Tuesday, November 27, 2007

City Steam Brewery Cafe

Located at 943 Main St in downtown Hartford, City Steam Brewery Cafe is located in the wonderful historic Richardson Building. If you get bored drinking your beer, you can amuse yourself by looking at the architecture, which is some of the most interesting I've seen in a brewpub. Their website advertises seven different levels. While this is undoubtedly true, it is slightly misleading as many of the levels are really just a few steps up or down. Still, there are many different corners and seating areas you can find yourself in, making each trip a new experience.

As you enter the front doors, the bar area is to your left, the restaurant is to the right, and the host station is directly in front of you. Past the host station is a large area with pool tables. It gets busy in the evenings, so reservations are recommended. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, just pop in. The bar has three different connecting sections that form a large Z. There are also self-serve tables strewn about the room and an assortment of big screen TVs ensure you'll be able to catch the game. As I mentioned earlier, the restaurant area has many different seating areas, many of which are elevated, up stairs, in a secluded corner, etc... The atmosphere is dark and cozy with lots of deep reds and dark woods. A place made for rainy afternoons and cold winter nights. Downstairs is a comedy club, which I've never made it too unfortunately.

The beer seems to be hit or miss. At least that's how it's been for me in the past. Saturday was my first visit in a long time and I left very impressed with the quality. That leaves me thinking that they are either still hit or miss, or they've turned the corner and have become more consistent. I guess more research will be necessary!

Their standard beers:
City Steam Blonde
Export Lager
City Steam Dark Ale
Colt Light Lager
The Naughty Nurse Amber Ale
White Rabbit

Their current Seasonals:
Norwegian Wood
The Flowers of Edinburg

"New on Tap":
Black Raspberry Nectar
Ecstacy IPA

On my trip this weekend, I had the Norwegian Wood and Ecstacy IPA. Both were very nice. The Norwegian Wood is a very interesting, style-bending beer. Beeradvocate lists it as an Herbed/Spiced Beer, which I guess fits as well as anything else. It's a dark lager, almost black, with hints of cinnamon and cocoa. The Ecstacy IPA is darker than your typical IPA, nicely bitter and very drinkable.

As for the other beers, the Export Lager is for your "Bud Heavy" drinker and the Light is for your Bud Light drinker. The Naughty Nurse is, by far, their most popular beer. It goes over very well with people who drink Bass Ale. Chances are you'll be successful with this suggestion for anyone who isn't strictly a macro drinker. The Dark Ale is a nice Dunkel Lager and the White Rabbit is a witbier. The Flowers of Edinburg is a very well done Scotch Ale with a very pronounced smokiness. The Black Raspberry Nectar is an intriguing selection that I wish I had gotten this weekend. It's actually a honey mead and it wasn't made at City Steam...the list said it was made in CO, with no further details. I think I'll try to get back to try this soon.

The food is above-average pub-style fare. It has a good mix of sandwiches and comfort food. My favorite sandwich is the Cheddar Chicken, which probably isn't very good for you but tastes great.

Parking can be a problem when Hartford is busy. On the weekends it's relatively easy to find a spot or a lot especially when there's no event at the Civic Center. If it's busy in Hartford, I just recommend parking in the Morgan St Garage (City Steam is located on Main St between Talcott and Temple), which has a flat $4 nights and weekends rate. You have a few blocks to walk, but that's usually nice after eating and drinking.

The service is spotty and usually not very good. The server we had on Saturday was very friendly, but awfully slow getting our beers. She came back numerous times and said "your beers are almost up." Huh? How long does it take to pull a beer? Honestly, I can't remember ever having very good service, we've had downright poor service a few times, but most of the time the servers are friendly but inneficient.

In the pantheon of CT brewpubs, I'd rank City Steam fourth behind Willimantic, Cambridge House, and John Harvard's. If they could become more consistent with their beer they could probably move up a bit, but that remains to be seen.


Loren said...

I was there Saturday PM as well. Service was so slow my 5-year old quipped "What took you so long?!?!" to our waitress.

Ron Page may be a hard edged old coot brewer...but give him credit for trying new and bold offerings this "late" in his career.


Dave said...

Ha! That's funny!

You're right about Page...he does keep trying new things, which is a credit to him because they do enough business that he could fall back on his standards and still do well.