Sunday, October 28, 2007

Beer: Rock Bottom Taps Pumpkin Ale

This past Wednesday I attended downtown Rock Bottom's monthly tapping party. This month they offered Pumpkin Ale. I'm not crazy about pumpkin ales, but that didn't stop me from having two while they were free for 30 minutes. I won't argue with free beer, but I'm not likely to be back for more. If that's your thing, it'll probably be on tap for a month or two, depending on how popular it is.

I've been attending Rock Bottom tappings for about 5 years and it's been up and down and all around during that time, the character of the tappings changing with the frequent changes in brewmaster. When I first started going, they were almost always downstairs and very well attended, with a crazy brewmaster that would jump on the bar and yell a bit about the beer. It sounds silly but it was a great time.

Over the years and multiple brewmasters, the attendance gradually eroded to the point that almost all the tappings were moved upstairs to the main bar area. Sometimes you didn't even know a beer was being tapped unless you just happened to walk in on the right day. About two years ago, Jerry Sutherlin took over and everything changed.

Jerry's a pretty soft-spoken guy -- not one that would jump on a bar and scream about his beer -- but as a brewmaster, he really seems to care more than the previous brewers. The first tapping "party" I attended with Jerry in charge, a total of about 6 people were there for the start of the tapping, 2 of them conventioneers that had randomly stumbled into Rock Bottom. During his first few tappings it was pretty easy to get a chance to talk with him and it's very clear that he loves his beers. He let us know that "corporate" gives him most of the specialty beer recipes but he's allowed some latitude to do what he wants for several of the monthly tappings. Occasionally, he even has open casks that allow him to do whatever he wants.

Since Jerry took over, tapping attendance has gone WAY up -- almost to where it was 4 or 5 years ago -- and the tappings have been moved back downstairs whenever possible. Early on, he had the kitchen offer some free food that paired up well with the beer being tapped but recently there have been too many people to offer that and they just have a generic spread of pretzels, chips and cheese dip every time. Needless to say, it's much harder, if not impossible, to chat with him these days, but I appreciate the return to a more party-like atmosphere. Beer's always better shared with others!

Jerry has also added a quarterly brewer's dinner that offers four courses paired with four beers for a very reasonable $35. I attended one of the dinners and it was a great time with good food and good beer. The next one will be November 13th at 6:30. Check out the menu here.

With all the great things Jerry's done around Rock Bottom, here's hoping he stays around much longer than his predecessors!


Unknown said...

CorrND, ever been to a tapping at the northside location? Liz is supposed to be a very good brewmaster, but I've yet to attend one of their parties.

CorrND said...

I've actually only been to the northside RB once. The pale and brown I ordered seemed exactly the same as downtown (probably strict corporate recipes) and the atmosphere just seemed like a bland suburban version of the downtown location. If their brewmaster is doing interesting things, maybe I'll have to head back up there and try some of the specialty beers sometime.

Matt said...

I need to make it out for one of these. I always say I am going to, but just never make it out.