Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale bills itself as a “lasting tribute to those great Bostonians that walked these winding streets long before us, who shaped the landscape of this great city, who were instrumental in fighting for our freedom, and who were the architects of our democracy.” Amongst a liberal adornment of vestiges from the Boston Ladder District’s past, therefore, your Baron, the Baroness, Doc, and Lady Doc gathered to partake in a taste of Bean Town history and discovered a local alehouse worth its weight in sacred cod.
In Chicago, it’s easy to find a decent pint. Beyond the obvious pantheon of the Map Room and the Hopleaf – easily two of the finest American alehouses – aleheads can turn to a vast array of establishments to whet their hop-soaked whistles. Downtown Boston, however, has historically boasted fewer choice venues for raising a glass of craft brew. It was for months and months, therefore, that your Baron and Doc watched as the hands of a colonial – albeit virtual – timepiece counted down the seconds to the opening of Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale. As these things sometimes go, however, the opening was delayed… and delayed… until, sitting upon the shards of broken dreams and the misery of thirty gullets, we abandoned our quest for a central-Boston alehouse.
But then a breakthrough! Many of the townsfolk who had known Executive Chef Mark Cina throughout his life recognized that their world would be bleak and meaningless without him. Quick as a flash, they gathered at the ol’ Cina homestead with more than enough money to correct the banking error (perpetrated by none other than ol’ man Koch, who robbed the whole town blind during the depression). Cina’s childhood friend and plastics entrepreneur, Sam Wainwright, wired $25,000 to help Stoddard’s through the crisis, and, finally, Cina’s younger brother Harry – recent recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor – arrived to raise a glass of craft brew to his big brother Mark, the richest man in town.
None of that really happened as far as I know. Stoddard’s simply opened, at long last. The Angels sang and received their wings, and, with great fanfare, we took our seats against a backdrop of antique meat grinders, corsets, and sewing machines. Cina’s food proved a perfect and delicious accompaniment to our alehead outing, but would have been a real treat with or without the suds. Our foursome demolished the savory lobster scallion hushpuppies served with a delightful avocado aioli as well as the aged gouda fondue made with cask ales and served with soft pretzels alongside slices of apple, fennel, carrots and peppers. The ladies and your Baron then tucked into a burger that was lightyears north of epic – a perfectly grilled slab of natural Mayer beef served with cheddar, pickles, lettuce, onion, and sauce on a robust brioche. The Doc, always the black sheep, opted for the excellent pork two-ways served on a bed of smoky, delicious ham grits. Price point was quite reasonable.
It was, of course, the brews that interested your intrepid correspondents, however. After amusing ourselves with the establishment’s note to beer enthusiasts which explained, in what we imagined was the patiently indulgent tone of a harried 1950s mother, in so many words, that “Westy 12 will never be on tap and some people actually do enjoy hefeweizen,” we turned to an impressive list of draught offerings that included gems from Berkshire Brewing Company, Mayflower, Pretty Things, Rapscallion, Ommegang, Harpoon, and Clown Shoes, as well as a formidable list of cask ales. Your Baron and Doc – longtime cask enthusiasts – immediately turned to the outstanding Clown Shoes Eagle Claw Fist, which boasted a spectacular balance of sweet yeasts, creamy mouthfeel, and huge piney citrus. Next for your Baron was a cask-conditioned Lost Sailor IPA from BBC, a terrific, seriously hoppy triumph with nearly perfect balance and drinkability. The Doc opted for a pint of Harpoon Leviathan, an especially rich imperial IPA with gobs of caramel on the finish. The ladies tucked into an Ommegang Witte, a dry, refreshing, and doughy little brew, as well as a pint or two of Rapscallion Honey, a light-medium bodied pour packed with nutty sweetness without being overpowering.
We could have continued to sip all night, but, alas, all good things must come to an end. Happily, Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale promises and delivers both. The dream of a first-rate alehouse in downtown Boston has been realized, and we can’t wait to go back.
Stoddards Fine Food & Ale is located at 48 Temple Place in Boston, MA.