The Railyard Brewing Company

By on 16 January, 2013 in Bars, Food, Jesseca Cornelson, Restaurant Reviews with 1 Comment

I’d anticipated the opening of the Railyard Brewing Company ever since I first tasted Chef Leo Maurelli’s divine little pimento cheese sliders and enjoyed Brewmaster Kade Miller’s brown ale and porter at the Front Porch Revival.

I went to the Brewing Company (12 W. Jefferson St.) the first week or so they were open, back when they only had two beers on draft, and once again towards the end of last year with a couple of colleagues. (I feel so grown up writing “colleagues.”) Now, three or four months in, I think the Railyard has settled into its own, and it’s an establishment I’m thrilled to have in Montgomery and will definitely be going back to as often as I can.

The décor is pretty standard for a contemporary brew-pub: lots of old-fashioned rich woods contrasted with a modern feel provided by the gleaming metal tanks. Some places you can watch your food being made; at the Railyard, you can see where your brew is made.

My most recent trip was on a Friday night, my first true weekend trip. Weekend offerings are distinguished from those on week nights only by the live entertainment — there was an adorably young bluegrass band the night I was there — and a special meal on the menu. Lunch specials, if I’m to believe the Railyard’s Facebook feed, are pretty regular. On all three nights I was there, there was a sizeable crowd having a good time. Though I noticed a couple of families and other folks on dates, the crowd seemed predominately male. I’m guessing it’s a favored place for folks who work downtown to go for dinner and drinks after the day is done.

Since I can suffer from sensory overload, I requested a quiet booth, which was large and comfy and, while out of the way of the central merriment, still lively. I could still hear the band and could see into the very interesting lobby, what with its giant woven statue of a horse, shared by the Railyard and neighboring businesses.

The beer offerings have come a long way from the initial menu. The Brewing Company boasts a Pilsner, Alabama Pale Ale (APA), Irish Red Ale, Scottish Strong Ale (a.k.a. Wee Heavy), Hazelnut Brown Ale, Honey Porter, and Oatmeal Porter. Not on the menu, but also available, is a very drinkable Pale Ale.

My friend and I ordered an Alabama Pale Ale each, easily the best choice, and a flight sampling all the others. On a previous visit, a colleague and I agreed the APA, pale ale, pilsner and Wee Heavy were the best offerings. My opinion didn’t change, but I did appreciate the other choices more this time. I think too, perhaps, that I’m swayed by the carbonation. The other ales and porters were barely carbonated. I acknowledge that many craft beers, especially those in firkins, are only naturally carbonated, but it’s an acquired taste I’ve yet to acquire. Maybe in time. To me, carbonation in beer is like a tad bit of sugar or salt in food: it’s a flavor enhancer. The right amount lets the other flavors come to life on the palate. (Note: I freely admit I know almost jack about beer, so if it sounds like I’m making up stuff, that’s because I am.) Even so, this time I was much more pleased with the coffee notes in the Oatmeal stout. But for my second full drink I ordered the regular pale ale. You can’t go wrong with the APA, and its bright hoppy flavor accents the burgers nicely.

Ah, the food. The food is the magic of the Railyard. Chef Leo Maurelli was named the Alabama Restaurant Association’s Chef of the Year, and it’s easy to see why. He does a great job of taking classic American and Southern dishes and classing them up a bit with gourmet ingredients to create flavor combinations that are both familiar and excitingly new. For instance, as an appetizer, my friend and I shared the truffle and manchego cheese fries. The house fries are so good, I’m convinced they’re fried in some kind of tallow. They were a decadent treat drizzled with a sweet white balsamic and truffle oil and melted manchego cheese. The menu says they’re served with cilantro, but I didn’t see any. I think the cilantro would have been overkill anyway.

As usual, I got a burger because the Railyard’s burgers are pretty much brilliant. Thus far I’ve tried the Signature, All Hail the Pig, and My Mema’s Burger, and they’re all great. My Mema’s Burger is the grown up version of the pimento cheese slider I’d tried at The Front Porch Revival. It’s still a big and tasty bite, but somehow in large-scale production, it’s gotten a little greasier than I’d like, and all the flavors sort of disappear into each other. Maybe the cheese melts a bit between kitchen and table? It’s delicious, to be sure, but I couldn’t distinguish the tastes of bacon or pimento cheese. The Signature features the super-tasty Railyard ground blend on a pretzel bun with traditional fixings: regular and white American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and fries. All Hail the Pig has a blend of pork and the signature blend on a brioche bun (yum!) with bacon, smoked ancho chili and bacon aioli, lettuce, tomato, and smoky pepper jack. It comes with the cracklings — fancy homemade pork skins — but I can’t abide pork skins, so I go with the regular fries (sweet potato fries are also an option).

Of the three I’ve tried, my favorite is All Hail the Pig, as I’m a sucker for any kind of aioli. I was surprised I liked the Signature as much as I did, but where all the flavors in My Mema’s Burger seem to blend together, the Signature’s simplicity is all about the flavors of the patty, and that’s one tasty patty. There are also bison, lamb, chicken, and fish burger options, too, in the burger department, and though I don’t see it listed any more, I was told the veggie burger is quite good. Maybe it’s available but off the menu, like the pilsner.

The Railyard also has a number of salads and other dishes, but I can’t imagine not getting a burger. There’s something so satisfying about the APA and one of the grown-up savory craft burgers.

Jesseca Cornelson is an Assistant Professor of English at Alabama State University and has been a resident of Cloverdale for about a year now. She grew up in Mobile and did her graduate studies in the Yankee North, earning degrees at The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati. She blogged about her visits to Montgomery to do research at her now-defunt blog, Difficult History, and will be a Platte Clove Artist-in-Residence, sponsored by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development later this summer.

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  1. Alan Todd says:

    Railyard was a big hit an miss game with me at the beginning. The two styles they had on tap to start were not that great in my opinion and the food was just ok. Since then though the beer styles have gotten much better and the food has too. I really like the IPA cheddar soup and the burgers minus the pretzel bun.

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