Where I’m Drinking – The Tap Trailhouse – Government Center

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An unusual work thingy brought me to Government Center last week, and I decided to take the opportunity to try a new spot. I had heard some good things about both the food and the beer selection at Tap Trailhouse, so I stopped in to sample both.

Given the location right near Fanueil Hall, and its semi-hokey Paul Revere logo, I was a bit afraid that the Tap Trailhouse would be too touristy. When I first walked in, I was greeted by a very friendly gentleman in a suit and tie, so I became afraid that the place might be too upscale. My suspicion of upscalery seemed to be confirmed by the fact that the TV behind the bar was tuned to the Fox business channel, my worries about it being touristy were reinforced by the fake old-timey printing on the menu. Both of these fears were soon put to rest.

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The Tap Trailhouse is not a brand new place, but a remodeled, upscaled version of a semi-crappy beer bar named the Tap. I can’t remember a damn thing about the old Tap.  If I ever went in there, it didn’t make much of an impression. The “new” space is quite impressive, however. The bar is not too big and just a wee bit fancy. The theme of the place seems to be local craft beers and modern spins on traditional New England food. The beer list is pretty impressive, they have about twenty-five taps and feature smaller Massachusetts and New England brews. They promised me that they would be rotating the taps regularly, both for seasonal brews and to keep the variety. They don’t serve Bud, Miller, or any other national brand either on tap or in bottles, the closest they have to a “big beer” is Sam Adams. For a place in the heart of tourist country, that’s kind of brave. I chose a Slumbrew Happy Sol Hefeweizen, which was refreshing, light and a bit citrusy.  The bartender was nice enough to offer me samples of a couple of others. I do wish the beer menu would include the location of the brewery and alcohol content, but I’m nitpicking.

I was starving when I walked in, so it took me about two seconds to order the Country Rabbit Sausage, served with pickled cranberries and served on a johnnycake. It was delicious, and much more filling than it looked. Whille that was all I ate there, the appetizers look much more interesting than the rest of the menu – Harpoon venison chili, oyster tacos, blue crab nachos. I don’t see those kinds of things every day.

As to my fears of the place being pretentious and touristy, neither one proved true. The well dressed gentleman who greeted me was the manager covering the hostess station, he stopped by and asked me how my meal was and we talked beer for a few minutes. The Fox business channel soon gave way to football highlights. My neighbors at the bar were, like me, locals who were in the area on some type of business, we talked football and a bit of politics. It wasn’t busy at that time, service was quick, friendly and polite.

As much as I like a routine, and my regular haunts, every now and then it does me a bit of good to get out there and try something new. I don’t know when I’ll end up in Government Center again, but when I do, at least now I know a good place to stop.

pictures from Facebook

The Tap Trailhouse

19 Union Street, Boston, MA. 02108

 (617) 367-0033

 

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Last Call Daisy Buchanan’s

I heard last week that Daisy Buchanan’s in the Back Bay was closing up.

I won’t tell you exactly how old I was when I first went to Daisy Buchanan’s, let’s just say I should not have been there. Things were different then, and getting into a bar was based more on who you knew or who your sister was dating than other matters, such as an ID that said you were eight inches taller or had shocking blond hair.

daisys

I happened to be around the Back Bay the other day, and, feeling a bit nostalgic, I stopped in. While I admit that my memories of the place are kind of fuzzy, it didn’t seem to have changed much, except that it occurred to me that the last time I was there it was filled with cigarette smoke.

I was from the inner suburbs, and for some reason (other than their liberal ID policy) Daisy’s was a destination for us. I don’t know what the Bostonian translation of “Bridge and Tunnel Crowd” is, but that was us. When my high school buddy came back from the Marines, we headed for Daisy’s. Beer was cheap, there were girls there, what more do you want at that age?

Alas, there were no girls there on my last trip, save the bartender. It was an early crowd, for sure, but I don’t think there was a single person there without gray hair. Men sat at the bar and read the Herald, played Keno, and talked about the World Series. So, yes, many years after my first visit, I felt right at home.

