My local beer bar is Isaac Newton's, here in Newtown. Isaac's has a great rotating taplist; they don't get the really crazy releases that get the geeks all hot-n-sweaty, but they do have good beers, and not "the usual suspects." Their current taplist includes the Harpoon Leviathan Quad, Bell's Oberon, and Cape Ann Doppel Bock. Their bottled beers are excellent, well-kept and a wide range. To be honest...I'm not sure why I don't go there more often.
But the fact is, I don't, and I keep wishing for some good local competition to keep Isaac's on their toes. I thought The Grotto might do it, but the bar is a constant disappointment. Friends is a wretched Applebee's knockoff with 16 wasted taps (and don't get me started on the Newtown Applebee's), the Temperance House is bland and sanitized, the Brick Hotel has a couple great bartenders but a tiny beer selection, and The Saloon is perhaps the most misnamed place I've ever seen.
So when construction started on a place called The Green Parrot Irish Pub and Patio, where the late lamented Goodnoe's Dairy Bar used to be, I was hopeful. It opened on Tax Day, and last night I stopped by around 9:00 to see how things were.
The first thing I noticed, in the parking lot, was the pleasant smell of smoke. The GP uses a wood-fired kitchen to cook 90% of the menu. They also claim: "In the restaurant industry, pre-made foods are often used to cut labor and food costs. The Green Parrot will use only the freshest ingredients and will prepare its menu from scratch each day, eliminating preservatives, chemicals, MSG, and trans fats." Maybe, though I will say that the chef has solid bona fides and the smell of food was wonderful.
But I was there for the bar. It's big, a large rectangular space, and last night it was rocking. I lucked into some bar space when a couple at the bar joined a couple at a nearby table just as I slowly orbited the bar, looking for a lean-in space to order a beer. I got excited for nothing, though: I stood there for just under three minutes as the five bartenders walked by, walked by, walked by, before one finally asked me if I needed something. Someone really should have at least given me a "Hey, I see you, I'm in the weeds here, be with you soon" look before that.
It seemed like of the five bartenders, two knew what was going on. I didn't get one of them. I did get a smile, points for that, but then it was clueless. Not all their fault: the taplist wasn't exactly inspiring. Highlights: Flying Fish rotator, River Horse rotator, a house "Dirty Parrot Ale" which I didn't get or ask about, HopDevil, Yards Philly Pale...and 18 others, including Guinness, Beamish, and Boddington's...yawn. And my bartender not only didn't know what the FF and RH options were, she didn't seem to realize that I was asking which Flying Fish it was, not what Flying Fish was. It was Farmhouse, and it certainly was fresh!
Look. I don't want to crap on the GP. I've got my fingers crossed that they'll still get it. But for a bartender in this area to not realize that a brand like Flying Fish has more than one beer is simply inexcusable, personally and for the bar. And when you've got a well-supported bar like Isaac's selling Harpoon Leviathan in town, and Centre Beer selling some great cases, someone at the GP isn't doing their homework (and they're leaving money on the table). Not to mention their bottle selection is -- with the bizarre exception of Chimay -- incredibly small and mundane. Didn't look like their spirits were much to write home about either. Beautiful wine list, of course, and I saw two people drinking wine. (Okay, I know, that's for the dining room. God forbid I should have a better selection of beer for the dining room.)
Of course, I didn't mention the biggest thing about the bar: 17 flat-panel TVs, just in the bar. Last night they were all showing baseball, which next to no one was watching. At least there wasn't a viciously loud sound system.
I'll go back. I'd like to see what it's like in the afternoon, and I definitely want to try the food. I also have hopes that things will improve. Okay, you're an 'Irish pub.' You do not need Guinness and Beamish and Harp and Smithwick's...and you certainly don't need Bud, Miller, and Coors Light on draft and in bottle. Not to mention Amstel and Heineken Light, and MGD 64 and Ultra. That's 10 out of 36 beer choices taken up by light beer choices: use three. You've got a cider, Twisted Tea, and Smirnoff Ice: pick one. If you're only going to have 36 slots, you've got to use them more wisely.
Sigh. I started bitching again there, didn't I? Well, look, Green Parrot people. When craft beer is showing more growth than any other segment of the market, and you're in an area where craft beer is doing really well, and beer does better than wine and spirits in a tight economy, and the margin is better on craft than it is on light beer, why ignore that? Step up. Be smart.