Category Archives: Boston Bars

Beer Nerd PSA: Cantillion Zwanze Day 2013 is This Saturday

Cantillon Zwanze Day 2013

Just an (un)friendly reminder: Cantillon’s 2013 Zwanze Day is this Saturday, September 14. I wrote about the event last year, and believe you me, it was a blast.

Details on this year’s event and a full list of locations can be found on Cantillon’s website. Or read more about it here.

I’ll be at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA, on Saturday. If you spot me—I’ll be the guy with the Red Sox hat and the beer—leave me the fuck alone, huh? I’ll be busy drinking Cantillon.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, MA

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Last fall, I Barfly’s View’d the fuck out of Boston’s Bukowski Tavern, one of my regular haunts. Today, I’m spotlighting Buk Boston’s sister bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Inman Square, which I don’t visit as often but still stop by a few times a year.

The hipster vibe is palpable at Bukowski Tavern Cambridge, probably even more so than at Buk Boston, and you’re guaranteed to spot lots of tattoos. But the bartenders are friendly enough to non-regulars, and they’re usually knowledgeable about the beer they serve. One complaint: Yesterday the beer list was a mess. I ordered two beers that were on the draft list but weren’t tapped yet. And when I asked about the rotating gueuze as the beer book told me to, I was told they no longer sell gueuze. (Get your shit together, Buk.)

My favorite thing about Bukowski Tavern Cambridge is the atmosphere. The bar is inside an old mechanics’ garage, and its facade is still composed of two garage doors with rows of square-glass windows. A long bar runs along the right side as you enter, there are booths in the middle of the long thin space and tables just inside the entrance. Bukowski and Hank-Chinaski-related imagery adorns the walls. Behind the bar, hundreds of thick glass beer steins hang above the bartenders, a testament to the popularity of Buk Cambridge’s “mug club,” which requires that you drink every bottled beer they offer within a six-month period.

From BukowskiTavern.net:

“Bukowski Tavern is not responsible for any excessive weigh gain, marriage annulments, black eyes, one night stands, or spur of the moment tribal tattoo arm bands that one may incur throughout the process of completing your mug. Although completing a mug is an awesome accomplishment, it does not shoot said customer into the ranks of infinite coolness that are currently occupied by the bar staff at Bukowski Tavern.”

Well put.

Bukowski Tavern offers more than 100 bottles at any given time, in addition to a handful of “extra special bottles,” and 30 or more drafts. Buk also has a beer engine that serves up unique cask-conditioned offerings. And you can spin the Wheel of Beer if you can’t decide what you want to drink. But if you want the truth, only fucking amateurs spin the Beer Wheel.

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Food is fairly standard pub grub, and though I’ve never actually eaten at the bar—I hit up East Coast Grill for grub when in Inman Square, which is next door to Buk—my brother is a semi regular, and he tells me the quality has gone downhill in recent days.

I also get a kick out of Bukowski’s “Hobo Special,” which gets you a hot dog and a 40-ounce of your choice for $6.99. You won’t catch me drinking a fucking 40, unless it’s made by Dogfish Head. But I’m sure lots of grimy college kids and other lowlifes take advantage of the Hobo Special.

I still prefer Bukowski Boston, but that’s largely because it has sentimental value to me. Both bars make my list of Boston’s best beer bars, and you should definitely make a stop at each if you’re ever in Boston’s Back Bay or Inman Square in Cambridge.

UBN

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On Beer and Tea

Bar sign drink beer tea sucks

“After water and tea, beer is the third most popular drink in the world.” – Garrett Oliver, in the preface to the 2011 Oxford Companion to Beer. (Oliver is the brewmaster at The Brooklyn Brewery.)

Interesting factoid. But the above image, taken last year outside of Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, Mass., sums up my feelings on the subject.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Deep Ellum in Allston, MA

Deep Ellum Barfly's View Allston Boston MA

Deep Ellum is a chic, atmospheric beer/cocktail bar in Boston’s Allston neighbor, which is commonly referred to as the city’s “college ghetto.” At least that’s what I call the area, thanks to its large population of college kids and recent college graduates fucking around before starting Real Life. Allston is also Boston’s hipster center; the only place I’ve been with more hipsters per capita is Brooklyn, New York. (The bar is named after the Deep Ellum section of Dallas, Texas, which is known for its music and nightlife scene.)

Though Deep Ellum is located right in the college kid/hipsters zone, it’s not really a college hangout or hipster haven; it’s a little of both, I guess, but it’s also a great beer bar staffed with passionate and knowledgeable bartenders and waiters. It is without a doubt one of my 10 favorite beer bars in Boston. (Check out my full list of the Best Boston Beer Bars.)

