Tag Archives: beer bar

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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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: 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

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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

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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

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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

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CraftBeer.com Wants Your Vote for Best American Beer Bar

I’m a little disappointed to see that none of my favorite beer bars are listed in CraftBeer.com’s online poll for best American beer bars. I spent quite a bit of time hunting for the best beer bars in Massachusetts, New York and California, and there’s only one bars I’m familiar with on the list that I’d consider to be a great beer bar. That’s Armsby Abbey in Worcester, Mass.

CraftBeer.com Great American Beer Bars

Alas, I admit haven’t been to all of the nation’s best beer bars—I plan to do my best to get to as many possible before my liver quits on me. But I thought I’d give the CraftBeer.com poll some attention. If you, like me, don’t know many of the bars listed here, why not give Armsby Abbey a vote up? It’s a great bar in New England’s second largest city after Boston, and they deserve it. I promise.

Check out the all the bars that were nominated for CraftBeer.com’s great American beer bars and cast your vote here.

UBN

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