By Bobby Bush
Having had our fill of Plymouth, Massachusetts (the Ocean Spray Cranberry Museum was
more interesting than Plymouth Rock), we headed north toward Boston. Stopping a few
miles short of Bean Town in the community of Braintree, we located our target in the
peripheral driveway of South Shore Plaza Mall. Brew Moon Restaurant &
Microbrewery has been basking in the shadows of a cold concrete parking garage for
three years. Part of the Newton, Mass chain that has similar facilities in Boston,
Cambridge, Honolulu and King of Prussia, Penn., this sleek brewpub was practically a
mirror image to the Brew Moon we’d visited in that holy outlet terror of a town called
King Of Prussia in 1999. Malls are not my favorite spot for drinking beer.
At any rate, we were warmly greeted as we entered, the day’s first customers. As
we headed toward the bar, a nearly shouted “Are you here for lunch?” caught our ears.
“We’re here for beer,” I replied, settling down for a Lunar Sampler, which included a taste
of all eight of head brewer Scott Burnell’s Brew Moon beers on tap that day. Moon Light
was a light, crisp dry American lager, surprisingly tasty for a tricycle beer. An unfiltered
American Wheat beer, Mayberry Wheat R.F.D., served with lemon wedge, had a berry
undercurrent working in its flavor favor. Caramel in malt taste, Orion’s Irish Amber
presented a rounded fruity/hops balance marred somewhat by its sour, fizzy finish.
Perhaps a touch thinner in mouthfeel than Orion’s, seasonal Honey Amber Ale would
make a satisfying session beer. The dry finishing Oktoberfest was introduced by its floral
hops aroma. Body was medium with sour caramel notes. Served cask conditioned at
room temperature, Grasshopper IPA was smooth in texture with a big, embracing hops
finish, probably Cascades. In place of the Black Hole Lager, a schwarzbier, was Smoked
Maple Porter. This reddish-brown ale offered an immediate smoky bacon flavor that
persisted throughout. Good when eating smoked meats or smoking cigars. We weren’t.
Seventeen banners hung from the rafters above the dining room. Boasting brewing
accomplishments for the entire chain issued under the auspices of the World Beer
Championship, World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and others, its obvious
that Brew Moon knows beer. The friendly, pro-company staff made this a pleasant stop
indeed. [An announcement was made in December 2000 that the Brew Moon group was
being acquired by Rock Bottom, a larger, Colorado-based chain].
Continuing our journey northward into Boston proper, without any help from road
construction mess, we found Commonwealth Fish and Beer Company and $15 parking.
Though we pleaded our only-one-hour case, the unconcerned attendant was unyielding.
Which was almost the same reaction we received from the bartender behind the long,
curvy bar. She seemed perturbed when we ordered our sampler tray, so we decided to put
lunch off until the next stop.
Give brewer Jeff Charnick credit. All beers were served at 42 degrees - a nice
touch that improved the flavor profiles of many Commonwealth beers. Blonde Light was
tricycle all the way, while Golden Ale was nearly medium bodied with some fruity tones.
Their flagship brew, Best Burton Ale, sported a creamy head and malty body with a slight
harsh chocolate finish. Though aroma was lacking, Challenger was hoppy and bitter.
Rudy orange, Special Old Ale took a GABF ‘98 silver and ‘99 bronze in the barleywine
category. It had a malty alcohol kick punctuated by very bitter aftertaste. Classic Stout
was only medium bodied, though it possessed good roasted malt flavor and dry finish.
From the casks, served at 55 degrees, Boston’s Best Burton was smooth, malty
trailed by bitterness. IPA was overly fruity and underly bitter though quaffable.
Challenger was almost the same as above in flavor, just warm and flat otherwise. And the
cask Classic Stout proffered smoky coffee aroma and taste, now with thicker mouthfeel.
The facility has been brewing since 1986, or so we were told. Its original name
was not known to any of the staff on duty, but it became Commonwealth sometime in the
early 1990s. Good beer. Out-to-lunch pub employees. What a shame.
There more, see Boston Beer Works.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush