Graduate Center Bar (GCB)

Bar, Eatery

40 Charlesfield St
Providence, Rhode Island, 02906-1115
United States

(401) 421-0270 | map

Notes: Located in Brown University Graduate Center.
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Photo of WSKY54
Reviewed by WSKY54 from Rhode Island

4.6/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5
Just a few corrections to some of the reviews. As THE regular here, and their handyman to boot, since the late '80's, I think I have some experience. As a private non-profit, NOT owned by Brown University, you are, as we say, drinking for charity-see the list at the entrance. A yearly membership is a steal-now $35. The drink prices are lower than anywhere else except VFWs and Legion halls. I have never seen a bartender treat anyone with less than respect unless they were obnoxious or drunk, in which case they will likely be "dismembered", and will have to deal with the long-time manager to be reinstated. I'm now 65, and while I'm often not crazy about the music (these young kids!), it isn't anything I can't deal with. If you don't like it, like NE weather, wait a minute! Yes, arriving late on Th/F will be a pain, but we are strict about capacity-we're the state that had the Station fire disaster. Google it. Personally, I welcome anyone who can find the place (Don't Google it, Maps is wrong), there's nothing like a conversation with a grad student (or their parents) who is passionate about a field I know nothing about, and who would like to know about Providence and the many things to do and especially eat in RI. I have learned more about various beers and other drink-related stuff here than almost anywhere except Beer Advocate- thanks Susan, John and too many others to mention!
Aug 27, 2019
Reviewed by BIGFOOTWC from Rhode Island

3/5  rDev -32.4%
I like this place and it has a nice craft lineup, however, the GCB stands for Graduate Center Bar. This a bar owned by Brown Univerrsary and full of Brown students and other pretentious people . You need a membership or there is a $5 fee at the door.
Dec 08, 2014
Rated: 4.68 by JDDonahue from Rhode Island

Nov 12, 2014
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Reviewed by cmatteod from Rhode Island

4.25/5  rDev -4.3%
Very very difficult to find. But once I got there, it was definitely worth the experience. The bartender wasn't that friendly, but the selection was terrific. Everything is cheap even with the cover. When I went there was a nice mix of college students and graduate students. Would recommend for anyone looking for a good drinking hole.
Oct 03, 2014
Rated: 4.5 by ChipChaight from New York

Jun 23, 2014
Rated: 4.75 by pinhead from Washington

Mar 27, 2014
Rated: 5 by portisque from Rhode Island

Mar 17, 2014
Rated: 4.5 by BeerRay from Rhode Island

Feb 25, 2014
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Reviewed by mostpoetsdo from Rhode Island

3.65/5  rDev -17.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 3
Such high praise, everyone claims of how cheap it is, let's see what the deal is.

A: Very faux-hipster-like, dimly lit, almost impossible to get a seas, but pretty neat. Bathrooms lined with comics, it's a wannabe-New York bar.

Q&S: It takes a membership to get, or a $5 cover. They take your license and write down information by hand, not sure what that's all about. The beers are served in proper glass wear, everything was clean. The service always seemed not-so-good. The bartender (possibly new) had a bad attitude, and made everything out to be a hassle. Getting him to accept a credit card was even a pain for him. Other people claim to chat up the bartender, but this guy wanted you in and out.

S: They have some good offerings, mostly New England based. Usually will find an Oskar Blues beer on tap, along with a good Brewery from California. Some offerings from Cisco and DFH that are normally sold in bombers, but are on tap, pretty cool. Nothing really blew me away.

F: Eat before you come here. There are a couple of bar related snacks: popcorn, chips, and cheese. That's if you can get the bartender to get it for you.

V: I don't know if it's because it's a more present visit, but I don't see what the hype is about, and found it kind of pricey. A cover, along with $5 pints, and $6-7 for 10 ounce pours of other brews doesn't strike me as the cheap rating everyone else gives. Someone has to give an honest review of this place. A cool faux-hipster bar, with good (albeit pricey) beers on tap.
Sep 14, 2011
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Reviewed by rinypa from Rhode Island

4.29/5  rDev -3.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4
I lived in providence for a year and a half before I finally went here. Can't believe what I was missing. this is Providence's best beer bar, period. The bottle selection is as good as Wild Colonial down the hill but the taps are more eclectic and frequently rotated. I am definitely getting a summer membership -- even if you visit only once a month and have 3 beers each time, you would break even given the cheap beer prices.

Agree with previous review that the thurs/fri scene can be tedious, the same wannabe hipsters and gelled-up suburbanites you find in any college bar, but the layout of the place is such that you can probably find a corner to hide in.

