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Bar Tab: Crabapples is the microbrew pub for everyone

A great story about Crabapples Micro Brew Pub in Cheektowaga was relayed to me by a former co-worker and noted beer expert. It’s a brief tale that embodies what makes the Genesee Street bar so special.

It seems two nationally renowned beer professionals came to town, and my former co-worker took them to Crabapples, a large but not particularly noticeable establishment set back on Genesee, not far from the airport.

The duo was stunned at the on-tap selections – a rotating list of 38 brews, featuring everything from Belgian and other imported beers to food-flavored choices. They noticed a couple of guys drinking what looked to be the standard Labatt Blue/Molson/etc., and asked, “Have you guys ever tried any craft beers?”

The two shook their heads, but explained that Pete, Crabapples’ “brewmaster,” had been telling them about the joys of a craft beer. So the experts decided to buy them two that they felt might win the gang over.

By the end of the night, the guys at the end of the bar were buying them craft beers.

That, my friends, is Crabapples: The microbrew pub for everyone.

Looks are clearly deceiving when it comes to this Cheektowaga beer lover’s haven. It is, quite honestly, nothing special. Were it not for the glowing, neon signs in the windows, this two-story, white building could be anything from a pizza place to an insurance office.

I’d driven by it on many occasions and never noticed it, until my expert friend mentioned it. I was going on about the selection at some other local bar, when she asked, “How often do they change their taps?”

She explained how important this was, and said that Crabapples was one of the best local bars for fresh, varied beers on tap.

I asked her to be my guide, and so we arrived to a near-empty Crabapples around 5:30-ish on a random Tuesday. She had warned me that it wasn’t the most visually stunning pub in beer-land and she was right.

In fact, some might walk into Crabapples and consider turning right around. It’s not that it’s grim, or dirty, or scary. It’s just … the typical suburban bar.

Sure, there are TVs, a digital jukebox (Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” was literally shaking the room when we walked in), darts, bubble hockey, pool and various signs and knickknacks. There’s even a fireplace.

Aesthetics don’t matter. Here, it’s the beer. And that’s pretty refreshing.

I was thrilled to plop myself at the bar with an expert, since 38 choices can be a bit overwhelming. I recognized many of the logos, but there were also oodles that I’d never laid eyes on.

Our expert went from cluster to cluster – the taps are grouped according to theme, such as Belgian and “flavor station,” with an Imperial Crème Brûlée Stout a particularly enticing highlight.

We – well, I really just tagged along, so let’s say “she” – opted for a Harviestoun Old Engine, a dark, thick beer that felt weighty and tasty after a long workday. Later, I went with a Victory Ale that proved a fine, less weighty follow-up.

The beers were about $6 each, a fab price for craft brews. A sign near the bar noted several $3 specials: Bavik Pilsner, Ellicottville Brewing Company Chocolate Cherry, Old Howling Bastard (I love typing that) and Longboard Lager, which I hadn’t enjoyed since a trip to Hawaii in 2007.

Admittedly, outside of the beer, the place was pretty dead. Three dudes in knit caps sang along with Pearl Jam (my expert friend hit them with the ultimate diss: “Are you guys Creed?”), and they were the only others in the place, besides a very nice but not particularly knowledgeable bartender. (The legendary brewmaster, Pete, was not in.)

Crabapples is a simple, no-nonsense place that won’t sneer at you for your selection, and might even open your eyes to tastes you never knew existed.

There is nothing wrong with Bud, Molson, et. al.; I down them often. But if a bar can get a couple of dudes nursing Labatt Blue to start buying rounds of craft beer, then it’s clearly worth noting.

And just think, if you don’t like your first pick, there are 37 more to ponder.

Crabapples Micro Brew Pub

Where: 3298 Genesee St., Cheektowaga (895-2911)

Scene: The prototypical suburban neighborhood bar, with a twist: a beer selection that’s hard to top.

Happy hour: $2 bottled beer specials daily.

On tap: 38 rotating taps, including Belgian and imported beers, a wide variety of craft beers and even “food”-themed selections.

Music: A digital jukebox that played Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Foster the People during our visit.

Hours: 2 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily.