Nothing against all you bars with the same ol' beers on tap. There's something to be said for walking into the neighborhood pub and ordering the same cool pint you sipped last week, and the week before. But for the real beer enthusiast, the appreciator, the experimenter, the one who tortures his or her family with stinky hops in some basement corner doctoring his own brew, sometimes the usual suspects aren't enough.
Here are just a few brewpub must-stops in Rochester. The common factor is a wide variety of beers, many hand-crafted, some locally brewed, some from the far reaches of the globe, and some as many as 10 years old. Your tastebuds won't be disappointed at any of these local establishments.
California Brew Haus
402 W Ridge Rd, 621-1480
The bartenders at the California Brew Haus claim that it serves - or has served - more than 370 different brands of beer. These include the 16 on tap, ranging from Dos Equis to Guinness, and more than 190 types of bottled beer from the United States, England, the Philippines, the former Czech Republic, and other countries. The kitchen stays open 'til 1 a.m. so you can soak up the beer with a snack. Live bands - both local and national - often play here.
1142 Mt. Hope Avenue, 271-4105 | 300 Paddy Creek Circle, 621-1620 | 3010 South Winton Road, 339-3010
Despite the name, The Distillery no longer brews its own beer, but instead offers a wide variety of domestic, specialty, and import brews. These range from the typical Blue, Molson, and Sam Adams choices to Blue Moon, Ithaca Apricot Wheat, and Sea Dog Wild Blueberry. Order a growler-to-go with your takeout order, and your favorite draft beer can come home with you. If you choose to sit at the bar or eat in the restaurant, there are daily specials and lots of TV screens for game watching.
MacGregor's Grill & Tap Room
607 Coldwater Road, 247-7860 | 1129 Empire Boulevard, 288-8630 | 300 Jefferson Road, 427-8410 | 7408 Pittsford-Palmyra Road, 425-7260
MacGregor's also has multiple area locations, and besides offering what seems like hundreds of beers - actually 70+ on tap, and many more in bottles - it also fills and refills growlers and offers pitcher specials. The atmosphere is sports-oriented, the bar is huge, and the place is also a full-scale restaurant with the bonus of pool tables, darts, patios, wifi, and more.
The Old Toad
277 Alexander Street, 232-2626
The British-inspired and -staffed Old Toad claims to be the first pub in the United States to offer "real ales." Real ale is brewed from natural ingredients that continue to brew in the cask, fermenting until the beer is poured into a drinking glass. You'll find four ever-changing real ale draught lines here (which recently included Middle Ages Black Heart Stout, among others), as well as nine permanent draught lines, and five "guest draught" lines with beers like Ommegang 3 Philosophers, Wells Banana Bread Ale, Rogue Mocha Porter, and MahrsUngespundet. In the "cream flow" slot, beer is dispensed using nitrogen, producing a thick, creamy head; Youngs Double Chocolate Stout was recently on offer there. There's also a full list of Belgian ales, Scotch ales, stouts, fruit beers, with beers like ciders, and more. The pub also recently installed a vintage beer fridge that stores rare and hard-to-find beers up to 10 years in age.
Rohrbach Brewing Company
3859 Buffalo Road, 594-9800
Rohrbach's brews handcrafted ales and lagers, and supplies more than 100 local bars, stores, and restaurants with the stuff, as well as its own bar and restaurant. Some of the brewery's specialties include a seasonal ale made with chocolate malt and cherries, an "all-malted barley, American-style lager," and a smooth and dark "Sam Patch Porter." Rohrbach's hosts monthly food and beer pairings (check for dates and times at rohrbachs.com) as well as special events and themed menus. Brewery tours and tastings are available by appointment. The brewery also hosts the Flour City Brewer's Fest every August.
Tap & Mallet
381 Gregory Street, 473-0503
Tap & Mallet is a recent addition to the local brewpub scene. It opened in 2007 and has 30 beers on tap - these change nightly - as well as more than 70 kinds of bottled beer. Tap & Mallet lets you sample the beer before you go and do something silly like order a pint you won't like. The bar also has a full menu that ranges from simple sandwiches to bangers and mash, and occasionally hosts special dinners that pair selected beers with a hand-picked menu.
One of the beers offered at Tap comes from Custom Brewcrafters (93 Paper Mill Street, Honeoye Falls, 624-4386), which also brews up specialty beers for dozens of other local bars. It works closely with bar owners to craft brews that reflect- often in name as well as taste-the feel of the bar. Though the brewery itself doesn't have a bar onsite, it's worth the 20-minute trip south of Rochester to tour the facility (Saturday and Sunday at 1, 2, 3, and 4 p.m. or weekdays by appointment), sample the featured beers (Monday-Thursday 5-8 p.m., Friday 1-8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 12:30-5 p.m.), or purchase a growler to take home. Kegs are also available.