I don't like to trash a brewpub or brewery, especially on the basis of one visit. I'm just passing through, most times, and only stop in once, maybe twice. What if it was just a bad day, a bad batch, or a lax moment? I know, excellence -- or even competence -- is a full-time thing, something that shouldn't have bad days...but it happens. So I try to make allowances, and check as deeply as I can on those short visits.
Most times. But sometimes the signs are all in alignment, and a place just does not feel right. Such was the case at the Italian Oasis in Littleton, NH, on Friday night. I really wanted this place to be good, because it's right across the street from Thayers Inn, the old inn where I always stay when I'm up in this part of New England (really, I've been staying at the Thayers since 1989), and I like Littleton, it's a neat New England town. A good brewpub in town would have made things just so much better.
But the danger signs were there. It's a small place, there's an O'Doul's neon in the window, there's a fogbank of cigarette smoke when you walk in, and on a Friday night, over 3/4 of the customers were drinking bottled macrobrewery beers or mixed drinks. I saw only a couple folks drinking the house beers. Not a good omen.
I ordered a Black Bear Stout. Cathy thought a bit...and ordered a glass of shiraz, what turned out to be a very smart move. When the beer arrived, she immediately said, "That's not very dark for a stout." It was mildly sour, and what flavor did get through the sour, cheesy wrongness was not very stout-like: very little roasted malt or barley, no bitterness (from hop or roasted barley), no coffee or chocolate notes, no dry finish. It was the worst brewpub beer I've had since Gettysbrew closed. I left 3/4 of the beer on the table, and I only drank that much to complete my notes...and confirm my disbelief. No wonder everyone was drinking Lite.
I cannot believe that while Philadelphia was enjoying Friday the Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge, I was stuck at this miserable excuse for a brewpub. It just baffles me how anyone can brew or serve beer like this and not know that it's so bad. Moat Mountain in North Conway has good beer, I got a nice Trout River Rainbow Red in St. Johnsbury, hell, the local deli next door has good bottled beers (and an amazing selection of non-cigar smoking shtuff), it's not like they can't know. What's the deal? Too cheap to throw out bad batches? Too gutless to take the steps needed to make sure bad batches don't happen? Maybe some bad business decisions on the quality of the system in the first place?
Brewers and owners should taste their beer every day, preferably with a control beer alongside to avoid 'crap creep,' when you've had off beer so long it starts to taste normal. Beer this bad is obvious, and there is simply no excuse for serving it.
That said, did I say anything to our waitress about how bad it was? No, I did not, because the service was almost as bad as the beer -- she was pleasant, the few times she did pay any attention to us, but we couldn't get her attention for ten minutes -- and all I wanted was to get the hell out, go back to our room, and get out a bottle of the Berkshire Brewing beer we had in the cooler.