Go for the beer and the good cheer

The bad news is, the food couldn't be more mediocre. The good news is, it doesn't matter.

Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse — or Issaquah Brewery as it's called on the Web site, or Issaquah Distillery & Public House as it's called on the neon sign in the window — is the sort of place where, nondescript vittles and uncertain cognomination notwithstanding, people will forever flock in droves. I guess sometimes you wanna go where nobody knows its name.

And, more to the point, where the beer is fresh and free-flowing.

Issaquah Brewhouse is the fifth of Rogue Ale's brewpubs (the sixth just opened in Eugene, Ore.) featuring some 17 of the beautifully crafted ales on tap, with a whole slew of bottled beers besides. The youthful folk staffing the place, who on the whole are admirably responsive to their tables, are also knowledgeable about the beer, and can help a patron decide whether a Mexicali Rogue or a Dead Guy Ale would best complement the Reuben sandwich or coconut-crusted prawns.

Of course, when you get that Reuben or plate of prawns, it'll likely be the beer that's the most memorable — but don't get me wrong: I've not tasted any outright disasters here. Anything you order off the long list of pub-grub appetizers, hearty sandwiches, fat burgers or soups and salads will probably be perfectly adequate to fill your dinner hole.

The fries are salty and go down nicely with the suds. There's a merry buzz in the air from all the soccer families, snowboarders, after-workers, birthday celebrants and other happy community members. Your misbehaving children are welcome. Turns out a new distillery is just about to start cranking out Rogue's own rum.

Drink two or three of these libations, and there's even a perfectly irreverent Rogue T-shirt or sweatshirt for sale to satisfy your tipsy impulse.

No, I can't recommend the food. But you'll go anyway.

Check please:

Ale-steamed clams: Oversteamed. Undernuanced. Damned shame.

Mixed green salad: A pedestrian toss of crunchy lettuce, tomatoes, cukes and croutons. Though nothing was outright wrong, the thing dropped me off several blocks south of exciting.

Chicken pita sandwich: This had some intention in it, at least, but the execution left much to be desired. A warm, pillowy pita round was filled with chunks of chicken, feta cheese, red onions and a yogurt sauce that was one-note and sweet. If the chicken had been marinated, it wasn't in anything with flavor. And they ought to consider stuffing it all inside the pita, as the roll-up arrangement left way too much goop in my lap.

Halibut fish 'n' chips: The texture of the halibut and its batter could not have been better — cooked not a moment too long and superbly crispy on the outside. My quibble was with the flavor, which was presumably meant to be supplied by a lot of dill. A complementary spice, or whisper of lemon or pepper, even some salt, could possibly have saved this dish. The coleslaw and fries were fine.

Bullfrog Ale: A delicious quaff, brewed in-house, with a wheaty Hefeweisen thing going on.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Ale-steamed clams $11.95

Mixed green salad $4.25

Chicken pita sandwich $8.50

Halibut fish 'n' chips $11.95

Bullfrog Ale (pint) $4.50

Tax $3.62

Total $44.77

Kathryn Robinson: kathrynrobinson@speakeasy.net

Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse

35 W. Sunset Way, Issaquah; 425-557-1911

Pub grub

Web site: www.rogue.com

Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fridays- Saturdays.

Beer, wine and limited spirits / credit cards: AE, D, MC, V / smoking allowed at back bar / no obstacles to access / minors welcome.

Rating: not recommended.