July 19, 2010

What is the good beer tipping point?

At what point do we declare that we've found a place, that we have found a good beer bar or craft friendly establishment? It's a pervasive thought for me because I am frequently asked to recommend places to enjoy fine beer.

Using the draft selection as a metric, the Duck and Decanter on Camelback has 2 craft beers out of the 6 handles, Firestone Walker Double Barrel and locally produced Four Peaks Kiltlifter. The remaining offerings span some of the major popular styles and are often staples of a upscale establishment. Hard to find fault with a Guinness tap or a Franziskaner Weiss. The Smithwick's might be one of the first to fall if I had a say in the matter as the lineup could use a local or regional beer with some hop character. The Stella is going to elicit some criticism from beer geeks that tend to the snobby side but it's hard to begrudge a top-seller.

The Duck, it should be mentioned, has a bottle cooler with no less than 150 varieties- two of which are local. It's a horrible ratio, and without getting into specifics, there were some pleasant surprises that we'll have to address some other time.

Overall, the Duck is a nice place to relax- it has a cellar atmosphere with wine bottles on the wall and a bright loft giving it a seemingly impossible airy and grotto-like experience, all in the same instance. They have signature sandwiches made to order with a wide variety of deli meats, cheeses, breads and fixing. (I opted for a Braunschweiger with Muenster on a Kaiser roll with Champagne mustard. Should I have gone with the Russian mustard?) Free wifi is a nice touch.

But let's not forget, that the Duck is a, "specialty food, beverage and retail pioneer" by their own admission. It's a place where I have seen people open their personal bottles of Madeira and recap them for storage in the cellar.  It's also a proponent and participant of the Local First Arizona non-profit representing local businesses.  Three Arizona beers from 2 breweries in a 150 plus catalog is abysmal and not what I would consider pioneer.

And so I am left without much of an answer to the original questions.  It's a great place to have lunch, to be sure, but it's certainly not (at least not yet) a local friendly craft beer bar. Craft beer acquainted would be a term that I might bandy and see if it catches on.

Let us know what you think.  Are there places that you know of like this with untapped potential we can discuss?

Duck & Decanter
1651 E Camelback Rd  
Phoenix, AZ 85016  (602) 274-5429

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