WTGW 11/1/17: The Brew Kettle, Hudson

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Hey, we remember this place, only the last time we were here it was called Varsity. And that was, like, a year ago. When did that place close? I missed that memo somehow.

Needless to say The Brew Kettle – which has locations in Strongsville and Amherst that have been in operation for some time – has only been open in Hudson for a hot minute. They even still had the Grand Opening signage up, although we all know in restaurant terms the time span of a “grand opening” is similar to some stores starting to promote Christmas just after Labor Day.

We were a party of five tonight as Cassi’s fiancé Jason had a rare night off school. With the larger party, it was somewhat impressive that it only took us about 20 minutes to get seated – not bad considering: 1) this is still a new place, and 2) it’s fairly small inside. Like smaller than the time we were here when it was Varsity. I’m not certain, but it seems like they actually eliminated seating since those days. Interesting business move, no?

I mean, there’s still the same big bar in the middle of the room, but the number and placement of tables seemed all different – like they eliminated a whole room or something. And, I mean, sure, the last time we were there it didn’t seem like all of the seating was necessary – judging from the sparse crowd on our visit, anyway … and, well, from the fact that that place closed, so clearly those crowds didn’t increase. But looking around at the more than full crowd on a random Wednesday night shortly after opening … let’s just say that they might eventually want to rethink that decision.

Anyway.

At least we were able to get drinks from the bar while we waited. There are lots of craft beers here, many of them their own brews. Shane chose a chocolate milk stout that – for once – actually lived up to the delicious-sounding-ness of it’s name. I avoided beer altogether and chose a pumpkin cider. Hey, it’s officially “pumpkin everything” season, and I haven’t really taken the time to fully appreciate that yet. Step off.

Only thing to note – when you’re in the bar area, the only way to see the names of the beers on tap is to watch the TV screens above the bar. I get that this is a super efficient way of keeping up with an ever-changing menu without having to print new one every week, and I also may be a bit older and not one to pass an eye test with flying colors on a normal day … but seriously can you not print things on tiny screens in miniscule lettering, especially when we’re consuming alcohol? Just a thought.

Once we were finally seated, the server apologized profusely for our wait. Which was nice – I mean, 20 minutes wasn’t super long, but thanks for acknowledging that we weren’t able to just stride right in and sit down to dinner? OK. Guess that says something about the usual wait time there on a weeknight. Or maybe we just looked like starved wolves who haven’t had a meal in weeks, since she said more than once that “we must be hungry” and “I’ll get your food orders in quick to make up for the table wait.” Thanks??

Since we had to live up to our ravenous reputation, Shane and I went for jalepeno corn bread as an app, while Cassi and Jason opted for the pretzels. Ted ordered … nothing. Wait, what? Who is this imposter allowed to infringe on our table?

In retrospect, that was a wise decision. More on that later.

Mmm, a whole loaf of bread just for us

Beer cheese overflowing

The Brew Kettle features lots of different things on the menu that you don’t see other places. Like barbequed spaghetti. That’s a new one. Or burgers made from either bison, lamb or chorizo. Again, not your standard brewery fare.

Shane asked the server what was good on the menu and she actually listed off a numer of things she liked, instead of just the generic “everything is good.” She specifically mentioned the various BBQ items, as well as the different types of burgers.

I decided to try out one of those different burgers – the chorizo one – and chose for my side the “potato de jour,” which tonight was a creamy red potato with some sauce that I’m not sure now what exactly it was, but it sounded good when it was described to me.

This place clearly believes that foods should not touch one another

And it was. Far better than the burger, if I’m being honest. I’m not sure if it was because it was made with chorizo – which usually I love as a compliment to pasta or pizza – or because it was charred on the outside, but the whole sandwich just tasted burnt. I mean, it was spicy, like chorizo is meant to be … and the few internal pieces I dug out seemed to taste OK. But by the time it was all said and done it wasn’t worth doing surgery on my dinner just to extract a few edible morsels.