A must for any beer or bar-lover visiting PVD.
May 12, 2011
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Reviewed by bonbini26 from New Jersey

4.58/5  rDev +3.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4
Thanks to Beeradvocate I was able to find this hidden gem (and thanks to ThirstyBird for the spot on directions)

So like the other people have said, if you can find this place it is worth the price of admission (or membership).

Atmosphere - Obviously a Brown Graduate college crowd, felt a little like a hipster bar in Brooklyn, very dark, comics in the bathroom, pool table.

Quality - Everything I had seemed fresh, with proper glassware.

Service - Can't say enough about Bill, great bartender, knew his beers and even though it was our 1st time there he treated us like regulars. Offering samples of any beer we had a question about and even split a bottle with us that the 3 of us hadn't tried before and even threw in a bag of peanuts, I mean c'mon you just don't find service like that anymore.

Selection - Excellent, I always like to see a craft beer bar carrying local flavors which this place had, along with all styles represented.

Food - Nothing fancy or that will fill you, just the basics, chips, popcorn, cheese, small pizzas, apples?, jerky and other small bites. All under $3

Valve - Living in the NYC area getting a beer under $5 is rarity especially a craft beer. With that being said, seeing beers on tap for $4 and under and bottles around the same price if not cheaper I was shocked. (Learning later that the bar is non-profit, hence the lower prices)

Overall such a hidden gem, (I almost don't want to tell people about this place to keep it hidden, but I had to share with my fellow advocates)
Nov 19, 2010
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Reviewed by Sekritz from Vermont

5/5  rDev +12.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5
Hard to find, it's inside the Graduate Center, downstairs, off the street- once you're in, it's an oasis of atmosphere, great, knowledgeable bartenders and the best beer prices for one of the best beer selections you'll find anywhere. 16 on tap, and bottle prices that match the tap prices which are unbelievably low. Talking to the bartender revealed the reason.. it's a non-profit. No less than 60 beers, 45 of which are things you can't just find anywhere. If I lived in Providence, this would be the only place I spent time drinking beer outside the home. I am a die-hard beer snob and this place is the best I've ever been for selection, price and service.
Nov 15, 2010
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Reviewed by sbasta05 from Massachusetts

4.94/5  rDev +11.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5
A true gem. Good beer cheap with some of the best and most knowledgeable barkeeps around. I learned of this place as a grad student making my way up the hill from RISD to blow off some steam and it has become a weekly (or bi-weekly) destination. Darts, pool, board games and a revolving selection of classy beers as well as the old classics. The place has broadened my beer drinking palate and introduced me to many delicious new beers. The prices are truly unbeatable. You would be hard pressed to find a better place to whet the whistle in Providence.
Aug 04, 2010
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Reviewed by PlinyMinor from Rhode Island

4.8/5  rDev +8.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5
The GCB is the best beer bar in the city Providence in many ways: for the selection, for the knowledgeable staff, and certainly for the money. Even if you're just visiting and want to try a beer bar, try this one. A membership is required, but I believe occasional visitors can pay a small cover; membership for RISD and Brown graduate students is free, and they can bring any number of guests.

A - Located inconspicuously in Brown's Graduate Center, the GCB has no sign advertising its existence. There are four rooms: the main room has the bar, booths, a couch and many small tables; on the left there's a room with booths and darts; on the right are two rooms, one with pool tables and seating along the walls, the other with three couches, high tables and a wedge-shaped table designed to look like a quarter of a dart board. This is a real community place, where the booths are often crammed with avidly conversing patrons. I've had great discussions about beer with people at the bar, and of course with the bartenders. The one potential knock against its atmosphere is its location in a dark basement: I have known a handful of people for whom this is a bit of a turn-off.

Q - The beer here is cheap. Very cheap. A first-time visitor remarked last night that she was used to her $20 covering the cost of two drinks, and here the same denomination could easily cover five. All beers are served in their proper glassware, and, where appropriate, can be purchased in pitchers.

Serv. - The bartenders at the GCB are knowledgeable and take the time to get inside your preferences. As a frequent Friday customer, I have come to rely on the Friday bartender to point out new and interesting things. That said, I've had great experiences following up the recommendations of everyone who works there. They deserve their tips.

Sel. - About 12 of the 18 taps rotate with great frequency, though turnover is somewhat slower in the summer. I've had there, recently, Dogfish's Imort Ale, the Dupont Foret, Southampton's Double White, and Oskar Blues' Gubna Imperial IPA, all on tap. Pretty Things is rumored to be popping up on the tap list soon-ish. They have a deep selection of bottles. There are about 6 taps dedicated to more common beers (including Guinness, Anchor Steam, and a cider), so you don't have to be a BeerAdvocate member to go. Local favorite Narragansett is dirt cheap on tap or out of the can. This bar has something for everyone.