One of the coolest things about Deep Ellum is its unique atmosphere. The bar top is made of glossy, dark wood; there are black and white television sets in both corners of the barroom, and they only play random old movies, sometimes just static, with no sound; reddish-orange lamps hang above the bar and lend an amber hue to the dimly-lit room; and a network of overhead fans powered by and connected to each other by rubber belts provide an industrial flair.

Deep Ellum Bar Boston Allston MA

The bar has 25 or so taps on at any given time, with many local brews and limited-release or hard to find imports, including many great Belgian ales. Deep Ellum has a cask. And its bottle list is impressive. In fact, you’ll often find bottles of Cantillon and other rarities. Deep Ellum is also known for its wide array of cocktails, but I don’t drink cocktails, so I don’t have any firsthand experience with them.

The food at Deep Ellum is upscale comfort food, and it can be a bit pricey. I’m particularly fond of its appetizers, especially the handmade pretzels with beer cheese and mustard. I’ve had dinner there a few times, but I find the entrees to be overpriced, so I stick to the snacks for the most part. (The bar is also connected to the popular Lone Star Taco Bar, so you can just walk next door for food if tacos are your thing.)

Deep Ellum’s bartenders are cool and willing to chat up beer nerds. Nicole, in particular, gets a big shout out from me because she knows her shit and she really brightened up my day last Friday when I was having a personal poor-me pity party. (Thanks Nicole.)

Any beer nerd looking to hit up the best bars in Boston should have Deep Ellum on his or her list. Learn more about Deep Ellum on the bar’s website.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Watch City Brewing Co. in Waltham, MA

Watch City Brewing Company Waltham MA

I’ve been drinking at Watch City Brewing Co. in Waltham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, for years, and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the brewpub. (Waltham is known as The Watch City due to a massive, but now-defunct Watch Factory that’s not far from the brewpub.)

I love Watch City Brewing because I love the area it is in; Moody St. in Waltham is the city’s “restaurant row,” and it’s packed with unique bars and eating establishments. The people who work at Watch City, or “The Watch,” are also great, and I know a number of them well. And the atmosphere is unique, thanks to a number of different styles of clocks on the walls alongside a bunch of local artwork.

But the beer at Watch City is subpar, plain and simple, especially for a joint that prides itself on brewing. I’ve honestly never had one single brew at Watch City that really impressed me. And I’ve had all of its flagship brews many times, as well as lots of other beers Watch City makes. They’re all just kind of “meh.” And The Watch really needs to clean its tap lines more frequently.

Watch City Brewing Company Waltham Massachusetts

Watch City makes decent food, but it’s way overpriced. The bar itself has uncomfortable wooden seats that are fixed to the ground so you can even shift them into a more comfortable position. And again, the beer is weak. That’s hard to ignore.

If a beer nerd asked me for recommendations in Waltham, I’d have a hard time suggesting Watch City. I’d be much more likely to recommend The Gaff or Bison County Bar and Grill, both of which are located on Moody St., and both of which have impressive craft beer selections.

I honestly wish I had more good things to say about Watch City. But as I wrote earlier this week sometimes bad people drink really good beer. And on the flip side, good people sometimes make not-so-great beer.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Cantillon Zwanze Day 2012 at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA

Zwanze Day 2012 at Lord Hobo

Yesterday, Saturday, December 1, 2012, was Cantillon Zwanze Day, and beer nerds across the world simultaneously celebrated by toasting this year’s Zwanze lambic at 3 PM ET. (Zwanze 2012 continued to be poured until it ran out, but the official toast was at 3PM.)

I attended the Zwanze Day festivities at Lord Hobo, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a medium-size, dimly lit bar just outside the city’s Kendall Square neighborhood, home of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—and the Cambridge Brewing Co., my favorite Boston-area brewpub.

Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA

The 2012 Zwanze lambic, a recreation of the original 2008 Zwanze lambic made with rhubarb, was poured at 3PM, but wise beer nerds arrived at Lord Hobo hours before the pour. I walked through the doors of Lord Hobo and pushed back the thick curtain that covers the bar just after noon, and it was already packed; my girlfriend and I were able to nab two seats at a communal table, but the bar and most of the other tables were full three hours before Zwanze was poured. The staff stopped letting people in around 1:30, and by 3 o’clock a line of 20 or so drinkers were lined up outside—in the snow—along the front of the bar.

Barfly's View Lord Hobo Zwanze Day

Lord Hobo is known for its extensive bottle and draft list, and the staff took it a step further for Zwanze Day, with 9 different Cantillon lambics available in bottles and an extremely-rare, unblended two-year old Cantillon lambic on tap, in addition to countless other rare beers, including the 2003 Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale, a 2005 Dogfish Head Pangea and multiple Hill Farmstead brews in bottle and on draft. I can honestly say that Lord Hobo’s Zwanze Day 2012 beer list was the most impressive list I’ve ever seen.

