The Back Abbey

The Back AbbeyThe Back Abbey
Liked This Place
4.02 w/ 36 ratings
The Back AbbeyThe Back Abbey

Type: Bar, Eatery, Beer-to-go

128 Oberlin Ave
Claremont, California, 91711-4620
United States

(909) 625-2642 | map

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Added by BeerRun13 on 06-29-2008

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Ratings: 36 |  Reviews: 27
Reviews by Floydster:
Photo of Floydster
2.89/5  rDev -28.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 1.5 | selection: 3.5

Stopped here with a good friend tonight who lives close to this spot in a new trendy district of Claremont, right off of Indian Hill and Oberlin, I will start off by saying that we were disappointed to say the least, it took twenty minutes before somebody helped us and then they just asked us what we wanted after not even seeing a menu, they then rolled their eyes when we asked, not a great start, my buddy ordered a St. Bernardus Abt 12 on tap which was a hefty eight dollars, it came to the table in a Delerium Tremens goblet that was not even half way full, not an exaggeration, this was not because of a large head either because that was non-existent, it was flat as can be as tasted horrible compared to other times I have had it, after I witnessed this there was no way I was ordering a draft beer, this was quite ridiculous because every other glass we saw go by us was filled to the top and some even overflowed on the waiter's hands, I looked over the bottle list and asked for a Westvleteren 6 or Blonde, whatever it is called now, a gentleman came to our table and said if I wanted one of those I would need to buy a six pack and it was $500, I did my best not to laugh, then he went on explaining what it was, like I had no idea, I interrupted and told him I have had bottles of both 12 and 8 at various locations for as low as twenty dollars, and can order them online for the same, he then realized I knew what I was talking about and walked away, after that madness I ordered a Cherish Kriek to find out that they did not have it in stock even though it was listed on the bottle list, then I ordered an Ename and they did not have that either, on my fourth attempt to order a beer I got a De Koninck for five dollars when it is never more than two bucks any store that I see it at, drank that while my buddy stared around in disbelief at what happened the last ten minutes, he enjoyed his two or three sips of beer and decided that was enough because he would paying $1.50 to $2 an ounce if he kept drinking, easily the worst pour I have ever seen since I have been going to bars and pubs, I finished my beer quickly and we got up and left after about twenty minutes, we both wished we would have stayed home and spent the fifteen dollars on some quality six packs and watched some Sportscenter instead, now that I am done ranting about my bad experience at this place I will get on to other things about it, both the french fries and burgers looked good but we had eaten before we came, fries were $5 for a half order and $8 for a full, burgers ranged from $11 to $14, other things on the menu were salads, sandwiches, and soups, they had thirty taps including Moinette Blond and Brune, Lindemans Framboise, two Hofbraus, Maudite, Trois Pistoles, Duvel, Grottenbier, Fullers London Pride, St. Bernardus Witbier and 12, a couple Spatens, De Glazen Saison, Bavik, Foret, Saison Dupont, Chimay Triple, and Kwak, bottle list was expensive and some of things I remember were Fantome Saison for over twenty bucks, the only Cantillon was Iris and it was $27, Westmalle, Konings Hoeven, Orval for nine dollars, and many other easy to find Belgians for high prices, atmosphere was a little yuppyish for me, they reallyt need some American microbrews in there, Lost Abbey and Bruery stuff is better than 95% of the beers they have in there and it seems like they are just being stubborn by not having things like that in here, place was clean but very small, cool outside patio though, service was on the verge of being terrible and most of these people had no idea about beer and acted like they were geniuses, waitress could not even tell me what kind of beer Sloeber was, had to go ask three different people, it really was a nightmare and hopefully will be better if I ever go back but I do not see myself doing that any time soon, check it out for yourself, I am sure your experience cannot be much worse than ours

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More User Reviews:
Photo of spiritual_puberty
4.35/5  rDev +8.2%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Photo of fthegiants
3.75/5  rDev -6.7%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.75 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.75 | food: 3.75

Photo of Jaysauras
4.25/5  rDev +5.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

V: Exceptional vibe. One of the major reasons why I frequent the place. Great outdoor terrace with comfortable, makeshift sort of seating. Go early if you want the couches on the patio! Inside can be a bit loud due to tight spaces, but it is a really neat interior that gives off the vibe that this truly once was a church. The walls are lined with different drink selections, and the place altogether has a homely, "eat, drink, and be merry" vibe.

Q: The selection of both beer and food is outstanding. You won't find a bad thing on the menu, and the pricing is altogether good. They have an amazing amount of belgian beers, so come prepared to go deep into the night with some high alcohol percentage selections.