Cassi ordered the fish and chips, with sweet potato fries and an extra side of mac and cheese. She said the fries and the mac and cheese were her favorite things.

Fried goodness

How can pasta and cheese ever not be good together?

So far we’re 0-2 on our main courses. Maybe this is another of those places where we need to come and just order apps and sides, and forget sandwiches and dinners?

Jason got the chicken parm sandwich with the sweet potato fries. He didn’t say much about either of those things, but he did finish them so I guess that says something, no?

Now that’s a sandwich

Rounding out the bunch, food twins Shane and Ted opted for the Triple Pig sandwich. Which is a 12-inch sandwich full of smoked pork loin, pulled pork and bacon. And then grilled up Cuban style.

I’m honestly a bit full just thinking about all of that.

Triple pig + sides, stacked

I’m trying not to think about how many pigs were killed to make both Shane’s and Ted’s meal

Shane also got the fried green beans as a side, and then tried to order something called “Santana fries,” which he swore that Cassi had just ordered with her meal. Uh, yeah, that was “sweet potato,” but close.

Shane said his sandwich was very dry. He was looking around the table for basically any condiment he could find to put on the meat. I thought at one point he might just dip it directly into his beer or water glass. He ate almost half, then took the rest home – where undoubtedly he’ll empty the fridge of any BBQ sauce we own as he tries to finish it off.

He also said the fried green beans had too much breading. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Shane complain that he wanted MORE vegetable and LESS fried stuff, so this is definitely new.

Ted, on the other hand, ate his whole sandwich. The entire thing. And his cole slaw side. And then admitted later that maybe this wasn’t the best choice, since he was uncomfortably full by the time we left the restaurant.

Guess he knew what he was doing when he skipped out on that whole appetizer thing, though.

Overall, The Brew Kettle is a nice little brewery, although probably more our style for just apps and drinks in the future than for a full meal. They offer flights of beers so that you can try several of the crafts – and the tables have actual papers with descriptions so that you don’t have to rely on those TV screens once you sit down away from the bar. Although it seems they could use a little bit of guidance on how to deliver the flights, since no one at our table – including the server – seemed to be able to clearly identify the small glasses of beer upon arrival. I mean, everyone still drank them, of course – but if you’re encouraging patrons to drink more of a certain kind that they like, you might want to make it easier to identify. Just a thought.

Beer flights. I can’t remember who ordered what – although neither really could anyone

Why are all of Shane’s beers that dark?

I’d be curious to visit after The Brew Kettle is open for a bit and see if it’s still as busy as it was the evening we were there. Or if they do add more seating. Or if this place falls prey to the curse of that location that has already gobbled up at least two other businesses since we’ve lived in this area. Time will tell, I guess.

Picked by: Shane

Steph

Cassi

If you give Jason a minute, he apparently changes his vote

Jason

Ted

Shane

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WTGW 3/22/17: R Shea’s Brewery / Diamond Deli, Merriman Valley

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We’ve all been itching to try R Shea’s Brewery ever since it opened a year or so ago and we noticed the bevy of cars parked outside pretty much every evening. Always busy usually means the place probably doesn’t suck, right? Plus we know we like beer, and the few craft breweries we’ve visited in the area have been good to us. In particular we know that we love Akron’s Hoppin Frog brewery, and R Shea’s seemed like a nice alternative that wouldn’t involve a 60-minute round trip drive … 30 minutes of which always occurred after ingesting some high potency beers.

See also: reasons why things like Uber were invented.

The one caveat that held us back from trying R Shea’s this long? They didn’t serve food. Other than the occasional food truck we would see parked outside on random evenings. And that seemed to be stretching the WTGW rules just a tad.

But then we heard that they were teaming up with Diamond Deli, a decade-plus downtown Akron institution known for overstuffed sandwiches with creative names, to start serving sammies and select apps at the brewery.

Now we’re talking. Game on.

