I think I mentioned the Mermaid Tavern before, or at least the excellent beers they serve. It is the recently opened pub in the GCIC building in Agaña that features microbrewed craft beers. The tavern is the public face of the Great Deep Brewing Company, a small microbrewery that has been around for a few years now.
The tavern opened a few months ago and while business isn’t booming, the place appeals to a certain clientele. The menu is mostly burgers and sandwiches, but a couple pizzas and salads are available. The real attraction to me is the beer.
They currently serve six beers, ranging from a light pilsener to a dark oatmeal stout. All the brews are delicious, far better than anything else available on the island.
- Knapstein Pilzen Ale – the lightest of the beers, crisp and clean without overpowering the taste buds. A little too similar to mass produced beers like Budweiser, but it’s probably really good on a hot afternoon after working in the yard. Call it good lawnmower beer.
- Sirena Pale Ale – My favorite beer. Nicely hopped, with a cleansing bitterness and a touch of malty sweetness. It cuts to the chase and lets you enjoy a tasty pale ale on Guam. I can drink a lot of this, and I have.
- Dos Amantes Irish Red Ale – Moving on down the line, this tasty ale is also one of my favorites. The red ale is obviously sweeter than the pale ale, but it has a nice hoppy flavor mixed in with the malty sweetness. I usually finish off my drinking with one of these.
- Man Hita Scottish Ale – A tad darker, a malty Scottish ale with lots of character. A very good beer with the pub food they serve at Mermaid Tavern.
- Maga’lahi Dry Stout – I’ve actually not tried this, so I cannot comment on the beer. Kirino seemed to enjoy it though.
- MCD Oatmeal Stout – The darkest and strongest beer on the list, Marine Corps Drive Oatmeal Stout is a meal in a glass. I’ve got to admit this isn’t my favorite. It’s not a bad stout. It tastes good and I know it’s one of the more popular beers but it just doesn’t compare to Guinness.
That’s all that is currently available. I’ve had a hefeweizen they brewed a year or so ago and it was a tasty thing. And I know they made a brown ale at one time that was pretty good. I wish they’d whip up another batch of the wheat beer though, that’s another one of my favorites.
Now onto the food. The menu tends toward a lunch time fare. A variety of burgers and po’ boy sandwiches constitute the bulk of the menu. There’s nothing wrong with that, they do make a tasty hamburger. I tried a mushroom burger a last week and it was pretty damn good. The week before I tried a yellowfin po’ boy and it was so-so. It left me with a ‘is that all?’ feeling after I ate it. If I try a po’ boy again it will be the sausage sandwich, it’s hard to go wrong with sausage, peppers and onions on a bun.
My last meal at Mermaid Tavern was a shrimp, pine nut and goat cheese pizza with pesto sauce base. Now this was a winner. The crust was crispy, the tangy cheese contrasted nicely with the warm, oily pine nuts. A very good pizza. Now if they only had some pupus on the menu I’d be totally happy. Some sashimi, chicken satay or beef kelaguen. Finger food that goes good with beer. I had an excellent lunch at a brewpub in Seattle last month. Rock Bottom Brewery offered two great fresh baked pretzels on the appetizer menu. It was so huge I only ate half of one. And nothing beats a fresh pretzel with beer.
In a previous incarnation, the Great Deep Brewing Company offered their beers at Le Tasi Bistro. One of the pleasanter things to do was spend Thursday nights at Le Tasi for tapas and music from the Pago Bay Reefers. The tapas menu and those craft beers was a mighty combination. If they could try and recreate that ambiance at Mermaid Tavern, I am sure it would be a hit.
I’m trying to do my part for this tavern. I know they are relying on word of mouth to build a clientele, so the last couple times I visited I brought along someone else interested in good beers. A couple weeks ago I brought a coworker to the pub, if only for a couple beers. This last Wednesday Kirino came with me and it turned into quite an evening. We were there for almost six hours, and finished off the night playing jun ken po for pilzeners. It was a good night, full of story and memories. Just the kind of night I expected a place like the Mermaid Tavern to provide. I must shamefully admit I dawdled for some time before making myself known there. I hesitated, and let me explain why.
I’ve spent a good deal of time in bars, taverns, pubs and alehouses for almost two decades. Fancy bars full of yuppies, sports bars populated with chugging frat boys, dance clubs with the beautiful people, edgy urban basement bars and their grungey clientele, beach bars with tiki torches and sand between my toes, karaoke clubs, Irish pubs and that wonderful Guinness, and of course more than my fair share of dives. And I enjoyed them all. Plenty of good times. I can honestly say I love beer. And my ever expanding waist line can attest to that. Hell, I’m drinking a beer right now.
There’s a small movie I really enjoyed called Burnzy’s Last Call. It’s part of a genre of movies I like to call barfly flicks. Steve Buscemi is the prince of barfly flicks. Think Tree’s Lounge or the eponymous Barfly. The entire movie takes place in a bar, over the course of a day. People come and go, a parade of characters with colorful backstories. The only constants are the bartender stuck pulling a double shift and the rummy nursing beers at the end of the bar. As day turns to night, the crowd picks up and tensions develop. The title character, Burnzy, finally appears in one powerful scene. He staggers into the bar, a raging alcoholic, and begins to berate the bartender, an old acquaintance. “Gimme a drink! One drink,” he cries. The bartender snaps and begins to pour the mother of all cocktails into a beer bucket; a bottle of gin, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of tequila, another bottle of vodka, some lemons, ice, a splash of tonic. Burnzy stands there looking at this concoction, face to face with oblivion from a drink that will surely slay him. And the temptation is palpable on the face. Annihilation or apotheosis?
Perhaps I’m trying to say I can see my immolation in the bottom of a beer glass, in the limpid depths of a bottle of Scotch. The Scylla of Glenmorangie and Charydbis of Mermaid Tavern beckon to me. I have a deep dread that I will wind up a rummy spending my hours at a bar, my world dwindled down to the next drink. I have little fear of Guam’s numerous neighborhood dive bars; the beer is usually ‘both kinds’ – Budweiser and Miller Lite, and the general ambiance doesn’t appeal to me. Dark, dank, dusty and depressing ain’t really my thing. And the trendy spots in Tumon are not exactly my cup of tea either, too many of the shiny, beautiful, empty people there.
But the Mermaid Tavern strikes just the balance I like. Good music, good conversation, good food and great beer. It would be far too easy for me to become a habitué of the place, parking my duff in the same seat on the bar every night after work. That worries me. I am hoping they ramp up production and start offering bottled beer, that might keep me out of the place every night. The Karl Strauss Brewery I visited in Orange County last month had a cool feature; the sold jugs of beer to interested customers. They returned the empty jugs and got fresh beer straight from the tap bottled in a new jug for about $9-$14. I’m talking a jug of fresh beer. Sounds like a good plan to me. I know the P.U.B., Guam’s original microbrewery that shut down back in ’98, got a law passed to allow for the bottling and sale of locally produced microbrews. For a while I was buying bottle of P.U.B.’s GPA Dark (a great name for a beer on Guam) at Payless, then bringing the empties up to the P.U.B. in Harmon for a refill. I enjoyed fresh beer at home, and I didn’t have to feel like a barfly wasting my evenings brewpub. I think I’ll mention that to them next time I drop in, like tomorrow night.