Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Plan B and City Steam

I had a busy Sunday, hitting both Plan B and City Steam.

We stopped into Plan B for a quick snack and a couple of beers during the afternoon. The tap list was better than the last time we went, but still not as good as the reports from the Simsbury location that we still haven't made it to. The tap list included:

Sierra Nevada Celebration
Great Divide Hibernation
Long Trail Double Bag
Dogfish Head Chicory Stout
BBC Porter
Farmington River Brown
Ipswich Original
Brooklyn Lager
Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale
Avery The Czar
And probably a couple of others

(Note: I wrote this before realizing that I've never done a review of Plan B in West Hartford! I'll try to remedy that in the next few days)

In the evening we tried to hit City Steam for dinner prior to a Christmas show at the Civic Center. Unfortunately, it reiterated why I'm not really a big fan of this place. The beer was great, it was everything else. For starters, I ordered the mead I mentioned here. It came in a white wine glass, which I guess is OK, but they only fill it halfway and charged $5. I got 5-6 oz of a mead that they advertised as 8%ABV. It was a decent enough drink, though I'm no expert on meads, but I was left feeling a bit taken. After waiting an hour, we were finally seated. We informed our server that we were in a bit of a hurry and proceeded to receive horrendously slow service. The food we got wasn't very good either.

I think I finally figured out what rubs me the wrong way about City Steam. It's very impersonal. Other bars and brewpubs we go to focus on either the neighborhood (locals) or the regulars (if it isn't a neighborhood setting). Everyone is welcome, but you always get a certain sense of conviviality and friendship between both the patrons and the staff. Obviously there are exceptions, but for the most part these places make you want to become one of the regulars. Despite this, they never make "tourists" (people who aren't regulars) feel unwelcome, it just gives you something to strive for by coming more often.

I never get this feeling at City Steam. Instead, I get the feeling that they cater to the "tourist," which tends to create a feeling of coldness and impersonality. I feel like, while there may be regulars (and there are because they have a mug club), they never really cater to them. Instead, they're happy to accept the hordes of one-timers who stop in for a meal prior to attending an event at the Civic Center. This is understandable as the place is always packed on event nights, but it makes me want to choose someplace different. It leaves me feeling that there's no sense of community, I'm just surrounded by strangers waiting to go somewhere else. The servers become unfriendly, the bartenders downright rude (standing there waiting for a tip?!), and the other patrons: nameless strangers.

The beer was very good (the Flowers of Edinburgh Scotch Ale was top notch), but suffice it to say we didn't have a very good time. I think I'm knocking them down to fourth on my list behind Willimantic, Cambridge, and John Harvard's. They're still ahead of Hops.

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