown spot.  It is not just in Baldwinsville but it is of Baldwinsville.  The decor is fairly busy with jerseys, framed pictures and other local sports memorabilia and what I’ll call breweriana, basically just beer posters and other accoutrements.  Several televisions are always broadcasting sporting events.  I could do without some of the more fraying and cheap posters but overall it works, it’s a page out of the more is more book of decorating but it feels cozy and welcoming.

The seating is self-serve and the very busy Nicole quickly took our drink order.  I went with a Maker’s whiskey sour, a quintessential American cocktail that’s simply made with bourbon, simple syrup and lemon juice over ice.  And before I seem like a shill for Maker’s Mark my first choice was Bulleit and was not available.  When done right the blend of sweet and sour is crisp and refreshing.  I give my due to the bartender Paulie for pouring a technically spot on drink and very quickly in a crowded bar but I have to express disappointment with the ingredients.  Too sweet and too sour and lacking fresh citrus, the tell tale signs of a pre-made mix.  I’m pretty sure that could get you kicked right out of  Kentucky.  My next drink was the seasonal Sam Adams Cold Snap, a witbier or wheat beer at 5.3 ABV and 10 IBU.  The nose is true to style, banana and citrus fruit and spice.  The taste follows with those fruit and spice notes, mostly coriander.  The carbonation is moderate and overall it goes down smooth, very sessionable.  The Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hops are a common German lager hop.  Sam Adams is a great transitional beer for anyone looking to break away from the macro lagers.

The menu at Pizza Man has recently expanded and I appreciate seeing a well established spot updating their offerings.  The first plate was a slice of pizza which I felt obligated to try.  Pizza by the slice is tough whereas a pie is sure to be made to order.  I was a little disappointed, the sauce had that too sugary out of the jar taste and the freshness was not there.  This had reheat all over it.  I would encourage ordering a whole pie.  A couple other items were also forgettable, the mozzarella sticks which weren’t melted inside and Bavarian pretzels served with a mustard sauce but no melted cheese.  These are most likely food service items and go from freezer to fryer to table without much finesse in between.  The ticket time was around 15 minutes but I would have waited a bit longer for better preparation.  The easy standout were the chicken wings with a bourbon molasses sauce.  Pizza Man always knocks their wings out of the park, handily outdoing any other spot in town.

A special mention has to be made for Smart Ass Trivia, headed by Steve Patrick at Pizza Man every Thursday night.  Trivia is a bar staple and this is of the best I’ve been a part of.  I even won a nerd fight and if you want to know what that is definitely stop by.  Pizza Man Pub is a B’Ville institution and despite some shortcomings I can strongly recommend going.  It’s not so easy to capture that hometown spirit and this is where Pizza Man achieves something special.

Cheers

Michael Cross

Suds Factory River Grill Baldwinsville, NY

SudsFactoryRiver Grill

 

Syracuse Suds Factory’s venture in Baldwinsville, the Suds Factory River Grill is a mostly successful premium addition to the village’s bar soaked downtown.  The warm upstairs is decorated in a basic Nantucket Nautical and anchored by a cozy hearth-like brick enclosed fireplace.  There is nothing quite so nice as a roaring fire at your back while you’re enjoying a fine drink and meal.  A small section by the bar has oddly placed sports silhouettes adorning a wall above an ATM, the only misstep to an otherwise cohesive and superlative ambiance.  The bar is a study in well lit premium bottles and beer taps with an unfortunate but inescapable Red Bull refrigerator.  The outside patio area must offer a stunning view of the river when polar vortexes do not put a chilly damper on outside dining.

Greeted quickly and kindly by a prompt and cheery bustling bartender, I had my Maker’s Manhattan (on the rocks, always on the rocks) within minutes.  One would hope for a proper cocktail for just south of ten dollars in this zip code and I was not disappointed.  The counts were just right, not too generous to give away the store but not too stingy either.  A good Manhattan is classic, a divine balance of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters but a bad Manhattan can very quickly turn into a glass of watered down whiskey.  Embrace vermouth folks, you’ll never turn back.  Now I do like a drink prepared in front of me, particularly with a called brand but unfortunately the bar is not set up to make that always possible so I’ll have to concede that preference.  The surprising down note was Suds’ own Honey Light Ale, the only Suds beer available on tap.  The Honey Light comes in at only 3.2 ABV, making it somewhat of a why bother beer.  Suds might describe it as delicate but that can just as well read watery.  The appearance was light and hazy without much of a head and left no lacing whatsoever. The nose was all honey and malt which carries through to the palate, with that moderate honey flavor sitting nicely on top of the malt backbone.  The hop package is interesting and includes Clusters, Cascades, Fuggles and Bullion but could stand to be more aggressive.  Overall it’s worth trying one of Suds’ own brews but do yourself a favor and get to Syracuse Suds for the rest.  For the digestif it was one of the River Grill’s own signature creations.  A hot chocolate prepared with Chambord and Bailey’s and topped with cream and chocolate shavings.  The dark cherry liqueur of the Chambord lends itself nicely to the creamy Bailey’s and chocolate.  Not overly decadent this is a great cold weather after dinner choice.  One could get lost in a sea of signature cocktails but this one stands out as memorable.

To get into the food itself the multiple menus might send up a red flag or lead to confusion but it’s fairly straight forward.  You can opt for bar fare or fine dining, both offered at least at time of review.  From order to service was just eleven minutes, surprisingly quick on a weekend night.  The first dish, the clam strip and fries, was well elevated above simple deep fried fare.  Fried clams can so easily be killed but fortunately they were cooked well and remained tender.  The Lobster Boat, Suds take on a lobster roll, was also delicious and a mishmash of New England styles.  Like the Maine style it is served cold, but with other salad ingredients as is popular elsewhere in New England.  A more seaward clientele may be more exacting but with three hundred miles between us and the Atlantic some degree of leniency can be granted.  Both dishes were bright, fresh, made with a skilled hand and seasoned and sized appropriately.  Suds offerings can stand toe to toe if not surpass most of what Baldwinsville has to offer.

The Suds River Grill presents and prices itself above the glut of the mostly good and established B’Ville destinations.  Despite some minor missteps the ambiance, service, food and drinks are up to par.  There may have been and may continue to be some expected growing pains, but I can absolutely recommend stopping by.

Cheers – Michael Cross.