Category Archives: Reviews

Stuff we’ve reviewed without working with anyone from the place we’re reviewing.

The Wild Rover

The Wild Rover Brewhouse

The place was empty when I walked in. It was quiet – the AFC playoffs were on the TV in the background, but other than that: nothing. Maybe it was closed. Maybe I was intruding on this guy’s private time. The proprietor – Derrick – stood at the end of the bar, messing with his iPad. I thought they would be open – he just posted on his Facebook page that he recently tapped their RIS Czarina Czarina. I was looking forward to trying that. But then I saw it – the bar – the half-dozen or so taps were okay, but beyond that – the four casks – and three of them were pouring. It was my lucky day.

I took my seat at the bar and struck up a conversation with the barman. Business was great – Friday night was packed, not a seat in the house. Yep, they keep the casks fresh. Yep, they have a food menu. Oh, the food menu. Honest-to-goodness pasties. I looked up, then around. I felt like I was in a British pub. Wainscoting? Check. Casks? Check. Fireplace? Check. British beer advertisements? Check. Industrial park? NOPE. This place was not in an industrial park, but rather a strip mall in way northern Hillsborough county. Keystone to be exact. Not England. And Derek – a transplant from Sussex. That’s in England y’all.

Derek then introduced me to Ricky, brewmaster and son of the owner. Ricky looks the part of a brewer: big belly, big beard. Just like me. Ricky’s kind of an island here – he’s not a member of any local homebrew clubs. He’s self-taught. When I asked him where he learned how to brew, he quietly replied “the garage.”

I chatted with them both while I devoured my chicken tikka masala pasty and “John’s Coffin” cask ale – the cask version of “John Barleywine Must Die”. Fitting names. Chicken Tikka Masala Pasty and John's Coffin Cask Ale

I was too excited to take pictures of the rest of the place, but let me tell you this: Derek hand built it all, including the fireplace (his father was a mason), and it is beautiful. It’s smallish but definitely a neat place. While I was there, we saw a bunch of people come and go – couples, people in the industry coming from other brewpubs to wind down after work, and a few just “curious” folks.

And casks – did I mention they have FOUR of them? While I was there, three were live. The other taps were filled with a wide variety of pub-style brews including Saison and ESB varieties. There was an IPA on draught, but if you’re looking for a bunch of hoppy beers, you may be disappointed.

One of the best things about this place is the character. Loads of it. From the pictures on the wall signed by the last surviving WWII Spitfire pilots to the subtle music references in the beer names – this place has depth.

It may be out of your way, but if you’re looking for what I think is the most authentic British pub experience in Tampa Bay, this is it.

 

Saint Arnold Brewery Lunch

Saint Arnold.

Saint Arnold.

There are at least three Catholic Saints associated with beer-making. One of them, Arnulf of Metz (depicted with a mash rake in hand) is responsible for for the legend of the beer mug – a never-ending supply of beer. The legend goes something like this: a group of his parishoners went searching for the hermit Saint’s body in a rough and tumble land. Parched, they prayed to Saint Arnold and miraculously their steins were filled with beer. Sounds like a nice guy, huh?

Saint Arnold’s memory lives on at the Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston, Texas. Every week day from 11am to 1:15pm chef Ryan Savoie prepares an incredible prix fixe menu. Not only is the food plentiful and delicious, but in true Saint Arnold fashion the glasses of beer are never empty.

Friday’s lunch was carbonade flamande, or for the less Flemish among us, beef stew. Made with beer. Served with frites and a side green salad with a homemade vinaigrette.

Delicious lunch at the Saint Arnold Brewery.

Delicious lunch at the Saint Arnold Brewery.

So the stew: it was incredible: thick enough to stick to your ribs, savory and delicious. Fork-tender cuts of beef, mushrooms, onions, and carrots float lazily in the gravy. An island of sour cream and a dollop of coarse spicy mustard went along for the ride.

The french fries are light and airy with a perfect crunch and just the right amount of salty-goodness.

As far as salads go, this one was pretty good – a variety of greens, carrots, fresh croutons, cucumbers, and a fantastic house-made vinaigrette lightly applied and perfectly seasoned. I only added a little dash of pepper to the salad, otherwise it was perfect.

Not only was the food delicious, but the beer was incredible, too. I tried the Santo and the Elissa. I’ve never had a Kölsch before, and was pleasantly surprised. Both were eminently drinkable. I’d even consider the Santo to be a sessionable beer – it felt pretty light. The Elissa however was probably most similar to our old favorite Jai Alai – a great balance of sweet malts and grassy hops. Good old Saint Arnold would be proud.

