Category Archives: Barfly’s View

Barfly’s View: Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub in Portland, ME

Gritty McDuff's Brew Pub in Portland, Maine

Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub in Portland, Maine’s Old Port neighborhood is “Maine’s original brew pub”—it was Maine’s first brew pub since the end of prohibition, and it opened in 1988. I stopped by Gritty’s for a few pints a couple of weeks ago during Portland Beer Week, and it turned out to be one of my favorite watering holes I found in a city that’s packed with quality drinking establishments.

The brew pub is just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, and you can see the waterfront area through a back window on clear days. The bar is topped with shiny, battered copper. The bartender was friendly and quick to offer recommendations for other nearby bars and attractions. I didn’t have any food, but I Gritty’s offers a wide range of pub grub.

All of the “real ales” at Gritty McDuff’s are brewed on premise, and it shows; the beers I had were extremely fresh. I’d had a few different Gritty’s beers before my visit; Gritty’s Black Fly Stout isn’t difficult to find in my home city of Boston. But the draft version I had at the brew pub was even more delicious, a truly fine stout.

Gritty McDuff's Mug Club mugs

Gritty’s Mug Club mugs hanging above the bar

Gritty’s regulars can pay $75 a year to join its Mug Club, which gets you a 21-ounce, white ceramic mug of your own and five more ounces of brew for the same price as the standard 16-ounce pints. Five-year Mug Club members get special colored mugs that are even larger. And every Gritty’s pub—there are two more of them, in Freeport and Lewiston/Auburn, Maine—offers two-dollar drafts for Mug Club members two nights a week.

If you’re ever in Portland and have a hankerin’ for a real ale, you’ll find a friend in Gritty McDuff’s.

UBN

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

Last week I traveled to Portland, Maine, for a few days to celebrate Portland Beer Week. Portland is an amazing New England city by the sea that’s packed with great restaurants, quality breweries and brewpubs, and top-notch beer bars. I hit up nearly a dozen different bars in Portland, but one in particular really stood out: Novare Res Bier Café.

Novare Res is a dark, semi-subterranean beer bar with brick columns and other brick accents, and Belgian-themed decorations throughout, which make for a very cool, laid-back atmosphere. The beer list is amazing; Novare Res has 25 rotating drafts, two hand-pumped casks and more than 500 bottles—I drank some very hard-to-find Cantillon Lambics, Vigneronne and Saint Lamvinus. And Novare Res spotlighted a number of Maine brewers I’d never heard of, as part of Portland Beer Week. (Shout out to Oxbow Brewing Co. and Bull Jagger Brewing Co., two awesome Maine breweries that put on noteworthy events at Novare Res last week.)

Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

The bar serves a number of meat-and-cheese hors d’oeuvres, and a few small meals, but it’s the beer not the food that makes Novare Res shine. The bartenders are also very knowledgeable and friendly. In fact, one particularly-cool bartender noticed that I was drinking sour beers and went out of his way to let me know that a nearby Japanese noodle bar had one of my favorite gueuzes, Tilquin, on draft. (If you read this, thanks man, the gueuze—and gyoza—at Pai Men Miyake was awesome.)

Boston is home to some world-class beer bars that I frequent. I travel fairly often, and I make it a point to visit all the best beer bars wherever I roam—hence, my collection of Barfly’s Views. In other words, I know my beer bars. But I was blown away by Novare Res Bier Café. Novare Res is not only the best beer bar I found in Portland, it’s one of the best beer bars I’ve ever been to. If you find yourself in Portland, Maine, you need to get your ass over to Novare Res.

UBN

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: The Lower Depths Tap Room in Boston’s Kenmore Square

The Lower Depths Tap Room in Boston's Kenmore Square

Whenever I’m in Boston’s Kenmore Square neighborhood, be it for a Red Sox game—Fenway Park is steps away from Kenmore—to grab a book at the Boston University Barnes & Noble or just wandering, I always hit up The Lower Depths Tap Room, one of my favorite beer bars in the city.

