John Harvard's Brewery & Ale House

John Harvard's Brewery & Ale HouseJohn Harvard's Brewery & Ale House
John Harvard's Brewery & Ale HouseJohn Harvard's Brewery & Ale House
Brewery, Bar, Eatery, Beer-to-go

33 Dunster St
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138
United States

// CLOSED //

Notes: Closed on May 30, 2019.
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Photo of TheDoctor
3.95/5  rDev +9.1%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 3.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 3.75 | food: 4

A neat basement bar near Harvard with a full bar, a couple house beers and 4 or 5 guest taps. There is decent food and a good selection of styles on their limited taps (at least when I was there). Good vibe, cool stained glass, beer.

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Photo of WillieThreebiers
3.45/5  rDev -4.7%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3 | food: 3.25

Large open dining room one floor below street level. Only had 2 of their own beers on tap. 6 or so local craft guest taps. Friendly service. Food was reasonable priced, but nothing to write home about.

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Photo of WheelsPSU
3.41/5  rDev -5.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.25 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.25

Stopped here before Harvard's home opener v Holy Cross in September. It was average. They had a beer from most styles on the menu and my wife and I both chose to go with the all seasonal harvest ale. Food was average. Cant go wrong with a burger but nothing to write home about.

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Photo of skepticus
3.78/5  rDev +4.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.75 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.75 | food: 3.75

I didn't read all the reviews, but IMHO it is very important to mention that John Harvard's (nee 33 Dunster St) was the _first_ (and still the only) brewpub in Harvard Square. It may have been the first brewpub in the state of Massachusetts for all I know. Like many other chains, the Harvard Square location was the first. (Au Bon Pain, Steve's, Herrell's, the Coop, etc....) So, I guess the question is, did they start this trend? Maybe. It might just be that the Cambridge Brewing Company would not have happened if John Harvard's had failed.

And it continues, as a reliable, albeit too busy, brewpub destination in the heart of Harvard Square, if bitten somewhat by the 'family-friendly' label.

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Photo of orangesol
3.66/5  rDev +1.1%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.75 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5

Stopped in here for brunch after a bit of sight seeing over the weekend. Decent atmosphere with a large space. Long bar looking into the brewhouse with some TV's above it, a large dining area behind you. Quality was decent enough but nothing over the top. Selection was a good variety but nothing overly amazing. Service was ok, he forgot a few things I asked for but he seemed to have an ok beer knowledge. Since I was there for brunch I went with their platter. Eggs were not the greatest, I only finished about half of them, and their in house sausage was quite dry and rather bland. Decent pricing on the beer and food for the area. I had a cask ESB with my food, it was ok but it tasted a little dull. Overall an ok stop but I doubt I would return with so many other places in the area.

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Photo of FightingEntropy
3.94/5  rDev +8.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5

I've been to the JHBH in DC and wasn't very impressed, but the location right by mythic Harvard is a much better pub. Showed up right when they opened after touring (lurking about, actually) the campus and had a very nice stop. The bartender was chatty and informed, providing great conversation to go along with the samples.

The Demon DPA (Double Pale Ale) was the best--clean and hoppy with a resiny spine to hold it together. Very strong beer to compliment the rest of the line up, including one cask. Surprisingly, the Harvard Square Helles was my next favorite, in spite of not really being fan of the style. Very clean and balanced beer that I'm sure is popular with students, but nothing to shy away from as a beer geek. Always a good sign when a pub can do a light beer so clean. I didn't check out the eats in order to save room for a more vegetarian friendly restaurant later in the day. Overall, a surprisingly pleasant stop.

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Photo of beenitty
3.88/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

This was one of the first places I truly started to appreciate beer.

Not the extreme beer geek's place of choice but if you want solid offerings and great food then this is your place. The good thing about JH is that they're always brewing different beers for every season.

Lots of different types of styles but most of their beers are ABV less than 8%. Thats not a criteria for good beer, but it adds to the variety of the offerings. Good thing about low ABV is that all their beers are super sessionable!

The food is really really good. Their menu doesn't really change from year to year but the food is solid. Definitely not your average bar food, good and affordable.

Not close to Cambridge Brewing Co., but a solid place to stop in and have a few pints.

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Photo of Brad007
3.45/5  rDev -4.7%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3 | food: 4

I hadn't planned on stopping here but since I got bad directions to another place (thanks Google Maps! Morons), I decided to wander into Cambridge and discovered this place.

The atmosphere isn't quite what I like but its tolerable. A bit warm and dank smelling place with lots of drab wood (perhaps a bit of stain would go a long way in brightening it up?). The smell bugs me as it reminds me of the basement at my parents house.