Apparently it’s a winning combo, as the place is still always busy. Every. Time. We. Drive. By. And as evidenced by our visit, when at 6:45 on a Wednesday night we managed to grab what I have to believe from my brief scan of the room was the last remaining table in the place. Which we then had to steal a chair from the bar to place on the end of just so it could hold all three of us.

If you know us, you know at that point we were already calculating how we would fit the copious amounts of food and beer we were about to order onto this tiny space. I won’t lie, it was tight. But, hey, all those years playing Tetris finally amounted to something I guess.

R Shea’s offers flights of five 6oz beers for $10 – which is a great way to try a few of the 15 or so beers on the list. In fact, we had trouble picking just five each to try. It’s also a great way to get relatively buzzed without meaning to, if you’re like us and forget that most of these beers are, well, a tad bit over the usual Bud Light alcohol percentage.

Beyond that the 13oz stouts and 16oz regular beers are just $5 for a pint, which is still extremely reasonable. And still continuing the “ways to get totally crocked without meaning to and not really discovering you are until you get up to walk to the restroom” experiment.

Not that any of us did that or anything. Just saying.

I took a picture of the beer menu since I knew I would never remember the names, much less the descriptions, of all the beers we tried. Thank you, technology.

Ignore the iPhone shadow. Photo taken for memory and not art.

Shane got the Uncommon Blonde, Orange-Mango Citra Shandy, Towpath Pale Ale, Chocolate Coffee Stout and The Elvis.

My flight started out looking just like Shane’s, with the Uncommon Blonde and Citra Shandy. But then I moved to the the Merriman Mild, Snicker Dude and Pecan Pie Milk Stout.

I actually was stuck on a decision between the Merriman Mild and the Pale Ale, but decided on the Mild because Ted told me it would have more of a coffee taste and be less bitter. Fortunately for him he was right.

Not surprisingly, Ted ignored the lighter beers completely and started off with the Shea’s Irish Red, and then the Belgian Quadrupel, Snicker Dude, The Elvis and Pecan Pie Milk Stout.

My flight at the bottom, Shane’s at the left and Ted’s at the top

So we had some crossover, but we each also got at least one that no one else tried. This is why we’re friends.

Ted told us the proper way to taste a flight is to start with the lightest first and move to the darker ones next. Something to do with the flavor and boldness, and saving the heavier ones for last so as not to ruin your palate.

Taking his words to heart, Shane and I proceeded to take a sip out of each of our five beers at first just to try them. We then worked oppositely – Shane drank the ones he liked best first, while I saved the ones I liked best for last.

Clearly we’re good students.

You’ll probably find this hard to believe, but we all agreed that ALL of the beers we tried were good. I know that sounds like a joke – I mean, come on, we each tried five new beers and there wasn’t ONE any of us wanted to spit out? Honestly, no. Of course we all had our preferences and favorites out of our tasters, but there wasn’t one anyone tried that earned a wrinkled nose and a group search for a drain to pour the glass out into instead of downing it.

Even the darker beers were winners in our books – and “Mr. Bud Light” and I usually don’t go that route. Shane’s favorite was actually not one that he got on his flight, but one that he and Ted ordered full 13oz sizes of after finishing the sample sizes … the weekly rotating beer called the “Lab Rat,” (or, as Shane kept calling it by the end of the evening, the “Family Rodent” – whatevs) which this week was a stout with flavors of chocolate, coconut and lemongrass. It was very smooth, not heavy or bitter at all.

Who knew lemongrass and coconut made a good beer match?

Needless to say, Ted was quite proud.

Ted: A guy who usually orders a Bud Light just enjoyed a stout. This is a great day.

He was less impressed with me, as my faves were the Blonde and the Shandy. Old habits die hard, sorry. I mean, the darker ones were good – and those are not words that come out of my mouth often with regards to craft beers, so that means something. The flavors were unique. But I’m just not sure I could’ve ordered a full 13 oz glass of any one of them. The sample size glasses were perfect for me.

