Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Maia: maybe

I was at a wholesaler event last night in Bryn Mawr. Gretz Beer, one of the area A-B wholesalers, was launching the new Budweiser American Ale and 're-introducing' some of the other beers in their portfolio. I saw Michelob Pale Ale and Dunkel Weiss, Unita Punkin, Czechvar, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Victory Festbier, Löwenbräu, and some others. It was an event for retailers, mostly off-premise folks, and they were reacting well to the Bud Ale, including Matt Capone, the Energizer Bunny of beer launches at Capone's in Norristown. He said to me, "Pretty good!" Keep in mind, of course, that he was surrounded by A-Bvolk at the time.

Had several good chats with the folks there, including Brian Quinn, an A-B draft guy I'd met last year at Markt for an A-B/InBev lovefest (that turned out to be a prelude to this year's goings-on). Some of it was heartening, proving that A-B and their wholesalers really do get what's going on in craft beer -- and some agreement that the brewmasters have a lot more input at the company than they did, say, five years ago. But I still heard things like "not bitter, like other bocks." You can't just give salespeople words when you expect them to make sales to people who actually know what the hell beers are, you have to make them understand what those words mean, and in what context they are meaningful. Otherwise, they clang like a broken bell.

Anyway, after I left the event, I headed back Lancaster Ave. towards the Blue Route, where I saw Maia. Now, Uncle Jack had gushed about it, and then the esteemed Craig LaBan gushed about it, so I think to myself, hey, maybe oughta stop in. So I did, and it impressed me with its design right away, as in, it was so designed that I couldn't tell if the damned place was open or not until someone walked out the door. Okay, that's me.

So I walked in, and the open plan (with map, as LaBan points out) drew me further in. Kind of reminded me of a place Steve and I went in Ghent, Brasserie Pakhuis (and that Frommer review I linked to really nails the similarity: "Although maybe too conscious of its own sense of style, Pakhuis...is all stocked up in matters of taste."), which is in a former warehouse, whereas Maia is in a former supermarket; similar spaces. Nice-looking beers on tap -- Maredsous, Victory Donnybrook, Goliath -- and a very good selection of spirits (top-heavy on vodkas, but that's a fact of life). Downcheck on the barstools: too high (and if they're too high for a guy who's 6'1"...) and looking like porch furniture.

Service was very quick, damned near immediate. I saw a Gaffel Kölsch tap in front of me, and thought, yeah, light, crisp, just the thing for one more before heading home. "A kölsch," I said, by way of a test, and he passed brilliantly. The pour? A small tulip glass -- downcheck on glass, amused upcheck on size of portion -- and set down with pride in front of me. I asked to run a tab; I saw someone enjoying some soup, which sounded right. Then I looked at the temporary check he set down. My Gaffel, which looked to be 10 oz. or less, was $7. Wow. Hey, I know bringing in low-volume imports ain't cheap. But that's the kind of price I'm used to paying for something like Chimay White, and while Gaffel Kölsch is good, it ain't Chimay White.

Whew. I decided I had to get another beer to see what was going on here. I ordered soup (a choice between gazpacho and French onion; I got the hot one, and it was very, very good) and got a Victory Donnybrook. It came in a 20 oz. dimple mug, and was $6.50. Well, that's better, for a 20 oz. pour. Again, the service was almost telepathic, but it was a good thing I'd checked the taps as I walked by. The chalkboard beerlist only gave the brewery names, in big letters. Victory makes a bunch of beers, guys; telling me you have "VICTORY" doesn't help a lot.

All that said, Maia has a good vibe. I've seen people complain that it's "confusing," that it takes too much work to figure out what you want and where to get it. I only concur so far as the beerlist. In short, grow up. This is a different idea, a different layout, and you need to have fun with that, not whine about it. Besides, with bar service like that, I'm willing to put up with some thinking (though not $7 mini-beers). If the rest of the food is up to the soup -- and LaBan emphatically says it is -- I'll probably bring Cathy by, and we'll have another look.

16 comments:

Frank said...

Where they serving Gretz half and half?

Jack Curtin said...

I should use this as an opportunity to scoop myself in the next Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and note that Melissa Monosoff, the woman behind the beer program, left Maia shortly after my article appeared (her choice, based on some cutbacks and added duties for less pay that she was not willing to take on). What impact this had, if any, on your experience I cannot say.

They also closed/changed part of the downstairs area.The real impact of the beer list is in the big cooler to the right as you pass through from the deli area up front into the main downstairs room. Over in that section used to be an informal, less expensive place to eat which has, I believe, not having been back myself, been eliminated.Did they offer or did you see a list at the bar?