Beer quality is decent. I liked the pale ale. Selection is limited but that's ok because some places have too many beers to choose from. Solid examples of tried and true styles are what they seem to do best (and that's hardly a bad thing in the age of extreme beer).

Bartender was quick to take my order as the waitress seemed distracted. Forgivable as long as they acknowledge my presence. They were quick at first, which shows that they care.

Talking about selection, the beer list isn't much but they seem to have a decent grub menu balanced with a few foodie items. I'm sick of burgers so I ordered a spent-grain pizza instead.

Speaking of which, pizza was delicious. Honest and tasty with spent grains. Price was good too, which is a plus. If I wasn't so sick of burgers, I would have gone with one instead. A pleasant surprise.

Value? Pint prices are slightly cheaper and ditto on the food. The beer isn't really a draw though and that hurts the appeal. Still, if you want a break from the hectic Boston grind, it'll do.

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Photo of mymadeline99
2.11/5  rDev -41.7%
vibe: 2 | quality: 1.5 | service: 4 | selection: 1

Stopped in for a quick one before a dinner reservation during my first visit to Boston. The place was dark and had a bit of a bad odor. They offer around six brews, but unfortunately, nothing for the IPA lover :( I had a pale ale and it was just okay. Kind of pricey too at $5 per pint. While their styles are pretty true to form, they are nothing special. I would not recommend this place to anyone who is a hop head because they have nothing to offer. I won't be back and would say to pass on this one.

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Photo of FrankLloydMike
3.56/5  rDev -1.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

I had gotten dinner here with my dad and brother several years ago, but only recently returned on a Wednesday night. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the atmosphere, which embraces its location in a basement with no windows. The place is large, but successfully divided into different areas with plenty of intimate nooks to keep it all interesting. Overall, the feel is of an old tavern, which is cozy and warm. Unfortunately, the bar table area (not the bar itself) began to fill up with a somewhat rowdy crowd more befitting a college frat bar than a brewpub. This is more what I had expected, perhaps unfairly, and makes me weary of returning on a busier night.

The quality of the brews was solid without being amazing. I had the ESB on cask, which was good but a little empty feeling. The range of styles on tap gave a lot of options, which was nice. Overall, the beers were a bit cheaper than most pints nearby and were available as full or half pints, which I always appreciate.

Perhaps because of the growing crowd, the service wasn't great. Our server didn't seem very knowledgeable about the beers and took forever to come by to ask if we wanted another round (we did when we finished our first, but by then we had changed our minds). She dropped the check and we put cash out but were waiting for change. When she never returned, we simply left the appropriate tip (not stiffing by any means, but less than we would have if we had change).

Overall, I really enjoy the space here and the convenience of its location. The beers were appropriately priced for their quality, and I'd like to come back, but it probably won't be a priority.

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Photo of Pittsburgh
3.65/5  rDev +0.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 3

I always liked this place when I was younger, this was pre beer Nirvana when I discovered what good beer was, but they always had a good selection, and the beer was pretty decent, not a bad atmosphere, food was ok, but a fun place to go with rotating beers being brewed. Service was ok, not the best. Usually easy to get a seat. I'd start with the sampler and then move on to whatever was tasting the best. Menu was changing alot as well, so it kept it interesting. Not the best beer in the world but serviceable for a brew pub.

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Photo of jrallen34
3.33/5  rDev -8%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I went here for lunch while visiting Harvard.

The atmosphere was ok, nothing special. It was basement like, very spacious and nice seats but pretty boring scene.

The beer was all brewed there but not a huge selection, maybe only 6-8, I did not see what other beers they had.

I had the sampler and got beers picked by the brewer. In general they were pretty good and arranged appropriatley.

The food was typical bar food, ok but nothing special. The bread they serve is oustanding and they have some really good fries.

The service was kind of lacking, the waitress was drab and not very beer knowledgeable.

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Photo of BretSikkink
3.8/5  rDev +5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Decent atmosphere down in Cambridge, with the whole subterranean-brewhouse thing going. Nothing to set it apart from most brewpubs. The food was good, beers were definitely unique and interesting but no greater than average. Wait staff was a little, um, douche-y, but they got the job done and were fairly prompt. There were several beers that seemed interesting, from a wide variety of styles, but I honestly wasn't blown away by any of the four that we tried, including a single-hop IPA from the cask and a one-off Houblon style Belgian IPA. Nice local joint to catch a brew and a game.

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Photo of jbertsch
3.88/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

I've never reviewed John Harvards??

