Thursday, February 7, 2008

A pleasant lunch surprise

A while back, a local reader tipped me that the Pizzeria Uno at the Oxford Valley Mall had developed a decent beer selection. I had to run over there today to pick up a book for my son's Latin class at Barnes & Noble, so I figured I'd stop in and check.

Well, lookie here! Uno had some decent drafts -- HopDevil, Stoudt's Scarlet Lady ESB (which used to be everywhere in this area), Troegs Hopback Amber, and Rogue Dead Guy -- but the real treasure was the bottle selection: Duvel, Smuttynose IPA (I assume the Finestkind, didn't see it), 3 Philosophers, Arrogant Bastard, Lefthand Sawtooth, Bell's K-zoo Stout...and about 10 others of similar interest, including North Coast Old Rasputin imperial stout, which is what I had. It was in fine shape: burnt-bitter but with delicious alefruit notes, authoritative body, and great with my pesto-underlaid pizza.

Kinda made me laugh about how chain operators were telling me that having craft beers at chain restaurants was completely unrealistic, "a fairy tale," beer snob pipe dreams. I remain convinced that -- at least until the huge materials cost increases came along in late 2007 -- the biggest thing holding back strong growth for craft beer is availability, either because of lack of distribution, lack of capacity, or lack of retailer commitment. Uno's holding up their end.

6 comments:

David said...

Wow, that's something. I went to our Uno's and asked about local beers. The reply was "Well, that's the thing about Virginia. There are no local beers."

So I had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Anonymous said...

Conversly, TGI Fridays-Exton offered 4 Victory beers about 2 years ago.....actually had me stopping in on a regular basis!....nice bottle selection, too! However, that fine situation came to an abrupt close....corporate decision, I was told.
Joe Meloney

Anonymous said...

NICE!! I really respect this! I personally wonder if the bar manager has complete freedom to purchase what he wants [obviously this person knows their beers]. Whoever you are...you have immense power! [lol]

I'll be completely honest here and offer this as an example...when I was working for a small, local, mom 'n pop beer wholesaler, I went into Ruby Tuesday Malvern/Great Valley with excitement because I'd heard that Ruby Tuesdays hired bar managers who were open to buying crafts, and that there was no corporate approval requirement. Of course as a chain, I thought they'd have to continue to sell BMC/Yuengling and Euro lagers of course.

Unfortunately this manager claimed she did not have authorization to order crafts from independent beer distributors on her own.

Anonymous said...

Houlihan's in Exton Mall has a few acceptable craft choices, all local which is totally appropriate...Victory, Flying Fish, Dogfish Head, etc.

JessKidden said...

In NJ, of course, there's a Pizzeria Uno (or is it Uno Chicago Grill, now?) that is a brewpub, too. In fact, before I went there (for the beer), I'd never been in, nor even heard of "Pizzeria Uno". Being from New Jersey where, apparently one can't open a strip mall without a space for a pizzeria [insert organized crime joke here], I never paid any attention to mid-Western pizza chains.

I did eat pizza-once-at Pizzeria Uno...once...partially.

So, I was surprised later when I found a Uno while driving through an area on vacation, stopped in for a quick beer, and they DIDN'T have a brewpub or any good beer, or even quite understand what I was asking for. (I've since read that BBC makes a house brand beer for them.)

So, Lew, since you just completed the NJ Breweries book, any insight into how that lone brewpub site (out of a 200+ chain) on US Rt. 1 happened?

Lew Bryson said...

Jess,

Uno is what it is: one thing I said to my son yesterday as we were eating (my four cheese w/pesto was good, so far as toppings went, but the crust at Uno's -- while the texture is pleasing enough -- always has a faint sweetness, reminiscent of pie crust, that I'm not nuts about), was that Chicago deep-dish pie is one bit of Chicagoland local chow I haven't tried in situ yet. I'm going to remedy that in April.

Now, about the brewpub Uno in NJ... it was a plan, much like the bowling alley brewpubs floated in Virginia and Minnesota, that went into pilot, but didn't please the corporate masters. The reason given is the patchwork of state laws governing brewpubs that would have made more work for the home offices. Seems odd that they didn't look into that before launching, but I'm not a Head of Beverage Ops, either.
It surprises me that they left the brewery in place -- not because of any lack of quality! -- but because it is out of place in the corporate heirarchy; the left-handed swordsman, as it were. That's what they did, though, and continue to do.