Wednesday, January 19, 2011
A Night on East Avenue
So, back a couple of years ago, my wife Cherie and I decided that we were going to get into craft beer. We had always liked beer to a point, but didn't really know much about it. We decided we wanted to drink 365 beers for the year of 2009. Well, we went WAY past that and came close to somewhere near 500 I think. At the time, we came across a pub in Pawtucket, Rhode Island that seemed fantastic to us: Doherty's East Avenue Cafe. They had like 40+ taps at the time and, since it was about fifteen minutes from where I live in East Providence, I didn't have to make the trek down south county way to the Mew's Tavern*. Alas at the time, I thought more taps equated with better beer so ignored other great bars around.
Anyway, my wife and I went to East Ave often and became regulars for the most part, usually going on Monday nights. That was wing night ($0.25 wings!) and they also offered beer promos from local breweries (and some not so local ones).
We met some great bartenders there as well. One, Gina, has become a great friend outside of the bar as well (she makes a mean Cannellini Beany Thingy.... and yes that is what she calls it). Ray, the other bartender there, has always been great to talk to, especially if I want thoughts on IPA's (his major preference). The staff was always good for the most part. The beers were good for us at the time. Lots of your Magic Hat, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and other large distribution crafts as well as local crafts such as Mayflower, Fisherman's, and Newport Storm. They had a few of the BMC lagers of course.
Overtime, however, as I discovered more and more complex beers, I grew to take East Ave for granted. The beers just weren't interesting to me anymore. I also realized that the prices were not good for what you were getting. I started to sour on the beers there. I moved onto only wanting really nicer high end beers. I wanted the hard to find Belgians. I wanted the high alcohol specialty beers. I wanted only things that were special and rare. And East Ave didn't have those options, or if they did, they were extremely high priced. The place fell out of favor with me. I didn't go back much. It also didn't help that the owner drove my wife nuts with his habit of dipping at the bar where we were eating. I don't have an issue with dip, but really, at the bar, with food there? Maybe that was overly sensitive, but I think a lot of people could get behind that. I still went there every once in a while, but not nearly as often as I had in the past.
Well, as things have a habit of doing, I ended up tiring of the specialty beers I wanted. I had them. I liked them. But, I realized that I missed having good beer at a comfortable place with people I like around me. Recently, I have returned to East Ave to find exactly what I was missing.
The pub has expanded their drafts now to 82 lines (including two casks). They still have a lot of junk beer on tap (BMC as well as their house Newport Storm Hurricane Amber which just isn't that good, even if is a local RI beer). However, they seem to be hitting a very nice middle ground with their beers. They have a bunch of good, solid offerings in the $5-$6 range for a pint. That is decent around here. You can even get some nice deals (I had a $4 10oz pour of Ithaca Flower Power the other night for example). Gina and Ray are still there every Monday. Wings are still there. Jack (the owner) is still there, but he stopped dipping! He seems to have worked to correct the shortfalls of the bar. The high end beers are still a bit pricey, but that is alright. I have enough selection of other beers that I don't need to get those there, although I can get one in a sampler and it can actually be cheaper per ounce that way.
But, the pub is back. The atmosphere of a good pub is there and there is nothing like it. I am back to enjoying beer. I don't need to find those rare specialty brews. That comes in its own time. I can enjoy beer for what it is, a great drink. The other night, I started with the aforementioned Flower Power and then followed that up with a basic Narragansett Lager (as it was the promo beer that night). My wife started with a six sampler of Lindeman's Framboise, Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Old Speckled Hen Pale Ale, Dogfish Head Indian Brown, Cisco Moor Porter, and Wachusett Milk Stout. She then went with a four sampler of Pretty Things Jack D'Or, Pretty Things St. Boltoph's, Rogue Dead Guy, and Sir Perry Pear Cider. We then together shared a Narragansett Porter to finish the night. Nothing earth shaking with those beers. But, almost everyone was good to excellent. The worst may have been Wachusett Milk Stout and that wasn't that bad (although Wachusett isn't really a great brewery, Larry DIPA aside).
The food is also good there, if a bit pricey. I had a mushroom and swiss burger that was actually one of the better burgers I have had in a while. I got with it a huge side of excellent baked beans (decided I didn't want the fries). My wife got a turkey sandwhich on rye which was also very good. On the side she had a really good cucumber salad. We also had one bowl of 10 wings in orange ginger sauce (mmmmmmm).
So, maybe this seems similar to my next to last entry on rediscovering the local brew pub, but maybe that is a recurring theme for me this year: rediscovering things you used to like and liking them again. That isn't such a bad thing. I look forward to having more good selections at the East Ave pub. I look forward to more nights of Gina and Ray. I look forward to more nights of listening to Cherie and Brian (the bar manager) discuss their beloved Mets (and how poorly they will be playing). Here's to your local pub. Learn to love it and understand that if it has shortcomings, you can often see past them and still enjoy the place. It has taken me a long time to get to that point, but I am glad I am there. I hope to remain for a good long while.
*South County, for those non-Rhode Islanders refers to pretty much anything in the southern part of the state. It isn't an actual county or anything. Just more Ro-dielanese.