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Friday, May 15, 2015

The Beer Market

As anybody who's driven along Mt. Hope Avenue in the past year or two knows, there's been a lot of development along the corridor from Crittenden to Elmwood Avenues. The result is College Town, which depending on your point of view is either a great asset to U of R students and Rochester residents, or just a sign of the homogenization of America. Within a two-block stretch, you'll now find a mix of mostly national chains, from bookstores to coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, you can decide for yourself.
With a name like College Town, you knew pizza and beer would figure into the mix, and you'll find them both at The Beer Market. The Beer Market is apparently a franchise operation, with five locations at this point:  three in Illinois, one in Pittsburgh, and now one in Rochester.
Besides offering a wide variety of beers (I saw the long tap line, but didn't examine it too closely, but I assume they offer a good mix of beers), TBM gives pizza a prominent place on its food menu, which is what brought me here for lunch recently, with two friends.
I ordered "The Queen," an apparent reference to Queen Margherita, the namesake of Margherita pizza. It's topped with fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, and fresh basil. My friends ordered a "Goodfella," with mild sausage, pepperoni, bacon, tomato sauce and herbs, and a simple pepperoni pie.
These companions have accompanied me on past excursions, and we don't always see eye to eye on pizza, but this time we were mostly in agreement. We found the pizzas very tasty (by which I mean they tasted good), thanks mostly to the toppings, but the crust left something to be desired. So I'll start with the latter.
The pizzas arrived at our table on pans, and it appeared they had been baked on those pans. The undersides had the golden-brown, bubbly look of pan-baked pies.
I'm OK with that; I've had many a fine pizza that was baked in a pan. I'm more concerned about the end result.
And the end result here was acceptable, especially given the overall flavor of the pies, but these were not great crusts. They weren't bad; they just weren't particularly good.
Why? Well, the crusts were medium thick and pliable. They didn't have the typical faults --  they weren't greasy, brittle or spongy -- but neither were they crisp or bready.
To me, the crust should be the shining star of the pizza. After all, it's the first thing to hit your tongue.
But these crusts were little more than vehicles to deliver the toppings. As such, they were OK, but it seemed that the preparation and baking had not really maximized the potential flavor and texture of the dough. I hate to resort to trendy linguistic cliches, but my reaction was, "meh." A little chewy, a little firm, but not memorable.
As I said, though, the toppings were good, and they elevated the pizzas overall. My "Queen" was abundantly topped with mozzarella and sliced tomatoes. This certainly wasn't a minimalist, less-is-more pizza, but the toppings were appropriate and in balance with the crust. A little more basil would've been welcome, but there was enough to add some flavor.
I took a slice from each of my friends' pizzas, and again I liked the toppings, as did my friends. The meats were crisp and flavorful, the cheese was stretchy, and the sauce was tomatoey with some mild herbal accents.
That brings me to the rating, which is where things get a little difficult. Without getting into a lengthy discussion, I'll go back to my standards, which involve whether I'd avoid this pizza, or whether I'd go out of my way to get it.
Measured by that standard, I'd put this pizza in the middle. It's OK; it's just not great, in my opinion. It's more about the toppings than the crust, but the toppings are pretty good. So I'll give it a C. 

The Beer Market, 1401 Mt. Hope Ave.

Mon-Wed: 11:00 a.m. - Midnight
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.
Fri-Sat: 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 a.m.
Sun: Noon - Midnight


  1. I would give their pizza a B. After decades of Rochester pizza experiences (and the best old-timers are now gone), their pizza is able to "stand up" to many of the common Rochester chain pizzerias. True, the crust could be improved with a slightly crisper bottom that can better support the fresh and generous toppings. Cheese is certainly not lacking and welcomed, and the sauce was flavorful. In addition, if there is any pizza left, it reheats wonderfully in a cast iron skillet (and the crust is even better).

    1. Thanks for your input, I always welcome readers' takes on pizza I've reviewed.