Thursday, July 26, 2007

The C.H. Evans Brewing Company At The Albany Pump Station

Ive been in Albany for just over four years, and there's always been one place that I've found to be reliable for quality in food and drink: the C.H. Evans Brewing Company At The Albany Pump Station. Located in (naturally) an old Hudson River pump station in the near vicinity of Quackenbush Square in downtown Albany, the Pump Station (for short) has been my go-to in my adopted hometown for quite some time. It's been the place my parents come when they're in town, where I've met up with out-of-town friends, where I've had first dates, and where I've gone to unwind after a difficult day at the office. It's a very versatile bar and restaurant.

The menu at Pump Station is pretty solid. Recommended appetizers include a sizeable nacho platter, buffalo chicken tenders, tempura-battered calamari, or, in a wild-card, Thai peanut wings. If you're going to stay for a meal, you can choose from a variety of sandwiches (I'm partial to the Pump Station Burger, which is infused with their Kick-Ass Brown Ale – more on that later – and the Turkey Burger, which is satisfyingly spiced with sage and served with a cranberry mayonnaise), or you can order an entrée. We have yet to be let down by the food at the Pump Station after several years of semi-regular patronage.

Ultimately, the main attraction at Pump Station is the beer. The Evans family brewed beer in the Albany area for generations, peaking in popularity during the Wilson administration. Neil Evans, the proprietor of the Pump Station, has assumed the family name, and given what we’ve seen through the years, has re-established the Evans name in beermaking.

Some of the beers that are currently on tap and my thoughts on them:

  • The aforementioned Kick-Ass Brown: A two time winner at the Great American Beer Festival (2000, 2002) for best American Brown Ale, this has been a consistent winner at the Pump Station. I can't think of a time when this hasn't been available. It's got a wonderful, deep-caramel color, and it features a nice blend of hoppiness and malt taste. It's the kind of beer that is deeply satisfying regardless of season.

  • The Pump Station Pale Ale has not been as constant; in recent months, they've changed the formula (I think). It's more aggressively hoppy than it was in the past, and it's got a great lingering pine taste. I used to overlook this beer, but no more. It's moved to the front of the pack.

  • The Quackenbush Blonde and the Scottish Light are two sides of the same coin; neither has any particularly distinguishing characteristics. They're drinking beers for the lumpenproletariat, which is not necessarily a bad thing – after all, the proprietors probably make more money from soccer moms on“wild nights out”than they do from a dude like me.


  • Currently, they're featuring the Evans Wit (a really nice unfiltered Belgian wheat beer with tastes of orange and coriander) and, curiously, a Smoked Hefeweizen (I've yet to try this, but color me intrigued). They're not currently featuring their normal Hefeweizen, but trust me, it's delightful – a touch lighter than the Evans Wit, if you would.

  • Currently, the featured stout is the Evans Extra Stout, with tastes reminiscent of Cuban coffee and chocolate. This might be one of my favorite beverages in the area on a mid-winter's night, unless they're brewing their Imperial Stout – which they serve in a brandy-snifter and will warm even the most unreachable heart.

The ambience at the Pump Station is pretty great. The brewery equipment is omnipresent without being intrusive; given the overall-industrial feel of the place, it fits in quite nicely. It's simultaneously spacious and intimate; if you're going to go to Pump Station on a date-night, we highly recommend a spot in the back of the restaurant by the fireplace. It'll help. Trust me.

If you're in Albany, you gotta get to the Pump Station. Brown's Brewing Company, in Troy, might have the nice deck, and the Van Dyck, in Schenectady, might evoke the wistful sighs of 'what could have been,’but the Pump Station is the real deal, and delivers on all levels, every time. If only there were more places like it in the Capital Region.

1 comment:

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