Boston Bar Scene

Discussion in 'US - Northeast' started by Auror, Sep 26, 2018.

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  1. Auror

    Auror Defender (623) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts

    Last year was the year of the brewery taproom in Boston area. This is the year of the "pop up" brewery in Boston.

    Are Boston beer bars being left behind? Do you still go to them frequently? Are any stepping up their game in light of this competition?

    Due to working a lot in a neighboring state and moving out to the burbs I don't get out to many Boston bars these days.

    Where do you find yourself headed to when you're looking to try something not brewed in Boston? Do you go there looking for something specific or to be surprised?
    #1 Auror, Sep 26, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2018
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  2. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Can't believe no one ever responded to this thread.

    I don't frequent them as much as I used to, but that's more a function of more options overall (with all the new breweries) rather than a lack of a desire to go to beer bars.

    Most good beer bars have a wide variety of solid local options, sometimes I've skipped going to the brewery for a specific beer because it was on tap up the street from me.

    And specific bars like Five Horses is where I go to get my Trillium fix if I'm not heading to their beer garden.

    In the last month for example I've been to Nightshift, Remnant, Lamplighter, Idle Hands, Winter Hill and Down the Road. But I've also been to Olde Magoun's multiple times, Redbones, and Five Horses.

    Granted this was all Oktoberfest related, so this might not be representative of the entire year.
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  3. Glider

    Glider Aspirant (267) Nov 15, 2004 Massachusetts

    Don't get to bars too much anymore either, as more drinking is done in people's homes. Some drop off is also due to going to breweries, specifically Aeronaut's Allston beer garden and Lamplighter.

    Lulu's would probably be my first thought if looking to go someplace specifically to drink good beers. I've been there a few times in the past year and they always have a stellar tap list.

    For me, the bigger game changer has been the number of good restaurants that have good beer lists. I mean, is Row 34 foremost a beer bar or a seafood restaurant? Makes it unnecessary to seek out the place with 40 taps when you can get some pretty great beers at the majority of nice restaurants.
  4. Justin42

    Justin42 Aspirant (229) Apr 3, 2013 Massachusetts

    Agreed. Its been ages since I went to a pure bar for drinks. We go to breweries (or more recently, beer gardens) and restaurants. I am too old to stand around at a crowded bar when I can sit at a restaurant's bar area. I do, however, make it a point to check out beer bars in other cities when I travel.
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  5. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    The irony, at least what I've found, is that the beer bars are LESS crowded than breweries or beer gardens.

    People who are younger aren't going to beer bars (for the most part), and people who are older aren't going to bars.

    Especially considering I go out late afternoon/early evening. So if younger people are into craft beer, they may be going out later. Although I find beer bars are pretty dead later at night, as are breweries.

    The breweries and beer gardens in Boston tend to be packed with lines more often than not, especially during peak times (which is late afternoon/early evening on weekends).
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  6. Justin42

    Justin42 Aspirant (229) Apr 3, 2013 Massachusetts

    I suppose that makes sense; I should probably venture out more. What are some good spots in Boston, south end or back bay?
  7. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (2,052) Apr 16, 2015 New York
    Society Trader

    Stayed in the South End last weekend and walked to Bukowski's and Five Horses Tavern. Great beer lists at both. Also met a group at Champions in a hotel right there to watch the Patriots game. Surprisingly decent list there too, but not my style place.
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  8. Auror

    Auror Defender (623) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts

    Thanks for getting it started! There were hundreds of views and no posts lol.

    This is really interesting and I do the same. Local beer bars are usually a good summation of local beer scene without needing to hit 10 separate breweries in a limited amount of time, so makes sense when traveling.

    So perhaps just that I'm more "caught up" on the local scene so the value lies more in hitting a specific brewery for a specific beer with potential take home possibilities. And breweries are kinda given special dispensation with the outdoor/pop-up beer gardens whose ambiance makes it tough for a beer bar to compete in the summertime.

