Fifty West Brewing Company Review
Craft beer has really taken the nation by storm. I mean really, who drinks Miller Light anymore? With nearly every major city seeing some very strong craft brewers pop up, so many of us are getting to taste what “real” beer tastes like. And no, I do not consider Leinenkugel’s overly sweet offerings to fit into this category. To me, a craft beer is a small brewery that takes a type of beer (IPA’s and Pale Ales being my favorite) and makes them their own. Be it Rivertown Brewery (http://rivertownbrewery.com/) in Cincinnati, or Epic (http://www.epicbrewing.com/) out of Salt Lake City, these brewers often hit a level of flavor and consistency that none of the big boys can. It also encourages drinking and enjoying your beverage, not just chugging down as many as you can. Nobody will drink a dozen quality craft beers in a night…at least I hope not.
Fifty West (http://fiftywestbrew.com/), to me, embodies perfectly what a craft brewery is all about. Brewed in (very) small batches, certain ones are limited, and just about all are of high quality. They don’t even bottle their product as of yet (although I have to believe that is in their near future), and they are located in an old house in Mariemont, OH. As a matter of fact, it is so un-assuming that we drove right past it the first time we went. There is a nice, large private patio you will notice after you park in the always full parking lot and walk toward the entrance. You’ll also notice a cool old-school orange and white van with a Fifty West logo on it. It kind of reminds me of the van the bad guys drove in “Back to the Future,” and I like it. I’ve also seen that it doubles as a mobile bar, which I like even more. Once in the building, which has a lot of dark wood and exposed beams, the very friendly staff greets you and is more than happy to go over the current brews on the large, colorful chalkboard. As a matter of fact, they typically have a brewer there to go over the selection as well, which is pretty awesome. They all seem proud to brew and/or work here, and that is a great thing. You’ll also quickly notice that in addition to the brewers, the bartenders and servers also seem knowledgeable about their brews. I’d expect that out of a brewery, and it’s nice to see they train their staff well here.
Once you go in check in at the hostess station, the aforementioned chalk board is on the left. They have a lot to choose from. Being that it’s May, I’ve got a lot of my favorite beers to choose from. IPA’s and Pale Ales being my beers of choice, I was pretty excited to see this during our current visit. We walked up to the bar and I made the only logical choice…a flight of the IPA’s and Pale Ales! 5 altogether…I ordered the Thirty-37 American Pale Ale, Coast to Coast IPA, Forgot Stevie Double IPA, Hoppy When Wet, and a Belgian-hopped IPA. My wife ordered the stout. Since the indoor seating was very full, we went out to the patio. It’s pretty impressive…a few tables sit on pavers and there were a few fire pits setup to keep us warm on the unseasonably cool May day. Every beer we sampled was very good. Even the higher ABV choices were smooth and very enjoyable. The Thirty-37 was particularly nice, fruity but not overly so.
Once we decided to move to food, which is something fairly new for the brewery, the menu looked fairly impressive for a startup small-bite type menu. We went with the English Pea and Mind Bruschetta (toasted slices of baguette rubbed with garlic and topped with a puree of fresh peas, house ricotta, and mint with balsamic tossed strawberries), stuffed eggplant (thinly sliced eggplant stuffed with vegetarian Italian sausage and ricotta cheese, served under marinara and topped with parmesan), the C.A.B (white cheddar, Granny Smith apples and house bacon, with an herbed mayo), and the Bison Short Rib (smoked bison short rib in a rhubarb BBQ sauce atop a roasted corn pudding).
The two smaller dishes were great. The bruschetta was wonderful…the mint and strawberries complimented the pea puree very well. It was refreshing and really went well with the Thirty-37 Pale Ale I had ordered. the eggplant was great as well…the vegetarian “sausage” was full of flavor, and the dish was served hot with a very nice marinara sauce that packed a bit of spice. I’d recommend both of these dishes, very well done, especially given the fact that they just started serving food.
The two larger dishes were solid but not spectacular. The server recommended the C.A.B as it was his favorite dish. The Granny Smith apples, chopped up kind of like a slaw, gave it a nice refreshing flavor that combined well with the cheese, bacon, and mayo. However, I felt like the small slider-sized buns almost overtook the taste a bit. A bit too much of a flour taste to them took away a bit from the otherwise very good flavor the sandwiches had. The Bison Short Rib was close…the rhubarb BBQ sauce was really good…I’ve never had that type of BBQ before, and it had a nice sweetness to it yet was still spicy. The corn pudding underneath was good as well. However, bison does not lend itself to short rib like cows do. Short rib is great because of the tenderness of it. Bison meat by its very nature is not as tender as beef since it is leaner. For me, that didn’t work. If this were beef short rib with the same sauce and corn pudding, it would have been great. It’s too bad, as this dish has potential.
Overall, I highly recommend Fifty West. The beer selection, atmosphere, and staff make it a great experience. The food, while a mixed bag, has potential to be really good. I can’t wait to go back, I just wish it were closer to my house.