At The Bier Abbey
Shortly before I left for vacation, I stopped at The Bier Abbey, the new Schenectady bar/restaurant with 30 beers on tap, with an emphasis on beers from American craft breweries and countries known for making great beer, such as Belgium.
On Union Street, The Bier Abbey is a great addition to Schenectady. They were still working out some kinks when I was there, but I suspect that they’ll iron them out; our waitress apologized for the slow service, and explained that their first few weeks in business were much busier than anticipated. I appreciate good service, but I also appreciate good beer, and The Bier Abbey has plenty of that. However, it is the kind of menu which forces you to exercise a fair amount of caution, as many of the beers have a fairly high alcohol content; there was a beer from Iceland that looked pretty interesting, but the 9 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) scared me away. Maybe some other time.
Of course, I am now wracking my brain to remember what I actually ended up drinking, and I can’t do it. (I should get into the habit of taking notes on napkins and coasters.) I’m pretty sure I got La Trappe Witte Trappist, a white beer brewed by Trappist monks, though I could be wrong. What I can tell you this: Whatever I drank was pretty good, and went extremely well with my mussels, which were also pretty good.
The Bier Abbey is a cool place to hang out, and should become even cooler once it acquires a more lived-in feel. The restaurant is outfitted with pews that feature real hymnal holders, and there are pretty stained glass windows throughout the building. All in all, it’s well worth a trip.
I got a sense of what the Bier Abbey can become during my trip to Maine, when I stopped at the Novare Res Bier Cafe with my parents. Like The Bier Abbey, this is a place that specializes in good beer, and takes delight in offering a menu that features high-end craft beers from all around the world. The place is also strong on atmosphere, with a brick and wood interior that gives it a vaguely Middle Ages vibe. (There’s a nice outdoor deck, but we didn’t sit out there.) There were about 25 beers on tap (and a menu of about 250 beers), with an emphasis on craft beer from Maine and Belgium.
I had two beers: Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale, and Evil Twin P.H.A.T. Porter. Founders is a brewery in Michigan, and their pale ale is very citrusy; when my dad tried it, he made a weird face and said something like “Bleh!” but I liked it a lot. However, I was really impressed with the Evil Twin, which I got primarily because it had a crazy name and promised an espresso flavor. I’m not a huge drinker of porters, particularly in the summer, but the Evil Twin was great — heavy, but not overwhelmingly so, and very tasty, with hints of chocolate and licorice, along with the aforementioned espresso. Evil Twin is based in Denmark and Brooklyn, and I’d love to try some of their other beers.
Another good stop, beer-wise, is the Merry Monk in Albany, a restaurant that specializes in Belgian ales. Belgian ales are very hip right now, if you couldn’t tell, and rightfully so. The Merry Monk features Belgian ales from Belgium, but also from Ommegang in Cooperstown. They have a good menu, and a nice, relaxed atmosphere. I’ve only been there once, and I’m hoping to go back.
I’m glad that more and more of these upscale bars are opening, because it’s fun to go out and try all these different and interesting beers. (Also, meatheads tend to avoid high-end bars which, for those of us who don’t like dining out in the company of meatheads, is another plus.) My one concern is that beer people will become more and more like wine people — so focused on drinking unusual and high-quality beer that they forget why drinking beer is such a simple pleasure in the first place. But that’s a minor concern. In the meantime, beer drinkers should be happy that there’s actually a market for places like The Bier Abbey and the Merry Monk, and give them our support.
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