Restau­rant Re­view

Row­ley Farm­house Ales

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Molly Boyle

The equal strengths of the menu and the beer pro­gram make for a sorely needed lo­cally owned re­prieve from the con­struc­tion sna­fus, chain drive-thrus, and auto-body shops of Cer­ril­los Road.

“God love ya, have a beer,” my Irish great-grand­mother used to say to guests in her home, and for a wee respite from these un­cer­tain times, we might do well to heed her sug­ges­tion. In the in­ter­est of such es­capism, I headed to Row­ley Farm­house Ales, a cheery new brew­house just off Cer­ril­los Road. On a side street near Au­toZone and the Ar­ti­san art sup­ply store, Row­ley of­fers over 20 beers on tap and nearly as many by the bot­tle, in ad­di­tion to a small wine list and a well-ex­e­cuted — and well-priced — menu of strik­ingly good pub food.

The brain­child of brew­mas­ter John Row­ley and chef Jeff Ka­plan, the gas­tropub is rus­tic but well ap­pointed, fea­tur­ing a long, smooth bar made from re­claimed wood and a heated, tented beer-gar­den-style pa­tio with pic­nic ta­bles. Row­ley’s main fo­cus is on farm­house ales, or sour beer, which orig­i­nated in re­gions of Bel­gium and puts a lo­ca­vore spin on brew­ing meth­ods — along with sour­ing bac­te­ria, the wild ales con­tain mul­ti­ple yeast strains from their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. These el­e­ments are said to con­trib­ute to a more com­plex fla­vor and a lower al­co­hol con­tent, and a 10-ounce draft of the Row­ley Ab Ini­tio-Grape­fruit, a Ber­liner Weisse sour, proved tartly in­vig­o­rat­ing.

In ad­di­tion to one or two of Row­ley’s own cre­ations, the rest of the tap list is in­tel­li­gently cu­rated, con­tain­ing a good mix of ales, stouts, IPAs, pil­sners, and He­feweizens from brew­eries near and far. The of­fer­ings change sev­eral times a week, ac­cord­ing to the help­ful and quite knowl­edge­able wait­staff. On Wed­nes­days, they tap a spe­cial, rare keg. Re­cently, it was La­gu­ni­tas’ Born Yes­ter­day, a mel­lower IPA with fewer piney notes and more of a cit­rusy fin­ish (and one of only two kegs shipped to our state). We also sam­pled Up­s­lope’s re­fresh­ing Blood Or­ange Sai­son and Mar­ble’s com­plex spice-laden Pump­kin Noir. We were wowed by Founders’ Ken­tucky Break­fast Stout, a creamy Amer­i­can im­pe­rial with notes of dark choco­late, cof­fee, and caramel. Fur­ther re­search yields that some in­no­va­tors have used this as a base for a beer-ice-cream float, and I ap­plaud their ge­nius.

Even if you’re not a beer drinker, come for the thought­ful food, which is lo­cally sourced where pos­si­ble and heavy on com­fort. The crispy Korean chicken wings are dusted with a sprin­kling of peanuts, the fried chicken’s eggshell-thin bread­ing giv­ing way to ten­der, fla­vor­ful white meat. These were served along­side a red-pep­per-flecked cu­cum­ber salad. My com­pan­ion, who tends to make top-five lists, quickly marked these as a new con­tender for best wings in town.

The pou­tine is a bit more el­e­gant than usual, with house-cut shoe­string french fries bathed in a red-wine sauce un­der melted Old Wind­mill Dairy ched­dar cheese curds and hearty cubes of seared Four Daugh­ters flat-iron steak from Los Lu­nas. A bowl of milky New Eng­land clam chow­der in­cludes Manila clams in their shells, along with smoky ba­con chunks, tar­ragon, and corn. I may have wished for a bit more depth from the broth, but the soup’s in­gre­di­ents were stel­lar. A sim­ple and lovely farm­ers mar­ket salad fea­tures a warm piñon-stud­ded goat-cheese pil­low over a bed of fresh bal­samic-dressed greens, toma­toes, and beets.

Chicken and waf­fles are a high­light. Ka­plan knows his way around a fryer, and our plump, juicy breast boasted a lightly golden, nicely crunchy coat­ing. In­clud­ing a fluffy Bel­gian waf­fle driz­zled with house-made maple syrup in­fused with Santa Fe Spir­its’ Colkegan whiskey, the dish was a plea­sure from start to fin­ish. So too was the am­brosial mac ’n’ cheese, which presents a blend of Parme­san, blue cheese, and moz­zarella melted in a heap of el­bow mac­a­roni dot­ted with more of that thick-cut ba­con. The sir­loin burger, cooked slightly past the re­quested medium, none­the­less brought big fla­vor to a brioche bun with ba­con, ched­dar, and a faintly sweet caramelized onion mar­malade. The slightly cin­na­mony home­made ketchup made a boon com­pan­ion to a pile of nicely fried skinny onion rings.

The vibe at Row­ley is con­vivial and pleas­ant, with an em­pha­sis on fun — Ka­plan only semi-jok­ingly ad­vised us to steer clear of po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion a few nights af­ter the elec­tion — and on ed­u­cat­ing beer­cu­ri­ous cus­tomers. On both my vis­its, a con­sci­en­tious wait­staff in­formed me up-front what the kitchen had run out of and what the new draft se­lec­tions were; when I mar­veled at their ef­fi­ciency and breadth of knowl­edge, a server con­fided to me that there were “cheat sheets” posted around the es­tab­lish­ment for ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween staff and pa­trons.

The equal strengths of the menu and the beer pro­gram make for a sorely needed lo­cally owned re­prieve from the con­struc­tion sna­fus, chain drive-thrus, and auto-body shops of Cer­ril­los Road — and the pub’s am­ple lot of­fers a sen­si­ble al­ter­na­tive to hunt­ing for a park­ing spot else­where. On my last visit, I couldn’t stay away from cur­rent af­fairs al­to­gether when I spot­ted — and felt im­me­di­ately com­pelled to sam­ple — Row­ley’s new­est elixir on draft, a Rus­sian im­pe­rial stout called Grab ’Em by the Putin. Rich and brawny, it was smoother and went down more eas­ily than other stouts I’ve tried. Drain­ing its last restora­tive drops, I felt ready to face the world again.

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