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Pub Flubs Grub

The drinking beats the dining at the new Village Brewery

And I couldn't help but think how much more user-friendly a really great steak sandwich, with decent fries, would make the Brewery's menu, on which the sandwiches tend to be cheese-infested bores. Of course that way lies madness. Ours not to reason why the Brewery omits any truly interesting pizzas from its repertoire, or why it doesn't use all that cheese and beer on hand to produce a swell Welsh rarebit. This menu doesn't have to go fancypants; it just needs to be a little smarter, a little less hackneyed.

By the time we got to dessert, I had grown wary. Beer-bread pudding sounded promising, but its interesting sour tinge was offset by a too too solid consistency. It left me with a sense of almost-but-not-quiteness that seems to sum up this kitchen -- and this menu -- as well as anything.

A place this new still has time to get it right. Maybe in time the music system will cease to boom with undifferentiated, bass-laden noise. Maybe time will temper the intrusively eager-beaver service dispensed by perky young persons costumed, like some Colorado Youth Corps, in khaki shorts and hiking shoes. These kids are painfully nice, but things do get forgotten, and there are only so many times you can face the question, "How's your [name of food item goes here]?"

Time may work the kinks out of the brewing process, too. Twice running, the Brewery has been out of one of its five beers: once the mild Village Pale Ale (no great loss); and another night the darker, sturdier Amber Owl, which was reported to have gone sour (a definite loss). The darker beers are more successful here; you can find your favorite by ordering a sampler of all five kinds in scaled-down four-ounce glasses. The Houston Wheat beer with its accompanying lemon slice is inarguably wimpy, but the merits of the rest can -- and will -- be argued.

One of my brewsnobbish colleagues voiced initial scorn for the Brewery's Armadillo Stout -- the beer world's voluptuous equivalent of dark-roasted coffees -- but wound up conceding it "wasn't bad" even if it isn't as big and, well, stout as some. "Real beer drinkers will still go to the Gingerman," he sniffed, citing the nearby Village hangout's lower prices for bottled microbrewery beers. He then proceeded to enjoy a great quantity of Hampton Brown Ale over several games of pool.

Dispensed from the tap barely cool, tranquilly still, with only the barest traces of foam, the Brewery's darker beers are far more interesting and exotic than anything sold in a grocery store. For anyone who hasn't spent time in the Pacific Northwest or Great Britain, they are likely to come as a revelation. And that -- regardless of whether the food improves -- is reason enough to go.

The Village Brewery, 2415 Dunstan, 524-HOPS.

Village Brewery:
Brewery Burger, $5.75;
Texas chili, $5.75;
baby back ribs, $12.75;
beer, $3.75 a pint, $1 for 4 oz.

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