Beer connoisseurs Peter Duncan, who resides in La Cañada, and Roy Leisure, who works in town, searched for the best local beer hole. Here’s what they found.
At La Cañada’s Le Petit Vendome, Peter Duncan and I were eyeballing the latest bottled ales, lagers and stouts in the cold case and actually started a thought. And as this thought fermented within us we reached beyond the id and existentialism to formulate this chilling question: Where can you get a high-quality beer on tap in this town?
As it turns out, practically nowhere. Very few of the town’s restaurants have tapped beer and of those most are represented by the ‘macro-breweries’, Budweiser, Miller and Coors.
They may be light or dark or caloric or not but they’ll always be very light lagers or borderline pilsner beers. American microbrews and those foreign beers fail to show up on tap and rarely in bottle form.
Now, to be fair, restaurants and bars can’t possibly devote enough space to satisfy the wine aficionados, much less the beer lovers. By the time a manager completes the Rubik’s cube process of pairing this month’s food and wine list who has time for the beer list and a few hundred microbrews?
We can’t disagree with the decision to support the bottom line with the support of the macro-breweries. Their pale lager beers are high profit centers with incredible consistency and uniformity. The trade-offs are low-grade, high-volume beers with very little flavor.
The average American’s taste for these light lagers developed during the early part of the 20th century due to a lack of options. Prohibition put almost all of the small and large breweries out of business in the 1920s and any resurgence in the industry after legalization in the early 1930s was further stymied by a lack of available ingredients during World War II.
Some sort of profit was required to survive so they designed beers requiring the bare essentials of ingredients. .
For years these borderline pilsners became the patriotic preference for the majority of Americans and, after all, would it make any sense to drink German or eastern European beer after that war? In the 21st century this is not the mindset of the x, y and z generations, the global business traveler or the sophisticated consumer. It certainly doesn’t make sense in an environment where we could use the support of foreign tourist dollars.
The case for investigating the availability of atypical beer both on tap and in bottled form took us to three of the local eateries: Taylor’s Steak House, Dish, and Magpie’s Grill. All have full bars.
Taylor’s sports a beautiful bar with quite a bit of energy but absolutely no beer handles. Their beer list seems to have been created by ‘Budmilloors’ with a few exotics including Stella Artois, Heineken, Corona and Sierra Nevada.
Dish has a large bar area filled with tables catering to customers ordering food. There are no beers on tap. Bottled selections are comprised of the usual Bud, Miller and Coors varieties along with a fairly wide choice of premium bottled beers the majority of which are produced on American soil.
Non-domestic beer includes Paulaner Hefe-Weizen from Germany and Newcastle from England.
A few of the domestic micro-brew choices include Victory Prima Pils, Fat Tire and Firestone Walker.
According to the waitress Dish’s interests lie in marketing itself as a family restaurant. It doesn’t want to present itself as a bar. We can’t fault that position but if that’s the case why do they offer eight different kinds of martinis?
Also along Foothill lies Magpie’s Grill. There we were quite surprised by not only a large variety of foreign and domestic beer but the availability of at least six beers on tap.
These included Guinness, Heineken, and Budweiser, Coors light, Newcastle and a German hefeweissen. The bottled beers included the usual macro-brewery brands, seven types of Mexican beer, Bass Pale Ale (now owned by InBev), and Amstel Light a Heineken brand.
We were intrigued by Magpie’s efforts to offer an ever- changing selection of beers. They regularly change out one of the taps on a monthly basis to introduce a new beer.
Our original plan of action was to provide the readers with a survey describing the state of affairs of the local beers on tap in La Cañada. Given that only one bar with tapped beers doth never a survey make, we shall leave that for another day.
In the meantime we shall continue to join our old and new friends at the Vendome beer tastings.
We’ll continue our hunt for great beer on tap by moving beyond the borders of La Cañada.
While we’re away try a few websites to understand what we’re talking about.
For beer varieties and reviews try beeradvocate.com. History and a description of beer types and styles can be found at Wikipedia. And if you want to know why your son’s college grade point average is slipping or he’s got a case of the H1NI check out beerpong.com.
Until next time — Cheers
Infobox To attend a beer tasting, browse online at lepetitvendome.com or contact Lynn or Ray at (818) 952-4084.