Cantillon Zwanze Day 2012 Tap List at Lord Hobo

To kill time until the Zwanze 2012 pour, my girl and I sidled up to a few Cantillon bottles (Cantillon’s 2012 Fou’ Foune and 2012 Kriek 100% Lambic), a couple of glasses of the two-year-old unblended lambic and some grub; I got fried chicken and waffles and the chef made a special vegan-friendly dish for the lady. Lord Hobo’s menu is not at all vegan or even vegetarian friendly, but we were pleased to see that both our waiter and the chef were more than willing to whip up a vegan offering. They came up with a fruit/granola dish along with hash and a fried-rice patty thing that was much more than either of us expected. And the service at Lord Hobo, even during the crazy period just before and just after the Zwanze toast, was impeccable.

Cantillon Two-Year-Old Unblended Lambic

Glasses of Two-Year-Old Cantillon Unblended Lambic

Just before 3PM, the owner of the bar stood up on a chair to address all of the anxious beer nerds awaiting the Zwanze. He spoke about how important the Cantillon brewery and its head brewer Jean Van Roy are to him personally and why it was an honor to host Zwanze Day at Lord Hobo. You could feel real passion in the man’s words, and everyone else in the bar fed off of his energy; the noise level in Lord Hobo immediately increased. When the Zwanze was poured and distributed—six ounces each for about 100 people in the bar—and three o’clock came around, everyone raised their glasses in a salute to Lord Hobo and the Van Roy family and yelled out in unison, “Cheers!” It was a special moment, and I am glad to have been a part of it.

Two Glasses of 2012 Cantillon Zwanze lambic

Glasses of Cantillon’s 2102 Zwanze

I visit Lord Hobo relatively frequently, but I’d never been to a Zwanze Day celebration there. The next time I stop by for a brew, which will likely be sooner than later, I’ll picture the barroom filled with excited Cantillon drinkers, all of the tables covered with spent bottles, and I’ll remember that Lord Hobo is not just another beer bar. Lord Hobo is run by people who love beer and brewing as much as I do, and the bar and its staff deserve to be recognized for that.

If you’re ever in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I strongly suggest you make some time for a beer or six at Lord Hobo.

UBN

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Reminder: Cantillon Zwanze Day 2012 is Saturday, December 1

Just a quick reminder that the 2012 Cantillon Zwanze Day is this Saturday, December 1. Lambic, sour and Belian-beer lovers won’t want to miss it. The 2012 Zwanze lambic is a reproduction of the 2008 Zwanze brew, and it will be made with rhubard. More details on Zwanze Day and all the 31 official locations across the globe can be found here. I’ll be attending the event at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA. If you’re there, just scream, “Yo, Urban Beer Nerd, where you at?” and I’ll come say hello. Cheers, salute, slainte, prost and all that good shit.

UBN

Image via 100Beers30Days.com

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Pretty Things to Launch New ‘Once Upon a Time, Old Beer’ Dec. 9 in Boston

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project OUAT Old Beers

The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project on Saturday announced via Twitter that it will pour four beers from its Once Upon a Time collection of “old beers” at Deep Ellum in Boston’s Allston neighborhood on Sunday, December 9, including a least one brand new brew called 1879 IPA

Pretty Things is a small, Somerville-Massachusetts based brewery that’s making waves on the New England craft beer scene thanks to some great beers, unique bottle art and a lots of grassroots marketing. (I sat down for a chat with Pretty Things brewers Dann and Martha Paquette a couple of weeks ago.) Pretty Things’ Once Upon a Time Old Beers are recreations of lost styles of beer brewed in the 1800s and early 1900s.

From Pretty Things:

“Our historical projects begin by working with brewing historians such as our present collaborator: Ron Pattinson, a resident of Amsterdam. Ron provides us with brewsheets and insight from breweries often long shuttered. These sheets are the actual records written in the brewer’s hand at the moment he was brewing a batch of beer. This allows us to reach through the mists of time and pick up exactly where they left off.

“We do not interpret or attempt to commercialize these beers in any manner. In fact you have our pledge that if history presents us with a less-than-desirable beer, you will taste this beer as it was. That’s our unique commitment to you.

“Why do we do this? We do this because no one else does. We do this because despite the fact that beer played a much more significant role in our cultures years ago, we’re still unclear of what it actually tasted like. This is of significant interest to us and hopefully you too.”

The initiative is not unlike Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales effort, but Pretty Things focuses on a very different era of brewing.

It’s unclear whether or not the additional three OUAT beers Pretty Things plans to pour on December 9 will also be new or if they’re previously released Old Beers. I’ve had a number of the OUAT beers, and they’re all interesting, particularly the “X Ales” from 1838 and 1945, which were based on recipes for similar English mild ales made almost a hundred years apart.

