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Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont Center

I had noticed a new beer place on Leonard St in Belmont several times. Today I had an opportunity to stop in to Craft Beer Cellar. The narrow-but-deep store is well stocked with interesting beers and a few wines. The front 2/3 of the store is domestic-ish craft beers, including many 22oz options. They had things that I expected (e.g. Stone, Dog Fish Head, Victory, Anchor, off-beat Sam Adams, etc) and things that I didn't (Virgin Islands, Racer 5, many unfamiliar choices). I didn't have the time to look in the large cooler.

There are imported premium beers in the back, a large tasting table, and a small selection of wines.

I met two of the owners (Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow). Both were extremely nice ("Sorry it's so cold in here; it's good for the beer.") and helpful.

This is just the kind of place that a cool little area like Belmont Center needs. I plan to frequent them. In some ways, they are rather like The Boston Shaker in Davis Sq, Somerville -- fulfilling a niche not well served by other outlets, and providing expertise and friendly service.

I'm no beer geek, but I enjoy beer. A beer expert could probably give a more informed review. (I'm a cocktail geek.)

http://bostoncraftbeercellar.com/
51 Leonard St, Belmont, MA

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www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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The Boston Shaker
69 Holland Street, Somerville, MA

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  1. Yep, it's a nice place with nice people. The owners used to be GM and bev manager at Cambridge Common. My sense is that their prices can be 5-10% higher than somewhere like Liquor World in Porter (based on only a very small comparison), but if you're looking for good guidance and a more thorough selection, it's probably worth it.

    Many stores are carrying a very nice selections of beers, so unless you're looking for something specific, you might be able to find a lot of good beers closer to home, depending on where you live. A not-at-all comprehensive list would include stores like Liquor World (Porter), Downtown Wine and Spirits (Davis), Charles St Liquors (Beacon Hill), Marty's (Allston, Newton), Bauer (Newbury St), Kappy's (various), Yankee Spirits (Attleboro, Swansea), Redstone (Stoneham), and the big kahuna, Julio's (Westborough).

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    Cambridge Common
    1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

    1. We stopped in last month and we liked the place and the owners, who were both at the register and making small talk with customers. Beyond just the eclectic beer selection (and I also picked up a nice rose), the option of making up your own mixed six packs is fantastic! A great chance to try a lot of different beers. We chatted with the owners and they both said that the town of Belmont has been great to them.

      8 Replies
      1. re: digga

        I feel like a kid on an Easter Egg hunt when I shop here. I love being able to to grab an empty sixpack to fill. I like the selection of West Coast beers that they have. And it seems like they have a large selection of craft beers in cans.

        1. re: viperlush

          The recent beer can movement is neat - rather like the upswing in boxed wines (the rationale is less heavy glass for trucks to cart around, so lower fuel costs). Hopefully more and more quality producers will jump on that bandwagon.

          1. re: digga

            Unfortunately many craft canners are jumping on the 16 oz 4 pack for the same price as a 6 pack bandwagon.

            1. re: LStaff

              That is only 8 oz less then a 12 oz 6 pack.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                A built in 12% price increase just from a packaging change. Where's the savings from lower fuel costs? ;-)

                If craft cans don't offer the same value as bottles, I have no motivation to buy them.

                1. re: LStaff

                  Being lighter isn't the only advantage of cans. Obviously they won't smash like bottles.

                  Also, brewers can fill cans higher to the brim than they can bottles which reduces the negative effects oxygen has on the beer. Light entering bottles is also a negative bottles have that cans don't.

                  With all that said, until they get rid of this BPA thing I'll only occasionally buy beer in cans.

                  1. re: Kinopio

                    And the biggest advantage of can's over bottles that I know is that you can bring cans to the beach and swimming pool.

                    1. re: Kinopio

                      I am aware of the technical advantages of canning vs. bottling, but a longer shelf life isn't really going to motivate a buyer like me that only buys dated beer (for styles that are greatly susceptible to oxygen effects like IPA, pale ales, pilsners) and refuses to buy these styles beyond 2-3 months old. Its not like an extra month or two of shelf life is going to get me to buy a 4 - 5 month old IPA or Pilsner.

        2. I am 1st: a beer geek, 2nd: a cocktail geek, 3rd: cheeseburgers and pizza.

          CBC just might be the best beer store in MA. They have so many odd ball beers that no other store carries in one place. Kate and Susanne have all the knowledge without the pretension. They just MCd a beer dinner across the street at Il Casale, the first beer dinner ever in the Arlington - Lexington - Belmont area, and it was completely packed.

          Rumor has it they'll be looking to open up a brew pub in Belmont if the town embraces their craft beer options.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Unfoodie

            That is very exciting (brew pub). I love this place--they are so incredibly helpful and willing to try to find you any beer you're searching for. I'd been drinking an oyster stout (not Harpoon, but from Dublin) at Townsend's in Hyde Park and I asked them if they could find it and... they did! They found someone who had one case available. I had previously gone to a bunch of liquor stores to no avail.

            They also turned me on to Wachusett Milk Stout, so I'm eternally grateful. I'm so glad they're doing so well.

            1. re: langley

              Try the Wachusett Nut Brown Ale if you get a chance.

            2. re: Unfoodie

              Popped in here over the weekend and came away with the same sentiments. The shop is impeccably clean, well-organized, conducive to browsing, none of that Market Casket kind of chaos. The selection is outstanding with many beers not typically seen on shelves about town. Friendly folks who know the craft fo sho. I didn't pay attention to prices across the board though. Would be good to see this thread develop with cost comparison datapoints.

