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Aug 17, 2008 04:18 PM

Gardner Ale House

We are relatively new to this part of Mass (about a 1 1/2 years) and I am interested to know if this is a good place to grab a beer and a burger.

I am almost a charter member of the Brew Pub in Keene NH and love to have their brew and a burger and was wondering if the food is decent along with their beer?

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  1. I have not been, but here are a few posts regarding it, some a little old:

    1. Hi xcptnl, My husband and I are both enthusiastic consumers of real ale. We're from the west coast and are fanatical hopheads, so that limits what I can comment on. We enjoyed our first couple of visits there, but on the last visit we were really disappointed with our IPAs. They didn't appear to us to really be IPAs at all, and different from what we had had before there. I understand that there are batch variations, as well as variation depending on the age of the keg, etc....but what we had was really lousy. We talked with the brewmaster, who makes himself quite present on the floor of the place -- we had sent our beers back (we almost never would do such a thing!) so he pulled a sample for himself and stood behind it when we discussed it with him. But, I'll tell ya that while we used to drive 45 minutes from our house just to go there, because we love visiting brewpubs, we have effectively crossed it off our list. The food, by the way, was mediocre but passable.

      I'd like to suggest a couple of places in the region -- the Willimantic Brewery in CT is wonderful. Plus, they are located in an old bank building in the center of town and maintained much of the internal features, quite cool! The food is mostly pretty conventional east coast blue collar pub grub, but there are a few exceptions on the menu that are a little more interesting. Also, I don't know where you are located so I don't know how far off the mark this is, but Cambridge House in Granby CT has good ales and good food. It's not far from Bradley airport which is great for coordinating a meal upon departure/return.

      If you find any gems, please post!

      17 Replies
      1. re: nuthatches

        By really lousy, was it soured or poorly brewed? I know hops and grains have gone through the roof like flour has.At the margin on beer, no excuse. I went when they were open a bit and beer was average or less, food mediocre.

        1. re: trufflehound

          I remember it to have been poor in quality but can't think of how else to describe it. Sorry I can't be more descriptive -- I erased it from my memory! We regretted crossing this off our list in part because getting there from our house makes for a gorgeous, short, rural roadtrip by motorcycle. We're still on the lookout for other brewpubs to try. Next on the list is the one in Haverhill, MA -- the name of the place escapes me at the moment but they claim to have a super-hopped IPA called "Leatherlips". Gotta go for the name if nothing else!!

          1. re: nuthatches

            That would be the Tap Brew Pub & Restaurant but known to most as simply "The Tap". They not only claim, it is one of, if not the best DIPA brewed in New England. Think Hop Devil level of a hit. If you're a Hophead this is the one for you. The food is pretty good, if not outstanding. They've a huge deck out back overlooking the Merrimac River and their ample free parking lot.


            Tap Brew Pub & Restaurant
            100 Washington St, Haverhill, MA 01832

            1. re: Harp00n

              Oh yeah, I'm on it! The setting sounds wonderful, too. Thanks for the link!

              1. re: nuthatches

                Leatherlips is only an IPA weighing in at 5%, available in six packs in some of the better beer stores in the area. The Doublelips is the DIPA which IMO is not as good as the single IPA.

                1. re: mkel34

                  I'm aware from a beer geek point of view, that Leatherlips' not, strictly speaking, a DIPA. but for the non-geek you'd be hard-pressed in a blind tasting to discern that fact. So, though misleading, it was for emphasis only :) Similarly Dale's Pale Ale would be guessed an IPA in a blind testing, IMO. This beer geek would also agree with you on the Doublelips.


          2. re: nuthatches

            If you can't remember any flaws, just sounds like you don't like IPA in the english style - the west coast style IPA is much different than most brewed on the east coast which tend to tilt more to the malty english style than the drier hop laden west coast american IPA's.

            I am a homebrewer and a long time beer geek and I think the guy makes pretty good beer - not something that satisfies my own cravings for hops (not many places do in New England), but if you look outside that one aspect, I can recognize that he makes solid beers.

            I would rank the food in the top 5 of New England brewpubs. Everything I have had has been really good.

            1. re: LStaff

              That is not correct. Your judgment that it must not have had any flaws just because I can't remember the details is not correct. For me it is a matter of memory, and the many good pints since that day! :-)
              We also enjoy English style IPAs. I lived in London for a while and drank widely while there, and yes I know what the general difference is between a west coast and English style IPA. The pints that we had were simply not good -- not in any class or category of ale. Some of this is certainly subjective and that may be where the disagreement ultimately lies. I would certainly not rank Gardner in the top 5, even with the limitations of what we have visited in the area. I would definitely rank Cambridge House, Willimantic, MacNeills, Brown's (Troy NY), Albany Brewing Co., above Gardner, easily.

