Hope no one blew away with the wind last night, it was wild! I was able to visit University of Beer before the storm hit for lunch while the weather was quite nice. University of Beer is located on Eureka at Lead Hill in the old Chili’s/Broderick location. We’ve had one of these nearby for a while over by the Blue Oak theaters. I recall when I first saw it I figured it was a huge chain that was just now making its way into our area. To my surprise it turned out to be a relatively small local chain. They have just six locations, the furthest out being Davis and Vacaville.
I’ve been to the Rocklin location a couple times when they were new there, and once to the Sacramento location for trivia. This was my first visit to Roseville’s UoB. One of the reasons I thought this was a chain was the sheer amount of money and effort that clearly goes into building one of these restaurants. Tons of decoration greet you before you have even stepped inside, intricate sculptures formed into beer cans and benches line the pathway to the front door. Inside the decoration fills most flat wall spaces. Hundreds of tap handles are mounted to the walls and ceilings along with sliced up kegs of various sizes. Light fixtures around the bar are made from sliced open beer and liquor bottles. Of all of this, the decoration that I appreciated the most was the little signpost showing all our local breweries. It’s a nice little reminder that this wasn’t a huge corporation that sent over a large container of their standard fixtures to be installed in store #978.
Anyway, I arrived right at noon, and grabbed a seat at the bar and started looking through the 40 or so beers they had on tap. They’ve got a nice mix of styles – IPAs, Stouts, Sours, Lagers, Pilsners, Wheats, Ales, Ciders and Belgians – something for everyone. I started off with the biggest IPA I could find: Juice Sr. from Great Notion, a hazy triple IPA that lives up to its name. This one ranks up there with some of my all time favorite IPAs, bursting with sweet tropical and citrus flavors that hide the sneaky 10.5% ABV. [$10 Goblet, I assume this is about 8oz]. I’m noticing now that they show two prices for all beers. The smaller price might be for flights. I initially thought it was a discounted price for members of their “Mug Club”, but the club page doesn’t say anything about a discount on individual orders, only upgrade specials on pints and some other unrelated benefits. Some clarification on the menu about what these two prices mean would be useful.
Moving on to the food, I hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours and I was ready to get stuffed. Before heading over I had picked out a monster burger and some jazzed up fries to go with it. This was the Beer-Battered Burger (beef patty deep-fried in craft beer-batter, Swiss cheese, citrus jalapeño aioli, topped with waffle fries and spicy ranch)[$20]. I’ve tried a lot of deep-fried things over the years but I think this might be the first burger. I upgraded the standard waffle fries to their Drunken Pig Fries for $5 (crispy waffle fries, beer-braised pulled pork, spicy jalapeño salsa, spicy ranch, melted cheese, sour cream, bacon, and cilantro).
My order took about 14 minutes to prepare and I ordered my second beer just before it arrived. This time I went with Curieux from Allagash, a bourbon barrel-aged Belgian Tripel ($10 Goblet). This was a much lighter beer than the IPA, a bit of a honey sweetness with a dry finish. In hindsight I think I should have ordered these the other way around to have Juice Sr. with the burger.
The upgraded fries were a great choice. The waffle fries were super crisp and stayed that way til the end even with all the toppings. The spicy ranch, bacon and pulled pork all stood out the most in this. The pork was super tender and flavorful. I see they offer this pork in taco and slider options as well.
Getting to the burger, this thing was hefty. The battered patty was golden brown and lent a ton of crispy, crunchy texture to every bite. It sat atop a nice big green leaf of lettuce and hid a couple slices of ripe tomato underneath. Swiss cheese was melted to the top of the patty and held a couple more waffle fries in place nicely. The fries, in turn, held onto the spicy ranch with their many nooks and crannies. This is a wild swing of a burger creation and I think it mostly succeeds. Perhaps the only change I would make is to swap out those fries with some fresh onions and avocado, but that’s partially because I already had waffle fries as a side. It was certainly filling and I cleaned the entire plate up and left very satisfied, again not eating anything for the rest of the day ;).
UoB is such a strange place because it’s so hard not to think of it as a gigantic chain with its meticulous branding and high level of polish. The service was on point throughout my visit. When a patron behind me spilled a drink, two employees sprang into action right away. And when two customers at the bar headed out, there were three staff members descending on the spot to clean up almost before they were out the door. I hope they do well here. I remember being absolutely shocked that Broderick didn’t make it in this location. It’s certainly not a high foot traffic area since it’s the only thing that’s not an office on this block. Maybe that nice big blue sign out front will help entice those driving by to check it out!