We visited McHale’s on my brother’s suggestion. The place was pretty much empty; 0f course, it’s a bar and we were there between 6 and 7:30 on the Saturday night following Thanksgiving, so pretty much not high time for a fairly new pub in a fairly suburban area.
McHale’s is located on Ashland Terrace, in the former location of The Rusty Duck, which is now a few doors down. It’s a dive, don’t get me wrong. Since it’s a 21 and over establishment, of course there are some of the smoke issues that you will always encounter with a place that allows smoking, but it was faaaarrrrrr from being the worst that I have experienced. There are a few tables in the bar area, right when you walk in the door, and more tables (quite a few more) in the other room, where there are also pool tables and dartboards. We were greeted when we walked in the door by a very friendly server, who gave us a menu and a beer list (I’ll get back to this in a minute) and told us that, while fried pickles were not on the menu, they were available….so I quickly ordered some. I LOVE fried pickles and was so very upset when Durty Nelly’s, my favorite place to order this treat, went out of business a few years back.
The menu was fairly limited: a handful of appetizers, including Scotch eggs (a boiled egg wrapped in sausage, traditional Irish pub fare), mozzarella sticks, and chili cheese fries (among a few other things) and a few entrees: Cornish pie, Irish Stew, hamburgers, sloppy joes, and a chicken finger salad. Since we hadn’t heard anything about the food, we decided to play it safe and try a burger.
The fried pickles arrived without fanfare with a cup of ranch dressing on the side. They were good, not great-very hot, fresh out of the fryer….but not Durty Nelly’s. The burgers arrived pretty quickly, and they were pretty average as burgers go: standard bun, standard patty, a little greasy (not necessarily a bad thing), with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and, in Philip’s case, onion, with fries that I don’t doubt came out of the freezer. This was not a culinary masterpiece, but it also wasn’t a disaster. Typically, a non-disaster would not qualify for a blog post, but I decided to focus instead on their brewing operation. After all, McHale’s, like most other bars/pubs, sells food secondary to their libations.
My brother made the recommendation to visit McHale’s because he is friends with their brewmaster. When you walk in, you look to the left, and you see their brewing operation in a room behind a glass door. This is true microbrewing. Philip and I actually joked about a bunch of Mr. Beers sitting in a back room, and, of course, this is much more sophisticated than that, but it is true small-batch brewing, much smaller than the other microbreweries that we think of (Calhoun’s, Big River-nothing wrong with those, but this is a much smaller operation). Our server told us that Adam, the brewmaster, has been brewing at McHale’s since January 2011, and in May won a Pale Ale contest at the Chattanooga Market for Best Pale Ale in Chattanooga. McHale’s offers a variety of house-brewed beers that rotate on a regular basis. If you “like” their Facebook page, they announce the brews as they offer them. On this particular visit, they were offering a stout, a stout injected with nitrogen, “Bloody IPA”, “Black Pixie”, a Scottish ale, McHale’s light, and a red ale. A pint is $4.00, or you can order 6 4-oz sample glasses for $6. They also sell growlers for $14, and you can take your growler back for a refill for $10. Their bartender, Mike, has also created several original well drinks that include the house-brewed beer and spirits. He and our server spent a lot of time talking to us about the drinks, the history of different beers, and the advantages of small-batch brewing. I realize that this is something that probably wouldn’t happen if the place had been busier, but could you go to Big River and have a chat like that? I won’t say it isn’t possible, but I will say it’s probably unlikely.
Look, I’m not a beer-drinker, so I can’t make any recommendations about beer. What I can say, however, is that I have not seen, heard, or read anything from anyone who has tried McHale’s beer (or beer brewed by their brewmaster) that has been negative. This is the real deal, and from all accounts, Adam knows what he’s doing. These are down-to-earth people trying to make a small-town establishment work. Since Philip and I didn’t shop at any local shops for Small-Business Saturday, we saw our jaunt to McHale’s as our way to promote small business. I love to support local business, and I am fascinated by the idea of homebrewing and microbrewing and I love that McHale’s is confident enough to do true microbrewing. I will recommend McHale’s to anyone who is looking to try a truly different beer that they can’t get anywhere else. And look, if bars start to sell more food, they will start to focus more on their food. I am not likely to become a regular here at this time, but if someone asked me to go back, I would. Support your local microbrewery!