Beer Bistro

www.beerbistro.com

APPEARANCE

The blowing snow outside made our desire to come in the warm, social interior even greater. The colourful lights by the window created a posh lounge atmosphere - making a passer-by feel rather small and unimportant. The only signage as we passed the restaurant were subtle window decals. It wasn't until we figured out the entrance on the other side, that we realized they had put some serious effort behind their branding. There was a brand sculpture, which we believe should be a must for any brand looking to integrate with the environment - add to the public space with a bit of landmark. A statement like that, while significantly costlier than a flat sign, should be fully utilized to adding a sense of interactivity with those around. BeerBistro's brand sculpture lacked in this directions.

NOSE & SWIRL

Once inside, we were faced with a big open space with a bar overloaded by three large TVs. The hostess politely took our coats adding to the overall posh atmosphere we already expected. We walked towards the far end of the restaurant passing a curved wall along the separation lined with high tables. While the design elements felt like an attempt to infuse interesting details into an otherwise flat interior, it fell a bit short of bringing true value here. The space was spacious with large spherical lights, yet somehow missing visual intrigue. Beer Bistro was only half full when we settled in which didn't help create a worthwhile ambiance.

There were some scattered beer poster reproductions from the 30s on the walls, as well as three large banners of different beers poured in glasses by the window. They felt a bit outdated to us, but that could be part of the idea here. An interesting feature wall was separating the kitchen from the dining room - it considered of magnifying lenses suspended on wires. It felt a bit clunky, but added some character.

PALATE

We enjoyed how their menu of beers on draft was separated by the character of beer - quenching, crisp, appetizing, sociable, bold, satisfying, spicy and robust. Mon Cheri had a satisfying Ambrose stout from Quebec, always a delight - rich, silky with a hint of mocha. Too bad most bars and restaurants only offer Guinness, we think there should be more diverse stout selection everywhere.

We had their duck confit pizza with the recommended robust Maudite beer. This amber ale had aromas of spiced fruit and caramel notes. It had a strong character to offset the dish. The pizza came served as a flatbread, pre-cut and perfect for sharing. There was plenty of duck meat at the bottom, some caramelized onion, all was topped with a generous amount of goat cheese, potato slices and thyme. It is definitely a one-of-a-kind heavy dish with a unique blend of flavours. We also decided to try their Scotched Egg, but since they were out of it we went with their Belgian Fries. They came in a tall cone with a side of ketchup and mayo - both sauces home-made but we were not impressive. The ketchup did have a bit of a salsa, smokey hints to it. The fries were supposedly "blanched in beef & duck fat". Once again, nothing special in our palates. There were plenty in amount, nonetheless. The tall cone was impressive at first sight, but quite difficult to use once we ate half of the fries.

FINISH

We were not impressed, even though we had a few people recommend this place. Overall the ambiance felt dull, poorly lit and lacking edge.

Towards the end of our visit, there were significantly more patrons inside and each table was occupied. This is where Beer Bistro excelled and showed some of the true social ambiance with cheerful chatter carrying well across the vast open interior. Beer Bistro is meant to be enjoyed with a larger crowd, in our opinion, not too much of a tête-a-tête spot. It is also a definite must for beer enthusiasts in search of a new beer to taste.

Sassafraz

County General Riverside