At first, walking into the Amherst Pizza and Ale House appeared to be just like any other bar.
There was the obligatory Bills and Sabres paraphernalia hanging from the walls, an electronic dart board in the corner and nearly a dozen televisions screens located throughout the bar.
"Are you sure about this place?" I asked Cindy, my Club Watch associate. "It looks kind of nondescript."
Cindy, a denizen of good spots during her bar-hopping years before settling down, reassured me to give the place a chance. "If you like beer, you'll like this place -- a lot."
Happy hour had ended a while before we had arrived, but there were still lots of people who had started their weekend there on a recent Friday. It seemed like the crowd was a 5 0/5 0 split of those over and under 30. People were causally dressed, lots of khakis and jeans. And the house music was at a level where you could actually carry on a conversation without having to shout.
I approached the bar and suddenly realized what Cindy was talking about. On the wall was a huge board listing the bar's 14 varieties of tap beer. And there was another menu listing all the bottle selections -- more than 70 brews from all around the world.
And to think that I had doubted Cindy. There was only one way to make up for that: buy her a beer or two.
Cindy went with a Nosferatu ($4 per pint) from Great Lakes Brewery, rich with flavor -- and high in alcohol (8 percent). I, of course, ordered Guinness ($4.75 for a 20-ounce glass). We were served promptly, found a table to sit at and proceeded to do one of my favorite pastimes: people watch.
We saw a young couple who appeared to be on their first date. He looked nervous; she looked bored. Overall, most everyone seemed at ease and relaxed.
Cindy noted the bar was playing good music as we scoped out the scene. She even spotted a disco ball located on the ceiling.
We both chose different beers for the next round. Our next sampling was Hazed & Infused brewed by the Boulder Beer Co. ($4.25). I wasn't impressed, but Cindy's taste buds were awash in what she called a very good-tasting beer.
As the thirtysomething crowd slowly filtered out, a younger group filtered in. And then it happened. The bar went basically dark, a spotlight hit the disco ball and some inexperienced disc jockey broke out some loud, blaring music.
I don't think he knew what decade he was in. He kept jumping between new and old with no consistency in what he played. When he got to the cheesy '80s hair metal, Cindy groaned, "Ewww."
But the younger crowd from the nearby University at Buffalo North Campus seemed oblivious to the musical selections. They had more important things to do -- flirt, text message each other or finalize their plans for the rest of the night. Simply put, the college crowd had taken over. It was time for us to finish our beers and move on.
The Ale House is truly a beer lover's nirvana. Just make sure you get there before the disco ball -- and the DJ -- starts spinning.
Amherst Pizza and Ale House
55 Cross Point Parkway, Amherst
Scene: Happy-hour crowd, groups of friends; later in the night, a college crowd
Dress: Jeans, khakis; later: tight shirts and sweaters and lots of baseball hats
Music: A mix of '80s and '90s music