I want to love the new Charleston Brewing Company. But they're not making it easy.
The beer is good, better than the food. Service is hit or miss, but mostly lacking, sometimes woefully so. The ambiance is cold and stark, not warm and inviting. Prices are too high for the quality and experience currently delivered.
I'm still rooting for this place, truly I am. I've visited nearly 10 times to date, hoping each experience would be better.
But the brewpub has been a bit of a letdown, and I'm not alone in my disappointment. Negative comments are outnumbering supportive ones for all who have voiced their thoughts to me.
Fair or not, expectations leading up to Charleston Brewing Company's much-anticipated opening were high. So far, they're not being met.
On the bright side ...
Charleston finally has its own brewpub! As in, beer is brewing on Quarrier Street (underneath the Summers Street parking garage next to the old Cafe de Paris) right this very minute. This is a very big deal that is not lost on me. It's been a long time coming and I'm glad to see it.
As such, owner Ann Saville of Taylor Books fame deserves a little slack when it comes to folks passing judgment on her new place. She succeeded in accomplishing something many before her weren't able to see through.
And although the beer isn't as high quality as what's coming from the tanks of Bridge Brew Works in Fayetteville or Mountain State Brewing in Thomas, it's not bad. I especially appreciate the different styles offered, although if you find something you like, you'd better savor every sip. It may not be there during your next visit.
But here are a few you might find, in my order of preference:
* The Raj: The flagship, in my opinion, this is a hopped-up West Coast-style India Pale with flavors of pine, citrus and light malt. A real microbrew drinker's beer. (7.1 percent alcohol by volume)
* 70 Bob Ale: A Scottish-style ale featuring British malts and hops creating a subtle blend of caramel, chocolate and toasted yeast. A nice, easy-drinking beer you'll really dig. (4 percent alcohol)
* Quarrier Wheat: A "riff" on American wheat beers, this one blends light hops with a hint of fruit and malt for a wheat (slighter "thicker") texture, but with a lighter, refreshing taste. The wife and I disagree on this one. I'm a fan; she is not. (4.8 percent alcohol)
* Big Ugly Stout: A traditional, dry stout with notes of coffee, chocolate and toasted nuts. Think of it as Guinness Light, although with that thinner texture comes thinner flavor. (3.1 percent)
* 1919: A take on a pre-Prohibition-style cream ale, this is a really light-tasting beer with a deceptively high alcohol content compared to most others brewed on-site. (5.8 percent)
* Taylor Blonde: A light, malty German pilsner, this is the closest thing to "Bud Light" non-microbrew drinkers will find here. (5.1 percent)
Besides serving up beers brewed on site, Charleston Brewing Company also taps gems from Bridge Brew Works (like Black Diamond Lager, Long Point Lager, Krux Kolsh) and Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewery (like Commodore Perry IPA).