Brewing is our life.
Beer is our water.
Okay I shortened it just a little. But this is about half of their motto that shows on their website. It’s also only half of why this place IS one of my top 5 local happy places.
I love food. I love to drink. Not just beer, but spirits, and all sorts of non-adult beverages. I love live music. Who doesn’t? These things in and of themselves are not unique. No one can deny the spiritual reality of sharing a song, a meal, and/or a beverage with someone. An old friend. A new friend. Even just some really likeable lass or chap that happened to plop down next to you unexpectedly at the bar and got chatty.
People (and even you people who don’t like people will have to cop to the truth of this) just make everything a little better. And this – not the beer or spirits or even the food – is the first of many reasons why I LOVE OBB so damned much.
Businesses are like people. True to this analogy, I love the ones that are a just a little off the bubble. Unique. A little rowdy. Witty. Most importantly, those that are one-of-a-kind. I just don’t gel well with people that remind me of tropes. People that seem mass produced. People that seem to have molded themselves after some pop-culture trend, look, style, whatever. I love confidence wrapped up in an I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me-cause-I-like-me mentality. You know what I’m laying out here. If you know me, you have heard me say essentially the same thing about business and authenticity. In fact, the most oft repeated Dave-erism on the subject of business is, “Applebee’s is all the worst America has to offer!”
More on that another time. Sorry Applebee’s. Sort of (but, in a way, not really).
Old Black Bear IS this kind of person I love to hang with. And it’s filled with those kinds of people. Everyone there FEELS like an extension of the brand, but not an intentionally. There’s no sense that someone established some intentional “brand environment” which always comes off as BS. Their people are not just friendly and welcoming. Their genuine. They remember their customers. Not always your name, but you can see they recall your face, and their interactions with you. That ALONE is enough of a reason to go back to a business if it has what you happen to need. But it goes beyond that. Obviously.
Let’s talk BEER and BOOZE. Imma start with booze (no surprise if you know me). I’m pretty sure I’ve tried all the micro-distills in town. Mostly you can color me unimpressed. EXCEPT HERE. Their vodka? Smooth. Their whiskey? Sharp. Blends well. Solid product. But their RUM? It’s shippable. Straight. In their homemade ginger beer, it’s downright dangerous. Infused it’s unbeatable. It is in my TOP 10 RUMS list. And YES, I have one. AND I keep it updated! Their cocktails are limited but everyone is great and they are well made every, singe time.
Now, they are best known for their beer. And likely, most locals will first think of their Cave City Lager. Solid beer. It’s actual been rated N. Alabama’s FAVORITE dark Amber. My personal go-to is going to be the Speckled Trout. I love a wheat beer. But the bottom line is they have one of the most consistent products in the area.
I am going to rate their brewery as TIED (sorry guys, you’re not my only beer-love) for BEST BREWERY in our area. But they get the run-away, no margin, no photo-finish, slam-dunk, first-place in my heart AND my mind for local distillery.
Now let’s talk food, shall we? Their menu is a little bit of culinary borrowing, a bit of personalized genius, and a bit of standard fare. Something for everyone. But all of it is well executed, delicious, and consistently draws me back. In reality, they ARE a bar. The kitchen is small. The menu is robust, all things considered. But it’s still designed heavy on the carbs, frying, and griddle. If you’re vegan, low-carb, slow-carb, or no carb, or just anti-gluten, you will have choices. But they will be limited. If, like me, you tend towards the keto lifestyle most days, then the seared Ahi with quick-pickles are worth a DOUBLE order. But don’t miss going in on your “cheat-day” because the Fried Green Tomatoes with smokey (and home-made) pimento cheese and hot pepper bacon jam…Well, suffice it to say I think my tongue just punched me in my face for even thinking about it.
Their Sunday brunch menu is the masterpiece of their culinary-gastro-pub approach. It includes gastro-brunch standards like their Daylight Burger, which features a fried egg, bacon, and TWO grilled, glazed donuts from local pastry purveyor Daylight Donuts. It also features the craziest-good thing I think I have ever eaten. The overly-benignly named CHEF’S CHOICE. Now it’s not on the on-line menu so here is how I would describe it without a cheat sheet, “WTF JUST HAPPENED IN MY MOUTH! Why is this so good! There is no way this should be so amazing!”
Seriously. It’s French Toast to start with. Topped with pulled pork. Yep. Read that again if you’re not sure. Now stay with me here…there is also some sort of onion-bacon jam on it. Still with me? So, a little sweet, a little meat, a lot of savory. Yeah I get it. What should we top that off with? How about WHIP CREAM AND SYRUP?
“WTF? Who DOES that?!” is what your head is saying, right? Well let me tell you, if you don’t try this you should just retire now and take up shuffleboard and wearing your pants around your armpits. Just give up. Because you are NOT living a great life until you’ve gone to the gym to work off a plate of this. And you’ll be back both to brunch AND the gym. Because it is worth every bead of sweat it takes to keep this dish from killing you early.
Look, I try to keep these reviews semi-short. I’ve gone WAY too long. But they deserve every word of it. So let’s just sum this all up. Their digs are shabby-happy modern hole-in-the-wall, with a lot of decorative lumberjack “whimsy” (as the kids on HGTV like to say). The place is fairly spacious and has a GREAT back patio bar and garden for warm weather music and beer. The enclosed back porch is great for events or larger parties. And the people are AMAZING and I hug at least 6 of them per visit.
If you haven’t been, then you MUST go. If you see me there, I WILL buy you a Dark-N-Stormy. If you don’t see me? Well, tell them “The Captain” sent you.