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New high end beer bar in Worcester, MA

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Armsby Abbey - Farmhouse menu-SLOW FOOD- Artisan Beers
My daughter just reported to me on her visit to the Armsby Abbey in Worcester on their opening night. Very Cool bar; classy restored building; "farmhouse style" menu. Her boyfriend was wild over the pizza and deserts. Not a Budweiser to be found...all craft beers. Let’s hope this is a sign of more good things to come on Main Street in Worcester. I'm checking the place out on Saturday!

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Armsby Abbey
144 Main Street, Worcester, MA

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  1. I've been waiting for this for a while. The owners run The Dive Bar on Green St. Finally, a destination in Wormtown.

    1. Please tell me that with all that Belgian Ale on tap & bottle that Moules Frites is on the menu. PLEASE???

      Harp

      4 Replies
      1. re: Harp00n

        Just came back from lunch there...sorry, no moules et frites. But the place is great -- amazing and interesting array of beers on tap, endless beers in bottle, and a very thoughtful locavore menu. We had pizzas, and they were tasty, light, and crisp. Service was excellent, and the room has been beautifully done in mahogany.

        The menu consists of some cheese plates, some apps, a nice assortment of sandwiches, and pizzas. The beer is the focus, but the food has integrity.

        Worcester, please support this place! It's a fine addition.

        1. re: Rick_V

          Hey Rick_V,
          I will be supporting this place based on all the feedback I've seen here and elsewhere. Belgium has the Chateaubriands of the ale world so I'm surprised that there isn't a bit more substantial offerings to be paired with all those glories of the Abbeys. Locavore, as I understand it, would not be in any way counter to my inquiry. The bottom line is I will happily go in support of Real Ales!

          All the best,
          Harp

          1. re: Harp00n

            I know the owners pretty well, so I'll pass on your moules et frites request, Harp.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              Dank je wel!

              Harp
              :-0)

      2. Very nice, had several of my favorites. Maharajah, Victory, I could have spent the evening drinking many many beers!
        The prices are reasonable, but I think on the steep side for our area. Perhaps some local less expensive brews, Wachusett, Peoples Pint, etc. would help.
        As much as I liked it i have to complain about the foam, I think it may be my largest pet peeve but if I spend $5.00 for a pint I want 16oz of beer not an inch and a half of foam, even worse $6.00 for q 10 oz premium with an inch or so of foam. If they poured a full beer, they would have a steady customer! As it is I will find it hard to stay away with of those wonderful droughts!!

        1. We went tonight- it was very enjoyable. Great beers and draft and bottles. We had maharajah IPAl, Mayflower IPA, and a german hefewiezen on draft that tasted sooo good.
          We also had the green curry pizza, ( I know it sounds weird I was verY suspicious at first but our waitress said it was good and I believed her.) It was great- not traditional but very tasty. Really the best pizza I've ever had without cheese- and I love cheese.
          Roasted peppers,zuchini, caramalized onions, spicy green curry and topped off with cooling raita. Just so good, simple, and satisfying. I would advise all to give it a try.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Rhizome

            Interesting take...I was there for the first time on Wed. night. Had the same hefewiezen and loved it. Also, shared one of the cheeseboards and the green curry pizza. The cheeseboard was nice. Had a blue that was wonderful, but I thought the other 2 cheeses (one hard and one fresh/soft) were far to bland for variety. There was a sausage that my DC said was good (I'm a vegetarian). Now for the pizza...I thought it was horrid. The crust is very doughy, which some my like but I prefer thinner/crispier. I agree that the toppings were interesting, but other than the faint heat of the green curry there just wasn't any depth of flavor. I brought most of it home out of obligation but ending up throwing it away (and you have to know that pizza NEVER gets wasted in this house!).