If you’re in the Boston area on December 9, swing by Deep Ellum and get your Old Beer on.

Learn more about the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project on PrettyThingsBeerToday.com.

UBN

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Pucker Up: 12 Sour Beers that’ll Have You Hooked in No Time

Russian River Supplication Sour Ale

Sour beers aren’t for everyone. They’re definitely an acquired taste, and not everyone will acquire the taste for tart ales. Those who are daring enough to push their beer boundaries a bit, however, will very likely be rewarded. (Check out this post for details on the difference between “sour beer” and “wild beer.”)

I started drinking sour beers about a year ago, and I’m absolutely hooked today. It took a bartender at the Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston, Mass., to convince me to give sours a try beyond that first challenging sip. Now the first thing I do when I visit a beer bar is scan the draft/bottle list for sours.

It pays to start off slowly when wading into the waters of sour ales, though. The following list spotlights a dozen of my favorite sour beers, starting with some less-challenging sours and finishing up with some seriously sour brews. Most of these beers, with a few exceptions, can be found in quality craft beer shops throughout the United States. (Note: The Russian River beers at the bottom of the list are very hard to find outside of California, but they’re so damn good, I had to include them.)

UBN

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Get Your Cantillon Zwanze on Saturday, December 1, 2012

Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon bottles

Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon, one of the world’s finest Belgian-Lambic beer brewers, is holding its annual Zwanze Day celebration on Saturday, December 1, 2012, in 31 cities across the globe, and 16 of those locations are bars in the United States.

If you’re a fan of Lambic, gueuze or other sour beers—and you’re near one of the few official Zwanze Day bars—this is an event you don’t want to miss.

From Cantillon.be:

“Seeing that we had received numerous requests to organise a Zwanze Day this year we decided to recreate the very first Zwanze produced in 2008. As a reminder, that year’s vintage had been brought about by soaking rhubarb in Lambic. The ultimate result of that experiment was a very delicate and complex product in which the beer’ acidic taste struck a very nice balance with the plant’s tartness and then lingered long on the palate.

“For this new production batch we decided to work with organically-grown rhubarb, and you can really taste this in the beer, which is more structured and full-bodied than the 2008 vintage. We opted to recreate the rhubarb Lambic because very few consumers had been able to taste this beer 4 years ago, when only 300 litres had been produced. On top of this, unlike fruit crops, rhubarb production was not adversely affected by the very poor weather which hit Europe this spring. And finally, the last, perhaps most important reason of all for bringing back Zwanze 2008: my wife tells me it’s one of her favourites.”

Here’s a list of all the Zwanze Day bars/cities:

America – USA:

  • Armsby Abbey – Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Avenue Pub – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • ChurchKey – Washington, D.C.
  • Crooked Stave Barrel Cellar – Denver, Colorado
  • Holy Grale – Louisville, Kentucky
  • Hop and Vine – Portland, Oregon
  • Lord Hobo – Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Monk’s Café – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Novare Res Bier Café – Portland, Maine
  • REAL a gastropub – Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Redlight Redlight – Orlando, Florida
  • Spuyten Duyvil – Brooklyn, New York
  • The Foundry – Kansas City, Missouri
  • The Trappist – Oakland, California
  • Toronado – San Diego, California
  • West Lakeview Liquors – Chicago, Illinois

America – Canada:

  • Canada – Montréal : Dieu du Ciel

Europe :

  • Belgium – Brussels : Moeder Lambic Fontainas
  • Belgium – Brussels : Moeder Lambic Saint-Gilles
  • Belgium – Arlon : Mi-Orge Mi-Houblon
  • France – Paris : La Fine Mousse
  • France – Lille : La Capsule
  • Great Britain – London : The Earl of Essex
  • Italy Rome : Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà
  • Italy Bergamo : The Dome
  • Italy Nicorvo : Sherwood Pub
  • Italy – Quinto Vicentino : The Drunken Duck
  • Italy – Quartu Sant’Elena : Ristopub Margherita
  • Norway – Grimstad : Nøgne Ø
  • Finland Helsinki : Pikkulitu
  • Denmark Copenhagen : Olbutikken
  • Netherlands – Amsterdam : De Bierkoning
  • Sweden Stockholm : Akkurat
  • Spain – Sant Joan de Mediona : Masia Agullons

Asia:

  • Japan – Tokyo: Embassy of Belgium

I will most definitely be attending the Zwanze Day event at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, Mass. As far as I can tell, you don’t need tickets for any of these events; they’re first come, first serve. I was fortunate enough to find bottles of Cantillon Vigneronne and Saint Lamvinus last week at Novare Res Bier Cafe in Portland, Maine, two fantastic Lambics made with grapes, and I seriously can’t stop thinking about them. And Cantillon Zwanze Day 2012 can’t get here soon enough.

UBN

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