Brown’s Brewing Company Imperial Stout

Brown's Imperial Stout
The other day I ventured into a brewpub that I really haven’t frequented much in the past few years: Brown’s Brewing Co. Between the maturation of my palate, the degradation of quality of Brown’s beers, plus a menu that has not so gracefully been balancing a thin line between pub food and upscale gastropub, Brown’s has been kind of a mess of the past few years and offered nothing worth making a visit save maybe an event or two. Even the last one of those I went to a few years ago, the Firehouse Chili Cook-Off, was a complete disaster and I hadn’t been back since.

Granted, back when I used to frequent Brown’s, it was a simpler time. I had much less respect for beer and Brown’s was a place to head after class, grab a pint, hang out on the weekends upstairs undisturbed (ya know, before they had wait service there and before they kicked you out if you weren’t ordering food). A stop at Ryan’s Wake filled with a least ten plays of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” always followed (this was before the digital jukebox days), closing time there always preceded drunkenly walking to The Ruck, and getting kicked out of there meant it was time for a couple of slices over at I Love, the best pizza EVER (when you’re shitfaced). A typical “that side of the river” HVCC Super Senior weekend excursion.

That said, things have changed greatly over the past 10+ years. Between Brown’s and Revolution Hall there have been enough owner, brewer and chef changes it’s hard to keep track of it all. And with that came several overhauls of their menus. They’ve expanded their brewing capacity, moved some (or more) of their brewing to their Walloomsac Brewery and are concentrating much more on getting their beers on the shelves on every Price Chopper in the Northeast instead of concerning themselves with the quality of their brew, which has drastically took a turn for the worse.

Or maybe they haven’t. Maybe their beer hasn’t changed. Maybe the thousands of different beers I’ve had over the years has caused me to move on and grow past Brown’s (and Davidson Brothers’ and Albany Pump Station’s, and Druthers) level of brews. Doubtful given that these breweries are the butt of so many jokes in the Capital Region craft beer community, but who knows.

A friend of mine with whom I go back and forth about the quality of Brown’s beers, cleanliness of their tap lines, etc. (just to provoke me) posted the announcement of Brown’s Imperial Stout being tapped on my Facebook wall. Given that when I started going to Brown’s (a decade ago or so) their Imperial Stout was a year round offering, I was taken aback when I saw they were making a big fucking deal out of this beer as if it was the next coming of Kate the Great. Challenge accepted.
Brown's Imperial Stout
I went into Brown’s with the lowest of expectations, and surprisingly, they were exceeded. I didn’t love this beer. But it also wasn’t the worst beer I’ve ever had, either. This was about as good as any homebrew Imperial Stout. It was really one-sided with a lot of intense bitter notes from the excess of roasted malts used in the beer, and nothing else. No chocolate, no coffee, no complexity. They somehow managed to make it have a thin mouthfeel, too, which was quite a feat given the ingredients. It was boozy as fuck, with nothing even bothering to try to hide that 10.2% ABV either. It was rough, and seemed unfinished. That said, I was able to empty my glass, so that’s saying something, right?

Brown's Brewing Fat Boy Fries

We murdered the Fat Boy Fries

After the Imperial Stout I grabbed a Brown’s standard to help wash down the rest of the Fat Boy Fries I ordered and shared with Pig Destroyer Jon and Jeff2: Whiskey Porter. When I speak of being from the Capital Region this is the one beer that pops into people’s minds most often. Brown’s is famous for this beer and I’ve even been requested to bring some up for some VT bottle shares and the like.
Brown's Whiskey Barrel Aged Porter
My first sip and there it was: disappointment. Surprisingly disappointment tastes exactly like diacetyl. Seriously, this was the most popcorn butter flavored beer I’ve ever tasted of any beer I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying something considering in last year’s Extreme Homebrew Competition at The Ruck someone submitted a beer in the Funky Fermentables category that had a couple of pounds of popcorn in it. Try as I might, I was unable to finish this beer and forced Jon to finish the rest. (Sorry Jon.) I’m not sure what quality control Brown’s beer goes through, if any. How a beer like this makes it out of the brewery is beyond me.

My overall impression of Brown’s has not changed from this visit. The beer is still not worth the stop, and while I enjoyed the food we had and the tap lines weren’t actually gross for once, as bar food goes there isn’t much under the $10 range except for pretzels and potato skins. The last time we had dinner there were some $20+ dish entrees that genuinely seemed inappropriate for the venue, and while it looks like the menu has been rectified since, even if the menu improved (or, *ahem* returned to it’s brewpub roots) what’s the point of going to a brewpub that has bad beer?