            All in all a nice little place for Worcester. I would definitely go again and try other beer offerings and maybe a sandwich (some looked good coming out). The one thing that was a little annoying is that they don't allow any substitutions on the menu. For example, they were offering a special pizza that evening that was whole wheat. It had meat on it so it wasn't an option for me, so I asked if they would make the green curry pizza on the whole wheat (I rarely eat white flour). Nope. This could be a serious dealbreaker for me in the future, since I'm a vegetarian and they didn't have that many food choices that were promising for non-meat eaters. There were a couple of things, but the meaty things looked much better and would probably be tasty if modified slightly for non-meat eaters......if they are willing to do so......we'll see...

            1. re: Science Chick

              Wow- I am surprised yours was doughy-the night I went it was thin and crisp.
              I did think the combo was quite nice but it is pretty obnoxious that they wouldn't make it on whole wheat-it would be even better that way. More veggie options would be wise move for them. (I am veggie as well) I do think the place has potential-they need to work out the kinks.

          2. Fecalface drove from Boston to Worcester this weekend to check out Armsby Abbey, but unfortunately the building had lost power. While this itself isn't the fault of the establishment, fecalface was a little perturbed by the treatment from the staff. Fecal's party wasn't allowed into the restaurant for some time (although there were plenty of people eating and it was raining outside). They couldn't pour drafts or provide food - not even cold food or dishes already prepared. Essentially, the staff was completely disinterested in fecal's business. Odd for a new restaurant.

            So as a Beeradvocate, fecalface has to report that the tap list is a lot weaker than comparable restaurants (Moan and Dove, PH, etc). They had some typical belgian stuff, nothing rare or exceptional on tap. The bottle list didn't have any gems and was generally overpriced - fecal didn't see any aged offerings.

            In fecalface's opinion, this place isn't worth driving over 30 mins to visit, especially for Bostonians who have a number of better beer bars within their city limits.

            7 Replies
            1. re: fecalface

              Yeah, I agree (as one who lives in Newton but works in Worcester). Definitely not worth a drive from Boston. However, it is a really nice option for Worcester, and those of us who are constantly striving to find a place for a quick drink and bite after work w/workmates!

              1. re: fecalface

                We are heading out west next weekend for the Neil Young/Wilco show. Digga is looking forward to checking this place out!

                1. re: digga

                  We stopped in yesterday before the show as planned. I expected the decor to be Publick House-esque (in Boston), but it was more Deep Ellum or Mission. Spare room, beautiful, locally hand-crafted bar. I started with a lovely, crisp white wine from Sharpe Hill (CT). B had the Ommegang Abbey Ale which hit the spot. Bitter, hoppy finish. They were still serving brunch (til 4pm) and we wanted dinner food, so we nibbled on the breakfast cheeseboard. High quality cheeses (Berkshire Blue and a chevre from ?), three spreads (local honey, a cranberry butter, and a fruit and onion compote - all good), thin-sliced plain baguette and a cranberry-nut one, and sliced apple and pear all attractively served on a slate plate. It was deceptively filling. By the time 5 pm rolled around, we decided to split a pizza. B wanted BBQ chicken. Not my first choice, but it was really good - thin, crisp crust, high-quality cheese and a sprinkling of cilantro. With the pizza, B had an IPA (can't remember which one) and I had the Southern Tier Choklat (which packed a punch at 10% ABV). By the time we left, the place was packed to the gills. When we returned around midnight to retrieve our car, it was still packed. Bill was $55 before tip.

                  Mike was our bartender - friendly, enthusiastic and attentive. Mike - hope you made it to the show last night...it was terrific. And so was Armsby Abbey. Not a bad way to kill 3 hours before seeing Wilco and Neil Young.

                  1. re: digga

                    My memory has been jogged - it was Crystal Brook goat chevre. Wonderful stuff.

