By Bobby Bush
Fourteen and counting. That's the number of John Harvard's Brew House brewpubs, so far. Scattered over eight eastern states, from Georgia to Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia, this Cambridge-based company seems to prosper where other brewpub chains struggle. Founded by two Harvard Business School graduates in 1992, the theme plays on American history, with stain glass murals of everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Jerry Garcia embellishing the walls, but the underlying John Harvard's story apes traditional British pubs: a neighborhood tavern, a gathering spot with good food, fresh beer and smiling faces.
And it works, as I found in a hurried visit to the Roswell, Georgia location recently. Open since 1996, this John Harvard's resides in a free-standing building, front and center to Holcomb Village Shopping Center in this Atlanta suburb. The galvanized steel-topped island bar was surrounded on three sides by large, airy dining rooms. As are most Harvard's brewpubs, this one is situated in a structure originally constructed as a restaurant, now defunct of course.
Although new to the area and his job, the young bartender was friendly and helpful. He flinched not a bit when I order a sampler tray of all eight brews. Alas, the cask conditioned IPA was out, but its boldly hopped keg version, known as Old Willy Pale Ale, was spot on. Holcomb Bridge Light, the mandatory tricycle beer, was golden and clean with just a kiss of sweet hops flavor. Copper color with a sour start, Old Ivy Pale Ale finally showed bitterness at swallow's end. Grassy and yeast-ful, Harvard's Hefeweizen was all an unfiltered Bavarian wheat beer should be. The barkeep mentioned the possibility of lemon in the brew, though that taste was elusive to my buds. Georgia Nut Brown, with a thin brown body, began harsh but gave way to nutty coffee character. Hiding beneath a foamy white head, the deep gold Pilsner was beautiful in its brief but concise hoppiness. Topping the bill, 12 Oaks Porter offered smooth malt flavor that was quickly overpowered by a tart, bitter slap at the finish, perhaps a bit too bold for a porter.
"Honest Food. Real Beer." is the motto John Harvard's lives by. Although my meal was only of the liquid variety this trip, I have enjoyed entrees at the Atlanta/Buckhead and Washington, D.C. Harvard's in the past, and vividly recall excellent cuisine. The well prepared menu selections emphasize much more than English pub food, offering a wide selection of tasty treats, including a juicy Brew House Burger, Classic Grilled Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Cod with Crabmeat and Spinach, Ale and Mustard Chicken and everyone's favorite Fresh Beer Battered Fish & Chips.
John Harvard's Brew House takes history much less seriously than they do food and beer. Along with the two Georgia locations, look for John Harvard's in Massachusetts (Cambridge and Framingham); Pennsylvania (Wayne, Springfield, Pittsburgh); Connecticut (Manchester, Westport); Providence, RI; Lake Grove, NY; Cleveland, OH; Wilmington, DE and in the basement of the Warner Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. For addresses and directions, check out www.johnhardvards.com.
This healthful, helpful information comes from The Real Beer Page. Subscribe to their e-mail newsletter at www.realbeer.com:
A researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center reports that men and women who consume moderate amounts of beer (one to two a day) have a 30-40% lower rate of coronary heart disease compared to men and women who didn't drink. The positive health effects of light to moderate consumption of beer match that of previously released studies regarding red wine and provides more benefits than white wine. A Texas beer distributor partially funded the research by Margo Denke, M.D., Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern.
This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush