Tuesday, February 7, 2012
New West Village nanobrewery Union Bear impresses beer snobs
Beer aficionado evaluates impressive collection of taps.
DALLAS Union Bear opened quietly last week in West Village, and already looks like it will be one of the most interesting new beer concepts in Dallas.
The restaurant-bar comes from Matt Spillers of Eno's Pizza Tavern and Oddfellows, and has a "nanobrewery" component which will allow patrons to brew their own beer -- giving it a unique profile that's halfway between a bar and a brewery. No one else in Dallas is doing that.
It also has a noticeably unpretentious vibe which you might not expect from its West Village address.
Located directly across from the Magnolia Theater, next to Taco Diner, it's in the two-story space that was once Nikita. There's a bar upstairs, but the main area in business right now is downstairs. That's where the restaurant is, but there is a bar area downstairs, too.
Once the upstairs is finished, the exact same drafts will be available at both bars, upstairs and down -- coincidentally similar to how Eno's is set up.
There are 40 taps, and Pabst Blue Ribbon was the only "macro" beer on the entire list. It boasted an exceptional diversity in styles -- ranging from lighter lagers, sessionable blondes and brown ales, IPA, wheat, sour, stouts, and a variety of Belgian styles. There was a wide spread of local- and nationally-available taps.
They even had some seasonals that were thought to be out of season like Ten Fidy, as well as fresher spring seasonals, like Sierra Nevada, Ruthless Rye, and the just-released New Belgium Dig (whose flavors were punchy and zingy because of the special hop varietals they use).
One tap handle will eventually be dedicated for what they brew on-site; that beer won't be ready for at least two months. Their bottle selection also includes larger format (20+ ounce) beers that are meant for sharing.
One very exciting beer they've acquired is a keg of the rare Real Ale WT3F? wild ale. It's a sour beer that's the Devil's Backbone Tripel infected with brettanomyces, a yeast that's native to Belgium. This is a beer that's extremely difficult to get, unless you actually go to Real Ale's brewery near Austin. Union Bear has a keg they'll be serving at their grand opening event.
The staff was well-versed about beer; Jeff Fryman, formerly beer guy at The Common Table, is the manager.
The menu includes pizzas, flatbreads, and a couple shareable small appetizers. I tried the rosemary-and-thyme popcorn chicken and Belgium frites. The food came out in little boats, similar to what you'd get with a food truck, which matched the low-key feel of the place.
I really liked the vibe. It felt comparable to other top-notch beer bars outside of Dallas: dimly lit and not too loud, so you could have good conversation. I was pleasantly surprised by its blend of extremely casual without being pretentious -- not what I expected from West Village.
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