28 June, 2008

Northampton Brewery, Northampton MA

It was a hot and humid summer afternoon when our party of four visited the Northampton Brewery for a late lunch. I had heard great things about the Brewery, and the anticipation was running high. A bit too high, as it turned out.

The atmosphere is funky-informal – low lighting, copper-clad tables with the lovely patina of age and use, very friendly and efficient waitstaff. As we came into the restaurant, we passed a large glassed-in brewing room, and it was fun to watch the activity as the brewmasters tended the equipment. Front of house is laid out nicely, with plenty of space between the roomy tables and comfortable seating. The restaurant immediately seemed like The Right Place To Be.

A six-page menu may seem a little ambitious for a small brewpub, but this is Northampton, an active college town and entertainment destination. Even though we kept our food choices fairly simple, we could tell that the kitchen was more than competent. A half-pound hamburger with lettuce, tomatoes, and caramelized onions, ordered “as rare as the city allows” came to the table beautifully seared outside, gorgeously red-and-rare within. Ranch Turkey BLT wraps were a bit skimpy on the bacon but made up for it with the huge portion of delicious thinly-sliced turkey tucked within. Sweet potato fries were, quite simply, the best any of us had ever tasted. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, creamy and sweet inside; they were the first of our shared side dishes to disappear. Onion rings were a tad greasy but otherwise nearly perfect: delightful batter encasing sweet, tender, hand-cut rings.

Unfortunately, the beers didn’t quite live up to the same standards as the food. Two of us ordered “samplers,” each containing four six-ounce glasses of the beers of our choice. Here’s a rundown of the seven beers tasted (we had one overlapping choice between us:)
  • Magic Carpet Rye: Light and crisp, good body, strong and pleasant rye aftertaste, dry. My favorite of the batch.
  • Raspberry Gold: Very fruity, a little sweeter than we liked; comments included “raspberry soda gone bad,” “beer mixed with raspberry soda”
  • Paradise City Gold: Pretty average beer.
  • Northampton Pale Ale: Slightly skunky, slightly bitter, good maltiness. Not as good as Ballantine, though.
  • Nonotuck IPA: Touted as their version of India Pale Ale, this one was merely bad, with a strong chemical flavor reminiscent of toilet cleaner.
  • Ruby Porter: Perhaps the most successful of the beers we tried; an almost cola-like black, glowing deep red when backlit, rich but not too hoppy, medium body.
  • Snowshovel ESB: Sweet and malty, lingering slight bitterness.

All of these beers, incidentally, were served cool but not chilled. For the porter, that’s okay, but for the Magic Carpet Rye and the two Golds, that was a big mistake. They should have been served ice-cold befitting their lagery lightness. Serving them pub-style only magnified their weaknesses – faults which became more apparent as the beers further warmed to room temperature.

Northampton Brewery
11 Brewster Ct
Northampton, MA 01060

Northampton Brewery website


1 comment:

puppymomma said...

I went to the Northampton Brewery a few times with my husband, while we were dating. He especially loved their white pizza. It was a fun, interesting place to go. But these days, when I go to Northampton, I go ethnic.

Too bad about the beer not being the showcase it should have been.