ON TAP: Billiards and Holiday Brews

By SETHWILSON GRAY

Phantom Canyon Brewing Company is home to a restaurant, brewery, and my destination, the billiards hall bar. Six pool tables occupy a massive room with a long counter, matching the wooden beams overhead to create an entertaining log-cabin scene. Despite the grand size of the place, it didn’t feel empty when there weren’t many people there, and it certainly wasn’t cramped when more flowed in.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

When I arrived, I had difficulty defining the character of the place; the classic, country-brewery vibe felt imposed and fake. Once I sat down and the waitress helped me get my bearings, the authenticity of the place was suddenly clear: this place celebrates the making of their beer and the community that drinks it by providing an open space for them, giving them a chance to relax with new brewed concoctions and actually talk. The low music and bustle of the bar was quiet, white noise to the conversation.

Now, I’ve never been to a billiards hall before, which could account for my timidness, but if you’re looking to get a table, ask the bartenders. There is plenty of seating near the barkeeps, so drinks are never too far away. Before 6 p.m., you can even enjoy some free games.

The highlight of Phantom Canyon, naturally, is their drink selection. This brewery pushes the limits of what they produce. They aren’t afraid to switch it up and provide their patrons with the kind of drinks that lead me to question—what is beer?

They have “a tap selection as expansive as the canyon itself,” featuring 18 different craft brews, four of which can be enjoyed all year. Additionally, they have a thorough liquor list, imported wines, and nine specialty cocktails. In short, this place has something for everyone.

Their happy hour runs from the classic 3-6 p.m. and from 10 p.m-close Sunday-Thursday, with deals on pitchers, wells, and wines. Throughout the week they also add drinks to the happy hour: margaritas for Mondays and beer growler fills on Tuesdays. Sunday, however, is the ultimate time to stop by—happy hour runs all day in the billiards hall, including deals on Bloody Marys and mimosas.

Featured beers:

Snowjob: The highest ABV brew on their current menu, the Snowjob, hones in on one flavor— espresso. It’s an imperial stout that’s heavy on the first sip. It is a very dark color, and considerably more bitter than their ales but less so than their IPA. On the inside of the glass, the foam even looks like it’s coffee. This beer is very malty with bitter flavors. Recommended for coffee drinkers and those who say they don’t like beer.

Yamm’s: This is a sweet potato ale, which our waitress said would “get you through Christmas day with the fam.” While it smells like yams, and even takes on a murky version of their color, its primary flavor was vanilla. Notes of cinnamon compliment the vanilla and nearly overtake the sweet potatoes in a really satisfying way. It doesn’t even taste like beer, with the silkiness, low foam, and light mouthfeel adding to this effect. It is how I’d expect drinking the smell of Christmas morning to be.

St. Tito’s Xmas Package: I’m honestly stumped by this Belgian-styled ale. It’s light in color and smells like something that’s been freshly cleaned. It has quite a bit of head on it, and out of the beers listed here, it is the closest to a “normal” beer. The palate of this beer is a mix of gingersnaps and some minty-freshness, but compared to the others, these flavors were rather tame. Still, it tastes like a mixed drink for the holidays that has dissolved cookies in it. I really appreciated the lightness of this beer and found it to be exceedingly refreshing.

Livin’ on a Pear: This beer is another Belgian-style ale. The oats and barley come through with the scent, and the pear only appears in the aftertaste. It is considerably viscous with little head and carbonation in general. Out of all four, this is probably my least recommended, simply because there isn’t much complexity in its palate. One would be stretched to define exactly what is present beyond the residual pear. What I did find redeeming was the crisp and dry nature of the beer that was reminiscent of a white wine.

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