For most music lovers, any old beer will do at a concert or club show as long as the music is good. At, say, Verizon Theatre or whatever they're calling it these days, a big plastic cup or two full of American macro-lager is all it takes to get in the mood for your favorite band, while a few Lone Stars straight from the can are a fine complement to a rock show at the Double-Wide or some other music dive.
But lately some music venues are branching out with craft and quality import beers, while on the other hand some beer-friendly bars are trying out the addition of live music--both to the delight of beer-loving music fans. Offering the best of the best of both worlds is Hailey's in Denton, which not only books some of the most exciting indie-rock shows in North Texas and has an above-average sound system, but also offers more than 60 craft and import beers on an astounding tap wall that includes Southern Star Buried Hatchet Stout, Duvel, Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and many other top-notch brews. That selection proved a deciding factor at least once earlier this year during my NX35 experience when choosing between two conflicting shows. Other venues with above-average selections include the Kessler Theater (which has added Southern Star's Bombshell Blonde and a few other good beers to its selection), the Granada Theater (Sierra Nevada and Firemans #4) and even the Double-Wide, which offers Franconia's wheat and fantastic dunkel along with a few other nice choices including (natch) Boulevard's Single-Wide IPA.
Last night, I paid my first visit to Renfield's Corner, at 2603 Routh St. in Uptown, to catch some of RTB2's set as well as check out the place's beer selection. It's no Hailey's, but I found quite a bit to appreciate about the place.
Renfield's Corner is the latest endeavor from Feargal McKinney & company, joining the group's beer-focused Old Monk, BlackFriar and Idle Rich pubs (Now if they'd just open a pub somewhere other than Uptown or Knox-Henderson. Oak Cliff, perhaps?). The place is less gastro-, more pub, than the group's other gastro-pubs, offering only sandwiches and bar snacks in the way of food, and with more of a rowdy American bar feel--particularly during RTB2's raucous, loud loud loud set.
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The eight-strong draft selection was mostly underwhelming, but offered a couple of nice options--Franconia Hefeweizen and Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA along with the requisite Guinness. Also, Saint Arnold's Elissa IPA was available from the cask. Having never tried Elissa from the cask, I started with a pint of that. It was great, mostly dry but with a hint of sweetness and a nice British-style malt presence. And while it had the greatly subdued carbonation expected from a cask-conditioned brew, the hops seemed more floral and bright than I remember from the bottled version.
After that, I examined the far more impressive selection of bottled brews, which included some 60 beers and ciders ranging from the Hophead-approved Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA to Delerium Tremens with a few pedestrian lager choices in the mix to appease the generic Uptown bro. I went with a completely unfamiliar IPA, Left Hand's 400 Pound Monkey, an English-style IPA brewed stateside in Colorado. This was one of those rare beers that managed to surprise me. As it was described as a pale ale (without the "India") on the menu and it was too dark to read the bottle's label, I expected a big citrusy hop bomb. But it proved to have an earthy, grassy taste with a lightly floral hop nose and a wonderful bracing bitter finish, all balanced with a bready maltiness reminiscent of a good ESB style. It grew on me from an intitial WTF reaction to a vow to try it again.
As for the music, it's not an ideal space for a music venue but is acceptable for a place that offers live shows just once a week. The stage is just a carpeted stretch of floor raised perhaps a foot, with the audience sitting at tables or leaning against the row of '80s arcade games. It'd probably be great for quiet singer-songwriter fare, but with RTB2's raw sonic attack it got awfully loud in the confined, undampened space. Fortunately, seats near the end of the bar offered a passable view of the show and enough distance that my ears weren't ringing as I tried to go to sleep.
Want some tunes with your Belgian quad or Russian imperial stout? All four of the sister pubs are offering music Sunday as part of their Memorial Day festivities. RTB2 plays at 9 p.m. at Old Monk, Dove Hunter 9 p.m. at BlackFriar Pub, Petty Theft at 9 p.m. at the Idle Rich and DJ Dave M spins starting at 9:30 p.m. at Renfield's Corner. Meanwhile, the Libertine Bar, another great beer bar that occasionally offers live music, is having Somebody's Darling at 9 p.m. the same day at its Memorial Day Rock Out.