Ted loved the Snicker Dude the best, followed closely by the Elvis. I sampled The Elvis from his flight (I didn’t order it on mine) and it was pretty tasty. I was kind of wishing I’d picked that over my Snicker Dude. But once again I was suckered in by the promising description (cinnamon! sugar! tastes like a cookie!).

I swear the people who write beer descriptions are right up there with meteorologists on the list of jobs that can be wrong 97.5% of the time and yet remain employed.

Because we had such a large table, of course we decided appetizers were in order. Ted got hummus, which came with veggies and pita. He didn’t say much about it – but he finished it, so that must count for something.

I also forgot to take a picture of it, but really, you’ve all seen hummus and vegetables before, so I think we’re OK there. Chill.

Shane and I ordered the pretzels with beer cheese dip, which I have to believe arrived at our table directly via teleportation from the oven, because I think I gave myself second degree burns just trying to pick one up. But it was worth it, because they were delicious. The cheese dip wasn’t as flavorful as I would’ve thought, especially since it’s made with beer from the brewery, but that’s OK because the pretzels alone were tasty enough.

My heaven is filled with hot soft pretzels. Don’t judge.

And it’s a good thing we ordered that appetizer, because it may have saved us from starvation … or, OK, on a less dramatic note, at least utter alcoholic obliteration … while we waited for our actual meals to arrive.

Ted’s sandwich arrived first. He got the “Chad’s Wait Til You Hear This Story” – which if it’s not obvious from the name is corned beef, pastrami, Swiss and spicy mustard on rye.

I mean, you knew that, right? Come on.

You have no idea how long we all stared at this sandwich

And then we waited for our other two sandwiches. My Italian Sub (pretty self explanatory) …

The “I don’t have a real name” Italian sub

and Shane’s Boxty (basically a reuben on a potato pancake).

You definitely need a fork for this one

Maybe it’s because we ordered boring sandwiches without fun names, but somehow mine and Shane’s orders seemed to get lost somewhere. We didn’t really notice it at first – I mean, we were drinking new flavored beers, first of all, so food wasn’t exactly top of mind. And truthfully we were kind of grateful for the chance to finish our apps and move some glasses around before more plates arrived on our itty bitty table.

But like 15 minutes later, we started to think they really had forgotten us. And that finally Ted was getting redemption for last week, when the server clearly hated him. So we asked one of the servers, and sure enough our two tickets had gotten lost. I give R Shea’s a ton of credit – they were super nice about the whole thing, and as soon as they realized what had happened they got our orders in right away, so our food arrived very shortly after. It was truly great customer service.

If it were our server from last week be probably would’ve just blamed Ted for our missing food and walked away.

Our sandwiches were all very good. Make no mistake – the sandwiches may seem simple on paper, but they’re very well done, and enough food to definitely qualify as a meal. Each sandwich came with a small handful of chips – which I have to admit that I was mildly disappointed to see such a small pile of on my plate … until I ate my sandwich and was grateful I hadn’t eaten anything more than what I had. Truthfully I probably should’ve stopped at only eating half my sandwich, because that was filling enough. But, well, I blame the beer for clouding my judgement.

Like we’ve all never used that line before. Probably for worse things than eating half a sandwich.

R Shea’s will definitely be a place we make a return trip to. Partially because the atmosphere, food, beer and people are all great, and partially because they also tweak and add to their beer menu weekly, so while you’re sure to find a favorite on there you can also try something new each time you come in. It’s a place you could do a full meal at, or just stop in for beers and an app – and because the beers are so filling, you’ll still leave happy. The only downside is that if you come at the busiest time you may be standing around for a while awkwardly looking at people who you hope to steal the tables of once they leave … but, hey, you can still have drinks while you do that, so it’s all good in the long run, right?

Picked by: Ted
Next pick: Shane

Steph

To-Go Ted

That’s Shane’s gang sign for “thumbs up times two”