First Impressions: Brew Exchange
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride recently for West Sixth Street. Katz’s Deli and Momo’s closed; 219 West moved in as Union Park packed up and relocated to The Domain, and this Thursday, Brew Exchange will open in the old Annie’s West.
We stopped by for the soft opening on Sunday. Though the ticker wasn’t running yet — which was fine since the beer was free — we were able to get a first glimpse at the newest addition to West Sixth Street.
- The bartenders: The bartenders we interacted with were attentive and totally knowledgeable about all the beers on tap. When we asked for suggestions, they delivered deep cuts from the menu and never appeared to be annoyed at our carefree/it’s-all-good-to-me approach to ordering beer. Perhaps most importantly, even with a big crowd to deal with, the bartenders never made anyone in our group feel ignored.
- Private viewing: There are three booths facing TVs that are available for reservation. These tables are topped with what appears to be a light but what is actually a clear plastic dome housing several speakers. It’s not exactly hypersonic sound cool, but it’s a sweet (and probably much more affordable) solution that allows for each table to hear what’s on the TV in front of them.
- What’s on tap: Brew Exchange offers an impressive beer selection. We’re not talking about the best selection in town, but even the snobbiest of beer aficionados should be able to find something on tap that will please. We found plenty of beers not typically stocked at bars and enjoyed everything we tried.
- The layout: The bar is shaped nicely and winds down the length of the room. This makes it easy to access from anywhere in the bar and allows for plenty of places to squeeze in to place an order.
- The look: The interior is masculine but not douchey. The color palette seems inspired by the muted metallic colors of the brews behind the bar with a mix of wood, cooper and dark subway tiles.
- Bathrooms: As you’d expect from a brand new higher-end bar, the bathrooms were clean.
The Not So Good
- The ticker: The ticker wasn’t running at the soft opening, which kept us from seeing the fluctuating prices in action, but the management says everything is in order for the Thursday opening. Word is prices can dip as low as $2 for a beer. We’re anxious to see if that really happens.
- Seating: There’s not much in the way of seating for groups. That’s not a deal breaker, but if you’re looking for a place to sit and chat over a pint, this may not be the ideal location.
- It’s West Sixth Street: To be fair, the block isn’t exactly our scene, but Brew Exchange and 219 West could change that. Brew Exchange is actually a cool bar, and with 219 West’s wondrous happy hour within walking distance, we may need to reconsider our position on things west of Congress Avenue.
- Give me a hand: Though the bathrooms look immaculate, there’s no good spot to place your beer while you’re using the facilities. This is a minor gripe, but for guys who like to walk around with a pint in their hand, going No. 1 turns into a bit of a juggling act if there’s not a shelf or ledge above the urinal.
We were worried Brew Exchange would be too bro-y for our taste, but the crowd seemed more chill than the ones we’ve encountered at Kung Fu Saloon (same owners). Not once did a bumped shoulder escalate into a bro-down, and no dudes in tight polo shirts popped up to randomly grind on any females around us.
The concept is fun and seems to lend itself well to a more mature drinking game — one based on exploring new brews as opposed to duct taping a pair of 40-ouncers to your hands. We’ll be curious to see how the fluctuating drink prices, which don’t apply to mixed drinks for the time being, work out. We’ll find out this week. Brew Exchange’s “opening bell” is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.