S: Let me just say this: The service can be outstanding....when it is not busy. The poor waiters and waitresses can have their hands full with tons of guests and a seemingly limited staff. Sometimes it can simply feel like they don't care, but the reality is they are exceptionally busy. I have been before when it is more low key and the servers are outstanding, have amazing beer recommendations, and are altogether funny and friendly. Funny story, my friends joked that I was "Sexually frustrated" and I would need a beer to reflect that. What the waiter amusingly brought us was a fisherman's ale from Northern France with a 11.5% alcohol percentage. Very good beer, amusing selection, and a story to go with it!

S: I am a big fan of belgians, so this place is right up my alley. Dubels, Tripels, Bochs, pretty much everything mid european is here. If you are a fan of that style, it is a great place to go. If you are looking for more of a traditional American selection of beers, they have a few, but are more geared towards the belgian/german/french style of brewing.

F: Get a cheese plate, a sausage sandwich, a tri-tip sandwich, it's all amazing.

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Photo of Teen-o
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.25 | food: 3.75

Photo of Chief99
3.79/5  rDev -5.7%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.75 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Photo of Ryancthomas7
4.31/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.5

Love this place!!! Great selection of Belgian beer and excellent food. Can be a bit crowded at times and hard to find a seat, but it never disappoints.

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Photo of qcghost
4.43/5  rDev +10.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Photo of oldsailor
4.08/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.25

Photo of Bryce_Sneed
1/5  rDev -75.1%

Photo of SoCaliC8
4.25/5  rDev +5.7%

Photo of berlinabb
4/5  rDev -0.5%

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.95/5  rDev -1.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

I recently stopped in at the Back Abbey since I was in the area on business. It's a cool gastropub with lots of European beer memorabilia adorning the walls. It reminds me a lot of the Congregation Ale House locations. They have about 15 beers on tap with a fairly extensive bottle list as well. There is a beer brewed specially for this place by Bossche called Voortrust, which is pretty neat. The quality of the beer on tap was good with the beer served at a good temperature and in proper glassware. They only offer full pours for their beer, and will only give you a single sample per visit since apparently people were taking advantage of the samples in the past. Prices were a bit high with most beers on tap starting at $7 and going up from there. Service was good with the bartender answering all my questions in a friendly manner. I got a pretzel to munch on and it was pretty tasty. Overall, this is a cool spot and I wouldn't hesitate to come back in here again if I was in the area.

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Photo of JohnnyAngel
4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3

This is a little jewel for those who fully understand all about beer. If you are looking for Miller Light or a Bud you have no right being in this place and much of what they serve will be way above your head.

Sadly, there's no Cask, but what tapped beers they have is amazing. Their menu shows 27 tapped beers, and their bottled beers are from Belgium, France, Holland, Canada, and the UK.

Their draft beers range from 4.5% to 12% ABV. The variety is quite amazing. Most of the beers are served in signature glassware from the original breweries. Their novelty glass for me is when you order a pint of Kwak (8.1% -$8). It comes in a glass that looks like a miniature yard ale glass that holds a pint. There's no way it can stand on its end or it would fall over so it comes with a special wooden holder to "hang" the glass by the front end of the tapered neck.

It's a small rustic pub but is obviously a favorite in the area as the times I've been there it's always been difficult to find a seat. They have a central long wooden bar top in the middle of the floor for patrons to either side of it on hard wooden stools.

There's an outside patio so that helps but again it's always been full when I've been there.

Food is okay, but nothing to right home to Momma about.

Prices for draft beer range from $5 to 9$ so beer isn't cheep here, but I guess you pay for the quality.

Bottled beers range from $6 to $23, but there are some seasonal bottled beers as high as $58 for their Scaldis Prestige De Nuits (13% ABV - 750ml)

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Photo of bmwehrly
3.85/5  rDev -4.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 5

My homebrew club and I came here for the grand opening. John, the owner, was a chimney sweep for one of my buddies before he opened this place.

The atmosphere is good, if not a little tight. I wish they would expand to give some more room to the patrons. And to allow more seats so they wouldn't fill up so fast. This place is busy every night of the week! (except when they're closed, of course!)

Service is good, provided you get one of the original servers, and not the newer ones. It has gotten better in the last year. It's nice when a server remembers your name and face.

The food here is excellent - a bit pricey, but unlike other places I've been to around here, you actually get what you pay for.

BEER: The selection here is good, but also a little pricey. They get some nice belgian beers, and every once in a while some nice bottles sour beers. They used to have a nice little selection of Cantillon, but it's getting harder and harder to find any at all here on the west coast. Other beers from all over Europe are also on the menu, but Belgians are their specialty.

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Photo of Hershdawg
4.3/5  rDev +7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

This little joint is a recreation of a Belgian Cafe. A little unassuming from the front once you walk in you notice the bar and its collection of glassware. They have and serve every beer in its perspective glassware, The seating is a scramble seating where when you get to seat yourself.

The quality available is excellent. They do a good job with food and beer.

