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Jan 4, 2012 04:14 PM

Beer restaurants in Boston?

What are the great beer restaurants in Boston? Not bars, restaurants. Thanks.

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  1. Define "not bars, restaurants" ... there are lots of places with great beer and ok food and lots of places with ok beer and great food. Where are you dropping the divider line?

    2 Replies
    1. re: jgg13

      Thanks for your reply. I'm looking for a place that's primarily considered a restaurant that has a great beer list. I know about Deep Ellum & Sunset in Allston but those are hardly considered restaurants - those are bars or pubs.

      My mental model is DBGB in Manhattan. I know that's setting the standard really high, but first & foremost it's a restaurant & when you get there you discover they have a great beer list. I'd like to know if there's any place like that in Boston.

      1. re: dalecruse

        I guess that's my problem (and I've never been to DBGB). I'm wanting to know what you consider to be a "great beer list". Would a small but well curated list count? Does it need to include whales, or do common yet good beers count? Does it need to be large? That sort of thing.

        You might consider Russel House, although you'll probably put that in the 'bar' category as well. Their beer selection is often pretty reasonable, and they sometimes have rare stuff - e.g. I had a bottle of Brooklyn Black Ops there once (at $48 ... ouch!)

    2. I'm assuming you'd lump places like Lord Hobo and Meadhall into the bar category as well... Sticking in the same Kendall Square area, maybe something like Area Four would fit the bill. They have mostly (all?) New England beers on tap, but it's a pretty solid selection.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mkfisher

        Maybe my initial question wasn't fair. Maybe I'm looking for something while ignoring other great options.

        I know Deep Ellum & Russell House Tavern & Lord Hobo & Meadhall are all great places for beer. I'm sure there are more too.

        Thanks for your help, everyone.

      2. Not mentioned yet: Picco and Green Street Grille. Green Street's list is superbly curated IMO, and the food is good if not particularly adventuresome. I also like the list at Bergamot (usually a Sixpoint and CBC or Pretty Things on tap, with some good though expensive bottle options). I tend to be happy when I see one or two favorites or exciting ones on the list though, and with the proliferation of craft beer in restaurants, I find an unacceptable beer list harder and harder to find.

        505 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116

        Green Street
        280 Green St, Cambridge, MA 02139

        118 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143

        29 Replies
        1. re: emannths

          I assumed that Green Street would fall under the OPs "bar" definition, but yeah their list is good. Granted it was for a special event but they even had CBS on tap a few weeks ago :)

          I don't remember exactly what they had but I remember enjoying the selection at Bondir - IIRC it fell in the category of "small but well curated". Also it's been a while since I've been to Hungry Mother and I typically take advantage of their cocktails when there but I think they had a decent list as well.

          You're much more likely to find the "small but well curated" beer lists at any of the nicer restaurants. I can't think of a place with a wider selection that's not already been mentioned as being in the "bar" category for dalecruse or isn't of a similar level.

          1. re: jgg13

            The upstairs @ Green does have a restaurant feel (not as noisy and no people standing around). I would put Hungry Mother in the category of a small but well curated. One thing that I appreciate is that they serve half pints.

            In the Restaurants where the food might not match the beer list category I would put Redbones and Tavern on the Square. And possibly CBC.

            I haven't been there so I can't really comment (curious though), but how is the beer selection @ Jacob Wirth?

            1. re: viperlush

              If you want the big names in German beer (Ayinger, Paulaner, Erdinger, Spaten, and the like), they've got it. Otherwise, the beer list is surprisingly unremarkable. The domestic list looks like something a distributor came up with (Sam, Harpoon, Bud (!?!?) ). I don't remember the prices motivating me to buy litres of German beer either, but it's been a while...


              1. re: emannths

                Jacob Wirth is the first place I thought of but the food is still tavern food. They do good German food but I don't really consider it a restaurant.

                The beer list is more than adequate. In addition to the German beers, they have a lot of the bigger Belgiums. I have had Victory and Sierra there plus some British ones like Sam Smith and Young's. I think all in all you would be hard pressed to not find something very enjoyable.

                1. re: scubahood10

                  As a restaurant, the beer list is quite good. As a beer bar/restaurant, it's nothing special imo. While they have a number of good beers, none are too exciting, and a few are headscratchers.

                  It's all about the context though. If I walked into a fine dining restaurant and the beer list was Duvel, Chimay, Saison Dupont, Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, and Green Flash WC IPA, I'd give it two thumbs up. And JW has all that and more and I think "meh." Maybe I'm spoiled.

                  1. re: emannths

                    You must be spoiled! But I have always separated good food with great beer. First, because my go to watering hole has BAD food but great offerings on tap. Second, a lot of my favorite complex crazy beers I wouldn't want to ruin by pairing with food.

                    I am curious what it would take for a place to get you really excited in a place that offered good food.

