Thursday, February 12, 2009

A TRIP TO THE PUBLICK HOUSE – BOSTON, MA

So now I know where the BEER ADVOCATE guys got schooled. THE PUBLICK HOUSE in Brookline, Massachusetts (essentially a neighborhood within Boston) officially rockets into my Top 5 places I’ve ever had a beer – or several beers, as the case may be. As we noted last week, after a couple days in New York, I took Amtrak up into New England for one day of business in Boston. 15-degree cold and unprecedented wind chill greeted this California boy, but I didn’t care, as I knew that #1 on my agenda was getting in a cab and hoofing it to THE PUBLICK HOUSE, also known as THE PUBLICK HOUSE & MONK’S CELL. I sat down upon arrival and asked the waitress, “So, is the Monk’s Cell downstairs or something? Do they have a bunch of beers that the restaurant doesn’t have?”. She told me, nope, it’s just a barroom about ten feet away, everything’s the same, and this “Monk’s Cell” thing is just a little marketing magic. That’s cool – I certainly fell for it. I love all that Monk malarkey.

So why did I love this place so much? Well, this place is truly the ultimate in higher-end, beer-centric establishments (and yet is certainly within range for most lower-middle-class budgets). All the food is either lovingly cooked with beer, or is cooked to complement beer. The cheese board is full of cheeses from brewers themselves (like ROGUE and that hot Italian brewer whose name escapes me), and the menu talks about what to pair it with. Now, you may remember that I’m very skeptical of how natural the fit is between beer and various foods, but hey, I’m a heathen in many regards. But I still loved the beer-centricity of this place. And oh.my.god. The menu! Just bursting with Belgian, Belgian-style, and non-Belgian beers of all stripes, including many I’ve never heard of (always exciting for this jaded fella) and lots of east coast specialties. Prices were reasonable, like $6 for most glasses, and of course everything was served in the perfect glassware with the logo of the brewer, no matter how obscure they were. In short, it’s really the ultimate beer-lover’s restaurant and bar, and the only place I’ve seen that compares is THE BEER BISTRO in Toronto. THE PUBLICK HOUSE gets my nod of the two just for approachability alone, as you can imagine bombing into here with your buddies for a quick pint just as easily as you can imagine bringing a date for a nice meal of oysters & Chimay.

It took a lot of brain calculation and processing power to come up with my choices, but here’s what I tried – all for the first time:

SMUTTYNOSE GRAVITATION – Outstanding. I think my mood went from great to greater while drinking this superb beer, which is an 8.5%-ABV bourbon-barrel quadrupel. It’s a delicious Belgian-style, brownish ale, very still in the glass and meant to be consumed slowly. It has a light bourbon taste but no hot alcohol, which I loved. Totally like sucking on a caramel. They served it chilled, colder than the normal Belgian ale, and it totally worked for this one. Closest beer I’ve had to it was DOGFISH HEAD’s “Raison D’Xtra”, and I loved that too. 9/10.

VAN STEENBURGE ATOMIUM GRAND CRU – Big foamy head with lots of carbonation – luscious mouthfeel, but a little astringent. I had mine with an Italian cheese that had been soaked in red ale for 100 days – how about that?? Very orange, fizzy and effervescent. Some yeasty tastes that gave a nice buzz on the tongue. You can see a picture that I took right here. 6.5/10.

BRASSERIE ACHOUFFE MC CHOUFFE – This is a Belgian strong brown ale, quite carbonated (at least at first) and very “nutty”. I really was thinking it was like a Belgianized English brown ale, as it has elements of both countries’ standard-bearers. Dark fruits, and some malt sweetness. Very good, but as I was drinking it I was futzing around on my cell phone, and learned that Lux Interior from The Cramps had just died, which totally harshed on my mellow. Lux was/is probably my favorite rock star of all time. It was time to leave this terrific bar and go figure it all out back in the hotel. 7/10.

I don’t know if or when I’ll ever get back to Boston, but this is a mandatory stop when I do. Worth traveling to – I can’t recommend it highly enough.

2 comments:

Andy Crouch said...

Perhaps it's odd that I know this but your photo is not of TPH in Boston but of the Brouwer's Cafe in Seattle...

Cheers.

Jay said...

Totally embarrassing. My own picture of the Publick House was awful, so I stole one off the web, and I guess I got the wrong bar. No wonder I didn't recognize that part. It's since been corrected.