#286: University of Beer

12PM, 1/8/2023

https://www.theuob.com/

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!

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AM25: Window Box Cafe

9AM -7/30/2022

https://www.windowboxcafe.com/

This morning I woke up unusually early for a Saturday and scrapped plans to do a post about ice cream spots (probably next week now) and instead headed down to Window Box Cafe after the gym for breakfast. This cute little cafe is located on Five Star Blvd, not too far from Costco. Although the open sign facing the street was on, when I pulled into the very empty parking lot I wondered if they really were open or not (looking at their posted hours now I see they run from 7:30a-2p every day). The doors were unlocked and I stepped into a quiet lobby, where I could see part of the dining room, empty, just beyond. Within 10 seconds a woman came around the corner, greeted me and grabbed a menu as she told me to pick any table. She would end up being not only my server and cashier but also the only worker I saw during my visit.

She offered coffee to get me started as I settled into my seat near the open patio entrance, which let in a nice cool breeze now and then. The menu is a pretty general breakfast menu, nothing too fancy aside from a handful of crepes and eggs Benedicts. The lunch side is equally standard with burgers, sandwiches and salads. I sipped my coffee while my eyes ping ponged around the menu trying to find the right item. With a packet of sugar and a little French vanilla creamer it was totally fine. I think It came hot but cooled off rapidly in it’s mug, likely due to my proximity to the open door.

I ended up deciding on the Corned Beef Hash & Eggs (2 eggs any style served over house made seasoned corned beef with country potatoes, bell peppers & onions)[$15]. Most of the items in this section of the menu come with a choice of hash browns, country potatoes or fruit. This dish effectively makes that choice for you, but you also get another selection of either toast or mini pancakes. That was an easy decision since I had considered ordering a short stack anyway.

My order took just about 10 minutes. By this time about a half dozen parties had arrived and the quiet atmosphere was replaced with the bustling kitchen and conversation that echoed around the room easily. The kitchen appeared to have a long window with some light folding shutters to block it off, but it let most of the noise through. I think it would get very noisy here when they are packed.

I had ordered my eggs over medium, which is always hit and miss nearly everywhere, and I think they did a great job on them which lifted my expectations a bit as I started buttering up my pancakes. The breeze made me work quickly through everything so I could enjoy it while it was hot. The pancakes were nice and fluffy. The maple syrup didn’t seem to be “the good stuff” but it was heated up which sort of made up for that a bit.

As for the main dish, I found myself pretty disappointed with it. While the potatoes, peppers, onions and eggs were all perfectly good, the main attraction of this dish really fell short. It was supremely dry, stringy and chewy. Nothing like that almost melt-in-your-mouth ultra tender corned beef, edges crisped up a bit on the griddle, most places serve up. The flavor was ok, just difficult to enjoy through the unpleasant texture.

Portion-wise this was just right, even with the mini pancakes. I ate every last bite and left satisfied without feeling like I needed a nap. The service was fast, efficient and polite. Ultimately though, I would rather brave the crowds at Four Sisters just a few blocks away, even if they might be slightly pricier. Which is a shame because I had heard good feedback about Window Box.

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AM24: New Glory Eatery & Taproom

11:30AM, 7/3/2022

https://www.newglorybeer.com/eatery/

Happy Independence Day! On Sunday I headed out to New Glory Eatery & Taproom, located way down Douglas towards the lake in an isolated little commercial development called Quarry Ponds Town Center. I’ve been to this center a few times before, notably for Sparkles Ice Cream (which looks to be closed now). I first became aware of New Glory when my trivia team and I checked out King Trivia at the South Sacramento location, which is strictly a brewery/taproom with no food served. The beer was solid and despite how out-of-the-way it was we went back a few times until they suddenly stopped hosting trivia.

Today I arrived a few minutes before opening and took the time to snap some drone shots, remembering when I flew out over the pond in back that the entire back end of this center has a patio. As I landed and packed up I could hear them open up and someone welcoming a small handful of people waiting out front. With that I headed in. The space is large and bright, with windows letting in lots of light from 3 sides. When you step in you are greeted by a bar to the right, which wraps around the corner into an area with more bar seating. To the left is the main dining room, flanked by the front end of the kitchen that runs all the way to the back where the patio doors are. I was greeted right away and opted to sit in the dining room (on my previous visit I sat at the bar).

(Taken from the back of the dining room, the patio is to the left)

I was hooked up with a few menus (food, specials, beer) and a water and quickly greeted by my server. I took some time going over both sides of the tap list, thinking a flight was sounding good. One thing I appreciated about New Glory in my brewery visits was not only that the beers were good, but that they had a nice variety of styles available. Most breweries tend to favor a style or two and that’s 90% of the menu. Here they have lagers, pale ales, IPAs (NE and WC), sours, stouts and porters.

I ended up going with a flight of the following:

  • DDH Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em – Northeastern DIPA 8.1% ABV – American Double IPA brewed with double the amount of a special blend of Pacific Northwest Hops and fermented with our expressive ale yeast for a huge blast of pineapple, mango, and sweet mandarin. (5oz, $3)
    • This is a solid NE IPA all around.
  • Holy Spumoni – Stout – Imperial / Double 13.3% ABV – This creamy, spumoni inspired beer is all about the layers. It was barrel-aged in bourbon barrels for 24 months to give it that extra bit of complexity. Layers of decadent chocolate and vanilla start the flavor journey, followed by nutty pistachio, and then finally, subtle sweet cherry. Saluti! (5oz, $4.50)
    • Wow, this is like dessert in a glass. It starts off strong that quickly gives way to sweetness that lingers long after the initial sip.
  • Yasss Cream (Extreme) – Imperial Creamsicle Sour 8.5% ABV – To put it quite frankly, we slayed this beer! It’s extreme for a reason. We packed our tanks to the brim with Cara Cara orange purée, milk sugar, and a whole-lotta vanilla. Yasss! This beer’s got that smooth creaminess and that juicy sour citrus punch. What’s not to love? It’s fabulous! (5oz, $3.25)
    • A sour that’s only mildly sour, instead leaning hard into that unmistakable creamy orange flavor. Very nice.
  • Mystery Chords – West Coast IPA 7% ABV – This beer’s got that classic New Glory flare. It’s like a riff you keep returning to: distinct, melodic, and catchy. Do you enjoy flavors of tropical fruit with a mild dank finish? Yep, this westy’s got all that thanks to Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic hops! It’s our jam! Coming in at 7% ABV. (5oz, $2.75)
    • A nice, mild and crisp IPA with light floral and tropical notes.

On to the food. Last time I was here I tried the Bacon & Brie burger (pictured just above), which was incredible. Today I gravitated towards the small plates and appetizers. When my server came back to see if I was ready to order food, I had a couple questions. 1. What was the current Tots creation (looks like it rotates each month). She pointed me to the little specials menu which listed the Sloppy Tots (sloppy Joe mix, bacon, cheddar cheese, crème fraîche, green onions)[$15]. And 2. Did she recommend the Fried Avocado Tacos (three soft corn tacos, beer battered avocados, citrus slaw, ubahdank-pickled jalapeños, chipotle crema, side of house-made tortilla chips and roasted salsa)[$17] or the Grilled Shrimp Tacos (three soft corn tacos, cajun shrimp, citrus slaw, avocado crema, chipotle crema, side of house-made tortilla chips and roasted salsa)[$17]. She thought for a moment and then suggested the shrimp. I went ahead and ordered both the tots and the shrimp tacos.

The tots arrived in a hot cast iron skillet, piled high with sloppy joe mix and plenty of melty cheese, which I found as far down as the first layer of tots. This was delicious. The tots were perfectly crisp. This was a gigantic portion, best to be shared but I did my best and put away about half of it. The skillet kept this nice and hot all the way to the end, including a break where I focused on the tacos until those were gone.

The tacos each consisted of two large shrimp over top the light slaw and topped with the vivid green avocado crema. The house-made chips with roasted salsa were awesome, thick and super crunchy. If I could easily get chips like this at the supermarket I’d be a much larger person. I got a bit of that cajun spice but the crema really smoothed out that flavor far into the background.

I’ll probably need to come back and try those avocado tacos sometime. They’ve caught my attention on both visits so far. I wonder if they are anything like the amazing avocado tacos from Austin’s Torchy’s. I spent the last part of my visit here picking at the tots and sipping on Holy Spumoni for dessert. I’m a fan, both of the brewery and of this excellent restaurant.

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