Regardless of what you think about the style of the College Town development, it has become the immediate dining and social hub for the University of Rochester crowd. Most of the bases are covered within the College Town confines, including a selection of chain establishments, a stylish Italian restaurant, and the only grocery store in the vicinity. The whole development is a bit on the antiseptic side for my tastes, but the access to all of these things is a definite positive for the area.
Right at the tail end of the College Town strip on Mt. Hope Avenue is The Beer Market, where I recently spent some time diving into an expansive beer selection. I enjoyed searching through the double sided page of tap listings to find some gems among the 50 beers offered at any given time. I've had a thing for double IPAs over the past year and I was delighted by the tropical fruit notes and overall balance from Grimm Artisanal Ales' Afterimage. Not only was this a fantastic beer, but the next time I stopped in, it was already off the tap list. On the surface, this might sound like a bad thing, but being able to have high demand for interesting, limited release beers keeps things fresh and allows for more diverse selections. If you're serious about beer, The Beer Market should be a regular stop.
The service at the bar was consistently friendly and helpful, especially when I had issues picking from the list. With a category or style in mind, samples were freely offered to try and narrow down the choices. After the relatively heavy Afterimage, I was looking for something lighter but still interesting. A Keebarlin' Pale Ale from Anderson Valley fit the bill nicely with a complex middle and a light abv. The Beer Market also had a strong selection of local brews, including a refreshing peach sour from Swiftwater Brewing just down the street, and the limited edition Salted Caramel Chocolate Porter from Genesee.
In addition to the draft selection that includes three nitro lines (Guinness included), The Beer Market also has fridge space full of bottles that well outnumber the tap list. If you're feeling indecisive you can also go for flights, but be aware that you're paying half the price of a whole beer for each smallish glass.
The food at The Beer Market isn't much more than an afterthought since the focus is clearly on the beer selection. That's not to say that some of the food wasn't tasty, but this is not the restaurant you come to for dishes made from scratch in house. Sometimes, you just get food because you're drinking and it doesn't have to be high class to hit the spot. The Barbarian pretzel ($12.95) is massive and serves as a good accompaniment to drinking in a group. Surprisingly, I didn't hate the processed beer cheese and mustard sauces that came along with it. The chicken BLT ($9.95) was generic with a toasted focaccia roll and bacon that thankfully overpowered the non-seared piece of plain chicken breast.
I sampled two different pizzas from the list: the Shroom with added sausage, and the Farmer's Market with added chicken. The thicker-style crust was originally frozen but was cooked in a pan giving it some pleasant crunch. The mushroom pizza ($11.95) had spare diced mushrooms and a whole mess of cheese along with a garlic oil base. Adding crumbles of fennel sausage (add 50 cents) was beneficial and the pie satisfied in a greasy, heavy Pizza Hut kind of way. The Farmer's Market's ($12.95) ingredients played lighter with a highly acidic, tinny tomato sauce, and artichokes, red onion, and mushrooms. The spinach was dried out and borderline burnt since it was added at the beginning of cooking instead of the end.
If you're a Bills fan that likes watching the game out at a bar, I'd recommend giving The Beer Market a shot one of these weeks. When I came in, the game was on about half the TVs and the sound was pumped through to the bar so I didn't miss the opportunity to yell at the awful announcers. There wasn't a huge crowd which allowed my wife and I to spread out, try some beers, and watch as the Bills disappointed again. At least the beer was good.
You can read more from Chris Lindstrom or listen to his podcast on his food blog, Foodabouttown.com. Share any dining tips with him on Twitter and Instagram @stromie.