Finding Beer in Cambridge, MA

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While most WHALES were enjoying a club meeting field trip to Harvest Moon, I'm stuck out in Boston on business. In order to redeam such an injustice, I vowed to consume at least dozen beers that I haven't tried before while checking out some choice watering holes in the area. More specifically, I was staying in Cambridge Mass between the MIT and Harvard campuses. I had no car so I had to stick to the best beer in walking distance.

My first choice was Cambridge Common which was about a 2 mile walk up Mass Ave, just past Hahvad Yahd. The place is nice enough with outdoor seating facing the street. The bar was pretty small so the 30 taps and beer engine dominated the scene. I get the feeling people don't typically come for food because the place was pretty quiet at 7pm but I knew they were serious about beer given the up to date printed tap list with great descriptions of the beers on offer. I wouldn't say the selection was wild but none of the 30 taps paid any mind to BMC swill. IPAs dominated for sure. Since I had a good 2 mile walk back, I needed to pace myself. I requested a flight of four 5-ounce tasters which I later came to find was only six bucks.

My first taste was a local brewpub's (Cambridge Brewing) Tall Tale IPA on cask. While I like a good cask ale, I don't care for those that take on a huge amount of house character (aka stale as hell). I don't suppose many people dig on the cask here. Next up was Port Brewing Wipeout IPA. This was a typical mediocre IPA with nothing standing out as excellent. Things got more interesting with Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest IPA. I haven't had the chance to taste this one before and it may be my new favorite IPA, trumping Celebration Ale in that category. The intensity and freshness of the hop flavor and aroma could only be topped by running a randle. I could swear this thing was dry hopped in the keg that morning. Tiring of hops, I moved on to Cambridge Brewing's Cerise Cassee.  Reading the description, I was pretty sure it was going to be a weak attempt at Russian River's Supplication but I was wrong. It reminded me of both Supplication and Rodenbach Grand Cru combined. It was sweet and sour and aromatically complex with oak, vanilla and cherry. I finished up at Cambridge Common with a pint of Harpoon English IPA to go with my passable chicken sandwich. The bottom line here is come for the beer and atmosphere and skip the food.

Since I burned off so much sweat walking back, I found a liquor store that sold single bottles so I picked up some Peak Organic IPA and drank it wrapped in the paper bag. Sweet.

Based on the CBC beer I had tasted, the next night I seeked out the actual brewpub which turned out to be less than 6 blocks from the hotel. I saddled up to the bar and requested a full flight. 10 tasters showed up in front of me, five of which were mini flutes which were their specialty/seasonals. I started with the stock fair of Golden, Amber, APA and Porter. Blah, blah, ehhh, blah. Ok, I understand that half the taps have to be middle of the road in every way. The pale ale was passable and I'd drink it all night if I had to. I moved on to the seasonals which started with a traditional Hefeweisen, then a Berliner Weise. Admitedly, I'm not a great judge of Hefeweisen because 99% of the ones I tasted were "good". Both the banana and clove that is typical of the style was really muted which suggests a house blend of traditional and neutral yeast. It was really cool to see a Berliner in a brewpub and I watched many of them get poured while I was there with either Woodruff or Raspberry syrup. Things started getting interesting with a "nom de plum" which reminded me of something between a Belgian Wit Saison but with plum aroma, color and just a touch of sweetness. Next up was Cerise Cassee which I already mentioned from the previous day but I have to say more. Their descripton mentions a 3 day sour mash followed by a fermentation and multi-year aging in French Oak. They've been running the barrels in solera fashion for 6 years so the tap pours an unknown blend of old and new product. MyOwnStout is a Russian Impy Stout aged in Jack barrels and although it was a little heavy for a hot summer day, I love me some RIS and this one was good. I finished off the flight with their "Arquebus" which was a summer barleywine. What's that you say? It was a "light" 11% ABV.

After one more full pour of Cerise, I stumbed back to the hotel satisfied to have tasted 16 beers that I never had before. I'd rather have attended the WHALES meeting, but Boston was a close second.