Photography by Stuart Mullenberg
First things first: don’t panic. When perusing the beer menu at Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern, it’s inevitable that the eye might be drawn to (and then shocked by) top–shelf offerings such as La Chouffe Belgian Ale, the Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza, or the Ale Smith Horny Devil—each sells for more than $13 per 750–milliliter bottle.
After you’ve picked yourself up off the rustic wood floor and recovered your wits, continue reading—most of the beers are less expensive than a typical cocktail. Then take note of the décor in this recently opened storefront on N Killingsworth Street. The vintage coolers, the projection TV tuned to ESPN, and the abundance of kitschy beer knickknacks (or “breweriana”) should reassure you that you haven’t stumbled into some secret stronghold of brew snobbery. If anything, Saraveza projects the same “come on in” vibe you might find at a small–town general store or a suburban bingo parlor.
The waitstaff sustains this air of bonhomie by cheerfully explaining the attributes of each one of the 150 bottled beers and ten rotating taps, at least until you hit upon something that sounds like it will suit your palate. From strong, yeasty Belgian imports like St. Bernardus Prior 8 to far–flung regional domestics like Erie Railbender Ale, the vast selection will make any brew believer’s heart beat to the drum solo from “Moby Dick.” Meanwhile, frugal newbies can content themselves with a stubby Session lager from Full Sail or a dependable can of Fat Tire Amber for a measly $1.75 apiece. Financial crisis averted.
With all the esoteric beers to fuss over, it’s understandable that you might overlook the food—but you shouldn’t. Family Supper alum Spence Lack is the man in the kitchen, and his three varieties of pasties (a baked meat or veggie pie) are sensational, not to mention a steal at $7 to $8 each. The crusts are flaky yet chewy and moist, enveloping a bonanza of fresh onions, potatoes, and carrots.
Our only complaint is that most of the tables are too small for group dining. Perhaps the owners might consider more spacious seating arrangements. Until then, the cramped conditions make for a cozy visit. And whether you’re a connoisseur in search of an obscure ale or just a working stiff looking to watch the ball game over a cold one, chances are you’ll be in good company.