Off Season at Union Station Brewery

Generally speaking, I am the kind of woman who likes to eat and drink with the seasons. This means that in the summer I pick vegetables out of my garden, whip up a stir-fry and wash it down with a glass of white wine at the picnic table in the yard. In the winter, I might make beef stew and work my way through a bottle of cabernet while huddling in my big grey sweater. To my surprise, a recent trip to Union Station Brewery may have me eating and drinking beyond my usual parameters. Like the summer heat that extended into fall, I am stretching myself.

I ordered a tasting tray, which contained five different beers, and as I was discovering just how much I love the Oktoberfest Bier on a sweltering evening in September, my husband (and dinner companion) insisted that I try his Vanilla Bean Porter. Although porters are usually too heavy for me at any time of year, this one was just right. It wasn’t sweet, but it was flavorful. When I smelled it, I thought of baking cookies, but when I drank it, I didn’t feel like I was having dessert. It was awesome and unique.

The other beers were equally impressive. The IPA (named the Hopgasm and described by the menu as “a party in your mouth and everyone is coming!”) was very bitter, but light and fragrant at the same time. The Pumpkin Spice Ale didn’t taste like a pie in a glass the way some similarly named microbrews might; it was rich and good, and it quenched my thirst. The weather that evening was balmy, yet the Pumpkin Spice Ale somehow complemented it. I felt confused in a good way, like when you’re at a Halloween party and suddenly realize that the person under the best costume there is your old friend from college. I had that same sense of bewilderment followed by recognition when I drank those fall beers on a hot night slightly off season.

Our food was as good as the beer. We had a Pressed Creole Cuban sandwich, the breakout star of which was the pickle layered right inside it. The French Dip Pastrami Panini somehow captured the best elements of both a traditional French dip sandwich and a Reuben without being much like either one. The clam chowder had a bay leaf floating in it, which made me realize what my own chowder needs, and the nachos were classic and unfussy.

Eleven years ago, my husband and I held our wedding rehearsal dinner at Union Station Brewery. We figured that there would be something for everyone in a laid-back, fun atmosphere. We were right. Better still, this vibe has not changed in the last decade. There are different beers and some new food items, but it’s the same Union Station. In a city where restaurants come and go as quickly as a fall harvest, it’s nice to know that some places have taken root.

Union Station will hold an Octoberfest event on Saturday, October 17, from 2 to 5pm. A reasonable fee will gain you admittance and a mug; in other words, Mug Club membership at a great value. Mug Club members enjoy 22 ounces of beer for the price of 16 ounces any time they want, as well as discounts on food. Octoberfest will feature food and beer tasting, a D.J. and lots of giveaways. You can also enjoy half-priced appetizers all day on every Red Zone (Game Day) Sunday during football season.

Located at 36 Exchange Terrace in Providence; 401-274-2739

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