As for food, all I've had to date is a very good sandwich (actually, parts of three, shared with others) and a really excellent cappuccino one morning.

Peter Barby said...

Whoa! They're still making Gretz Beer? Nice! I remember drinking that and my other favorite esslinger at Connie Mack Stadium years ago!

I had wondered where it had gone all these years. A philadelphia favorite.

Now, has anyone seen hohenadel lately?

Lew Bryson said...

Thanks, Jack. That's unfortunate. If there was anything like you mentioned...I walked right past it. Much of the place was dark; as I said, I first thought they were closed. They did not offer a bottle list, I did not see one. To be fair, I jumped right in and ordered the Gaffel. Do you think $7 is a bit stiff for a small Gaffel?

Lew Bryson said...

These guys make the joke, yes?

As I said in the post, this is the Gretz Beer Company that is a wholesaler for A-B. No production of their own, and not the William Gretz Brewing Co., which has been closed since 1961. Connected to them, though, I believe; same family? Anyone know the connection?

Steven said...

"But I still heard things like 'not bitter, like other bocks.'"

> sigh <

Wonder what "other bocks" they were referring to?

Lew Bryson said...

Wonder what "other bocks" they were referring to?

Does Stone make a bock?

Peter Barbey said...

Is anything launching at the Sunshine Beer Haus on Ridgeway Street in Reading?

Jack Curtin said...

>Do you think $7 is a bit stiff for a small Gaffel?<

Indeed I do. In fact, I think that pricing is going to be more and more an issue. I received an enraged email from a guy last week (urged him to put it as comment onsite but he didn't) about paying $7.50 for "an IPA" at Ron's Original Bar & Grille. Didn't answer which IPA when questioned, which is a factor. Pliny is one thing price-wise; HopDevil or Rt. 113 quite another.

He also called me so many names and make such vicious attacks on my character that he sounded like one of what I call "Lew's folks."

Lew Bryson said...

Certainly agree that the beer in question is a factor on pricing.

"Lew's Folks"? He made attacks on your character? Jack, I've told my volk to make physical attacks on you. Clearly his membership will have to be revoked.

Lew Bryson said...

Peter Barbey? Back from the dead? Who's next, your old boss Fred Lauer?

I tell ya, these itinerant beer historians are nuts...

Jack Curtin said...

By "Lew's folks," I meant the rapid and angry who are always on your ass. Your regular volk are merely misguided people on their way to the light...except maybe the Gretz guy.

Rich said...

Wasn't a big fan of their website. It is way too designer for me and its as if you have to squint to read it. Almost like..."I'm too sexy for your web-browser...too sexy for your web-browser..." was playing in the background.

Jack Curtin said...

"Rapid" your angry mobs may be, but "rabid" is what I was striving for in that last post.

Wait, that's not good...

Ric said...

"Lew's Folks"? He made attacks on your character? Jack, I've told my volk to make physical attacks on you..."

Don't confuse me with Lew's Folks, sounds like a charity for people who can't browse the beer aisle by themselves. That being said, we're open to the idea of physical or automotive attacks on Mr. Curtin. Ask anyone.

S.Johansen said...

Hey, one of the Lew Folk here. I wanted to send a quick thanks to Lew. You're responsible for two fantastic dinners that my girlfriend and I have had the pleasure of experiencing over the past two weeks.

Last Sunday, we had a late lunch at the renovated Victory Brewpub. I've been meaning to get to Downingtown since the renovation, and your post put me in high gear. The nachos, burger, and pulled chicken were excellent (the Storm King BBQ Sauce was a great surprise.) I really enjoyed the Dampf and the Pils that you wrote about. Brought home a growler of the Dampf to enjoy. It looked like they had close to 20 beers on tap, and my only disspointment is that I don't live within walking distance.

Last night on the way to KOP Mall, I suggested we stop at Maia's. I didn't notice a large cooler with a bottle selection. It was a little dark (but not darker then any Iron Hill I've ever been in,) it was also a little loud (but I felt more from conversation then music.) I had a Founders Centennial IPA after some deliberation over a pretty good draft and bottle selection; one that could keep me busy with it's variety over several dinners. And we split a fantastic 4 cheese Pizza and Burger that rivaled the famous Rouge burger in Rittenhouse. I actually liked it a little better since I didn't have to unlock my jaw to try to eat it.

So... thanks Lew. I started jogging this morning so that I can hit up the next stop you mention in STAG.

Steve