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posted: 3/8/2013 6:00 AM

Spotted Fox Ale House impresses with extensive craft beer menu

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  • Bartender Alissa Lowery pours a Spotted Fox martini at the Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles. The signature cocktail is made with vanilla vodka, chocolate liqueur and a splash of Baileys with a cinnamon finish.

       Bartender Alissa Lowery pours a Spotted Fox martini at the Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles. The signature cocktail is made with vanilla vodka, chocolate liqueur and a splash of Baileys with a cinnamon finish.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Paula Schmidt, left, Julie Keller and Julie Olney, all of St. Charles, opt for a selection of wines offered at the Spotted Fox to celebrate a recent birthday.

       Paula Schmidt, left, Julie Keller and Julie Olney, all of St. Charles, opt for a selection of wines offered at the Spotted Fox to celebrate a recent birthday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Nate Galan serves lunch patrons hearty sandwiches at the Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles.

       Nate Galan serves lunch patrons hearty sandwiches at the Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • The Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles features a roomy bar area.

       The Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles features a roomy bar area.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Heather Wells delivers a hot pretzel appetizer, one of the standouts on the Spotted Fox menu.

       Heather Wells delivers a hot pretzel appetizer, one of the standouts on the Spotted Fox menu.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • A V.I.P. sitting area at the Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles can be reserved for special gatherings.

       A V.I.P. sitting area at the Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles can be reserved for special gatherings.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • The Spotted Fox Ale House caters to beer lovers and sports fans.

       The Spotted Fox Ale House caters to beer lovers and sports fans.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

I like beer. I also like to try new things. So when I heard about the Spotted Fox Ale House in St. Charles with its more than 30 craft beer offerings on tap taking over the space of the former Bennigan's across from the Charlestowne Mall, I said, "I'll try that."

Faced with mostly unknown-to-me beers offered at the Spotted Fox, I asked for help. Good thing staff here know what they're doing and are ready to help further your beer education or just recommend a draft you're sure to enjoy.

Motif: Twenty-five high-definition televisions provide the first clue that sports go over big here. A quirky chandelier made of microbrew draft pulls in the entrance is the only nod to the Spotted Fox's extensive microbrew and craft beer selections. The bar area is a wide open space with a large rectangular bar in the center. Tables, high-top tables and roomy booths are on the dining side of the space. Lights are dimmed here, but there are plenty of TVs, too.

Crowd: On a busy Saturday night, there were a few kids finishing dinner with families in the dining area as well as a couple of larger parties dining as well. The bar was full and doing a revolving business with people waiting on tables as well as people dining. TV volumes were turned off with a music track playing, but it was still a bit noisy.

Service: Our server listened to what I liked in a beer (smooth but light) and what I don't like (that bitter taste of rye bread). Based on that, he made excellent recommendations -- my friend and I were thrilled with our selections.

If you're a beer connoisseur, you'll appreciate the Alcohol By Volume percentages and the number each beer is rated on the International Bittering Unit scale when making your choice.

Food: A fairly standard lineup of appetizers has some standouts including the Warm Pretzels with seasonal ale cheddar dip and spicy mustard. We were also drawn to the waffle fries, which the menu states include Guinness braised pork shoulder served with sticky sweet cabbage, scallions, sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. The platter of fries would easily feed two for a meal and four to five as a starter. Tasty as this was, the promised cabbage was nowhere to be found. Another good option are the Buffalo Chicken Dips, herb cream cheese with breaded buffalo chicken pieces served with Chihuahua cheese and pico de gallo.

While pub offerings are solid, with burgers on pretzel buns and hearty sandwiches big hits, the menu appears to be in transition and some of the printed options have already been axed. We also had a few issues with what we did order. My blackened fish and shrimp tacos were a tad dry, and my friend's steak came with admittedly good mashed potatoes, despite the menu stating it came with twice-baked. The kitchen was quick to rectify the problem, though.

Liquid consumption: Blonde ales, IPAs, porters and stouts are the main attraction. Off the menu of mostly regional craft and microbrew beers, I enjoyed a Chicago-made Revolution Cross of Gold, a classic blonde made with cascade hops. My friend loved the Lost Coast Tangerine, a tangerine wheat from Northern California. A full bar offers specialty martinis, cocktails, wines and a selection of domestic and other canned craft beers.

Entertainment: Check the schedule of live music, special events, weekday specials and promotions online.

Parking: Parking is plentiful.

Overall: This is a nice place to catch a game, enjoy distinctive beers, and have a burger or appetizers with friends.

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