The lunch didn’t stop there however – we also had a chocolate torte and a strawberry short cake, both house made and incredible. The Elissa was a perfect match with the torte. Words can’t describe the foodgasm that was had that day.

The brewery itself is housed in an old Houston Independent School District industrial kitchen or administration building or something like that. Basically its a massive old factory building. Brick. Tall ceilings. Old staircases and windows and stuff. Lots of character.

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Downstairs is the brewing operation while upstairs are some massive mash tuns and an incredible beer hall. (By the way, words don’t do this place justice, so check out the incredible Google Maps interior rendition!) Like everything else in Texas, the place is massive – apparently official seating for over 200 people, communal style.

All in all – it’s worth the $20 that you’re going to spend, especially if you consider that you’re going to get to try some great beer too.

The brewery is located at 2000 Lyons Avenue just north of downtown Houston Texas. Check their website for current menus and stuff: www.saintarnold.com.

 

 

Stein and Vine

I can’t do it. I can’t eat the whole thing. It’s massive, and spicy.

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I must look like one of those bears that just polished off a deer, blood red hot sauce dripping from my beard. A dazed look in my eyes.

This is a delicious burger is filled with many delicious things including fresh (not pickled) jalapeños, vinegary hot sauce, and blue cheese. Lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle all come along for the ride, and what a wild ride it is.

I paired my Volcano burger with a sour Rodenbach Grand Cru. The dry beer helped quench the flames from the volcano. It was a majestic pairing if I do say so myself. Before dinner I whet my palate with an Ommegang Abbey Ale – a fantastic example of a Belgian Dubbel. Both beers were on draught and served in proper glassware.

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The place offers a bunch of great beer on draft, even more (including some great Belgians) on bottle, and has a great atmosphere to boot. It’s pretty small though, so get in early if you want to partake.

Burgers and such are about $10 but they’re worth every penny. And they come with tater tots.

Also: the place is family friendly. Lots of families with kids on a Thursday night, but also enough space to keep ’em separated from the homebrew beer geeks.

Overall: surprised such a cool place could be found in this part of town. I’ll be back.

And if you’re wondering: I did it.

May, 2013 Follow-up: I went here with my kids in tow on a Wednesday night. I have young-ish kids (combined age of both of my kids is only 10) and while the waitstaff was awesome, I learned that there is no kids menu and they don’t have regular juices or milk on hand. They do however have some delicious soft drinks in bottles. So I do stand by my assertion that you can bring kids successfully – but just not young ones.

May, 2013 Follow-up #2: I met with the owner Ty this past weekend and he mentioned to me that he’s happy to customize a dish for kids or hack something off the menu for the kiddos. He’s a dad of two youngish kids himself, so he gets it. If you’re concerned, I say give it a shot, just not on a hoppin’ bar night like Friday or Saturday. Maybe earlier in the evening?

Stein & Vine is located at 827 W. Bloomingdale Ave. (Bloomingdale and Kings Ave., South West corner, across the street from the car wash. Look for the sign that reads “PUB”).

 

Revolution Ice Cream

There’s a book of M. C. Escher prints on the repurposed-pallets-cum-table in front of me.

In the background, the proprietor offers to turn anything into a shake – “you could even mix nutter fudger and banana pudding.”

Phoenix plays softly in the background as my kids draw on the chalkboard paint wall in the kid area. Ancient garage sale oil-paining portraits of Army men, housewives, and old black men watch over us all.

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Before I know it, Laurel’s breaking the last of my waffle bowl into pieces and offers me a a coconut curry soaked piece. It was delicious.

If you’re in the mood for something out of the ordinary, give this place a shot. We had the coconut curry, banana pudding, and chocolate shock. The chocolate habañero was awesome, as was porky’s delight. There was too much on offer to enjoy them all.

I did make a point to try the Youngs Double Chocolate Stout ice cream, being the beer lover I am and all. It was actually remarkably delicious – the malty beer mixing gently with the soft chocolate flavors was incredible. I kept thinking about how delicious it would be with Hunahpu.

Prices range from $2.50 to $7.00. Take away is available, but why would you? This place is cozy and yummy.

Revolution Ice Cream is located at 220 W. Brandon Blvd between Kings and Parsons on the North side of the street.