The Craftsmen, opening soon in the old Johnson’s Pub space on Cumberland Street, is putting the focus on craft beers like no one else in town. Consider these amenities: Forty-eight beer taps will be divided evenly among session beers (4.5% a.b.v or less), local beers, IPAs, and mash (a collection of sours, porters, stouts, and various rare beers). Those IPAs? They’ll be on their own in the “Pale Room” — the front bar which has 12 taps, room for 12-15 stools, and booths to seat another 18 people.

The Pale Room where IPA will reign supreme

The spacious bar in the back dining room will have the other 36 taps, with a nice variety of offerings. Owner Philip Fisher has been reaching out to breweries around the country. “Being able to connect with brewers and get limited edition beers, for me, is extremely exciting,” he says.

Fisher is admittedly a big hophead and is looking forward to some of the more adventurous IPAs out there, like the New Holland Mad Hatter IPA.

The big bar in back. 36 taps for your drinking pleasure
  • The big bar in back. 36 taps for your drinking pleasure

Chef/Partner Todd Garrigan has been spending his time working out a menu that not only pairs well with beer but uses various ales and lagers as ingredients. For instance, the pork tenderloin is brined in Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale and served with a tiny skillet of roasted apples, brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes with an egg cracked on top. For the pairing, they recommend — obviously — the Smuttynose, which brings the whole dish together.

Pork tenderloin, a skillet of veggies, and Smuttynose

Garrigan is also experimenting with beer vinegars, serving crunchy hearts of bibb lettuce dressed in a vinaigrette made with Fox Barrel Pear Cider.

Crunchy Bibb salad

To complement the brews, Garrigan has divided the menu down the middle. On one side, bar classics. On the other, daily specials with entrees, soups, salads, a meat dish, a fish dish, and a skillet dish. (The pork tenderloin counts as a skillet dish, but it could also be something like chicken pot pie.)

The crunchy dame and the milk stout go together like love and marriage
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • The crunchy dame and the milk stout go together like love and marriage

On the weekends, they won’t serve brunch per se, but they will have a couple extra egg dishes. We tried an egg sandwich — the Crunchy Dame — that layered stout-braised pork belly, Raclette cheese, a runny egg, and (the goo that made it all come together) a tart cherry jam. An outstanding little sandwich that pairs quite well with the Southern Tier 2x Milk Stout.

Another brunchy dish that I won’t soon forget: an orange walnut sticky bun served with Palmetto Espresso Porter. Perhaps the best pairing I experienced and something I can see becoming a thing.

The classic bar dish side of the menu will be stocked with familiar stuff like scotch eggs, fish and chips, and a bar snack plate that will include something pickled, something meaty, and something crunchy.

Chicken wings to make General Tso proud

I got to try the sticky, gooey, spicy General Tso’s Chicken Wings with an edamame salad. They had a nice heat to them and came with Westbrook White Thai. The Asian flavors played nicely with the beer.

Prices will begin at $5 and top out at that magical $22 price point.

For those anxious to see a beer list, check out this picture. The handles will give you a good indication of what you can expect to see on tap.

See anything you like?

Now for the big question: When will they open?! Fisher says they’re waiting for final permitting and will hopefully be open by the first of February. We won’t jinx him by telling you that they’ll definitely be open by Valentine’s Day since we all know how these things can go.

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