Until I put the coaster over my beer and stepped out for a smoke, and remembered this was Newbury Street. I went out with my friend, who rocked his navy peacoat, I was fighting the cooler weather with my New Balance windbreaker. We stood and watched the beautiful people walk by. More than anything, we looked like a couple of old-school Irish cops.

There are a million stories better than mine about the place, but with dive bars becoming something of an endangered species in my city, I stood there on the corner and wondered how this unpretentious watering hole held onto such a fancy corner for so long. I don’t want to say it was the “good old days” of smoke-filled bars, bouncers with brass knuckles in their pockets, nineteen year old drinkers, and people doing nefarious things in the bathroom stalls, some change is for the good.

I’m not lamenting Daisy’s. She had as good a run as any of us could expect. I’m lamenting a small piece of my misspent youth.

Boston Herald – Daisy Buchanan’s Will Serve its Last This Fall

Where to Watch Hockey in Boston

When the weather turns colder, the days get shorter, and the leaves fall off the trees, hockey comes back to me. I don’t really play anymore (the body doesn’t work like it used to), but I still do love watching the game. I find hockey, like baseball, to be a wonderful social game. I enjoy taking a seat at the bar, talking about lineups, complaining about the referees, all that fun stuff.  Alas, hockey country ain’t what it used to be here in Boston, where half the people come from someplace else, be it Texas or California or India, and are much more interested in watching European soccer (I’m an American, I say soccer, deal with it) than the Rangers/Kings matchup. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to publish a short list of good spots to sit at the bar, and watch a game with a like-minded few who enjoy a good beverage as well as a good penalty kill.

Sullivan’s TapJust steps away from the TD Garden, Sullivan’s has a very long bar. It has a very long bar. It serves beer and has a pool table and dartboard. Any questions?

Sullivan's Tap™

from twitter

They also have a very honest advertising pitch: “Where Real Fans Meet, Your Grandfather Drank here.” Both are pretty true. Yes, Sullivan’s is divey, but not hipster divey. People come here to drink beer and watch hockey. Just like my Grandfather used toAnd like my Grandpa, they only accept cash.  What to eat: Bring a bag of chips, they don’t serve food here.

168 Canal St. Boston, MA 02114 

www.twitter.com/sullivanstap

The Fours – The Fours is right next to Sullivan’s, but only in terms of geography. It’s everything Sullivan’s isn’t, bright, cheery, with good food and a decent if not terribly creative beer selection. Sports Illustrated says it’s one of the best sports bars in America. The atmosphere can be a bit touristy and pink-hatish, but overall there is a good, somewhat upscale crowd. What to eat: Forgo a bit of your dignity and try the Buffalo Chicken Nachos. They are so good.

166 Canal St Boston, MA 02114

www.thefours.com

McGreevy’s – McGreevy’s is a sports bar that gets just about everything right, good food, good beer, great staff, and a very good TV setup for watching a game. The crowd comes early here, and can get loud at times. Although it’s in the toney Back Bay, McGreevy’s is unpretentious and reasonably priced. And yes, this is the place owned by one of the guys from the Dropkick Murphy’s. What to eat: Try the Guinness Braised Short Rib Poutine, because poutine is good hockey food.

911 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02115

www.mcgreevys.com

The Banshee – I don’t get to the Banshee often enough, but when I do I always have a good time. The Banshee is a well known place to watch European soccer, but they do all sports right there. The crowd gets into it, but the nature of the place keeps the rowdiness down to a minimum. The Banshee is something of an old-school Irish bar, where people talk to their barmates. Tweeting from the bar won’t get you kicked out, but it is bad form. Pretty good beer selection, always includes a couple of small local brews. What to eat: People swear by the Mac and Cheese, I really like the potato skins.

