Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint – Roanoke’s Newest Spot To Find (Plenty) Of Craft Beer.

Jack Brown's Beer & Burger JointI’m just not that interested in the shirt.  This is surprising, even to me, as it would seem right up my alley.  Anyone who sees me on a regular basis will likely tell you that my closet seems to have plenty of beer and beer establishment related propaganda, screen printed on various colors of 50/50 cotton blend.  But the embroidered, bowling style shirt that Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, Roanoke’s newest spot to check out craft beer, awards its regulars who, over time, drink 100 beers, just hasn’t enticed me to start recording the brews I’ve had there.  At least not yet.  At first, oddly enough, I wasn’t even interested in visiting Jack Brown’s for the beer.

Maybe it was because I was simply missing Ernie’s, the longtime downtown restaurant whose spot Jack Brown’s now occupies.  Not that Jack Brown’s had anything to do with the closing of Ernie’s, of course, although I’d like to point out that I’m still on the hunt for a good potato cake for breakfast.  My skepticism was likely based upon hearing that Jack Brown’s beer list, as lengthy as I heard it would be – over 100 in all – was almost entirely bottle based.  Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a good bottle beer selection, as long as what’s under the cap is fresh.  What I immediately envisioned from the Harrisonburg based company’s new location was an extremely static list.  Every visit would mean staring at the same assortment of beers, and let’s face it, after you’ve been a craft beer lover for a time, it becomes an unfortunate ritual when looking at many a beer list – had it, had it, had it, had it.  And while you might have favorites among those listed, and although those beers are surely worth revisiting from time to time, most craft fans are constantly on the search for something that they haven’t had.  It’s one of the most mind blowing and interesting facets of the American craft beer scene.  New beers fly out of bright tanks faster than you can keep up with these days, at such a rate to make one wonder if “flagship” will someday become an outdated term.

Jack BrownsBut when it comes to Jack Brown’s and their beer selection, luckily, I now know better.  I stopped in for the first time on a busy Saturday night, and yes, I think I made some crack about them seeing if they can make me a potato cake.  But after entering, Jack Brown’s had stolen my attention away from any thought of potato cakes, and more importantly, any possible disappointment of a static beer list.  Sure, there’s a printed beer list which likely will stay very much the same.  To its credit however, it boasts a widely varied selection.  There are something along the lines of 120 beers on it, from crafts to imports, from Tripels to Double IPAs, Porters to Imperial Reds, and most everything in between.  Still, it’s entirely possible to have covered many of these if you’ve been a craft beer fan for a while.  So it was the other list that really captured my attention.  On one wall hangs a chalkboard, on which were written the names of as many as ten or more beers, from seasonals to one-off releases, including several 22oz bottles perfect for sharing.  Not long after the first visit, Bear Republic’s Black IPA Black Racer was written in.  Recently, four different Belgian ales from Het Anker Brewery showed up, and on another visit, a Mikkeller IPA.  As it turns out, the chalkboard not only fits the extremely casual, low key, ‘bar hidden inside of a country shed feel’, but it’s practical as well, as the beers listed on it change quite often.  Occasionally, it seems that new bottle offerings make it into the coolers before they make it onto the board too – I’ve learned to take a look.  There are also the taps to consider – just four in all, which is hardly record setting.  But Jack Brown’s, like so many craft beer spots that clearly know that adaptability to changing tastes and the constant desire for craft beer fans to try something different from one beer to the next is of the highest importance, employ only small kegs, to give the beers a chance to change over quickly.  In any given week, you’re likely to find a completely different assortment of brews from Monday to Friday, and possibly another in between.  One example came just a couple weeks after opening, when the downtown spot held two different brewery tap takeovers just a couple days apart from each other.

The result of this unexpected commitment to varying their selection has been, well, several unexpected opportunities to try new beer.  Any anxious thoughts about an unchanging, static beer list have given way to evenings such as my fiancé and I had recently when we split that bottle of Black Racer, an excellent IPA of any kind, black or otherwise, or the night we shared the high abv Mikkeller IPA.  What more could most any craft beer fan want, after all, than the chance to try something new, especially when those chances come fairly often, as they do at Jack Brown’s.  For certain, the new downtown restaurant is a welcome addition to Roanoke’s growing list of places to check out craft beer.  As for the shirt, I’m contemplating recording my beers on my next visit – I wonder if I can play catch up.


~ by thebeerroad on May 21, 2013.

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