Brown’s Brewing Co. (link) | 417 River St, Troy, NY (map) | All Brown’s Brewing Co. Posts

Enjoy By 12.21.12 At Plan B Burger Bar Springfield

Enjoy By 12.21.12 at Plan B Burger Bar

When I saw Jeff was tapping the latest of Stone’s series of devastatingly fresh double IPA‘s, I rounded up the Jay and Richard and made our way out there before I missed my chance. Why head all the way to Springfield for a Stone beer you ask? Well let’s face it, the Capital Region isn’t even a blip on the radar for Stone Brewing Company. We get screwed out of just about every single special release, collaboration, and well anything that doesn’t get nationwide distribution. Even something like the Vertical Epic 12.12.12 won’t see our shelves until some time in January, or about a month too late for anyone trying to do a VE tasting. All this while I can find Lukcy Basartd sitting on shelves in gas station in Waterbury. It’s frustrating to say the least. Thankfully, Springfield isn’t really that far away, and the beer was still flowing by the time we got there.

Plan B Burger Bar

Devastatingly fresh was an understatement. Not just the taste of the beer, but also for the way Stone approached this IPA. Too often their D/IPAs are the equivalent of a pine cone raping the back of your throat. Not gently, either. I’m talking about you, Ruination 10th Anniversary. Stone is not known for “balance” in their beer, and this was probably the most balanced of their beers I’ve had in a long time (well, other than those that have sat in someone’s cellar for 5+ years that is). The hops are right there, front and center, with a little orange peel and citrus but they played nicely with the caramel malt notes. This is the first beer from Stone I’ve enjoyed in a while. I still have a bottle of this left (thanks Jon) that I plan on opening up with Fourteen Stone wherever we end up with the End of the World.

Enjoy By 12.21.12 at Plan B Burger Bar

I could have done without the pimp chalice Plan B served our beers in.

Of course there was no way we were going to drive an hour and a half away just for a single beer. I mean, we were at a “burger bar” for god’s sake. Of course we were going to get some chow and explore the rest of the tap list while we were there, too.  Given that I was driving, I only had one other beer during the night. The Sierra Nevada Narwhal had just kicked, so the waitress brought over some Pro-Am Porter from Wormtown Brewery instead. This was a little on the sweet side for me but I thought it was absolutely fantastic. A great surprise for sure.

Blue Chips at Plan B Burger Bar

Blue Chips at Plan B Burger Bar

We followed up our second round of beers with a couple of appetizers before hitting the main course: wings (way too mild for my tastes) and some really killer bleu-cheese covered potato chips. The bleu cheese was very rich but when stacked up with the house made chips, tomatoes, bacon, red onion and jalaps it was amazing. Definitely get this with a few friends to share. I followed up the Blue Chips with a Blue Cheese Burger, which, in retrospect was probably too much blue cheese for one meal. Two things: as I said with the Blue Chips, the blue cheese was no joke and (unfortunately) really dominated the burger. You didn’t get much from the caramelized onion and BBQ sauce, nor the bacon I had added. It was all blue cheese. The other problem that I have, and I think this is a chain restaurant thing, which I did not realize Plan B was going into it, is that they really, really don’t like cooking burgers below medium. When the server took our order our options were “some pink” and “no pink”. Me? I like to chase my burger around my plate a bit before killing it, so even with “some pink” it was barely pink, let alone red and juicy the way I like it. Just something to think about before heading that way.

Blue Cheese Burger at Plan B Burger Bar

Blue Cheese Burger at Plan B Burger Bar

Just another little thing to add about Plan B: they have some pretty cool lighting through the whole place which really sets up the ambiance nicely. From the retro lights above the bar:

The Bar at Plan B Burger Bar

To the “EAT MEAT” neon sign I NEED to have in my kitchen:
Eat Meat Neon Sign at Plan B Burger Bar

Eat Meat Neon Sign at Plan B Burger Bar

And then there’s the cool lights with exposed wiring you can see below the sign which separate the bar area and the dining area.

Overall I liked Plan B. I don’t see it as a destination place, but for those of you who live by it’s definitely worth the trip, especially on a night when they have a special beer release. I don’t see myself going out of my way to head to Plan B unless there’s something going on like this 12.21.12 release as there’s still a lot I haven’t covered in MA yet (hello Moan and Dove??) but the tap list, extensive bourbon list, and menu should still be enough to keep an out of towner entertained.