The Lower Depths is a cash-only beer bar—no liquor—with 16 rotating drafts, 150 or so bottles and a cask. The bar doesn’t serve any Budweiser beers. (Hurrah.) It also has better-than-average bar food, including a number of delectable tater-tot platters, an awesome handmade pretzel with beer cheese, and, my personal favorite, a rotating grilled cheese of the day. My girlfriend appreciates the vegan-friendly options. And you can get hotdogs for a dollar each.

The Lower Depth’s bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly. And the bar frequently holds “beer socials” and other events with local brewers. For all of these reasons and more, The Lower Depths Tap Room sits near the top of my Best Boston Beer Bars list.

UBN

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: Brewer’s Coalition in Newtonville, MA

Brewer's Coalition Newtonville Barfly's View

Brewer’s Coalition in Newtonville, Mass., is located right outside of Boston and less than a mile from the Massachusetts Turnpike. Newtonville is a yuppyish suburb west of Boston, and that’s quickly apparent after rubbing elbows with the Brewer’s Coalition clientele. That’s not to say, I don’t like the bar, which is an offshoot of the popular John Brewer’s Tavern restaurants in Nearby Waltham and Malden, Mass. It’s just not exactly a hip scene.

The beer selection is decent for a location like Newtonville, but it’s definitely nothing special when compared to other beer bars in the Boston area. The two things Brewer’s Coalition really has going for it are its friendly (and easy-on-the-eyes) bartenders and its selection of local Massachusetts and New England beers. The bar claims to have 50 craft beers available; I saw 20 taps and maybe twice that number of bottles, many of which were local. The bar also serves bar food, but I never hang around long enough to try any of it.

Brewer’s Coalition isn’t really worth driving out of your way for, but if you happen to be heading west out of Boston and you need a road soda, or if you’re just passing through the Newtonville area, you could find a friend in this pseudo beer bar.

UBN

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: Cambridge Brewing Co. in Cambridge, MA

Cambridge Brewing Co.

Cambridge Brewing Co. is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Kendall Square neighborhood, just across the Charles River from downtown Boston, and it is hands down my favorite brewpub in the Boston area.

That’s because of the laid-back, upscale pub atmosphere and quality, fresh foods. But the real reason I love Cambridge Brewing Co., or CBC, as the locals call it, is the beer. I’ve never met a CBC beer that I didn’t like. Lots of small brewpubs make mediocre beer, but CBC, the oldest brewpub in Boston, makes world-class brews. (In fact, it just won a silver medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Fest.) CBC has four house beers that are always on tap, as well as a frequently-rotating selection of more experimental brews, some with rather amusing names. And you can buy growlers to go.

Kendall Square is a technology center of Boston and Cambridge, and it’s home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So CBC is often packed with 30-something professionals drinking over lunchtime business meetings or quirky MIT students winding down after a day of hitting the books.

Whenever a beer-loving friend or colleague visits Boston, CBC is the first drinking-destination I recommend.

UBN

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: Downtown Johnny Brown’s in San Diego, CA

Downtown Johnny Brown's San Diego

One of the few bars I visited more than once during my recent trip to San Diego was Downtown Johnny Brown’s, located in the city’s Civic Center Plaza. The reason I returned: An excellent selection of Russian River Brewing Co. barrel-aged sour ales, which are some of my favorite Cali-made brews, and the bar’s relative close proximity to my hotel.

The atmosphere in Downtown Johnny Brown’s is more sports bar than beer bar, and it also serves wine. But what Downtown Johnny Brown’s lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for with its quality, albeit limited, draft selection and bottle list. When I visited, the bar had between 15 and 20 beers on tap, the majority of which were local. It also had a dozen or so unique bottles, and its prices were very reasonable compared to some of the other bars I hit.

Downtown Johnny Brown’s also serves basic bar food, including lots of greasy fried shit and decent burgers. The bar has a pool table, darts and shuffleboard, if bar games are you thang. But it’s Downtown Johnny Brown’s quality beer selection that makes this bar a draw for beer nerds in or around San Diego.

