CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Brewing Co. opened softly to friends and family a few weeks ago, and then quickly ramped up to a full opening just a few nights later. I wrote a quick blog posting of my first experiences, but now I am ready to do a deep-dive review of the beer and the food that I have tasted.
I have been no stranger to the place, having visited for at least a beer several times within the past weeks; in fact, most of the staff know me by name. I have tasted all of the beer and quite a bit of the food, so let's start with the beer. Here is the current lineup:
Taylor Blond: This is CBC's most popular beer, according to all the staff that I ask. CBC brewer Ryan Heastings calls it a "Palesner," capturing the light drinkability of a German helles-style beer but fermented as an ale. This is a well-crafted beer (as are all of the CBC beers, so this is the last time I will say it). Taylor Blond is a great beer for the diffident beer drinker moving into the craft beer world with caution. No surprises here.
Marcellus Ale: An easy-to-quaff blond ale, but it asserts itself as an ale, unlike the Taylor Blond. There is even a noticeable kiss of hops at the finish that makes this one of my go-to beers.
Wobbly Best Bitter: A very traditional British-style bitter, but just a bit stronger. This beer is layered with traditional bready character along with counterpoint bitterness. The light amber color has a hint of red hue and just looks and tastes great from the traditional (yet still not imperial) pint glass in which CBC beers are served.
Raj IPA: A 7.1 percent ABV India Pale Ale more in the American tradition. Light in color for the style, but still delivers a very smooth American hop wallop! This is what the typical beer-geek will order and stick with through a typical evening.
Big Ugly Stout: Welcome to the world of true session beer. This stout delivers full, roasty flavor, but keeps the alcohol in check at 3.1 percent ABV! Crafted in the dry Irish tradition, the body is light but the roasted barley delivers rich, dark, mochalike flavor in a beer that is light in alcohol and calories.
Now for the food: The menu at CBC is squarely focused on upper-end pub fare. It offers a wide variety of dishes (no entrée-size salad?), and most of the comments I have heard is that it's a bit pricey, and I agree.
Let's start with the traditional English pub fare. The fish and chips are two large chunks of high-quality cod, hand-battered and fried. It is served with potato wedge-type chips and house-made tartar sauce. The fish is very good (but I do find nearly all of the food coming out a bit under-salted), but is it worth $18?