Wow. Well, my friends and I used to go here every monday night for beers....why Monday? Cuz Mondays suck and we wanted something to look forward to I guess.

We always went there with one purpose in drink pitchers of the Milk Stout they used to make, but unfortunately no longer do. It was a fantastic brew that will go down in our memories as sweet folklore. We were always served by the same waitress (Michelle), who treated us well and would give us free pitchers every now and then. What more can you ask?

The food is essentially pub fare, but done well. Hearty entres with a home-cooked feel are what they excel at.

These days, beer night with the guys is gone because we've moved a bit further from each other and most of us are married. I still visit every now and then (just did this past weekend) with fond memories of the place. The Milk Stout is no longer there, but they still brew up a solid batch of 6-7 brews. The boch is fantastic.

The 2nd-to-last time I was there, we saw a cockroach crawl in front of us at the bar. It was gross, and it dissapointed me to see one in my beloved brewhouse. But the bartender was apologetic and gave us a round for free. In hindsight I wasn't surprised to see one because the place is in a basement, and with the brewing going on right see what I mean.

Anyway, I still recommend the place. It's an institution in the cambridge area with solid brews and solid food.

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Photo of HT75
3/5  rDev -17.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 3

I think this place defines average. It's a great location and easy to get to. However, it's in a basement and it feels like a basement. THe beer is good, but you won't want to take a growler home. The brewers attempt to have a nice variety, but they have to play to the Cambridge mentality and college kids. The staff knows little to nothing about the beer, so don't ask any questions. However, they work hard and get thee job done. I don't think you'll be disappointed in hitting JH, but you won't be pleasantly surprised either.

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Photo of hoffman
3.58/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

This was a pretty neat place, you walk down a relatively narrow stairwell to the bar area, bar seats about 30 there is tons of seating for dinner as well. The tap selection includes about 10 or so local brews, writing this review sans notes, I stuggle to remember the exact names of the beers but I know I tried their bitter and hefe both of which were decent to good. The service was ok, respectable but not over accomodating. The food at John Harvards is pretty good. I had the spent grain pizza and clam chowder, too much for me to eat at one sitting. Also would appear to be a great bar to pull up and watch a game with ample flat screens to see everything that might be going on with the sox or celtics.

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Photo of Jayli
4.4/5  rDev +21.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

The Cambridge location is in a former parking garage. The dark oak furniture sets the mood. Definitely has a great ambiance to it - there are even some stained glass windows at this particular location. There's a nice long bar, and several different sections for either dining, or appetizers and drinks. Waitress was very knowledgeable about the beers on tap - this particular setting I tried the Pilgrim's Porter, and Twelfth Ngiht Wassail. Another party tried the Pale Ale. The beers were outstanding as always - I've yet to have a beer from John Harvard's that I did not thoroughly enjoy. Food is outstanding as well! Great mixture of entrees and bar food.
I hadn't been to this location in about 10 years - definitely still my favorite location!

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Photo of smcolw
3.83/5  rDev +5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

I was surprised to realize that I've never reviewed John Harvard's Brew House. Having gone there for years, I must have figured I reviewed years ago. I find myself visiting whenever I'm going to Harvard (typically for a sporting event).

JH's is solid place to get typical American pub food served well. The beers are constantly changing and typically offer a wide variety from ultra-light ales to coffee-rich stouts. Outside of the lighter stuff, I think the brews are full bodied with (typically) a generous dose of hops.

Service is pretty standard stuff--college kids making a buck: attentive but not fawning. It's nothing more or less than you'd expect. The food is not quite boring. There are the ubiquitous wings, burgers and pizzas. My wife likes the salads. All-in-all, it's fine, will quench your rumbling belly and lighten your wallet by $15 per person (including a single beer).

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Photo of jushoppy2beer
3.78/5  rDev +4.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I spend several weekends each year up in Beantown and environs, and I love to come to this pub. The best thing is the environment around Harvard Square -- lots of bustle, lots of students and professors along with others. It's just across the street from the Harvard Yard, so you can't find a better college-town environment anywhere on the planet. The ambiance is warm and welcoming, though usually busy and bustling. Dark woods and stone, stained glass, nice bar, booths and tables. The food is quite good, and is mostly standard pub fare. The beers are quite good, all brewed on the premises. There is always something new on tap, including cask ales, and about every beer style there is. But, the selection on any given visit is just about 6-7 beers, so you have to come back often to sample them all.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
3.6/5  rDev -0.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

Went here on Memorial Day after previously visiting Cambridge Alehouse, a couple of metro stops away. I'd been here before, but it had been a number of years. Nice. somewhat posh looking place downstairs with lots of dark wood and brass and a long bar. Good solid food, if nothing remarkable, and competent if somewhat brusque service. The beer is nothing spectacular, but it is pleasant enough. Nothing that interesting style wise, just the usual suspects, but it is all competently made, and all quite solid. They usually have a cask on as well, which is nice. A nice place to duck into if you happen to be in the Harvard area, but not a place I'd really go out of my way for.