              1. re: LStaff

                I wouldn't alter a word in your assessments of the Gardner Ale House as I think the're totally spot-on.


                1. re: Harp00n

                  Thanks, it's good to know that a beer geek concurs! :-) Oops....or maybe you were agreeing with LStaff? I can't tell now with the thread sequence...

                  Do you have any recommendations for other brewpubs/breweries in the region, by the way? I consult The Beer Mapping Project : to find new places but I don't think the map is entirely complete, and I'd love to know of any hidden gems.....

                  1. re: nuthatches

                    Sorry, but I was/am agreeing with LStaff :-( I've been drinking Brown's, formerly Troy Brewing, for years both at their River Street Brewpub and elsewhere. They're a solid presence in the biz but their food is no better, or worse, for that matter, than Gardner's. MacNeill's was actually in a free-fall for awhile and living off their past, well deserved rep, until the owner stepped in recently and taken control of the brewing once again, Obviously, there's no food at MacNeill's to discuss. Your two CT recs are on my "to do" list. OP's rec of Brew Pub in Keene, NH is good if your in the area but not worth a special trip. IMO. Cambridge Brewing in, duh, Cambridge, MA is probably the best of Boston with serviceable food, again, IMO. Question; are you limiting yourselves to just on premise or also including wide ranging beer bars such as: The Horseshoe Pub, Dove & Moan, Man of Kent and Sunset Grill in your travels?


                    1. re: Harp00n

                      Yes, I'm really fond of Brown's. We met one of the (two, I think?) brewers when there the other day, as he got a new keg of IPA started and stood at the bar chatting with us. Great friendly climate and nice setting at that River St. location.

                      I didn't like Cambridge Brewing, personally. I might have appreciated the beer more, though, if they weren't located in a horribly sterile, empty, office-park sort of environment. And if it wasn't so expensive! Our adopted "local", by the way, when we are in Cambridge, is River Gods -- a wonderful Goth/Korean/Irish place, weird and atmospheric. We love Miracle of Science, too, for its old lab decor and GREAT burgers.

                      So yes, beer bar recs are always appreciated! Where are Horseshoe, Man of Kent, and Sunset Grill, btw? Have you been to Plan B Burger Bar in West Hartford? They have a good selection of offerings on tap as well. The Moan and Dove is OK in a pinch -- sometimes the atmosphere in there (and level of pretension) is ponderous and oppressive, but we're based in Amherst and so are glad that it's there for a pint after work.

                      Cheers ---

                      1. re: nuthatches

                        The Horseshoe Pub in on South Street in Hudson, Ma.

                        A long drive from Amherst, but definitely worth a stop if you are in the area for a couple of pints.


                        1. re: steve999


                          The Horseshoe Pub
                          29 South St, Hudson, MA 01749

                          1. re: steve999

                            Thanks, steve999. Huge number of brews on tap, very impressive! Will definitely go, especially as we actually do go specifically out to Hudson, despite the drive, to have dinner at Chloe Bistro -- that is a place that we love and have had consistently good experiences there. Their lamb shank entree and mixed pate appetizers are among our favorites.

                            1. re: nuthatches

                              The Horseshoe has a rotating cask, as well. You just never know what it is until you get there....

                              If you enjoy Italian, venture a little further past Chloe's heading East on Main Street/Rte 62 and try Sophia's. A little hard to find, but look for the statue of a waiter on the sidewalk on the North side of the road just before the traffic light at Broad Street. More or less across from the old Bar Lunch.

                              It's authentic Tuscan-style Italian. A true hidden-gem in downtown Hudson.

                              Sofia Ristorante
                              158 Main St, Hudson, MA

            2. I think the food is very good at the Ale House, I eat there frequently, never reallly a bad experience. Particularly if you consider what is around it in Gardner. Burgers are very good and always cooked correctly. I like the thai wrap in particular but other wraps are good too. Salads are good even if they don't have iceberg lettuce.

              1. I live close by so I ate there three times. Each time, my experience was worse than the time before. That covers both the food and the service. Their waitstaff was horrible. The food took forever to be served. The third time I ate there I tried to get something they couldn't screw up - a french dip. It was absolotely atrocious! I just won't go back now.

                I'm not a big beer drinker, but I wasn't impressed with what I had.