UBN

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: Toronado in San Diego, CA

Toronado Bar San Diego

After performing a fairly in-depth Web search for the best beer bars in San Diego, it was clear I had to visit one bar in particular: Toronado, in the city’s North Park neighborhood. Toronado showed up in almost every single list of San Diego beer bars I found, and it was on the top of many of them.

So yesterday, I made my way over to Toronado, which isn’t exactly close to where I’m staying. (Shout out to my man Chris for the ride. I love ya buddy.) I arrived around 7 pm on Monday night, and the bar was already packed. I soon found out why: Toronado offers pints of all of its local draft brews for $3 as part of a Monday night special. Considering the bar’s impressive draft list, and the fact that San Diego’s “local” beers are some of the best beers in the nation—dare I say, the world—that’s a pretty fucking good deal.

Toronado San Diego is the sister bar of the (in)famous original Toronado bar in San Francisco. It has 56 rotating taps and hundreds of rare bottles from around the world. (I had a Russian River Supplication Batch 004 that was to die for.) And the food wasn’t bad either, though it’s pretty standard pub grub.

The bar was so busy that I couldn’t really engage the bartenders, but the guy who served my Supplication gave me a knowing look and a smirk when I ordered, and I got the feeling that the staff really knows its brews. The atmosphere was more dive bar than upscale beer bar, but I dig that kind of scene. And Toronado San Diego has a juke box that’s packed with a range of quality eclectic tunes. I don’t have much more time in San Diego, so I doubt I’ll make it back to Toronado during this trip. But I know I will return at some point. Toronado is a top notch beer bar.

UBN

Tagged , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: Neighborhood in San Diego, CA

Neighborhood Bar San Diego

Today I arrived in San Diego to cover a (non-beer-related) conference, and the first thing I did was seek out some decent beer bars within walking distance of my hotel. I hit a few duds first, but I eventually found Neighborhood. The bar also serves wine and cocktails, so it’s not really a straight beer bar, per se. But the beers it does serve, on tap and in bottles and cans, are clearly selected with love.

Neighborhood is located in downtown San Diego’s East Village, just east of the city’s Gaslamp Quarter, and it’s a solid beer nerd hangout. It has around 30 draft beers on at any given time and between 30 and 40 bottles. (Neighborhood had Pliny the Elder on tap today, which definitely didn’t hurt.) My bartender was friendly and unpretentious, if a bit stereotypically hipsterish. And she was knowledgeable and helpful when I asked for recommendations. The food is unique, upscale pub grub. And the décor and atmosphere both get thumbs-up from me. (Neighborhood also apparently has a secret “speak easy” called Noble Experiment with an entrance near the restrooms that’s hidden with beer kegs, but I didn’t actually see it.)

If you’re in San Diego’s East Village or Gaslamp Quarter and you’re seeking a unique craft brew, you could definitely do worse than Neighborhood.

UBN

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Barfly’s View: Bison County Bar and Grill in Waltham, MA

Bison County Bar and Grill Waltham MA

Bison County Bar & Grill in Waltham, MA, a Boston suburb that’s about 25 minutes outside of the city, is half barbeque joint, half beer bar. I’m not much of a barbeque guy—I don’t eat beef or pork—so I can’t say too much about the food, but Bison has more than 15 draft beers available at any given time and 50 or so bottles, many of which are local. And (most of) the bartenders are cool and willing (and able) to chat craft beer.

A number of Boston Celtics players have also been known to hangout at Bison, since the team’s practice facility is located in Waltham. (I’ve never seen any of the Celts’ “stars” there, though.) The atmosphere is decent, especially since Waltham is known more for its dingy sports bar than beer bars. I’ve even found a few cans of the extremely elusive Heady Topper IPA, from the Alchemist, at Bison.

UBN

Tagged , , , ,
Advertisements