                    1. re: scubahood10

                      What gets me excited about a beer menu is finding beers that I can't easily buy in a store. When I'm paying the markup that restaurants and bars command, I like to get something for it besides the ambiance. Yes, beers like Chimay, Saison Dupont, etc are world class, but I don't get too excited about seeing them on a menu because if I wanted one, I could pick it up at the package store a couple blocks down the street. With distribution and packies getting much better in the world of craft beer over the past few years here in MA, I definitely don't get as excited about beer lists as I used too--more often than not, I'll order a draft of an otherwise bomber-only beer because the effective markup is small, not because I can't find the beer off-premises.

                      I too tend to separate my food places from my beer places, for similar reasons as you. Maybe this is why I think a beer list like that at Bergamot is good, even though it's comprised entirely of readily-available stuff. When I order a beer at a "food" place, I'm just looking for a good beer. But when I order a beer at a "beer" place, I'm looking for something great, unique, new, etc. When I hear "beer restaurant," it makes me think of a place that has beer bar quality offerings with at least mid-level food.

                      This barely makes sense to me, so I'm not really expecting it to seem too rational. But I think it's how I think about this stuff.

                      Anyway, as far as what would get me excited in a place with good food, my most recent experience was at the Bar Room at the Modern in NYC over the holidays. Great beer list (mostly bottles ), restaurant or otherwise. The bottle of Ithaca Brute '09 we split, served in great glassware, was awesome with the Alsacian food.

                      1. re: emannths

                        This makes perfect sense. That is a very nice beer list to have with dinner and I am glad it worked very well with dinner. I also see they have the Ithica Flower Power which was one of my favs in 2011. That being said I wouldn't want to pair a beer like that with anything and instead just enjoy the great beer by itself. I am all for pairing beer and food (ie a hoppy IPA with some spicy thai food) but the "nicer" a beer is or especially if I have never had it before, my meal would become secondary haha.

                        I am also in agreement that having so much available at the local store actually makes beer lists not exciting and if anything disappointing. But then again I have never met a Sierra Nevada Pale ale I didn't like so as long as there is something solid as the baseline I am fine to enjoy my meal at said restaurant.

                  2. re: scubahood10

                    The German tasting menu is fun & delicious. Five different courses with five different German beers.

                    1. re: scubahood10

                      I beg to differ: Jacob Wirth's does not "do good German food" any more than they do any other notable food. It's a grand old place, with a fun and boisterous vibe, but their German food makes me sad every time I try it.

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        I wish they'd hit the restart button there. That food is gross.

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          I don't pretend to be a German food expert but what I have had there (mostly the wursts) were good. I have had enough grilled "tube steaks" to know a bad one but maybe there are much better ones out there.

                          1. re: scubahood10

                            I'm not sure the current connotation of tube steak is what you were shooting for here.

                              1. re: scubahood10

                                I'll refrain from posting the LETMEGOOGLETHATFORYOU link...

                                Tube Steak = Trouser Snake

                                1. re: Beachowolfe

                                  I believe Trouser Snake is a more Southwestern type item, not German.

                                  1. re: Alcachofa

                                    Yes I was using tube steak as "hot dog" but I see how there could be consfusion.

                          2. re: Allstonian

                            I lived in Germany for three years & Jacob Wirth's food makes me happy because it's the only restaurant I've found around here with food that's even *close* to what I had overseas.

                            1. re: dalecruse

                              Different strokes, obviously: Jacob Wirth's food makes me sad precisely because it's NOT even close to what I've had in Germany.

                              It also make me sad because it's not very good but it's what always gets recommended when somebody posts on this board looking for German food.

                              Unfortunately, most of the problem is that there isn't any other game in town: the closest halfway-decent German restaurant that I know of is the Student Prince in Springfield. I've heard reports of a handful of places in other nearby states, but haven't tried them.

                              Old Munich, AKA A Taste of Europe, in Topsham, ME, was by far the best German restaurant I've eaten at in New England in at least three decades, but unfortunately they are defunct.

                            2. re: Allstonian

                              Thank you Allstonian.

                              I have spent a lot of time in Germany, I love German food, and I now live in Munich and to call the food at JW's "good", even *passable*, is indeed so so so sad.

                              Grilled Weisswurst? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING?

                              Enough said. No. I'm not even going to comment on their "jaegerschitzel" being topped with *Jaegermeister* sauce.

                              It is a wonderfully fun place, and they do have the best selection of German beers on tap. But if you must eat there....don't think of it as German food. Yeah, you're having a sausage, or some fried or roasted meat, no worries if you think of it that way. It's not as offensive, at least.

                              1. re: lisa13

                                I'll never claim that Jacob Wirth is authentic, but it's the closest I've found around here. This is probably fodder for another post, but does anyone know of any restaurants in the Boston area that serve more authentic German fare?

                                1. re: dalecruse

                                  The Oktoberfest menu at Olde Magoun's Saloon in Magoun Square in Somerville is better than Jacob Wirth's IMO, having tried both exactly once, but obviously it's only on for a month or so.

