Sunday, November 27, 2016
Brew Tour: November 2016, Barrington Brewery
The Barrington Brewery & Restaurant in Great Barrington MA, is probably my all time favorite not-in-CT brewpub. How I discovered this place goes back many (many many) moons, when I was but a wee lad.My paternal grandfather deserves most of the credit for teaching me how to ski. The four places he took me to most often, were all in western MA: Jiminy Peak, Brodie, Butternut and Catamount. All four were reachable by heading north on U.S. 7 from CT into MA. This meant passing through Great Barrington several times every ski season for years.
When I was finally old enough to drive myself and my friends skiing, I stuck with this same route because it was familiar territory. I knew the road and the ski areas it led to.
One ski trip in 1995, I'm passing through Great Barrington and suddenly there's this brewery sitting there. At this point I would have been 25 years old and the whole idea of being able to stop at a brewery for freshly brewed beer and good food, was still kinda a new thing. Both for me personally and the U.S. as a whole. Needless to say, I stopped in. I've made it a point of visiting at least once or twice a year ever since.
It's ridiculously easy to get to. In fact, here are the directions:
- Take U.S. 7 north to Great Barrington, MA
- The brewery will be on the right
The interior is somewhat rustic, vaguely reminiscent of a barn, and has not changed much over the years. Instantly familiar and comfortable to any rural-leaning New Englander. During the colder months, there are a couple of gas stoves going, which keep the inside nice and toasty.
The restaurant is split into three main sections. Straight ahead from the entrance is the main dining area and access to the patio. The floor of this section is brick, which is kind of neat. To the right of the entrance is a smaller dining room, which is usually where larger groups will be seated. To the left of the main dining room is the brewery/bar.
Though there is not an ounce of pretension in the place, the menu is upscale tavern fare. The pricing is very reasonable for the quality of food delivered and you're not going to leave this place hungry. Localvores, Vegetarians & Vegans are all easily covered.
The kitchen is pretty willing to work with you if you have special dietary needs as well. My son falls squarely into that category and the couple of times we've taken him there, they've been able to provide him with a meal he could cope with.
My experience with their beer has been that they tend not to get overly experimental. Choosing instead to offer a lineup of solidly good ales. (They list a single Pilsner on the website as being available occasionally, but I don't think I've ever run across it myself.) I know that if I stop there I can count on being able to get a couple of good beers, brewed in styles that I like. It's all good, all the time. I've never been disappointed by one of their beers.
The complete package of food, atmosphere and beer is what keeps me coming back here year after year.
Having said all of that, on to this trip in particular...
I stopped at the Barrington Brewery both on the way up to Portland and on the way home again. In both cases, arriving right around opening time for lunch.
I split my first meal into two "courses". They had a Mushroom Barley soup on the menu which struck me as just the thing for a windy, chilly afternoon. I ordered a bowl, along with a pint of the cask conditioned ale.
The soup was fantastic. Whole grain barley, plenty of mushrooms, nice dark substantial broth. It really hit the spot.
The cask ale was a bourbon barrel aged Brown Ale. The beer had a stout-like head and mouth feel. It was a thick, creamy ale, with the barrel coming through strongly in the aftertaste. Really, really good. I was glad to have caught this one.
After my soup and Brown Ale, I ordered a pint of the Porter and some fries. The fries were crisp and hearty. Quite good, as far as fries go.
The Porter was, oddly, a lighter beer than the cask ale. The head was not as thick and neither was the beer itself. Not to say it wasn't a good beer. It definitely was. But after that heavy ale, it was a little strange to have a porter that was lighter by comparison.
Outside of that, it was nice & dark, with a slight "burnt" note present in the aftertaste. Which is something I tend to look for in a beer like this.
The second time through I ordered a flight along with the Avocado Melt. I found myself craving their fries again, so I swapped out whatever the included side was for an order of those instead. Feeling vaguely justified, having just ordered a sandwich that sounded borderline healthy. 😉
The sandwich consisted of avocado slices, melted Swiss cheese and sprouts, all on toasted whole wheat. It was warm, filling and delicious. The combination of tastes worked really well together.
Flights at the Barrington Brewery consist of five beers and you are free to choose your own adventure (heh). I picked out a couple of old favorites of mine, along with three others I hadn't had before.
1. Vienna (seasonal) - A lightly hopped Pale Ale, with a slightly grainy aftertaste. It went down nice and easy. Though not advertised as such, it's the sort of beer I would put into my own personal "session" category.
2. Habanero Porter (cask, seasonal) - I was a little disappointed that the cask ale I had enjoyed only a couple of days ago was already kicked and replaced with something new. I had been looking forward to having another. Having said that, this was a pretty worthy replacement. The nose is full of roasted malt as is the taste. It's not spicy or hot, but the peppers definitely come through. Held up to the light, you can almost see through it. In porter terms it's on the lighter side. A very pleasant beer to drink, all in all.
3. Barrington Brown Ale - An English style Brown Ale. This is one of their mainstay beers and one I return to frequently. It's a rich, full bodied, straight-up English Brown. It's Brown Ale done right and it remains one of my all-time favorite browns to this day.
4. Black Bear Stout - Thicker and darker in color than the cask Porter, though with a slightly lighter malt flavor. Black Bear is another standard at the brewery and one that I also find myself going back to again and again. It's a very very good stout.
5. Ice Glen IPA - I hadn't tried this one before, not being a huge fan of the style. It's dark for an IPA, looking more like an amber. The nose is very light, which I found encouraging. In tasting it, I didn't get that blast of HOPS(!!!) I was expecting. The hops are there, but not overpowering. Wonder of wonders, I could taste the malt! As opposed to it being buried under mounds of bitterness. This is an IPA I can get behind. Woo Hoo! 😍
Alrighty then. That's that for now. Next post we'll hit Bissell Brothers in Portland, ME.