Monday, September 8, 2014

World Of Beer revisited

worldofbeer (7)Back in June I attended the opening of World Of Beer at Crossgates Mall.

It did not go well.

I vowed to come back after a few months and give it a proper review under “normal” circumstances. My parents always take me out for a nice dinner on my birthday, so I thought we should go to World Of Beer and see how it goes.
It went much better this time.

worldofbeer (2)We all arrived around 4:30pm on Sunday. One thing I don’t understand about this place (or maybe I’m just oblivious to it) is that there doesn’t seem to be a hostess podium at either entrance. I guess you’re supposed to just walk in and seat yourself? I saw no signs, so I assumed that’s how it worked.  Also, there were five of us, but it seems like every table holds a maximum of four people. We grabbed a four-person table and my brother used an extra stool to sit at the end. It was a little tight, but we still had enough room.

It took a little while for our waitress to come over, but that was fine since by the time she did we had already perused the menu and decided what we wanted for food and drinks. I noticed the beer menu had changed pretty significantly since the last time I was there, which is to be expected. There was plenty of good stuff on tap; not quite as good as Madison Pour House or Bier Abbey, but certainly better than any chain restaurant you’d find in a mall. I believe WOB offers short pours in 4 or 5oz glasses, but I didn’t see it on the menu.


worldofbeer (6)
worldofbeer (5)I got a glass of Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel imperial coffee stout. I haven’t had this beer in years and I remember it being amazing the first time I had it. It was still excellent, but not quite the mind-blower it once was. Dad got a mug of Samuel Adams Octoberfest. I don’t know what it is about that beer, but for some reason it seems to have massive mainstream appeal. So many people who aren’t craft beer drinkers (or even beer drinkers for that matter) have told me how much they like Sam Adams Octoberfest. Personally, I’m not a fan of it or the Marzen style, though I can see why it’s so popular since it has genuine character, but it’s not intensely-flavored , and it’s easy to drink. My brother got a glass of “C’est la Vie” Belgian-style tripel. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s actually a beer brewed for WOB by Bavik. He’s not the craft beer enthusiast that I am, but the fact he not only ordered that beer, but really enjoyed it, I found surprising. I also got a pint of Brown’s Whiskey Barrel Porter [pictured above] at the end of the meal – another beer I haven’t had in years – but it tasted nothing like what I remember. I really didn’t like it, so I only drank about half of the glass.

For my meal, I decided to take a chance on the chicken and waffles. I’ve had this dish at Belgian-style restaurants and it’s always been good (especially at Ommegang’s café). My order came with four generic deep-fried chicken fingers and a Belgian waffle cut into quarters, plus a cup of real maple syrup for dipping. While it tasted good, it seemed like something you’d get at Denny’s or IHOP. I’d expect something remotely fancy at a place like this.

worldofbeer (3)Everyone said they really enjoyed their meals, almost surprisingly so. My parents both ordered burgers with tater tots and my brother and my girlfriend each ordered a flatbread pizza. I noticed the tater tots crumbled if you tried to eat them with a fork (I had that problem last time). While they were plenty tasty and no one complained, I don’t think a restaurant like this should be serving tater tots that fall apart so easily. Both of my parents asked for their burgers to be medium/well and sure enough they were. My brother and my girlfriend really enjoyed their flatbread pizza; it was easy to eat, didn’t singe their mouths, and they didn’t feel stuffed afterwards.
I should also mention that we ordered deep fried pickles as a starter. It’s probably an appetizer meant for two, but splitting it five ways meant no one filled up on it.

worldofbeer (4)I noticed the restaurant seemed to be just under half capacity when we arrived and there were a lot of young people watching the various NFL games that were on every TV in the place. Last time, I described this place as “Buffalo Wild Wings with a better beer selection,” though I’m not quite sure that’s accurate. Sure, there were plenty of brahs wearing football jerseys and backwards hats, but no one was being obnoxious or disorderly. By the time we left around 6pm, the capacity had definitely grown to about 2/3rds full, but it was nowhere near the madhouse I’ve seen this place on Friday and Saturday nights. In fact, it makes me wonder if coming here during downtime is an accurate portrayal of the venue. Any restaurant worth its salt (no pun intended) should be able to handle the early bird crowd, but the truly good ones handle peak times just as well.

worldofbeer (1)The service was much better this time, albeit a tad slow. I didn’t try to quiz the waitress on beer, and she didn’t seem all thst interested in talking about it (no suggestions, no compliments, etc.) I will say that I saw her pouring beer out of bottles into various glassware at the table next to us, and she nailed a perfect pour every time (that’s impressive, actually).

Thankfully there was no live music, though the volume on the 49ers/Cowboys game was plenty loud. They raffled off a Dez Bryant jersey and sure enough my dad won. He’s a Giants fan, though, but they said we could exchange it for something else at the Stadium store just a few doors down. He got a Michael Strahan jersey instead.

Overall, I have to say I was pleased by how much better this experience was compared to last time. The service was faster, the food was fresher, and the atmosphere was calmer. I still find the beer prices to be rather high, but this isn’t the type of venue I’d think most craft beer drinkers would become a regular at (loyalty program or not). Also, the fact my parents enjoyed it is definitely saying something. They likened it to any other mainstream chain like Applebee’s or T.G.I. Friday’s or Olive Garden. I would agree with that.