The most important thing anyone needs to know about The Brass Tap is that its Bass Pro Drive location hosts 60 craft taps in a variety of styles, with a smattering of ciders and gluten-free-friendly options. More than half come from Colorado. Neither tap nor bottle list has a single Coors, Budweiser, Miller, Michelob, Blue Moon, Shock Top or even hipster-beloved PBR.
This Tampa, Florida-based chain has locations across the country; the Northgate location, opened last month, is merely the newest franchise, owned by locals Mike and Darlene Warmouth. The space boasts a pleasant atmosphere, dark woods giving it an almost-cozy feel. Personally, I'm not a fan of the rows of TVs lining the top of most walls, but sports fans won't have to argue about who gets to watch their game.
What's on tap changes from day to day, based on availability. On first visit, I try a glass of Denver-based Tivoli Brewing's strawberry mint Berlinerweisse, probably the least tart example of the style I've tried so far. Still, there's a lot going on. We also sip a pint of Red Leg's Blue Nose Brown and an Oskar Blues Brass & Blues Hoppy Saison, the latter an exclusive to Brass Tap and OB's own taproom in Lyons, Colorado. Pale ale drinkers will find it a friendly and mellow introduction to saison yeasts; it's more crisp than funky, for a friendly sipper overall. But at $7 for a 12-ounce pour, it's average-to-high for what one might pay for such a brew. Generally, expect to spend a buck or so more for specialty beers than at competitors.
On to the food, expect a lot of Sysco — that's where they get ingredients. It shows most plainly in the fish and chips, as generic as can be. Expect a sturdy but properly cooked coating on the cod. The Tap swaps in malt vinegar aioli for tartar, which serves as a good dipper for fries and fish alike. Balsamic ketchup cloys as a fry dip before too long — save it for burgers.
Speaking of, the pub burger comes with jalapeño cream cheese, smoked gouda, bacon and "cowboy sauce" made primarily from mayo and taco seasoning, according to my server. It's as delicate as a 10-pound hammer and only reads smoky and meaty, but it serves its purpose. Only downside: They'll only serve it medium well, the heathens.
We enjoy the buttery pretzel bites served with peri peri hummus — hummus topped with a nutty, moderately spicy Portugese-style sauce based on peri peri peppers, also called the African bird's eye chili.
We're also fond of the bright and lively poblano sauce, whether on chicken tacos or a quinoa power bowl. The former come two to a plate in flour tortillas, bearing plenty of cabbage and thin pieces of chicken cooked with sazón, a central American seasoning blend. The quinoa bowl pleases and fills us, piling the nutty grain atop romaine, red onions, tomatoes, Parmesan and, for $2, the same chicken from the tacos. Of note, most plates run a welcome $10 or less.
This being a chain, the food shortcuts don't really surprise — it's not what they hang their hat on. Instead Brass Tap is all about craft beer, and drinkers of all stripes will find a diversity of quality brews here. In that much, the franchise surely succeeds.