Monday, July 22, 2013

Brewpub review: Druthers Brewing Company

druthers 010Ben and I have talked with George about his beer and Druthers as a whole several times (behind the scenes, obviously). We’ve discussed writing a collaborative review, but we just haven’t been able to align our schedules and make it happen. Fortunately, I was in Saratoga on Sunday on a date and we decided to head to Druthers for a late lunch/early dinner.

Of course, this wasn’t my first time at Druthers. I’ve visited several times since they’ve opened and have always had a good experience. The most memorable of which occurred back in February, when I attended a beer dinner they hosted as part of Saratoga Beer Week. I’m not going to recap the entire thing here, though I will say I remember the food being delicious and leaving a great impression on me.

You can watch my video of that event here:

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I haven’t patronized nearly enough restaurants in Saratoga to deem Druthers the best food in town, though that’s certainly my inclination as of now. I’ve tried several items on the menu and have enjoyed them all. Most of the entrees include the house shoestring-style fries, which are fine, though I’d prefer a thicker cut fry. The burgers are good, but what I’ve found myself liking the best are the pork dishes. The “Druthers Cubano” ($13) is one of the best Cuban-style sandwiches I’ve had outside of a metropolitan area. On Sunday I tried the “Banh Mi,” ($14) which is described as “house-smoked pork, pickled cucumbers, carrots, sesame and ginger, with pineapple and jalapeno slaw.” It seems to be a variation on a Cuban sandwich, though it’s not spicy per se. The pineapple complements the pork well, though the jalapeno is almost more of a garnish as it doesn’t really impart much spice (which I’m okay with). Even the bun it came on was memorable.
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Erica, my date, had the “Strip & Spinach” ($14), which is a spinach salad with chopped and seasoned New York strip steak. She said she liked it – the meat was cooked to her liking, it was zesty but not overly spicy, but she thought they went a little heavy on the dressing.

We ordered a flight of all eight beers for $18. The standard flight is six 5oz samples for $14, plus $2 for each additional sample. That’s a total of 40 ounces of beer at a cost of 45 cents per ounce. For comparison: Crossroads charges 40 cents per ounce; Brown’s charges 33 cents per ounce; and Albany Pump Station charges 31 cents per ounce. Flights are a tricky thing, though. If I’m alone I prefer 3oz samples, but 5oz samples are better if two people are splitting them. I wish brewpubs would offer flights in various sizes.

Here’s a summary of the beers we had:

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Golden Rule Blonde (5.3% ABV)
Probably the beer I liked the least, though I’d imagine this beer isn’t brewed for people like me anyway. It’s a pretty standard Kolsch with a touch of lemon to it. Erica isn’t a big beer drinker, but she seemed to think this was only ok, too.

Brevity Wit (5.3% ABV)
A Belgian witbier but without a lot of zesty spice. Erica said this reminded her of a hard lemonade. It wasn’t bad, and it was refreshing outside on the patio on a hot summer day.

Against The Grain Hefeweizen (5.8% ABV)
Not your usual hefe as this has a distinct, but mellow, smokiness to it (mostly on the finish). Much more flavorful than the two previous brews, though the smoke factor makes it more of a niche brew than a mainstream one. That’s commendable.

Druthers ESB (6% ABV)
Surprisingly hoppy for the style, though it maintains the base English style maltiness. A good beer to pair with pretty much anything on the menu. Erica enjoyed this one more than I did.

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Cocoa Brown (5.6% ABV)
A nice sweet brown ale with distinct chocolate notes. The cocoa powder is quite prominent, but not cloying. A versatile brew as it would work well as a standalone beverage or as a liquid dessert.

Druthers Summer Stout (5.4% ABV)
Probably the best of their dark beers. I was surprised by how robust and full-bodied this beer was considering it’s relatively light weight. Erica was surprised by how drinkable it was for her, since she’s not usually a fan of dark beers.

Fist of Karma Brown Ale (5.6% ABV)
I’m not sure why Druthers has two brown ales on tap at the same time, though this one is much more hoppy than the “Cocoa Brown” (which I like). Ideally paired with pork or beef dishes.

druthers 007All In IPA (6.5%)
Plenty of hops with a tasty orange citrus flavor, not unlike a San Diego-style brew. It’s hoppy and bitter for sure, yet is very accessible. You don’t have to be a hophead to enjoy this one (but it helps).

Overall, I’d have to say I enjoyed the beers at Druthers and would honestly give them a thumbs up. However, only a few of them would garner relatively high praise from me (the IPA, the stout, and the winter seasonal barleywine). Saratoga is a touristy town, so it makes sense for Druthers to brew beers that are accessible. I get it, and I don’t fault them for it. I didn’t write any reviews of the beers, though I was rating most of them between a 3 and 4 (out of 5) on my Untappd account.

All criticisms aside, I would recommend Druthers to pretty much anyone. I would describe the venue as pricey, though. Only a couple items on the menu are under $10, and most seem to average $13 or $14. Between the beer and food, our total came to $49.22 after tax. A little more than I’d prefer to pay for lunch for two, but I’d definitely say it was worth the money.

Druthers Brewing Company
381 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 306-5275
11am to 12am daily

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