These days, it seems like no matter how fledging a brewery, you can count on it dedicating a substantial portion of its square footage to a tasting room. I know that's hardly a revelation, but that hasn't always been the case. In our not-too-distant past, tastings were more commonly held adjacent to a makeshift cooler in whatever corner of the brewery was free of tubing and sacks of grain. Modern tasting rooms are practically cathedrals to beer by comparison, providing devotees a welcoming space for worship.
What's more, these tasting rooms are often as accommodating as they are roomy. It's not just a growler-filling station; it's the place to watch the sportsball match, grab some lunch and have a pint with your mini-me and dachshund in tow. And as much as I appreciate all those options, sometimes all I want is a cold craft beer served at the dark end of the bar. When that's your pleasure, Poor House Brewing (4494 30th St. in North Park) is your place.
Poor House Brewing has a distinctly dive-bar feel, though only in the most affectionate sense of the term. It's a dimly lit but inviting space where great music overhead nudges conversation to be slightly louder and livelier. The bar eats up 60 percent of the square footage (at least until they fully expand into the neighboring suite), and essentially the only decorations adorning the walls—other than drink-special signage—is a crowd-sourced tapestry of customized dollar bills. It's not a showpiece for the brewery; it's a place for people to focus on beer and each other.
This isn't to suggest that Poor House Brewing eschews what other tasting rooms allow. You can still bring your pup and enjoy the occasional game on TV. Food trucks and events, like the all-day craft-brew-and-sushi pairing on April 12, will still dot their calendar. I'm just saying that Poor House isn't where I'd host my corporate team-building event, and I appreciate that.
There's usually about 10 or 11 beers on tap, including Poor House's infamous 18.5-percent-ABV "Panty Dropper." With its warming aroma of gingerbread and boozy kick, it's sort of a spiritual successor to Fireball Whiskey (which is appropriate, given the timeless dive-bar tradition of providing cheap shots). It's syrupy and sweet, but there's just enough pine-hop presence to prevent it from emulating cough syrup. It's a monster, but one you'll happily sip rather than shoot with a wince.
Many of brewery's lighter beers, such as the Poor House Belgian Ale and 'Wit'ney Witbier, favor a citrus-forward palate that felt a little redundant back to back. That's not to say I didn't enjoy them, but, in retrospect, I would have been happier inserting the Poor House American Strong Ale between them. My favorite was probably the Clusterfukk IIPA, a dank and delicious quaff with a tenacious grassy finish.
Poor House Brewing may feel a little odd compared with glossier tasting rooms, but in everything from its solid catalog of craft brews to the simple comfort of complimentary bowls of peanuts, it knows what it's about.