934 Dorchester Ave Dorchester, MA 02125

www.bansheeboston.com/

Jerry Remy’s – Fenway – yes, it’s a bit of a tourist trap, it’s a bit overpriced, and the food is just plain average, but boy did they got the TV setup right. It’s a nice big bar, with a huge screen in the middle and a whole bunch of smaller ones around, so you can keep an eye on every game playing. Beer selection is pretty average, but they do keep the seasonals from Harpoon, Wachusett, and Sam Adams. You will find something you like here, but it’s not a place to test your beer palate. Or your food palate for that matter. Menu is standard pub food served in a standard way. The staff here has always been friendly and fun, and the crowd does bring in a good share of hockey fans. What to eat: Try the Kobe beef sliders, can’t go wrong.

1265 Boylston St Boston, MA 02215

www.jerryremys.com

Avenue – Allston – A smaller place, and a bit hidden away.  Nice TV setup over the bar, and a surprising number of hockey fans find their way here. Given the transient nature of the Allston neighborhood, there are a good number of people who follow teams other than the Bruins, but it’s a pretty good natured crowd. They have a nice beer selection here, and they rotate taps, so it’s a good spot try something new. The staff, like the crowd and the place itself, are unpretentious but not unfriendly, and always willing to help you out with choosing a beer. While they do get a bit of the Allston Hipster crowd, this is not the “cool place to be” in the neighborhood, and it doesn’t particularly try to be. It is, however, a good place to drink a few beers and watch a game with like-minded fans, and isn’t that the point? What to eat: Try the Cry-Baby burger, possibly the best cheap burger in town, and don’t miss the sweet potato tots.

outside the avenue bar

from website

1249 Commonwealth Ave Allston, MA 02134

www.avenuebar.com

What other good spots are out there for watching hockey?  Let me know.  And save me a seat.

@seanbeh3

 

Sometimes, a Hundred Taps is Too Much

I am a beer nerd.

I like beer. I also like beer bars, I like trying new beers that I have never had before, and get strangely excited when I see something new on the tap list. I like seeing something from a brewery that I’ve never heard of before, or trying a style that I’m not too familiar with.

Part of my life as a beer nerd is that I am a sucker for those click-bait “Best Local Beer Bars” lists. If you publish such a list, I will most likely read it.

I recently came across one such list on Thrillist, by Travis Talbot titled “The Best Beer Bars in 18 Boston Neighborhoods”.  It’s a pretty good list. I am more familiar with some spots than others, and there are a few that are still on my “get to” list (looking at you, Trophy Room) but overall I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these places.

Unlike Talbot’s list, however, many of these “Best Of” lists, are not written by locals, they are a result of a perusal of Yelp reviews, Google searches and fuzzy memories of a good bar someone went to once six years ago. Some writer from New York or Indiana or some such place makes a list and waits for his view count to grow. Talbot is a local guy who knows the scene here very well, but it’s true of a lot of pieces out there.

Many of these lists also promote a particular fallacy about beer bars: the idea that “More is better.” They find the spots with the most beer taps and decide that must be the place to go for craft beer. My favorite place to try new stuff, however, has about twenty taps, half of them devoted to craft beer, which are rotated regularly (often announced via a Twitter post, which makes me want to run there as fast as the bus will carry me).   Let me give you a short list of reasons why I prefer a smaller selection for my beer expeditions.

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I don’t get overwhelmed with the selection. Talbot lists The Sunset Grill as the best spot in my neighborhood, and I can’t fault him for that. It’s a very nice place, many of my fellow beer nerds love it. I, however, often find the selection a bit much. With 112 beers on tap, the process of finding the right beer is sometimes just too much.

I get better recommendations at a smaller place. Many spots, particularly the bigger chains, don’t take the time and energy to educate their staff on the selection, and truthfully, unless your bartender is some kind of beer savant, no one can remember the ins and outs of over a hundred beers anyway.

A smaller selection means that a good bartender knows what is there, and can make recommendations. They can tell you the characteristics of the beer, knows the style, and compare it to something else.  If you are drinking with your fellow beer nerds (also known as semi-creepy wierdos at the bar), they often chime in to give thoughts on the selection. We are beer nerds, we talk about beer, it’s what we do.

