Wells Ales & Lagers, the lovechild of beer promoter Jeff Wells and a classic English pub (if a man and a building could have a baby), would benefit from dimmer lights, calmer music, and more human beings. It would then be less a beer church and more a place to drink and hang out. It’s like a white sneaker that wants to get dirty but hasn’t actually stepped into the playground.
That being said, the beer is delicious, which is convenient because (along with a few thoughtfully selected wines) it’s the only thing they serve. Wells offers 100 beers in bottles and ten on tap that come with colorful descriptions of their flavors and personalities. The bar itself is a stream of gleaming blonde wood, and the paneled ceiling and brick walls suggest a coziness that hasn’t yet been realized.
The sound system played ‘I’m Your Venus’ by Bananarama twice in a row and then went silent, which was particularly noticeable because the bar is already quiet; at no point in the evening was I unable to hear all other conversations around me. It was a friendly murmuring crowd, not what you’d automatically associate with beer.
That’s the thing — at present it’s too focused on its subject to actually be a good bar. It hitches the preciousness of wine to the laid-backness of beer, nullifying the appeal of both. For instance, Wells has more than 30 different kinds of glasses, and although I did feel fancy drinking from a gold-lipped tulip, for $7 I would have expected a larger serving, and “fancy” isn’t usually a word used to describe beer.
However, despite (or because of) the high prices, the bar policy seems to be to err on the side of generosity. When choosing my second round (first was Allagash White, from Portland, Maine —very refreshing), the bartender offered me hefty samples of three Belgian brews: La Chouffe Golden Ale, Liefman’s Kriekbier (an unusually delicious fruit beer with fermented cherries), and De Koninck Ale “Bolleke,” all of which I recommend enthusiastically.
Presumably the wear-and-tear will come with time, which will turn it into the warm, boozy, intimate bar it could easily be. At the moment it’s kind of scientific, like a really funned-out laboratory. There’s a backyard garden in the works that should be open by the time you finish reading this review, which should increase its allure. Wells Ales & Lager certainly has potential: It’s too expensive and respectful to be a stupid hipster hangout, which means Williamsburg is growing up?