The Telegram (St. John's)
Brewdock rocks craft brew culinary scene
New beer-focused eatery joins east Duck
When it comes to food and drink trends, Newfoundland and Labrador isn’t exactly on pace with the rest of the country (I’ll lament about the delayed arrival of the fancy taco later), but when we lean in, gosh darn it if we don’t excel. The province’s veritable powder keg of craft beer erupted in 2017 with taps flowing in nearly 20 breweries — and with all those New England style IPAS came a whole lot of delicious food.
It was an evening in 2012 when I had my first sip of a craft IPA at a Halifax bar — and I nearly spit it out. What was this hopped-up swig? I was living in Nova Scotia when the craft beer industry blossomed and back then it basically became illegal to not like beer. Then, along came Stillwell beer bar with their cool vibes, pinball machines and Tokyo fries with Atari mayo. I was converted.
Bar Brewdock’s owners Craig Farewell and Steve Martin also found some sudsy inspiration in Stillwell’s support of the local beer community (and their delicious food) which has become a beacon to beer bars across the country with dozens of local beers on tap and a cannon of dishes that have become iconic in the city.
At the end of April, Brewdock put out their bright pink “24 flavours of craft beer” sign — a play on the iconic softserve ice cream sign found in every town across the province, at 85 Duckworth St. — the third recent addition to the newest mini-neighbourhood downtown affectionately called east Duck.
One of the things I love most about the rise of craft brewing in our province is the collaborative and downright convivial nature of the breweries. And the establishments of east Duck — Toslow, Bannerman Brewing and Bar Brewdock — have also jumped on the bon vivant bandwagon with their first collaboration beer: the Block Party ($8). A herby hibiscus saison brewed with French hops and conditioned with orange peel that my husband ordered the minute he sat at the bar that bright and sunny evening after work.
It was delicious. Those east Duck restaurants fly together.
I had eagerly waited for a few weeks to let the downtown eatery get settled in their new digs before going for dinner. My husband arrived first and was seated at the bar while we waited for a table. We were moved to high-stop bar seating, which faces out the giant windows to east Duck.
MODERN AND MOODY
The interior of Bar Brewdock is dark, modern and moody, a signature trademark of local design firm Carvel & Helm, with a concrete bar top and lots of black and grey wood accents on the first floor. Downstairs there is a whole other dining area. The vibe on the evening we dined was mellow, but it’s impossible to judge the vibe of a spot that opens during a global pandemic: strict protocols, masked servers and distanced tables don’t really allow for the loud, crowded brewpubs we all know and miss dearly.
At first, we seemed to fall through the cracks for service. There was a delay once we were seated as though the servers didn’t know who was taking responsibility for our table. Luckily we had some great beers to sip on.
The night I visited Bar Brewdock, there were 18 beers on tap, running from $8-$12. I tried a new-to-me beer from the Other Half Brewing Co. from Brooklyn, N.Y. (the only nonnewfoundland and Labrador beer on tap). The DDH Hop Monsoon with citra ($12) was a really refreshing double hopped IPA.
When our server finally came to
take our order, we asked them how many dishes would suit a person for dinner. They replied “two.” We immediately over-ordered, opting for five dishes between us two.
It’s easy (and possibly a copout) to pair beer with greasy, fatty and salty things. The nuances of pairing more complex dishes are harder — this is where chef Chris Mercer in the kitchen comes in very handy. The former Adelaide Oyster House chef brings years of recipe development and a delicious resume along with him.
SMALL PLATES, BIG FLAVOUR
The plates at Bar Brewdock were
quite small, but the flavours were enormous.
And the menu is also pretty accessible from an economical and gastronomical sense. Most options on the snack menu cost less than $10 and the dinner menu offers up plates for less than $20, even the gorgeous cod burger.
We started with the beer bread with whipped brown butter ($7) from the snack menu. The bread verged on being too grilled, but I could have eaten the browned butter like a small bowl of pudding. The kitchen is not afraid to take things right to the edge, and that pays dividends. My favourite dish of the evening was the pan roasted brussels sprouts ($14) with charred sprouts, deep brown fried onions, squash and queso fresco with a miso dressing.
Next came the burnt ends ($15), an American BBQ staple consisting of the fatty bits of brisket, with a thick, smoky and sweet sauce. This dish makes it easy to tell Stephen Quinton is also back in the kitchen flexing his BBQ skills.
For sharing purposes, I would have liked to see an even number of ginger pork dumplings ($16). My husband and I fought over the fifth plump dumpling made with house-made wrappers and tossed in a bacon and sesame dressing.
Lastly, we shared the spicy cod burger with fries ($18) with a delicious potato bun seasoned with turmeric that made it an appealing shade of yellow. The accompanying fries were thick yet crackly — you know the fries are good when even the really big fat ones are crispy.
For dessert, we shared the only option that evening: the peanut butter banana ($12), which was basically a sundae on steroids. Creamy peanut butter ice cream, crispy golden brown peanut butter cookies, chunks of extra-thick Reese peanut butter cups, whipped cream and bruleed banana. And of course, a cherry on top.
Currently, Bar Brewdock does not take reservations, but because this place seems more like a restaurant than a beer bar I think it would be in their best interest to have the downstairs be for reservations and the bar upstairs for walk-ins.
That said, with all those taps flowing and the kitchen continuously creating delicious food, Bar Brewdock will soon become a fixture of east Duck.