    Do you guys think the preference for brewery taprooms over bars for serious beer fans is a passing phenomenon that will level off, or eventually put a lot of bars out of business? Or does a rising tide of craft beer consumption lift all boats?
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  9. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    As has been mentioned already Five Horses has an amazing list, but I hate that location because it's so small.

    Five Horses, in addition to their Davis location, also runs Worden Hall in Southie. That's my favorite of the three in terms of atmosphere. All three have great tap lists though.

    Also in Boston is Stoddard's, which I only mention because I've been there recently. There's also JM Curley, The Tip Tap Room, and Ginger Man, but I've only been to each of those once. These are all in Boston proper.

    Other than Five Horses, I'm not too well versed in the South End/Back Bay.

    No problem!

    Maybe I'm the only one who goes to bars anymore...

    The latter in my opinion.
  10. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (599) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    My biggest issue is that the price points at many craft beer bars are reaching the point of absurdity. Pricing at places like Lord Hobo, Ginger Man, Tip Tap, and 5 Horses can reach levels that make me pissed off to be a beer drinker and I end up one-and-done. Now, many brewery taprooms are also charging prices that I think are insulting given the margins involved under the guise of “fair competition” with the aforementioned beer bars. This leads me to drink more at dive bars and sports bars with a few decent taps, and places like LuLu’s that are craft but charge fair prices. But more than anything, I think people hang out with friends at home and share local stuff, with a 12er of All Day IPA or some other national craft beer on the fridge as backup. Good/great beer is not hard to come by and I think bars around Boston have generally done a poor job of making it fun to drink for extended periods at a fair price, so people just don’t do it anymore. The days of Cheers like places are over and I, for one, am pissed about it.
  11. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Allston is definitely one of the cheaper places to drink craft beer. Of course, some of that could simply be a function of location. The other places you mentioned are in Someville, Boston, and Cambridge. I can get a much better deal on rent in Allston/Brighton than those other places.

    That being said, I only go out to bars/breweries once a week, so the price doesn't matter as much to me.

    If I was going out multiple times a week, that would be quite expensive.
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  12. jbarletto

    jbarletto Disciple (348) May 18, 2013 Massachusetts

    100% agree with this.

    I go to Stoddard's 95% of the time I head out after work or even if I'm in the city on the weekend. Great rotating tap list that has something for everyone - not 80% IPA and 20% other. Prices are best around. Always some featured cans/bottles too. I was in there last week and they had $5 Ayinger Celebrators and Rochefort 8s. Always $4 Gansett cans, etc.
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  13. SpauldingSmails

    SpauldingSmails Initiate (158) Sep 11, 2014 Massachusetts

    I agree that Tip Tap and other places like it charge a lot for the privilege of great choices. I travel a lot for work and mostly don't think about pricing, since it is an expense. It hits pretty hard when a double digit $ IPA or Wild Ale hits the personal account though. Maybe the pricing is based on degree of enjoyment i.e do I enjoy that $12 DDH IPA three times more than the Bud Light? Maybe. Back to the OP question. In other cities, I tend to check out both bars and breweries. In the Boston area, mostly breweries.
  14. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (384) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    Stoddard's is also to be commended for having had at least one option on cask, sometimes more, every time I've been there. Not so easy to find, even in a beer-enthused town.
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  15. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Not just finding cask...but finding a place that knows how to manage one.

    Nothing more depressing than seeing a cask of an imported English ale, paying $10 for it, and then taking that first sip and it's oxidized and/or flat as hell.
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  16. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (384) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    True, yet I still always take the chance if I haven't already experienced a cask fiasco at a bar. Alas. I may just be a sucker for quixotic efforts.
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  17. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    NERAX bro, NERAX.