              1. re: Nab

                I've never been, but am curious how it compares in price/selection to Bottles on Commercial St. in the North End/Waterfront,Bottles is also impeccably clean and well organized unlike its sister shop the Wild Duck.( which has good stuff as well)

            3. Picked up by Chow and promoted in today's e-mail blast:
              http://www.chow.com/digest/83134/foam...

              My my mini-review was the source for this blurb, I rather wish I had spent more time there fore a better take on the place.

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              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

              1. Hasn't it been there a while? I swear I went in this place last summer.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ella Bella

                  Nope, they opened in November of 2010.

                2. If anyone around could carry Russian River it would be these guys, and they don't. I'm really interested in trying their beer without having to fly to California. The closest availability is Pennsylvania.

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: Guinness02122

                    If RR ever chose to distribute in MA, plenty of stores and bars would carry it (and probably sell out of it instantly). I don't think it's issue of demand or willing retailers that's keeping them out of MA.

                    1. re: emannths

                      There are many brewers that don't like to make the long ride east. I don't know the exact reasoning. Some say the beer doesn't travel well. I'd have to get hyped up about something and be disappointed like I was with Fat Tire. I have to say that Portsmouth Brewery's beer matched the hype. However, the brew pub itself didn't wow me. The value is low. They don't seem to fill up the pint glasses in the three trips I made there. Sorry for being all over the place.

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                      Portsmouth Brewery
                      56 Market St, Portsmouth, NH 03801

                      1. re: Guinness02122

                        It's not that it doesn't travel well (though travel *costs* may enter into it). It's usually that they won't expand distribution until they have excess product to sell. If you're already selling out in your home state/region, you have little motivation to expand distribution unless you have easy access to capital to enable you to brew more beer.

                        1. re: emannths

                          Exactly. Russian River can't even come close to satisfying the demand in Oregon, a state just to the north of them that they have been distributing to for years, lets alone a new market that is thousands of miles away like Massachusetts is.

                          Freshness is also a concern, so they don't ship bottles of their IPAs outside of the West coast.

                          Russian River is great and worthy of picking up a case if you are in Philly, but you can find comparable beers in New England.

                          1. re: Kinopio

                            I think I've heard that "doesn't travel well" as a corporate line often. I'm sure it has to do with distribution. Aren't they near San Diego, which is a long shot to Oregon? Which IPAs are comparable in New England. I like Ipswich for the commercial bottles.

                            1. re: Guinness02122

                              Well, nothing will be a doppelganger, but double IPAs like Heady Topper from Hill Farmstead (only available in VT), Smuttynose Big A IPA, Ithaca Flower Power, Firestone Walker Double Jack, Port Mongo, etc share similar characteristics. The nature of the hops and the sweetness of the malts will vary, but there's no need to get hung up on searching for THE ONE. Unfortunately, anything comparable will be much pricier than Ipswich--most of these are in the neighborhood of $12+ per 6pk or $7+ per 22oz bomber. In the regular IPA range (not as hoppy, lower in alcohol than the double IPAs), Smuttynose Finestkind is excellent, and available at $14/12pk if you look around. Ipswich IPA is good too, and great for the $12/12pk price. If you're looking to try some of these, you might consider going to a bar like American Craft or Lord Hobo, or go to one of the better beer stores in the area (hint: thread title) and ask the manager for some recommendations.

                              Russian River Brewing is in Santa Rosa, north of San Fransisco.

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                              Lord Hobo
                              92 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02141

                              American Craft
                              1700 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445

                              1. re: emannths

                                Wow! Great info. I've been meaning to go to Lord Hobo.

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                                Lord Hobo
                                92 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02141

                                1. re: emannths

                                  Heady Topper from The Alchemist :)

                                  Russian River won't sell to places in SF, if they don't refrigerate :)

                                  1. re: Trumpetguy

                                    Haha, yep. I've got VT beer on the brain, and not enough of it in my belly! Between the Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lawson's, I'm about ready to run a pipeline up there.

                                  2. re: emannths

                                    FYI Heady Topper is brewed by the Alchemist and if not already then soon will be available in cans.

                                    1. re: phatchris

                                      ETA is now middle of August.

                                      "With this additional time, we will have everything ready to brew the day after they arrive, right around the middle of July. That will put the first cans for sale 28 days later."

                                      http://www.alchemistbeer.com/heady-da...

                                  3. re: Guinness02122

                                    I'm really into Maine Beer Co's Lunch IPA right now. I might even say its the best IPA distributed to the Boston area.

                                    1. re: Guinness02122

                                      Gandhi-bot form New england Brewing....if you can find it.

                            2. re: Guinness02122

                              I think it's funny that people go nuts over local produce, meat, etc. but want to import their beer from the other side of the country. The owner of Surly Brewing had a great rant about this at the American Craft Beer Fest last month- when asked when his beer would be available in Boston, his reply was "Never. Support your local brewers."

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                              American Craft
                              1700 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445

                              1. re: bobot

                                (this is going a little OT, but whatevs) Beer is a manufactured product, which makes it a little different from pure agricultural products like produce. And even Surly uses imported grain, and most of their hops are probably grown in Europe and the Pacific NW--a much farther trip to MN than Boston. They just happen to manufacture it in MN.

                                Of course, don't get me started on restaurants that champion "local" and then fill their winelist with European and Californian wines...

                                Of course, I'm not one that goes nuts over "local." I just go nuts over "good," and it matters little whether the two intersect.

                                1. re: bobot

                                  Yet he is willing to travel over 1,000 miles to serve his beer at a Boston beerfest. ;-)

                                2. re: Guinness02122

                                  Plenty of package stores or Beeradvocates will turn a blind eye and ship, you just pay the high shipping charge and enjoy your Pliny, Blind Pig, or Supplication.