The selection ranges from Chimay White, Buffalo Stout, to Delirum Tremens. They have a seasonal bottle list and sometimes get some Cantillon. The food is a small menu but the quality is high. However its a little pricey.

Good little restraunt for Belgian beer. The beer is about $7-10 a glass. If you want a cheaper pint go down the street Eureka!

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Photo of heresy22
3.75/5  rDev -6.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2 | selection: 4 | food: 5

I have been twice with my better half. She drinks very little and it is much easier to get her to join me at places that have interesting food options.

The food is not cheap: burgers are about $12, which includes a salad, but no fries. There are high quality ingredients, and when viewed in that light, the prices are reasonable. The burgers we had on both visits were excellent. We also ordered fries, which were very good. Today, it seems everyone has to offer gourmet burgers, and these guys do it well.

There is an extensive Belgian-centric tap selection, and a large bottle selection. Plenty to choose from. A few local craft options would be nice. I understand what they are going for, but this is Southern California. It would not kill them to humor us and throw in an IPA and a couple Belgian-inspired Californians.

The one black mark is service. The servers could be a little more attentive. If my glass is empty and I still have half a burger on my plate, it might be a good idea to ask if I want another beer. I should not have to chase you down...especially if I am sitting at the bar. It was not overly busy on either visit (late Saturday mornings, just after opening) so that is not an excuse. However, food service was prompt and correct on both visits, which is nice.

Overall, I will go again and have recommended it to several friends.

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Photo of t0rin0
3.9/5  rDev -3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Visited 3 times now, each time when people are visiting from out of town. This place is about 2 1/2 miles from my house right next to downtown Claremont.

Located right near the Claremont Colleges in ritzy Claremont. Luckily this place is on the edge of all that and on a quiet street so you can always find somewhere to park. Inside you'll find some tables and a bar with some seating outside on the patio. Very nice place, if it wasn't jam packed ALL THE TIME. I guess that's good for them but it sucks for customers.

You seat yourself so no waiting for service, which is kind of sparse to begin with. I've never had to wait more than a few minutes but I've only been early in the evening (no later than 6). For the most part it's college students in there with a few locals mixed in.

The food is quite good and they use "seasonal" ingredients (what ever is available at that time). The basket of fries are awesome, until you see the bill. Prices are ridiculous. A beer and a decent sized meal will cost you $20. But as mentioned before they are always busy so obviously people are paying these prices.

The beer selection is pretty good. You can get any beer style you want so long as it's Belgian. Unfortunately they don't have a lot of lambics but they usually have one or two, even if they are St Louis. People have spotted bottles of Westvleteren but I'm not sure if they are for sale or for show.

I'll probably be back the next time someone comes from out of town. Actually, I'd love to go back if they could get some Cantillon on tap, or maybe some good Belgian-style California made beers (Russian River or Lost Abbey).

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Photo of fandgale
4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

A previous destination before Heroes (place is closed on Sundays), Back Abbey serves 28 Belgian beers on tap and Belgian food. Food is delicious, every bit of morsel devoured on my plate. Pomme frittes come with 3 dipping sauces (horseradish chive sauce, roumelade & ketchup). A bit pricey, especially for lunch but worth it. Beers tasted: Golden Carolus hopsinjoor 8% (Note: beer was served in correct glassware) : hopsinjoor 8%had a floral, citrusy scent & flavor and a slight hoppy taste; Schonramer Gold 6% was watery, slightly carbonated & bitter taste(to assure me it was beer), probably good on a hot summer's day. It was a wonderful date & thanks, dear for lunch!

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Photo of tombcrypt
4.22/5  rDev +5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

This place is awesome. Everytime I go in they have a couple of different beers on tap, as well as others they have all of the time. My favorite thing about this place is that they have every glass for every beer the serve. Yes, that's right. A Kwak glass for Kwak, St. Louis Kriek glass for said beer, Straffe Hendrick glass...and on. Pretty legit. Although for their bottled selections I don't really know if that holds true because I ordered a Cantillon Gueuze and it came in some other glass. Whatever.

That said, the food is great. Mussels awesome. Best veggie burger ever. Frites with mayo sauce, fuck yeah.

The only downside is the price. The bottled beers are crazy. My Cantillon was $25, which ain't bad for a restaurant, but a 750ml of Duvel is $17! The food is pretty expensive too, but shit, they fry the frites in duck fat. Probably not cheap stuff.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.28/5  rDev -18.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3 | food: 4

This place is sort of hard to find if you don't know it's there. In the alley that's across from the 21 Choices/parking garage (and some other restaurants), it's a bit tough to find if you're not looking for it.

The restaurant itself has a nice rustic feel inside. Low lighting with a short l-shaped bar, a long table in the center with some tables around the walls. The problem is that it's very cramped inside, and not in a cute, cozy sort of way.

