Monday, November 12, 2007

The Corporate "Brewpub"

I suppose it was only a matter of time: realize that America thought brewpubs were quaint, unique, and a part of the community, and suck the soul out of it for packaging and mass consumption.

Amber & I went to the Granite City brewery this weekend in Madison. Perhaps I should say a Granite City versus the Granite City because there are similar structures in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Ohio. In fact this NASDAQ listed (GCFB) publicly traded company has ballooned from 1 location to 20 locations in just 8 years. In fact, their second "brewpub" opened for business less than 18 months after their first. To me that says "business plan" more than "brewery." The experience at Granite City reflects that.

The exterior of Granite City (which was in a mall parking lot) looked like a prefab sprawl-pod that just as easily could have hung up a "Tumbleweed" or "Applebee's" sign. The interior was drab and boring. This place didn't reek of brewing lore; it was closer to TGI Friday's, 10 years superficially matured.

The menu was extensive, extremely extensive, which made the following omission that much more glaring: the lack of vegetarian options. Now, I'm no vegetarian, but I do like to limit my meat intake, and there were no options for that. What if I wanted to go there with my veggie friends? Are they to have a house salad and nothing more?

The service was OK, although I felt like I was dealing with Chili's rejects. What was with all the buddy-buddy chat, and the upselling? I'm not afraid to order an appetizer, I just don't want one. Also, he knew nothing about beer, which in a brewpub is kind of a "no-no."

To the important stuff: I hate to say it, but their IPA and bock weren't bad, if unadventurous. The IPA was a clear copper with a minimal floral head, and a nice sufficient hopped finish. At 5.2%, it could stand a little more alcohol, but it was definitely drinkable. The Bock was slightly better than the IPA, but also not outstanding. It was smooth and moderately malty with an almost non-existent head. It was slightly sweet, but not overpowering. Drinkable, but middle of the road and vanilla, especially for a Mai Bock. We also sampled the "Northern Light," which was a light lager, that tasted like a Miller Lite. I was afraid it would be watery, but it wasn't; there was a little American lager flavor shining through, although there was scant carbonation and no head. To tell you the truth, you'd be better off ordering a Miller Lite.

When I first heard about Granite City, I was thinking that it was a new upstart brewery from the Minnesota city from which it takes its name (St. Cloud). But this brewpub was an idea cooked up in a board room, not a brewpot. There is obviously a lot of financing behind this chain, and you can be sure that if you live in Suburbia, Granite City is scouting mall parking lots near you. If during the holiday season, you find yourself out in the sprawl doing some shopping, I would suggest checking it out for yourself; it's a nice respite from the Olive Garden. Otherwise, don't go out of your way.

Links of Interest:
Granite City

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1 comment:

bortzilla said...

Yea, we have one of these in Des Moines. When you're the blandest in the land of the bland, you know there is something wrong.
One thing to mention is that their beer is brewed off site (in MN) and trucked to the local "brewery themed restaurant" (i dont know what else to call it) for finishing.
A place to avoid, but if you get stuck there, drink the bock - it isnt half bad.