                                2. re: lisa13

                                  "Grilled Weisswurst? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING?"

                                  This is exactly why I love this site...the passion and knowledge of everyone. I had no idea what this meant so after feeling foolish for a bit and being reminded of the Seinfeld eposide with the snickers: "How do you eat yours...with your HANDS?" I looked up weisswurst and I am assuming you are referring to how it should be boiled?

                                  Who knew that grilling a sausage could ever be a faux pas! As I mentioned before I am not a German food expert. Perhaps what I did by calling it "Good German food" was the equivalent of going somewhere and liking a couple pasta dishes and declaring it "good Italian food" even if it was missing the mark with some other staples.

                                  Did you have the Bratwurst , Knockwurst, and Liverwurst at JW? I thought they were good and not noticeably better than what I got at the Student Prince that another poster was saying was better. Just trying to put things in context and perhaps I am really missing out on great German sausage.

                                  1. re: scubahood10

                                    It's true that Jacob Wirth's serves some pretty nice sausages, although even there the sides aren't much to write home about.

                                    However, your analogy to an Italian(-American) restaurant is right on the money: there's a lot more to Italian cuisine than pasta, and a place with great spaghetti and meatballs is not necessarily "a great Italian restaurant." Just so, a restaurant should serve more than a good sausage platter to qualify as having good German food.

                                    1. re: scubahood10

                                      I thought the weissewurst was pretty darn good at JW - and enjoy it when I grill it myself (for dinner even - gasp!). But then again, I make mud with wasabi and soy that I didp sushi in rice side first - and pair with an IPA, enjoy lettuce on my italian subs, put north carolina vinegar sauce on my brisket, and at times enjoy a hefeweizen with a slice of lemon. Sometimes its good to enjoy things how they are without any preconcieved notions or rules to have to be followed in the name of "authenticity" or "tradition" - which are usually just bullshit concepts that the elitists and snobs like to hold over the "unwashed" to make themselves seem more knowledgeable about a subject than others.

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        What's more I've eaten worse examples of the kind of food Jacob Wirth is doing in traditional restaurants in Germany -- though admittedly enjoyed it all the same. These idealizing notions often don't take the variability of food in its own native context into proper account either.

                                        1. re: LStaff

                                          For sure some people view traditional as a key "ingredient" more than others. Personally, my family is mostly polish but we ate zero polish food and I hadn't even heard of a pierogi until I went to college haha. Sometimes there are very valid reasons for sticking with tradition and sometimes it was just economic or cultural factors that forged they way things are done.

                                    2. re: Allstonian

                                      Thank you. Was going to chime in with just this sentiment. Blech.

                              2. re: jgg13

                                Vee Vee is another one for "small but well curated."

                            3. Again, not sure where the dividing line is between restaurant and bar, but Foundry on Elm in Davis square has a pretty great beer list. Flatbread Company, also in Davis, has an excellent selection of local (mostly Massachusetts) beers (and BOWLING!!).

                              1. As others have noted, most of the best beer places are more casual and bar-like (Green Street, Deep Ellum, Independent) and some just have really bad food (Sunset, Publick House, Lord Hobo).

                                You could always go to Oleana and get their 3-C Ale, which is spiced with Cumin, Coriander, and Cardamom, made for them by Cisco, and not available anywhere else. I'm a big fan. They have some other decent beers (about 20 total) but nothing on tap.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: DoubleMan

                                  I'd disagree that the food is bad at Lord Hobo. Maybe under the previous chef, but the current incarnation is nothing like Publick House or Sunset. In fact, I think it's far superior to the food at Green Street.

                                  1. re: mkfisher

                                    I should give it another shot. I haven't been in a number of months. I was so turned off on three visits that I wrote it off. They served the single worst veggie burger I have ever seen, as well as some pretty horrid roast chicken.

                                    I'm no fan of the Green Street food, but I don't think it's horrible - certainly superior to my experiences at Lord Hobo and anything at Sunset or Publick House, but those are, admittedly, pretty low bars.

                                    I have dreams of a moderately-priced, casual place with great food, great beer, great cocktails, and great wine - even in a not overly ambitious way. I wish that place existed in Boston, but so far it doesn't. All the places mentioned in this thread seem to hit one or two, but nothing fires on all cylinders. I guess I'll have to get to work on that place.

                                    1. re: DoubleMan

                                      I don't care about wine, but on the casual/moderate/beer/cocktails fronts at least, Abigail's in Kendall fits the bill.

                                      1. re: robwat36

                                        I think that's one of the places that just comes sort of close. I was pretty underwhelmed by the food, the atmosphere, and didn't love the prices (the sandwich options are nice), especially in that edge-of-Kendall location. The drinks were very good, though.

                                        1. re: DoubleMan

                                          Abigail's beer prices are on the high end for sure. They were charging $7.50 for the Harpoon Spruce Tip. I could be wrong on this, but I'm almost positive that same beer was $6 at Area Four.