McKenzie Brewhouse over the years so when one (somewhat) recently opened in Devon (or Berwyn, or whatever), a visit became a virtual inevitability. We're pleased to say that the visit was totally worthwhile, and I only hope that other people begin to agree so that this maker of good brews can remain in my area for a decent stretch of time.
We visited on a Sunday for lunch. The place was absolutely beautiful and supremely spacious. We were there with our young son so we were not going to be sitting at the bar, but a quick drive-by marked it as a fine place to sit and have a beer. From our table, we were able to view their brewing area. While there was no one at work on brewing, it was a nice touch to have such a transparent view of the operating systems and I imagine it would be fun to watch over a dinner during a busier time. And I wonder if that is a concern? True, we were there on a Sunday around noon in the summertime. When people think brunch, a brewery/restaurant probably isn't the first place they think of. But the lack of people certainly did have me worried that business may not be picking up as quick as ownership might like. Hopefully, these concerns are totally unwarranted.
Now to the beverages. I was the only person of our party to drink beer (friends went with Mimosa and Bloody Mary, respectively, while the wife went with a water, and the kid inexplicably chose chocolate milk) so I figured I would go all out. After downing a very decent, citrus-laced Application IPA, I called for a sampler. Along with the IPA, it featured a Saison, an American Pale Ale, a Belgian Wheat, a Belgian Pale Ale, a light beer, a stout, and a dreaded barleywine. As we were there to have lunch with our friends, I didn't take a ton of notes, but I do have a memory of which ones shined and which ones didn't. I've already mentioned that the IPA was agreeable, but I also found that the establishment excelled in the area of the Belgians. Both the Belgian Wheat and the Belgian Pale Ale were highlights. The unquestioned best was the Saison Vautour Farmhouse Ale. It absolutely soared with a "dry hoppiness" and a "significant addition of malted rye." (Uh....sorry about the quotes. I'm writing this write off of my beer stained souvenir sampler mat. I also found (and this is a shocker, because I despise the stuff) the barleywine to be quite tasty. Flavors were a lot more subtle than I've ever experienced in a barleywine. I almost think regular barleywine drinkers (if such creatures exist) might think it a little weak. But for someone like me, the thing was perfect.
In the area of duds, I have to touch on McKenzie Light. I understand the need to pander to the cretin who walks off the street and enjoys the refreshing taste of horse piss upon their lips, but this just wasn't good. It had a bitter, vinegary mouthfeel that I've never even experienced in a Coors Light forced into my hands at a frat house party. And while it is easy to dismiss this as a fine brewer not having his heart in the beverage for the common people, I will say that back in the day Rock Bottom (a similar sort of establishment in King of Prussia) made a very good light beer called Lumpy Dog Light. I would often get it despite its lack of heft due to its crisp, refreshing nature. Moral of the story: If you are not into making the light beer, just get it off the menu and force the beer amateur to try something new.
While I am not a fan of stouts, I also have to call bull on McKenzie's Oatmeal Stout. When you consider that the sampler mat describes the potion as "silky and smooth," it will come as some surprise when your first sip gives you the same off-putting, sour notes as the Light. Maybe I just got a bad batch, but if I was a big stout supporter and I bought a pint (and I had any courage or love of confrontation, of which I have none of either), I would ask for a refund.
Aside from the two beers I described, I would give McKenzie's a very nice B grade for their beers. But what of their food? Would its focus on the brews leave the food as a mere afterthought? Absolutely not. I can not vouch for their omelettes and such because I took the brunch road less traveled. That is right: I saw meatloaf on the menu and pounced. Many times, I find that people make a fundamental mistake when serving the dish. They simply don't give you enough. Look, if I am ordering meatloaf at noon it means that I am a hearty eater...and probably a bit of a freak. I want a finely cooked piece of meat, yes. But I also want it big. And McKenzie delivered with a sizeable portion and plenty of rich, flavorful gravy (not enough gravy being another common meatloaf faux pas). With my meal, I had the choice of gravy or BBQ sauce and the piece comes with onion rings and field greens (they quite nicely allowed me to substitute fries for onion rings because I quite simply can't think of something less appetizing to me than a big-ass fried onion). It was the sort of dish that, upon future visits to the establishment, will force me into a form of menu paralysis. You know, when you are looking at the all of the menu options, but your eyes keep moving back to the meatloaf subconciously. It was that good.
It should also be said that the service at McKenzie's was spectacular. As I said, our server did not have a lot of customers to take her attention away from us, but aside from being attentive, she was also courteous, friendly, knowledgeable about the beer, and actively engaging of our young one, making jokes and bringing him some materials to play with sans an eager plea from his parents.
All in all, McKenzie Brew House offers a very quality experience with good beer, delicious food, and a warm, inviting atmosphere in which to consume both. Hopefully, the customers are flocking while I am looking the other way. It would be nice to keep these guys in the neighborhood.
McKenzie Brew House
324 West Swedesford Road
Berwyn, PA 19312
The Pizza Project
Just a nibble: http://twitter.com/ThePizzaProject
Single slice: http://www.facebook.com/ThePizzaProject
The full pie: http://thepizzaproject.blogspot.com/