By Tim Rodgers & Matt Goldstein
When Whiskey Goldmine has in my job description to drink beer, eat food, and watch football, I always make the “huge sacrifice” to depart from my family-time on Sunday. By the time I pried myself away from my weekend “to-do” list and trekked out to the Rock Bottom Brewery, Whiskey Goldmine founder Matt Goldstein was already seated in the bar area of the restaurant at the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. All of the 1 o’clock football games were wrapping up as we anticipated the Michael Vick experience and the high powered Philadelphia Eagles offense traveling to Chicago for a late afternoon NFC stint.
As soon as I sat down we noticed that the table was dirty and was not even wiped clean before they sat us down. A good start we thought. Fortunately, Matt had already ordered the craft beer sampler. Let’s get down to business I thought to myself. Our surly waitress began placing the beers on a pre-fabricated place-mat that had all of the beer descriptions under the spots where the glasses of beer would be placed. It only took her five times to get all of the names and styles of the beers correct not to mention they were out of order as we drank them. Nobody’s perfect, and if the beer is good enough, these previous sins could be forgiven.
As I took the first sip of the Barley Wine brew and looked up at our TV expecting Jay Cutler to throw an interception, we were immediately annoyed that the wrong NFL game was on. We politely asked the waitress to put on the FOX NFC “game of the week” on the TV in a Philadelphia restaurant to the Philadelphia team playing to what ended up being after 15 minutes to no avail. The server never came back to say she was trying to get the channel changed or to apologize that she couldn’t. We were just left wondering. We had to move to another table on our own with no help or mention by the staff. We had to move across the bar along with our 12 small glasses of beer, each in order, or not in order, to watch the Eagles get demolished. Great service. Enough with the dirty table and the poor service, let’s get down to what matters. The Beer:
Light and sweet for a barley wine. Great malt flavors though. It was somewhat flat and I thought the tap line tasted dirty to me.
The Pumpkin Ale:
It had the spice notes of a solid pumpkin ale but lacked any sort of neither “bite” nor an aftertaste. The spice notes were not enough to make up for the weak character and overall weak flavor.
Cask Condition IPA:
This was served at room temperature which was appropriate. It lacked the right amount of carbonation that we thought was needed, although the mouth feel was good and had solid citrus notes balanced with quality hop notes.
Brew Master IPA:
Perhaps the better of all the beers brewed here. A nice dry, well balanced with fruit, and selection of hoppiness.
Along with the Brew Master the Oatmeal Stout was up there with being the better of the bunch. Great mouth feel for a stout. Great rich flavors and malts. Get this with the lettuce wraps, an awesome pair!
For a Belgian style wheat, it had the appropriate balance of citrus and coriander spice notes. Spot on.
More like hop flavored beer than beer flavored with hops.
Hop Bomb IPA: Solid IPA. What you would expect from a strong pale ale.
The Lager: Well crafted lager. Good if you prefer the light American styles.
The Rock Bottom Brewery was awarded the “Best Large Brewpub of the year in 2008” at the Great American Beer Festival. I suppose it’s all relative because I believe Coors and Miller Lite win some of those awards for light beers some years too. I was expecting a little more out of their beers overall though. The food on the other hand was definitely better, especially for a chain restaurant. We started out with a small sampler of their main appetizers. The fried Mac & cheese was a solid selection that was served with a relish of chili peppers that gave a nice amount of heat and spice that went well with the hoppiness of the Hop Bomb IPA. The chicken lettuce wraps seemed to be a fusion of Asian and South American influence. But I think they nailed the chicken with a nice amount of cilantro. Pair these bad boys with the oatmeal stout. The flavor of the cilantro while washing it down with the stout was an awesome explosion of flavors. Very nice! Finally, we sampled the pan seared Ahi-Tuna which was served over the same bed of the chicken filling that we just had on the wraps. Perhaps they could have changed it up a bit, but for a chain restaurant the tuna was fresh enough and well executed on the searing.
Now for dinner… By this time it was clear that the absence of Asante Samuel turned the Eagles secondary into a heaping wedge of Swiss cheese, it was evident that the reincarnation of Joe Montana possessed the mind and body of Jay Cutler. But as I ordered another tall glass of the Brew Master IPA, the pain and misery of an Eagles loss began to fade fast. But even better and more importantly, I was about to eat the Bourbonzola Burger. 1/3 pound of ground beef smothered in a Jim Beam® Bourbon glaze, packed with the savory goodness of Gorgonzola cheese. The sweet and the savory was an excellent combo. Perfect and delicious hand made hamburger patties. It wouldn’t be watching football and drinking pints without eating fish & chips. The tempura battered cod was filleted nicely and the remoulade sauce was more of an enhanced tartar sauce, but good nonetheless. My only complaint would be the french-fries. I can get better shoestrings from Ore-Ida in the frozen food aisle then these tasteless things that accompanied the burger and the cod.
Overall, the Rock Bottom Brewery suffers from a corporate dislocated management structure that ails most chain restaurants. You had the “B-” wait staff on a Sunday afternoon that looked overtired from a busy Saturday night. The place didn’t have the cleanest appearance and also had an inattentive wait staff. As far as the crafting of the beers go…my assessment is that they try to be the “jack of all trades” yet master of none. If given a choice, of course I’d rather sample some freshly made beer than drinking Budweiser at TGIF Friday’s, but unfortunately for the Rock Bottom Brewery, the difference is minimal. Look, it could have been an off day for them like the Eagles secondary, but again, champions rise to the occasion like our March Madness tournament. Fortunately for Whiskey Goldmine, none of these beers will be making the cut. Cheers!