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Photo of
3.63/5  rDev +0.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3 | food: 4

Stopped in for lunch while on vacation.

Atmosphere was good, lots of dark wood, big bar, plenty of seating. Only problem was it felt like it was more focused on pulling in tourists than being a great brewpub. Focus really seemed to be on the food end of things.

Quality of food and beer was good, no complaints.

Service was a little slow, but it was a busy Saturday. Waiter was accomodating to the special requests of my 4 year old, so that is always good for some points in my book.

Selection of beer was where they really fell down, in my opinion. I think it was limited to about 5 options, and nothing terribly interesting in the whole bunch. I believe I went with a lager, and called it good.

Food was very tasty. We had an appetizer sampler platter and a couple of burgers. I had a bleu cheese & bacon monster that pretty much kept me full for the rest of the day!

It was a little pricey, but not bad. Across the street from Harvard, in Boston, what do you expect?

Overall, not bad, but I won't be rushing back next time I'm in Boston. Too many other places to explore.

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Photo of botham
3.43/5  rDev -5.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 2.5 | food: 3.5

John Harvard's Brewpub is a decent stop in Cambridge. A block or two off of Harvard Square, it is right in the middle of the action in Cambridge, and the basement space has good character.

the atmosphere is basically historic and brew-centric. the dark wood and brew kettles give the place a traditional look, which fits right into the surrounding area. there did not appear to be any smoking allowed inside.

the quality was good. the brews themselves were not anything special, but good nonetheless. the food was above average for a good brewpub, without being greasy or overpriced.

the service was good. the server knew a bit about brewing and was happy to attempt to answer any questions. the only fault in the service was when he explained the belgian wit as 'kind of like bubble gum'.

the selection was limited, only six brews available.

overall a note-worthy stop in the Harvard area, but not the best as far a brewpubs go.

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Photo of YonderWanderer
4/5  rDev +10.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

John Harvard's, a long-time staple of the Harvard Square beer scene, is an excellent place to stop by for a meal or just for a brew. The pub is a good size, capable of seating a large group of people, with a decent sized bar area. Service has also been solid, even on such hectic nights as the Flight of the Imperials. The food is also excellent, with lots of good options, and some definite comfort-style food. And of course the beer- they brew some very quality brews, and is absolutely worth a try.

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Photo of danadeny
3.9/5  rDev +7.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3

Overall this is a pretty good place. The main reason to go is obviously the beer which is excellent. Of the varieties I have tried they all impressed me. The service at the bar was good, nice to see sports on the tv's. The food selection is typical restaurant / pub comfort food. For apps I would recommend the pretzel plate. 3 large soft pretzels with spicy mustard for $5 can't be beat. The Cesar salad was a bit lame, the buffalo chicken salad was better. The rotating tap and cask list and seasonal brews will keep me stopping by once in a while to see whats new. Also being close to the T is a plus.

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Photo of WillieMoe
3.58/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

This is a quaint little place. Well, okay it's not that little, really. Located under Harvard Square, JH's has a nice atmosphere, with a slightly colonial look to it, and some nice stained-glass windows featuring Cambridge/ Boston icons. I picked out Carl Yazstremski and Bobby Orr, but couldn't quite figure out all of them. I did enjoy the cooler filled with growlers right near the door. I didn't take advantage this time around, but will be sure to partake on a future visit.

The beer selection was a lot larger than I was expecting. After foolishly jumping for the Old Willie's IPA to start ( I say foolishly because I should have order the sampler right away). The IPA was top notch, and I even had another go at it in the sampler.
The lighter beers were solid, but not spectacular.There didn't seem to be a whole lot of variation with the Colonial Gold, the light and the Cambridge-on-the-Charles. My favorites were the Wassail, IPA and the Imperial Stout-which you should go and get now, cause I don't know how long they'll be brewing it!

The one downfall was that our waitress seemed to lose interest in us after we ordered dinner, but luckily this guy who was just jetting around the place was ready to take beer orders.

Oh yeah, they have food too! It was very good and this is definitely worth a vist if you're in the Harvard area.

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John Harvard's Brewery & Ale House in Cambridge, MA
Brewery rating: 3.56 out of 5 with 944 ratings