    The best "cask fiasco" there is.
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  18. rhino88888888

    rhino88888888 Initiate (129) Dec 12, 2013 Massachusetts

    I think "Cask Fiasco" would make an excellent NERAX t-shirt!
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  19. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (384) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    Haha, I meant cask fiasco as a failure the likes of which the good people at NERAX would never tolerate. Best fest. And alas, I moved out of the city last year so hitting up NERAX and NERAX North will be a lot more problematic from now on.
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  20. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Is there going to be a NERAX North this year?
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  21. bostonwolf

    bostonwolf Initiate (127) Jan 20, 2015 Massachusetts

    Lulu's (near home) and Magoun's (near wife's work) are our go-to bars these days, with Bukowski a firm 2nd.
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  22. rhino88888888

    rhino88888888 Initiate (129) Dec 12, 2013 Massachusetts

    The NERAX website confirms that there will be no NERAX North in 2018. Dangnabit!
  23. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Thanks for the information. No offense, I can’t like your post.

    It’s not exactly “North” but they can have it at my place in Somerville if they want.
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  24. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Defender (669) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Once upon a time, suburban beer lovers like myself would need to go to Boston or Camberville to get good beer. Thankfully with the proliferation of better beer, I can go nearly anywhere to grab a decent pint.

    I certainly don’t miss the days of having to deal with Hipster a-holes (both behind & in front of the bar).
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  25. Wolfpac78

    Wolfpac78 Initiate (128) Feb 18, 2015 Ohio

    Somewhat on topic with a slight twist... what’s the best place to watch the Ohio State game today? We’re the Alumni website - Tony C’s in Fenway is the official OSU backer bar in Boston - is that correct?
  26. Piels25

    Piels25 Aspirant (237) Dec 17, 2013 Massachusetts

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  27. meefmoff

    meefmoff Zealot (504) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts

    I never really gave this much thought but I more or less never go out of my way to go to beer bars and don't find myself wishing I did either. Stoddards is something of an exception because they have such an interesting space/ambience combined with the eclectic beer that it feels like an 'experience' so I do make a point to go there whenever I'm in the area.

    But the crowds, uninteresting spaces, and prices of places like Lord Hobo, Tip Tap Room (especially Tip Tap Room!) and Mead Hall just don't hold any charm for me. Some taprooms and pop ups can suffer from some or all of those things at times, but for me anyway there's usually value added from some combination of the local 'connection', the cool or interestingly DIY spaces, the opportunity to drink one offs and oddballs, etc. People can poo poo it all they want but I really like going to a place and seeing dogs, kids, families, and regular jabronis all coming together at a local spot to share some beer. And for all the talk of 'bad' beer, I think the list of places making beer that isn't at least decent is actually pretty small. Not every experience has to be about reaching for the pinnacle of best in style.

    As far as the question of looking for things not brewed locally, I guess don't really do that. When I make a point to go out I'm usually looking to take advantage of something that's only available around here. If I want something from elsewhere I generally buy that at the store and enjoy it at home.

    All that said, I'd probably be on the side of 'tides lifting all boats' since for whatever reason plenty of people appear to love paying $11 for a 10 ounce pour with barely enough room to move your arms at places like the Tip Tap room (did I mentioned I don't like the Tip Tap Room?). Different strokes.

    I wonder if the 'high end' beer bars are having any impact at all on old school watering hole type places? Either in terms of what the old school places have on offer or in terms of having to fight for customers?
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  28. OffTrail

    OffTrail Initiate (98) Aug 12, 2012 Washington

    I moved from Boston to Washington state four years ago, and have not been back since.