Managing over 100 taps is a bitch. Everyone knows that a tapped keg has a shelf life. A well-run place can manage the tapped kegs and pull them, empty or not, when it’s time. A place that doesn’t put in the time and training to do this, however, means a skunked beer waiting to happen. A place with twenty taps, however, has a much easier job of managing things.

In my little drinking spot, changing the taps is a big deal. They announced it on Twitter like a baby’s birth, a sort of bat-signal to the beer nerds. The rotating tap systems means I know everything is fresh, the seasonals are up to date, and I’ll have something new and exciting to try.

There are many big beer bars that do a fabulous job of these things. The Sunset Grille in Allston Village and Lord Hobo in Inman Square are two great examples from Talbot’s list. I visit these places, I sample their wares, but my drinking home will always be the place with the twenty taps, and the staff that knows how to run them.

Where I’m Drinking – The Corner Tavern – Back Bay

The other day I told a friend to meet me at the Corner Tavern. I sat at the bar for fifteen minutes and got a text saying “Where IS this place?” He was across the street.

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The Corner Tavern is a tiny spot tucked into the basement of a brownstone in the Back Bay. It’s terribly easy to miss this place, even if you are looking for it, and it would be terribly easy to dismiss it a dingy basement bar. Looks, however, can always deceive.

The Corner Tavern is a humble, unexpected bright spot in the Back Bay. Despite its location, in the shadow of Boston University, this is a bar for grownups. Maybe it’s because the place is too small to fit a huge crowd of “bro’s”, or maybe it’s because they don’t serve the cheap beer and nacho’s that are the siren call of the college crowd, but the Corner Tavern is a lot more adult than many of its neighbors. That is a good thing.

The crowd here skews older, more laid back, and friendlier. The small confines, combined with the flowing spirits, make it the kind of place where people have conversations with their barmates.   You’ll find yourself chatting with an old friend, an eccentric local, or, as on my most recent visit, an Australian tourist who was trying to understand the baseball game.  I’ve always had great service here, the bartenders are running a small bar and, as a group, are engaging and funny. They also produce what look like really good cocktails. As a beer man, I have no idea how good they actually are, but they sure do look pretty.

Jen K. on yelp

Jen K. on yelp

The food at the Corner Tavern is an example of what can happen when you get a good chef and let him run. Like the spot itself, the menu is small, but they seem to get everything right. I have been there a few times when the kitchen folk have come out to ask about my meal and talk about the menu. The place takes pride in its food and it shows. The menu is slightly upscale bar/comfort food made with fresh ingredients and something of a modern spin. Try the Tavern Tots, topped with a bit of fresh parmesan cheese and a nice spicy aioli, or one of the flatbread pizzas. If you are hungry enough, and not feeling too healthy, go for the meatloaf burger, served with bacon on top.  Check the specials, I had a rabbit stew there once that was outstanding.

The beer selection is nothing special, I think they have a total of six taps. They do have both Harpoon IPA and Dogfish Namaste on tap though, both of which work for me.

The Corner Tavern is a relaxed neighborhood place, with great food and an excellent staff. It’s a great spot to hide out after work. Or, perhaps, during work. If you can find it.

 

The Corner Tavern

421 Marlborough Street

Boston, MA

617-262-5555

Another Bar, Not My Own

There is a bar that I am fond of in a neighborhood that I don’t get to very often.  The other day, I found myself in that part of the city because of work, so I took the opportunity to stop by.

There is nothing particularly outstanding about this place, the food is pretty decent, the atmosphere is casual.  What draws me in mostly is the rotating taps they have, I always enjoy a chance to try something new and different.

I arrived just a bit early for the after work crowd.  My beer of choice today was Jack’s Abbey Copper Legend.   I was doing just fine, until the regulars showed up.

