FINEST ALEHOUSE: BOSTON

Ah, Boston:  The Cradle of Liberty.  The Athens of America.  The City of Champions.  In addition to this noble city’s role in the founding of America, Boston, notwithstanding (and to a certain extend, on account of) its Puritan past, also stands tall as one of the most historic beer cities in the New World. Following an arduous journey aboard the Mayflower, a now-forgotten Pilgrim drafted these notable words in December, 1620: “We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beere… and get me the fuck off of this bloody rock!”  (n.b. sketchy data from the era leaves the last clause of the aforementioned statement subject to some disagreement among historians.)  In 1634 the Puritans established the New World’s first public house,  thereby paving the way for Jim Koch, a sixth-generation brewer, to launch the Boston Beer Co. and the craft brew renaissance in 1984.

Also, in 2004 the Red Sox swept the Yankees in the ALCS and went on to sweep the World Series.  It was the greatest come-from-behind victory in the history of the world.  Just saying.

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11 comments

  1. For purely sentimental reasons, I vote Sunset Grill and Tap. Ten years ago when I lived in Allston/ Brighton they had 128 beers on tap in a time when 2-5 was pretty standard in many Alehouses. Others above may offer a better selection now, but I would never let ignorance stop me from participating in a poll.

    Also, good steak tips.

  2. Agreed with Mr. Sixpack. There are better locales for ambiance (personally, whenever I’m back in town for a Sox game, I stop by Bukowski’s for a brew and a dog…I love the surly waitresses, cramped, dark environs, and amusing view of the I-90 trench). And there are better spots for food (although Sunset actually has decent pub grub).

    But the crucial factor when determining top Alehouses is always variety. And Sunset tops them all. Of course, I haven’t lived there in 7 years, so it’s entirely possible it’s gone downhill since I left.

  3. Here’s where you guys are all wrong on Sunset (Sorry, you knew you were wrong, right?). 128 tap lines is all well and good, but do you have any idea how impossible it is to keep said lines clean and keep the kegs turning over in the appropriate amount of time? The best part about Sunset is that you can bring any newbie into the bar, order up a sampler or 2, and get to try a ton of really cool beers in one sitting. I’ll never knock them for that and they gave me a great introduction to some finer styles. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but in the beer world, even God plays second fiddle to sanitation. Too many stale beers for my liking at this place.

    Now Bukowski’s, that’s my kinda place. Perfect amount of taps (15-20?), unbelievable selection (Including a stellar, if not pricey, vintage list), and surly waitresses that won’t give you the time of day if you’re lost with the beer menu. It’s dark, it’s cash only, and the food is mostly sub-par, but it’s an awesome place to duck in for a great beer at any time of day. If anyone hates Bukowski’s, I can certainly understand why. That’s what I love about it because people that hate it don’t come back. Trendy, it is not. Lovable? Absolutely.

  4. Sudsy von Brue · ·

    You had me until Bukowski’s, Doc. What has a terrific selection on tap and in bottles, a pleasing atmosphere, AND terrific food? The Publick House & Monk’s Cell. If it wasn’t 40 minutes way by Green Line I would live there.

  5. Completely agree, The Publick House is the Finest Alehouse in Boston. I guess I missed the title of your poll. Bukowski’s is my favorite Alehouse, but if you want to compare Alehouse’s across the country, The Publick House should probably be the horse to pick. Bukowski’s is my go-to place for 1 or 2 beers that never dissapoints. If I’m heading to the bar to grab dinner and spend the entire evening though, I agree that Bukowski’s will get old after a while.

    To bring it back to your Chicago roots (Albeit, transplanted routes) – Bukowski’s is to The Map Room as The Publick House is to The Hopleaf. For pure atmosphere and a fun night out I know where I’m heading, but for the all around best Alehouse experience I’ll probably end up at the latter environs.

    My unofficial Boston Alehouse list, based on “Favorites” and not exactly “Quality”:

    1) Bukowski’s – Great atmosphere, guaranteed fun time, high quality taps concentrating on the domestic market

    2) Publick House – More subdued “Proper” tavern atmosphere (If you can even make your way to the bar). More focus on imports, but they have the best beers you may find in the area. Awesome food, the best all around of any tavern.

    3) Redbones – Best BBQ in Boston, which unfortunately means it’s the 432nd best BBQ in the country. Still, at least we have a BBQ place. Great beer selection, but not much of a bar atmosphere (More restaurant than anything else). They seem to get beers that you’ll never find anywhere else, especially when festivals come around.

    4-6) Sunset, Beer Works, John Harvards in no particular order. Each has a few plusses, each has a few minuses. Each used to be great but have since been moved down the list due to either better competition (See Sunset) or diminishing quality of their brews (See Beer Works, every location).

  6. In light of all the info conveyed in Rip’s textual yammering, I submit a write-in candidate: The Silhoutte Lounge in Allston. That place, if I recall correctly, was awesome.

    Oh by the way Doc, you know what else has diminishing quality? Your logic and prose. Even you should be able to admit that Brother Barley’s and my cloudy recollections of taverns from a pre-Twin Towers and Big Dig Boston when we had $500 between us should have more weight than your own “current” “informed” “experience”.

    And if I hear you criticize an Alehouse for having too many beers on tap again, this may go to fisticuffs. I will clean YOUR lines and turn YOUR keg if you know what I mean. Which I don’t.

  7. We had $500 between us? Were you holding out on me, Slouch?

    Here’s my take. I would rather:

    Get drunk at Bukowski’s.
    Conduct tasting notes at Sunset.
    Casually drink and chat with friends at The Publick House.
    Watch a Sox game after getting thrown out of Fenway at BeerWorks.
    Play darts at the Silhouette.
    Boot at the Model Cafe.

    But I defer to those still living in Boston’s sphere of influence. Alas, I left the Hub some time ago and it looks unlikely that I’ll ever return. It’s just as well…driving around there for more than 10 minutes just makes me angry.

  8. Sudsy von Brue · ·

    We’ll have to table a verdict pending an Aleheads outing to two relative newcomers, Brother Barley. Lord Hobo is rumored to be epic: http://lordhobo.com/

    And Stoddards, a long-awaited addition to Downtown crossing, promises to be outstanding as well: http://stoddardsfoodandale.com/

  9. Good lord…the Hobo draught list is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Confluence, High and Mighty, World Wide Stout, Old Viscosity, Fluffy White Rabbits, Vertical Epic! I’ll await your ambiance verdict, but based strictly on what’s available on the taps, I believe we may have a winner.

    The only problem is that it’s in Cambridge and the good citizens of the People’s Republic tend to bristle when you lump them in with Beantown. But for the rest of us, it’s all the same.

  10. Sweeney · ·

    I frequented Sunset during my summer between Junior and Senior year when I was too poor to really fully immerse myself in 128 beers on tap. I’ve only been to Bukowski’s a few times, but that’s my kind of place.

  11. I have to go with the Sunset on this one. It is accessible to all level of beer drinker, voluminous in it selection, and completely lacks any and all pretense. I agree with Barely McHops – it is a great place to take beer notes, or at least get your beer bearings.

    After that, I love me some Publick House.

    I am not sure that John Harvard’s and Beer Works even belong on this list – or if they do, why isn’t Cambridge Brewing Company included?

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