    One of the things I noticed right away out here was how much more local beers are featured in taplists. In Boston I would get frustrated by how formulaic the taplists were, with New England beers limited to 30 pct or less, and the balance given to out of region and foreign beers. Has this changed?
  29. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Yes, dramatically so in my opinion.
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  30. 9percenthurdle

    9percenthurdle Aspirant (234) Sep 6, 2018 Massachusetts

    Haven't seen any mention of Publick House, so just wanted to put that our there. Lulu's used to be my go to, but they have taken price gouging to another level. Last time I went for example they were charging $11-$12 for an 8oz sample of an Equilibrium IPA. Publick is far more reasonable, from my experience at least, than Lulu's, Five Horses, and Tip Tap Room. Stoddard's is very solid and has the best food menu in Boston for beer bars in my opinion. Worden Hall, in southie, is also pricey but they sometimes have a strong beer list.
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  31. meefmoff

    meefmoff Zealot (504) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts

    I don't find myself in that particular area often so I've only ever been a handful of times, but I agree that Public House has something to offer that makes it more like Stoddards than like the places many of us have been dishing on.
  32. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (599) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    Lulu’s has come up in price a bit but I still find them to be quite reasonable relative to the other overpriced places already mentioned, including Worden Hall which is like the overpriced version of the already overpriced 5 Horses. To be honest, I’ll drink German beers at Deep Ellum and then eat tacos next door at Lone Star with whatever IPA they have on tap most times I’m out.
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  33. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Last time I was out that way (which isn't often) I started at Publick House, then swung by Deep Ellum for my German fix, and then ended up Lu Lu's.

    A nice easy loop with a good variety and different scene at each.

    But I'm also the wrong person to ask about the best deals in Boston. I look at tap lists first, price second.
  34. jbart

    jbart Devotee (461) Oct 2, 2004 Massachusetts

    I am getting more and more fed up with pricing in Boston bars. It's really difficult to find anywhere that has a unique tap list plus good food and service as it is. Add in not wanting to feel taken advantage of, and there's hardly anywhere. I'm most content sticking with Cambridge Brewing Co.
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  35. GiantCogs

    GiantCogs Initiate (0) Oct 25, 2012 Massachusetts

    I care less and less about American craft beer. When I go to beer bar I'm hoping for a couple European oddities on draft. It's harder and harder. Belgian beers being repalced with a bunch of lackluster sours or "Belgian Style". I've lucked out in recent months at Brewer's Fork and Lord Hobo. People like to gripe about Hobo, but they have a lot of new, younger staff that seem to give the place a new energy.
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  36. kinopio

    kinopio Aspirant (278) Apr 30, 2009 Massachusetts

    I see a lot of talk of Allston but no mention of Common Ground. They've had a great draft list for at least the last year or so.

    Just having good beer isn't enough of a draw for bars anymore. We can just go to breweries for that. They need something else. Stoddards has good cocktails. Row 34 has great seafood. Picco has excellent pizza and ice cream. A4cade has videogames. Those are places I look forward to going back.
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  37. mountaindewORcrabjuice

    mountaindewORcrabjuice Initiate (75) Sep 6, 2017 Connecticut

    Headed back to Boston this weekend. This thread coupled with the Bs + Sox on Saturday might lead to my first brownout (possibly blackout?) in years.
  38. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,940) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    For me personally it is. Most of the time I'll check a bars tap list before I go. Oftentimes I'll end up somewhere because I saw a specific beer or beers I want.

    I always wanted to go to Lu Lu's because of their tap list. I regularly go to Five Horses for the tap list. I'll head to Deep Ellum or Row 34 because they'll often have rare imports I don't see elsewhere.

    Sometimes I eat at these places too, but I typically don't go just for the food. Again, this is just me, you could be right given how many places have at least decent tap lists.
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  39. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (599) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    They could staff the place with actual hobos and it would probably be an improvement over the crew that’s been there over the years.

    But look at this list and tell me it doesn’t piss you off?

    $9 for JA House Lager and Left hand Milk Stout? It’s clear he set the price for his own beers at whatever price he wanted ($8 floor) and then upcharged everything else so the house beers seem like a deal. Everything about it is awful.
  40. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    You could walk down the street and buy six packs of a few of those for the price of one glass there. $9 for 16 oz of Notch Pils? GFY. Haven't been there in years now. Not missing anything.
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