Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery

There were times (now that it is over) during the 40/40 Pennsylvania Microbrewery tour where I felt like hanging up the mug and quitting. I know that this sounds like a kid crying that he/she did not want any more ice cream. It was an odd posture for sure.

As you might surmise, my wife’s reaction to my disenchantment in seeing 40/40 through to its end was hardly sympathetic. “Poor boy,” I heard more than once, with a deep layer of slathering sarcasm like gravy all over the meat of the words. It was hard to elicit sympathy, try as I might in all futility. As she worked, I drank beer. Not exactly a strong negotiating for sympathy position.

On a particularly hot June day when I was feeling especially desultory, I knew that I needed to make a 40/40 run. I looked at the available options. Fittingly, I selected Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in the King of Prussia Mall. How a restaurant and microbrewery came about in selecting the term “Rock Bottom,” used by AA-like programs to describe an alcoholic’s final destructive crash into the abyss of consequences of their drinking, intrigued me and seemed odd.

However, more in line with name and meaning, there is a band called “Skid Row” that accurately described the band’s philosophy on music and life in general.

Here are the chaps from a picture off of their MySpace page:

Photo is fittingly distorted, I suppose. It is also ironic that this band writes some pretty sensitive songs, buttressed and protected by power chords, pounding drums, and screaming vocals. Only heavy metal bands can be so vulnerable without being labeled wusses…other places, the he-man and vindictive tunes compensate….list of albums and songs…some great music in there from what I have heard.

So Rock Bottom, in more ways than one. OK, that is too dramatic.

I have to be totally up front. I really didn’t want to like Rock Bottom. C’mon, a mall? The paragon place of American vapidity? What, take a side trip for some “must have” cute pumps after drinking a few beers? Brews and Shoes?

Background Disclosure: I grew up close to KOP and avoided it like the plague. The glitz, the glam, the sheer consumption, overwhelmed my more proletarian blue jean and flannel shirt sensibilities. Although, I lived about ten minutes away from KOP, I was not a relatively rich kid like my peers. My parents spit-up when I was 13, and the money situation deflated significantly, dropping me out of the Izod “Alligator on my Shirt” genteel zone into considerably more austere and turbulent air. The house remained, but not much else. So, my distaste for malls and mall rats was probably a case of “sour grapes.” I lived on the Main Line, but my life was decidedly on the other side of the tracks after the divorce.

I also got lost at KOP Mall when I was seven, and my friend’s dad who grabbed me like an escaped convict, after he found me, and my parents who were wroth afterward, did little to console me. That can’t help my mall animosity, and in fact might be its origin. Enough of my wah-wah. But, the deck was stacked against Rock Bottom, that is for sure. BTW, here is how the name came about, just saw it on the web pages fun facts that scroll onto a frame:

“Our name: We started on the 1st Floor of Denver’s “Prudential Building” – also known as “The Rock” ”

A shot from the third story parking garage looking down on R.B.R. & B.:

One of the things that cities have forgotten is that if you make parking too expensive and too much of a hassle for those outside of the city to visit, guess what? They are going to go shop in the mall or strip mall. Add to the other negatives of the city including trash, crime, and surly attitudes, and it is not hard to see why city stores struggle to say afloat when the local malls makes it easy to park, and easy to spend. There has to be a way to create safe spaces in cities for cars and people. It is not all the consumers’ fault.

When I discovered this brewing philosophy of RB, I started to feel old resentments ebb away:

“Every Rock Bottom brews their own unique recipes. No two locations beers are the same. Impressive? We think so.”

Bring on the beers:

And the Rock Bottom Seasonals:

I am dutifully impressed….put some of these in your fridge like a Fashionista does in the closet with her shoes…I have to say, I liked, not loved Rock Bottom. Some chains who microbrew are going to have to make it in order to bring on better quality beer. And, if it needs to be in a mall, I say let it be.

The beer I liked the best at Rock Bottom was Munich Gold, a light and crisp German lager. All of the RB beers were great. A general rule of thumb is that lagers are German, and ales are English. The word “lager” is German and means “storage”, which refers to the lager (storage) fermentation. See: Beer brands, types, styles and brewing. Another rule of thumb of German lagers is that the hotter its gets, the lighter the beers become. Germans are so maddening logical.

The Munich Gold reminded me of a German who I really cared about.  My Opa. Back when my Opa was alive (Opa is German for Grandfather if you don’t already know this), he drank a beer called Munich made in Jersey I think. I am not sure it was any good but the name no doubt reminded him of his home in Germany, where he left after World War I to come to America, like so many others.

After Opa passed away in the early 1980’s, my Oma (grandmother in German), who lived to be in her mid-90’s, tried to implore her son, my Dad, to visit his father’s grave and bring flowers, to pay his respects. My Dad replied to her, “Knowing Opa, he would much rather have a beer.”

Well, here is to you Opa. Prosit!

Just a reminder that although 40/40 is officially over, I still have seven reviews of Microbreweries to write (one a day), perhaps even two more if I decided to profile the two that we visited out in Minneapolis. Plus, I thought of doing several other posts about related topics. Nonetheless, the 40/40 will remain up in perpetuity as a guide to others who may follow either partially or completely. We did finish up in Philly over the July 4th weekend as planned at the Dock Street Brewery (review to follow later in the week, I have to let it ferment).

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