Those of a certain age might remember "Murphy Brown," a 1990s sit-com about a fictional CBS television news show with an eclectic cast of characters.
A craft beer emporium in Clarence may share the same name but, FYI, has little else in common – unless you consider its eclectic cast of beers.
Craft beer is the star at Murphy Brown's, a quieter alternative to several pubs on nearby Transit Road restaurant row that offer dozens of craft beers on tap in what often can be crowded, noisy conditions.
To be sure, the place at Main Street and Goodrich Road can bustle at times, but you can talk over the music, get good advice from knowledgeable bartenders about the beers on tap and order homemade pub food to complement the beverages.
That's what friends and I have discovered during several visits, including a holiday stop that featured a flight of six brews, sidewinder curly fries, and pretzel bites with beer cheese. They had me at their first hello, when I spotted a sign alongside the taps that reads, "THIS GUY NEEDS A BEER!"
"People say they feel safe and comfortable here," said Richard "Drew" Brown, who owns the place with his wife, Renee, and often is among those pouring drafts behind the bar. His mother, Jane, whose maiden name was Murphy, helps explain the moniker for the establishment, which opened 2½ years ago as the area craft beer craze began to sizzle.
Brown – a former part-time Buffalo Brewpub bartender who has worked for decades in the copier machine industry – fell for the India Pale Ales he first tried on business trips in Las Vegas and Los Angeles almost 20 years ago. He has developed a more sophisticated beer palate since, and hired fellow beer enthusiasts as barkeeps.
The place caters to craft beer newbies and beer geeks alike, with a rotating mix of 25 of the most interesting craft beer drafts in the world. Roughly half the beers on tap change weekly. Only one is a mainstay: Murphy's Irish Stout, on nitro.
Offerings on a recent Friday included a familiar Murphy Brown's cold-weather mix of ales, Belgians, sours, pilsners, porters and stouts. Most pints cost $6 to $8.50 but some of the more rarefied varieties approached $11. Those who like industry standards should find something equivalent in the mix, too.
My friend, Mike, ordered a pint of Grimm FooFoo El Dorado Single Hop Pale Ale, while I sampled a flight of six 6-ounce beers that included two regional selections – 12 Gates Common Reactor cream ale and Community Beer Works Singularity citrus single hop IPA – and four from farther afield: Upstate Christmas Common Sense spiced cream ale, Mikkeller Planned Attack New England IPA, Perennial Fantastic Voyage imperial stout with coconut, and the FooFoo. All were great; the latter two, exceptional. The flight-sized pours generally run $2 to $3.50 each.
Fellow taproom customers sipped flights, pints or goblets, or glasses, or wine or hard cider. There are no spirits here, saved spiked seltzers.
Some kept an eye on the Sabres-Blackhawks hockey game on two TVs behind the bar. A couple of guys played table shuffleboard in the dining area next door, which features photo arrays of the Flying Bison and Resurgence breweries.
A collection of barrel-top, round-top, high-top and beer-hall style tables spill through the two rooms. Many were eating air-fried wings, flatbreads pizzas and the appetizers Mike and I had ordered.
Renee Brown has added twists to the menu, including Bratwurst Pizza, beer cheese, Chocolate Silk Stout Pie and Guinness Chocolate Cake with Bailey's Irish Cream frosting. Dishes run from about $8 to $12; the desserts, $6.50 or so.
The breweries in town, and those beer-centric restaurants that offer as many as 100 craft beers on tap, hold a special place for me in a Western New York restaurant world I could not have imagined a decade ago, much less during the 1990s. They can get overwhelming at times, however, even for those immersed in the regional craft beer scene.
Murphy Brown is less intimidating, with more of a neighborhood feel. I can mingle with fellow beer lovers as I try several beers I rarely find elsewhere. The bartenders ask good questions about my tastes and make sound recommendations when I want to try something new. And I can take some home if it'd like, either in a growler or from the emporium's Craft to Go retail store.
No investigative reporting needed at this Murphy Brown's, just a healthy curiosity and a taste for craft beer, cider, wine and comfort food.
Where: 9500 Main St., Suite 100, Clarence (407-3466)
Hours: Open 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 3 to 11 p.m. Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday
Theme: Rotating mix of top local and international beers to try, enjoy, and, if you wish, bring home; one hard cider; Glutenberg gluten-free beer; and several wines and spiked seltzers.
Feel: Casual neighborhood pub for adults of all ages.
Murphy Brown's app: Get it free at the App Store to see the menu and latest draft beer list, and sign up for coupons and rewards.