I read in a couple different spots that The Public House, the newest venture from Oil City Hospitality, was making some sort of effort beer wise (a reader of OnBeer.org commented that they had some Tree Brewing on their list, and Sharon mentioned Mack's stopover a few weeks ago). So, after a long Friday last week, we stopped in our way home.
There was a hockey game that evening, but even with seven televisions around the room (and those are just the ones I counted from my seat), the place wasn't overly busy, and in the end we found it a bit cold and impersonal. Serious effort has been made decor wise to make the place feel "homey". A floor to ceiling bookshelf is featured on the west wall, and opposite is a chalkboard that features daily 'specials' (ie. $4 shots and the like). But in the end it felt empty and more ready for late night crowds than anything else. We grabbed a table next to the giant bookshelf and checked out the beer menu.
After glancing over the list, we decided fairly quickly on Tree Brewing's Hop Head IPA, a relatively hoppy brew from Kelowna. Overall, we were certainly impressed that they made the effort to add Yellowhead Brewing and Aprikat to the menu, along with a couple well selected brews like Blanche de Chambly and Affligem. We were disappointed, however, that their "Feature Craft" was simply a beer pulled from the regular menu for weeknight price specials, which means no rotating tap(s) or bottles.
What we wish they would change, is the way the brews are listed. I don't think it's fair to call brews like Rolling Rock, Bud, Stella Artois and others "craft beer", because they're not. Many of the brands on The Public House's list are owned and brewed by Anheuser-Busch/InBev, which means there's little substance to most of them beyond marketing ploys. Just like AB-InBev's marketing, we found parts of the beer menu misleading, implying diversity where there isn't much to be found.
In a pinch, we would certainly return to The Public House. It's great to see a chain that focuses so much on night life including some flavourful beer on their list. That said, I'd love for them to move beyond big brews and feature more real craft beer, and maybe even make Yellowhead's or Alley Kat's brew(s) their house beer, instead of Bud and Bud Light. With Mercer Tavern opening in the spring (I'm clearly expecting/hoping for great things), here's hoping The Public House will step it up.
*I wanted to mention that I did a quick post-work stopover at Transcend a few weeks ago. While they may not have a giant selection, Transcend Jasper has a tidy group of well selected bottles and a couple taps that change fairly frequently. Last time I was there it was Brewmaster's super hoppy Roughneck IPA, and more recently they had Pike Brewing's roasty, bitter XXXXX Stout ($7.5 per pint). Best of all, they're open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays for evening enjoyment.
We've also hit up the Jasper Ave. Remedy a few times for casual, late evening drinks. They've got a good selection of bottles (I've been sticking with Brooklyn Brewery's Brown Ale for the most part) and they've just installed some taps. Plus, they're open until midnight seven days per week.