                    1. re: digga

                      Hey, Digga, we stopped by before the show too and really enjoyed the place as well. The beer selection was not huge but well chosen and the Choklat was a killer. I enjoyed the Great Divide Hibernation--good bunch of Belgium-Belgians but I was disappointed that so many of the selections on the board weren't available. The BBQ chicken was very good and that cilantro was just perfect. We also had a nice pie with a greek cheese, honey and fresh oregano. The Mayan brownie was GREAT with a bit of chile and cinnamon. In all a nice place--wish we had a Belgian joint in New Haven!

                      1. re: newhavener07

                        NH07 - I wonder if you two were sitting right next to us at the bar. I remember saying to B, "dang, look at that couple scarf down their two pizzas!" (In total admiration, of course!)

                        1. re: digga

                          That was us! The intoxicating aroma of your BBQ pizza inspired our order. We were quite hungry as well (excuses, excuses). IN all, a nice trip to Worcester, which was much better than I expected. Neil also rocked the house...

                2. Ate there on Saturday night (12/13/08) with two friends - thank god we finally have a great place to eat/drink in Worcester.

                  It was completely packed which made it challenging to order drinks (probably a good thing given the alcohol content of the on-tap beer selection) but once the concerts at the Palladium (and DCU?) started it cleared out a bit and our group of three was able to grab a table.

                  Part of the delay in bar service seemed to be the fact that in addition to their focus on beer they still maintain a full mixed drink menu, complete with custom martini's. I watched one bartender (with a beautiful sleeve tattoo) muddle a crazy looking concoction with mint leaves, red berries, fruit, etc. Compared notes with the people next to me and we agreed that it looked surprisingly healthy for a mixed drink - we finally asked, it was a "Mistletoe Mojito". No idea if it tasted good, but neat to see someone put that kind of effort and creativity into a drink.

                  Beer - excellent - I stood next to some poor guy who tried to order a Bass, then a Harp. The bartender was sympathetic and advised him to check the large blackboard behind him. Tip: if you tell them what kind of beer you normally drink they will happily find you something similar. One of my friends asked for something like Sam Adams, and they gave him a Brooklyn Lager bottle - he loved it. I had the Red Rye (very similar to Harpoon IPA), a couple pints of the coffee stout (really really really good) and an Alagash White (unremarkable, but the lowest alcohol content on the menu, important to start focusing in on those things if you're going to be there for a few hours).

                  Food - we had a cheese board, an order of the olives, and a BBQ chicken pizza. The cheese board was great, nice selection of little things to pick at. The olives were good, pitted kalamatas in olive oil and herbs mixed with cubes of feta, and a few slices of duck sausage on the side. The BBQ chicken pizza came out burnt (not to a crisp, but the top edges were charred), but our waitress was aggressively apologetic - "we know you've been waiting a long time, if you want a new one we'll go back and put the order in right now, if you want to try it and send it back you can do that too, we just wanted to bring it out and give you the choice . . . " Hey, in a four-star place it would have been totally unacceptable - in a gourmet-ish beer bar I took it as a courtesy. We ate the pizza, and it was great even with the charred accents.

                  The only thing I'd change about Armsby Abbey: make it bigger. The pre-concert crowd packed the place easily, and the noise level with that many people was insane. Other than that it's perfect, and long overdue for Worcester to have a place like this.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Brodymon

