The following is a guest post, written by a good friend of mine, Ryan Conaughty. I met Ryan while he was studying for his Masters in Creative Writing at SUNY Brockport. He’s taught me a lot about craft beer and has been a huge supporter of this site since it’s inception. If you enjoy his writing, I recommend checking out his bike journal titled,TransAm Blues, wherein he tells the story of the time he rode his bicycle across the whole freaking country, by himself. He’s a great writer, a great friend, and he knows a whole lot more about beer than I do. Enjoy!
In a small room just big enough to fit a stack of menus, a touchscreen cash register, and a pop machine; I try to conduct an interview with Scott Donnelly, owner of Donnelly’s Public House in Fairport, NY. It’s not easy. I have a list of questions that I want to ask him about beer, food, and Rochester, among other things, but we’re having a hard time communicating. People keep interrupting us. They’re shaking Scott’s hand, smiling, and telling him how much they enjoyed the dinner he and his team just presented. Words like “fantastic”, “excellent”, “unbelievable”, and “amazing” are all words they use. My favorite quote came from my girlfriend, as I pointed to her almost-full glass of Dogfish Head’s My Antonia, she smiled, putting her fork down from her Bourbon County Marinated Pork Loin stuffed with weaved bacon, horseradish, and aged 4-year Maple leaf cheddar cheese and said, “Sorry. The food is so good, I forgot I was drinking beer!”
“That’s our goal,” Scott says, “to ‘WOW’ people.”, when I ask him if he considers this reaction an indication of success for the two-night, sold-out event. “Tonight and every other Beer and Bites, I think, represents my business model: to, in a way, under promise and over deliver. I mean, Tom Willis, our head chef and I talked about the soup for literally two hours just to get it right. My opinion? I think this was the best 5 course beer dinner we’ve ever done.” The smiles on everyone’s faces serve as a testament to the kitchen and wait staff: the meal was prepared, delivered, and paired perfectly.
People trust us. They trust that we’ll do a good job and treat them right. I want them to say ‘Donnelly’s knows their shit’. I mean, this whole beer dinner idea is, from a business standpoint, a failure by design. We don’t make money from this at all. But that’s not the point of hosting them and bringing all these great people together. It’s about the experience that good beer and great food offers. People know that we’re gonna take care of them when they come here, be it a Tuesday for lunch, a Sunday watching the game, or a five course pairing dinner. We’ve got pretty good beer, too.
I’d say that 30 taps of constantly rotating craft beer is better than “pretty good.” I ask him about our city and its rise as a prominent beer scene.