There is also some seating outside, but the tables were all full. My friends and I took a seat at the bar.

The place has about 20 or so taps and a fairly long bottle list. All the taps and most of the bottles are fairly easy to find Belgian beers with a few German, English, and other imports. The problem is that the prices are through the roof. I mean, $9 for a pour of Aventinus? You can buy a 500ml bottle for 3 or 4.

The food is good, but similarly overpriced. The fact that I paid $11 for a 6 oz burger and a few bites of lettuce with some dressing is rather laughable.

The staff seemed somewhat knowledgeable, but nothing "beer geek" about them. That said, you can't really fault them for that. The food came out fairly quickly, which was good, but they were not all that attentive.

Overall, this could be a cool little place, but they really need to work on their pricing. There is no reason for their beers (nor their food, to be perfectly honest) to priced the way that they are. I do not think I'll be going back.

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Photo of AHebel
4.2/5  rDev +4.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

A great place for a meal and a few beers. They have a selection of 95%, European, well-crafted brews. Lots of great Belgians and German ones. 24 and 50 or so, taps and bottles. I had the house burger and my friend had the vegetarian burger and we were both impressed. The fries were just fine too (the full order is MUCH larger than expected. My friend and I joked about this...) Anyways, good place (not, my god, this is my new favorite), and unique in that it's really the only beer bar/restaurant that focuses solely on good European imports. No domestics here. I'll go back again, next time I make the trek from LA to Walnut and Lone Hill Liquors. I'm interested in trying more of their food and another Belgian. Check their website for details on menus.

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Photo of ArrogantHopHead
4.45/5  rDev +10.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

I came here last week with some friends and I was blown away. I even lived in Claremont for a year and didn't even know this was here. I would have gone here more often if I was still living near this place.

This place has a lot of heart and beer respect to give. The wooden bar tops and shelvings, central island for patrons, beautiful selection of draught and bottled beers, and the specific glass that accompanies most of the draft beers that they poor, all contribute to a wonderful experience. The selection is really good for what they have, just wish they had a larger one.

The only negative is that I wish the menu had a little description of the beers on draught. Other than that, the place is a great place to get a belgian style or international brew. I would highly recommend this place. Next time I will have to eat there.

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Photo of JTahoe
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4

Located on the western fringe of the expanded Claremont Village (west of Indian Hill behind the theatre). This small old building was the only structure left standing in the new development and is oozes charm, just begging to be a beer bar... and so it is. The small interior has a good vibe, but most of the seating is on the wrap around patio fitted with comfy furniture.

The focus here (as the name implies) is Belgian, with all but four of the 27 taps dedicated to Belgian imports or Belgian style beers--the others offer London Pride, Paulaner, Schneider Aventinus, and Spaten Pils. The bottle selection also leans the same way with a wide selection of Belgians, and a smattering of German, Dutch, English, French, and Canadian (Unibroue). I have never seen an American offered... which I think is a shame, but that's me. Service is a bit slow, but the are friendly, and serve the beer properly in the appropriate glassware. Still have not tried to food, but the menu looks good and of the Father's Office variety.

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Photo of TheMadJack
3.9/5  rDev -3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3

Tucked off a side street not far from the Claremont Village. The Abbey itself is small, and I find that I feel crowded in there even when it's nearly empty. However, the patio is remarkably well sized and furnished, and even when the place is hopping I've got enough elbow room. Smoking is allowed outside. Furnishings are nice, with padded or wicker chairs, solid tables,space heaters for colder weather (yes, us delicate Californians not only call 40 degrees "cold", but require space heaters to sit under outside) and plenty of light.

The selection is impressive. They specialize in Belgian beers, but have a few British and German selections. Almost no American beer, not even micros, and absolutely no macro-swill. Taps and bottles available, bottles sometimes have a large and a small available. Some wines round out the list, and no hard liquor. If you're not in the mood for Belgians, best avoid this place. If you are (or have no preference), or just want a comfortable place to have a cool one with some friends, definitely seek this place out.

Service is a little slow sometimes, but they seem to be more short on wait staff than anything else. The servers are friendly and fairly knowledgable, able to read a patron and make recommendations that have pleased me and my friends several times. The bartenders have had excellent pouring technique when I've been inside to watch them. Glassware is always appropriate and is usually the custom glass if there is one available.

The food is nothing special. Most of the menu is selections of cheese and fruit, or sandwiches. Mostly cold stuff, save for the occassional soup, and it is obvious that it is offered more to complement your beverage than to satiate your appetite.

The pricing is definitely high. Best to come with friends and split the bill if you're going to have more than one or two drinks. Otherwise, this place is definitely worth the time.

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The Back Abbey in Claremont, CA
Place rating: 88.9% out of 100 with 36 ratings
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