All around nerd, pro wrestling fan, burrito enthusiast and beard rights activist. Co-host of Rude Moose Radio and editor of Flagrantly Foul.
Bubble Hockey and Wall-Mounted Breathalyzers: Three Beers At…The Maple Leaf Pub
As a Midwesterner, I am really confused right now. It’s September, but it’s still hotter than Satan’s asshole and I have read way to many college football season previews on local websites.
No one is talking about getting their furnaces checked out. I can’t find a bag of rock salt anywhere and did I mention that it’s too fucking hot for September? The biggest thing missing, at least for me, is that no one is talking about hockey season approaching.
God, that’s what I’m going to miss the most about the Midwest. Hockey. HOCKEY.
I love hockey. The speed, the grace, the jacked up Canadian dudes just beating the shit out of each other while drunk Americans spill $10 beers all over themselves. What’s not to like?
When I talk to people and tell them the one thing I miss the most is hockey, I get pointed to the same place every single time: The Maple Leaf Pub on the corner of Elgin and Smith in Midtown.
The Maple Leaf Pub prides itself on being “Houston’s home for hockey,” and I was anxious to check out the place where I would be spending many winter nights (when I’m sure it’ll be like, 50 degrees) watching my beloved St. Louis Blues. I don’t want to get punched for asking a bartender to turn the Vagisil Independence Bowl off so I can watch some hockey at some random bar. I need some dedication.
Just walking in, I could tell I was at the right place. The first thing I saw was a bubble hockey machine.
It was also at this point that I realized I’m old as fuck. It was 8pm on a Friday, and I was expecting the place to be packed to the tits. There were nine other people in the bar.
Normally, I’m cool with that because of my recent hatred of other people, but all it made me think was 8pm on a Friday night is peak hours for drunkenness in my mind.
Screw it, let’s get to the beer.
What do you do when you walk in to a hockey bar? You get a fucking Molson’s, and you high-five a grizzly bear wearing a Wayne Gretzky jersey, that’s what you do. Sadly, there were no grizzly bears in any kind of jersey around, so I settled for the Molson’s.
Molson’s, from what I gather, is the Canadian equivalent of Bud Light. It’s the shit you get when you’re going on, I don’t know, an ice fishing trip and you need to get 60 beers for a decent price. It also tasted like someone dunked maple syrup-flavored balls in the keg. I’ll chalk it up to my American taste buds, but that shit is gross. I felt like I needed to gargle with hops to kill the flavor.
So I did. I went with the Buffalo Bayou 1836 Maple Aged Copper Ale, which is made exclusively for the Maple Leaf. That is a crying shame, because it was a delicious little number. It’s worth going to the Maple Leaf just to get a pint of this beer, even if hockey killed your mother. It’s that damn good.
This is normally the part where I would break down the bar menu, but there’s really just not much there. Pizzas, jalapeno poppers, a meatball sandwich for some reason, and hot dogs are all we’ve got at the Maple Leaf.
Just because there are a lot of restaurants near your bar doesn’t mean you can’t try, guys. What would Wayne Gretzky think?
Alright, beer three! What’s it gonna be? Labatt? Moosehead? Schmitt’s Gay? I went another direction altogether and ordered a Not Your Father’s Root Beer from Small Town Brewery in Wauconda, IL.
Ah, yes. The Midwest strikes again. This shit tastes like root beer, by the way. If you gave this to a little kid in an emptied out Mug can, they would never notice. And you would go to jail, you lousy criminal. It’s amazing.
I realized why my order sent the bartender in to a giggle fit — the kind that wouldn’t be out of place at a Justin Bieber concert. He’s still a thing, right? Oh, who gives a shit. Bottom line is, Not Your Father’s Root Beer is going to give workplace alcoholics a way to not get sniffed out for a LONG time.
There was one thing that blew me away, though — aside from that alcoholic root beer, mind you. There’s a wall-mounted breathalyzer near the bar, and at first, I thought it was a gag. I thought I would blow into it and it would say “dead fish” or some carny shit like that. Turns out, it was legit (well, as legit as a wall mounted breathalyzer in a bar can be). The best part was it? That breathalyzer has the names and numbers of several local cab companies on the screen for folks to call when they’ve had too many Crown Royals and Labatt’s. Very cool touch.
All in all, The Maple Leaf Pub is a cool place for non-hockey fans to hang out during the off-season. I’m sure once the NHL regular season starts up, all of us transplants will flood that bitch and make it a hellscape for non-fans, but those non-fans would be better off going somewhere with better food and drink options anyway. It reminds me of my hometown bars in St. Louis, but for locals, it may be too niche.
Which is fine — stay away, non-hockey-lovers — because the more adult root beer for me, the better.