Like all bars, this particular one loves it’s regulars.  Bartenders will tell you how much they love the afternoon regulars, they are easy to deal with, they tip well, and they generally don’t bother anyone.  The late night party drinkers might be the big money, but the afternoon regulars keep the lights on.  I know this because I am currently a regular at two spots, my neighborhood local and a pub that is close to my work.  I am not, however, a regular at this place.

It started with just two guys at the end of the bar.  Another showed up.  The small crowd grew bigger.  A couple walked in with a baby, apparently the first time the crowd had seen the wee tyke.  Many oohs and ahhs and congrats and cellphone pictures later, and I was crammed in.  The guy next to me dropped his bag on my foot and neither acknowledged or apologized for it.

I said before, I’m considered a regular at a couple of places, and I understand that, as sad as it is, it gives you some kind of lame-o social status.  I’ve been hanging out at bars for a long time, I know the deal.  What it doesn’t do is give you the right to be a Douchebag.   It is a small bar, we were all crammed in, I get that.  What I don’t get is why these people were getting territorial and treating me as an invader of some sort.  All I wanted was an afternoon beer, I don’t think I was ruining your experience by not surrendering my stool to you and your chummy crowd.  I was half expecting someone to piss on the floor to mark the boundary.

So, world of beer drinkers, barflys, and regulars of all drinking establishments, remember the First Rule of Bar Etiquette: Don’t be a Douche.  If you are a regular, you don’t own the place, you don’t have the right to your usual barstool, and you shouldn’t treat newcomers to your little slice of paradise like they are spoiling your good time.  The point of a bar is for people to gather, and if gathering means that you are uncomfortably close to a stranger, or even drop your bag on their foot, a smile, a nod, or a “How’s it going?” to your neighbor goes a long way.  In bars, as in life, we are all in this together.  So try to be kind.  And enjoy your beer.

Where I’m Drinking – The Pour House – Back Bay

I recently had some business in the Back Bay. It was hot, I was tired and a bit frustrated, so I wanted to de- stress for a minute or so. I thought about places I knew in the neighborhood, I chose the Pour House.  

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from twitter

The Pour House has, like myself, been in Boston for a long time. I haven’t been there for quite a while, and it was comforting to see that not much has changed. In fact, I can’t think of a damn thing that’s changed.

The Pour House has a very standard beer list, which seems to fit the character of the place. I ordered a Harpoon IPA, which is pretty much my go-to beer these days. Unexpectedly, the beer came in a twenty-two ounce mug.

Pour House

“Wow, it’s a man’s drink” I said.

“That’s how we roll here.” The bartender said.

Let me be a beer nerd for a second. I prefer my beer in a pint glass. Sixteen ounces works just fine for fine for me. Judge my manhood if you must, but I just don’t drink fast enough for a twenty-two ounce beer. It often gets warm by the time I finish. This, however, is really my only complaint about the Pour House, they gave me too much beer. If that is my biggest problem of the day, it’s a good day.

The bartender was cute, engaging, and efficient. The whole staff seemed to be having a good time, which makes for a fun atmosphere. I was digging the 90’s music they were playing.

The Pour House is certainly the most dive-like place in the Back Bay, which means it isn’t very dive-y at all, but it attracts a diverse crowd of after-work people and students. There were a bunch of people down the bar caring musical instruments, I’ll go out on limb and guess they were Berklee kids. The other end of bar seemed to have a business meeting going on.

I sat towards the front area of the bar, the TV setup there was not very good for watching a game. It seemed the back part of the place was better set up. There were signs behind the bar claiming it was the place to be for Syracuse U. football games, so go Orangemen.

On a side note, I could not get a decent cell phone signal inside. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because although I do it all the time, I don’t really like being the guy sitting at the bar on his cellphone.

The Pour House is a good time. I don’t know if I would go too far out of my way to get there, but when in the neighborhood it is a good, comfortable place to stop in for a beer.  The staff is friendly and fun. There is nothing fancy or pretentious about the place, which makes it a welcome break from so many other spots in the Back Bay. Most importantly, the place has a soul and a character to it. It’s a place worth a stop.

The Pour House

907 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02115

@pourboston