                    Armsby Arms, Worcester MA. 3/11/2010
                    Voted the 'Best of Worcester' for 2009, but I'm not sure for what? Yes they have more different kinds of beer than you can remember. But the food is just average, and the service is horrible. My advice, don't go there for dinner, especially not a romantic dinner. They boast of 'artisanal' food, so I guess their home-made buns for their sandwiches might qualify, but I cannot say that their food is serious nor finely crafted. Gourmet they are not.
                    OK, I admit that I am a grey-beard of sorts, and the place appeals more to singles, and a younger crowd. But I had eaten lunch there once when it was not crowded, and it was acceptable. At night, it is LOUD! and almost impossible to converse. My wife and I waited interminably long for our salad and sandwich. How long does it take to prepare such simple fare? Try to imagine the scene…. small tables, and obviously the centerpiece of the place: a beautiful wooden bar. We ordered from the bar, because there were no tables available. After we placed our orders, we waited….and waited…and were asked numerous times for refills on our drinks.
                    I ordered the jerk-chicken, and my wife the salad.
                    I was warned by the bar-tender about the 'heat' factor infused into their version of jerk-chicken; AND it was HOT!.(habaneros??} In all honesty, is this degree of 'heat' necessary? I could not taste any smokiness in the chicken, nor any other spice? The roll came nicely toasted, but to tell you the truth, there was not much chicken in the dish. My wife's dish was decent, lots of fresh frisee, real beets, & dollops of goat cheese. The vinaigrette was not overly sour and did not taste bottled.
                    I would give the place only two stars: ** The manager we spoke to mentioned that they were expanding their space to include more seating for diners. Sounds great, but I would also expand their kitchen so that they can accommodate diners in a timely fashion.
                    ~jiaojee~

                  2. Well, we tried to go on 12/26, day after Christmas and were unsuccessful. We arrived at 5 with a group of friends and my 5 month old baby. Apparently the restaurant has a strange policy where children from 0-5 years old are not allowed, but over 5 are. So we got booted. I was really disappointed; my group really loves Belgian beer, and we had been looking forward to trying the place for a while. Obviously I would not bring my baby into a bad atmosphere for her, but it was 5 o'clock and there were many families there, several with kids that I would guess to be between 6-8 years old. I just can't understand what the difference is in having a 5 year old versus a 6 year old at a pub! No one likes a crying baby, but my baby was completely happy and quiet, and if she had cried, I would have taken her out to soothe her and left if she didn't stop, so that wasn't the issue. Also, the waitress claimed this was a state law and said they could lose their liquor license with the baby in there. That turned out to be a flat-out lie, which the owner admitted when we called them later that week to ask about the incident. My husband spoke to one of the owners about the policy, and it seems like they hadn't really thought it out carefully. They seemed to be concerned about seats and kids taking up space that other adults needed (it's a pretty small bar), but then I can't understand why they make the 5 year old distinction. I would honestly be fine if they just said "no kids" for their restaurant to preserve the pub-like atmosphere, but it makes me upset that they have this bizarre policy with a 5 year old cut off and no good reason behind it. I am hoping they will change this policy in the future so we can patronize this establishment. They definitely lost a lot of business from my group of friends!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: woostalicious

                      The policy is not very complicated as we are a bar with a kitchen not a restaurant. We only have high backless stools with two exceptions (front two tables) The 5 year old rule was simply because at that age we feel that they are capable of sitting safely at a bar stool. This is an issue of safety. There are no baby seats or high chairs here. The bar itself and everything in the room is hand crafted with amazing care and attention to detail. We feel very strongly that this is NOT a suitable environment for children but have still made as many concessions as possible to accommodate small children until 6pm when we become strictly 21+

                      1. re: Abbey Publican

                        This seems more than reasonable.
                        I can't wait to try this place.

                        1. re: Abbey Publican

                          Sorry, I just saw this reply and I wanted to address it. We asked the waitress what the policy was when we were there and she said it was state law, which was blatantly wrong. Then my husband called the following day and asked to speak with the manager, who had no cogent argument for how 5 years old was decided upon. Your argument above seems to make sense, but then are you saying that if one of the front two tables are open it's fine to have children younger than 5? And I'm not sure why an infant who can sit in a car seat is not free to stay in that car seat; it seems pretty safe to me. I just think that if you want to be kid-free, just be kid free and make no apologies. It was really frustrating getting kicked out whent there must have been 5 little kids running around the place on the afternoon we were there. Honestly, we just felt that we were treated pretty rudely, and that your post above continues the same negative tone. We will continue to go to the Horseshoe Pub in Hudson which has an amazine beer selection and is always very friendly to customers - kids or not.