F - The GCB is somewhat limited in the food that they offer. For a kitchen-less bar, though, they do a good job: cheese platters are a personal favorite, but they also have chips, pizzas, popcorn, nuts, etc. Cheese platters come with two types of cheese (apple wedges can be added, too) and a stack of Stone Wheat Thins. A popcorn purchase gets you two baskets of microwave popcorn. You can also order food to be delivered to the bar, and they have menus on hand for such occasions (I've done this a few times, when 5:00 magically turned into 9:00).
Jul 24, 2010
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Reviewed by trbergman from England

4.08/5  rDev -8.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
I spent a lot of time at the GCB as a student at Brown and recently visited again while in Providence. A previous reviewer mentioned that it's rather hard to find -- an easier way is up a ramp off of Charlesfield St near the intersection with Thayer.

There are four rooms, with the bar in the largest, central one. Recent remodeling has moved the two dart boards into a cozy room to the left of the bar and through-traffic is no longer a problem. Another room features two 3/4-size pool tables with plenty of benches around the perimeter. The third room once contained the dart boards but now has a few tables on one side and a flatscreen and leather couches on the other.

The main room is dimly lit, with a few booths and a jumble of four-person tables, several of them made by one of the bartenders. The bartenders are helpful, friendly, and make strong mixed drinks. There are very few weak spots in the beer selection and the others more than make up the difference. There are sixteen taps and most are rotated on pretty frequent basis. Since retooling the beer list early this year, they've also acquired a lot of new glassware, further improving the beer geek experience.

Much of their business comes from students, which can be both good and bad. On the positive side, the prices are hard to beat. Negative -- for me at least -- is that there's a definite scene aspect. Show up after 10 on a Thursday to see what I mean -- not many of the students are respecting beer. If you want to avoid that, check it out earlier in the evening or visit on a Friday or Saturday night, when the douchebags are partying elsewhere.

Still, you won't find a better selection with prices this low anywhere else in the city. It's a must if you're on College Hill looking for good beer.
Sep 17, 2008
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Reviewed by Jwale73 from Rhode Island

4.3/5  rDev -3.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
Visited with ThirstyBird, RomanW70 and friends. Great man-cave. Fifteen foot long bar and several small tables. A couple pool tables and dart boards in adjacent rooms and the game on a flat screen above the bar and old school alt rock and punk playing in the background. Awesome tap listing: La Chouffe, Grimbergen double, Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen, Old Speckled Hen, Anchor Steam, Guinness, Southern Tier Unearthly IPA, Strongbow, Sapporo, DFH 60, Hennepin, Allagash White, MH #9, Smutty Hanami and Narrgansett lager. Average tap price was about $3.50, with the option of purchasing pitchers. Easily 50+ quality bottles posted on the board and listed by style. Some of the offerings included Lindemans (lambic and gueze), Chimay and St. Bernardus tripel. Servings were in appropriate glassware. Bartender was friendly and attentive. Great hidden treasure; I might have to purchase the membership next year.
Jul 31, 2008
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Reviewed by ThirstyBird from California

4.58/5  rDev +3.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5
I've been visiting the GCB on and off for several years and recently they amped up their beer selection. They now are Rhode Islands best kept beer secret. They have 15 taps (La Chouffe, Grimberger Dubbel, Weihenstephan Hefe, Old Speckled Hen, Southern Tier Unearthly, Guinness, Pilsner Urquell, Anchor Steam, Hennepin Farmhouse Ale, DFH 60 Minute, Allegash White, Brooklyn Lager, Magic Hat #9, Smuttynose Hanami and Narragansett Lager. They rotate a few of the taps regularly.
There are also around 50 bottled beers.

The GCB is open to the public but you must have a membership. ($10 for the summer and $30 for the year beginning when school starts) Their beer is particularly inexpensive though. $3.50 for most pints, less for Narragansett of course and Belgians are more.

The Grad. Bar is located in the basement of a resident dorm on the Brown University campus. It is nothing special as a bar space but the selection and price make it special.

They have a couple of pool tables and a couple dart boards for your entertainment pleasure. It is generally fairly quite in the summer, during the school year it remains mellow until the students arrive usually starting around 9PM.

They offer very limited food. Pizza, cheese plate and some snack food. I can't comment on the food as I've never ordered any.

The Bartenders are great! They are willing to chat about beer and seem happy to serve folks who appreciate good service and tip better than students.

The bar is a bit tricky to find (down a driveway which goes below grade, past some garbage cans in through a door and down a corridor then suddenly it apprears. Worth the effort!
Jul 17, 2008
Graduate Center Bar (GCB) in Providence, RI
Place rating: 4.44 out of 5 with 17 ratings