                          1. re: woostalicious

                            I agree. We went out last summer with a group of friends (from an hour away) with a 6 month old baby in a car seat and were told to leave and about the policy. I guess I get it but it should be strongly posted on the door or on the website (not at the end of the website where I did see once I got home and looked again). No one was too friendly and therefore we have not been out there again. Too bad someone couldn't have said to come back again (without baby) and get a "free cheese platter" or something. We are big beer drinkers and love Belgian beers. Left a bad taste in our mouths....

                            1. re: sueboro

                              Why would they give you something for free?

                        2. re: woostalicious

                          Sounds like you got the same runaround I did when I drove from Boston to try this place but the power was out. Management is very unaccommodating, which is amazing since the beer community is pretty tight and the place is so new. None of my Beer Advocate friends are making this trek anymore - it's just not worth it.

                          I still believe that beer aficionados from Boston looking for a trek are better served driving to Northampton to hit the Dirty Truth - better beer, better food, better atmosphere, better management.

                          1. re: fecalface

                            You didn't eat, per your own post. How can you say that DT's food is better if you haven't eaten at AA?

                            1. re: fecalface

                              What, exactly did you expect Management to do about the power situation?

                              1. re: fecalface

                                Ooh, I've never heard of the Dirty Truth. I will have to try it next time I'm out that way. Have you tried the People's Pint? That is my favorite spot for out West.

                            2. If Jackie from the Dive Bar went over then I will be there. I met her at Joes in Framingham and she worked at the Dive bar and mentioned she would be going to the owners new place. Does anyone know if she went?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lulatula

                                Yup.

                              2. Armsby Abbey is awesome. They have a great selection of beers on tap served up in the right glasses. One poster mentioned that he/she wanted a full glass of beer for their money. Most beer afficionados would agree that the head is a sign of a properly poured beer and adds to the enjoyment. You may notice next time that each glass has a calibration line, so you are getting the correct amount of beer. The food is great, especially the mac and cheese. It aint Boston, but for Worcester its "wicked good!"

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: JohnnyRoaster

                                  With all due respect to the Boston bars....The Abbey is better! I used to live at The Publick House, Deep Ellum, etc before the Abbey opened. Ive been many times to Lord Hobo, and all of the others. The Abbey blows them away with the food, and is as good if not better with the beer selection. Another thing that no bar in Boston nails like The Abbey is proper temperatures and glassware for the beer. This is something many would not notice, but is one of the most important elements of proper beer service. Again...not to take anything away from the Boston beer bars, but The Abbey is definitely a step above.

                                  1. re: jeepcj85

                                    The only negative about Armsby to me is that they refuse to alter any menu items, no matter what. It seems like a big "Eff You" to their customers. The owner's mottos seems to be "You can't please everyone", but why wouldn't you want to try?

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      Maybe, but a menu item in any restaurant that cares about the food is like an art work. You would never ask an artist to buy their portrait of a woman but just "take off that hat"...or anything else. Chefs put a lot of thought into a dish and to how the flavors and textures will interact. If I see something on the menu that has something I dont like (which isnt often) I dont order it.....I find something else. Sweet, salty, acidic, crunchy, soft, bitter etc have a role in any good chefs' planning of a dish. If something is removed or added, the final outcome is altered. Some chefs want you to eat the dish as it was created....and I always respect that. If the chefs judgement is off too many times, I dont eat there again. The Abbey has been very good at worst, but spectacular on most occasions.

                                      1. re: jeepcj85

                                        Food is subjective. I disagree that bar food is artwork. If a pizza has mushrooms, which I dislike, there should be no reason they can't accomodate my simple request. This isn't about egos. It's about making your guests happy.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          I agree wholeheartedly. I asked them to make my pie on a whole-grain crust they were offering that night and it was a major battle. IT'S PIZZA, GET OVER IT!!! I would never change things in a high end place, unless the only vegetarian item had a food allergen I couldn't handle. My experience at the Abbey was not of food at this level....or even close. It's a nice bar with decent beers and decent food. Period.