Yankee Quartet Invades Western Mass

The border that exists between the states of New York and Massachusetts is a thin, nondescript strip of land with no border guards or checkpoints. When it comes to beer, however, the line of demarcation that separates the Empire State from New England is significant in that it is an endline of sorts for many of the Bay State’s more lesser known offerings.

With an afternoon to kill, Javen and I decided to break out the passports and and cross from New York’s Capital District into Western Mass to scope out what our fine state might be missing out on.

Enlisting my sister Mary Katherine and brother-in-law Scott, we headed to Lanesboro, Mass., and Ye Olde Forge, a small, charming colonial-style tavern. At the entrance, a small, inviting dining area lies straight ahead. There isn’t very much seating, but enough to accommodate the crowd that was there on a Saturday afternoon.

Scott noted that the bar “feels like a place Paul Revere would have drank in.” Indeed, the bar imparts a very colonial feel, with lots of wood and brick. The whole vibe of the place is very old-timey and authentically New Englandy. The walls are very ornate, with cardboard coasters of beers you’ve never heard of adorning nearly every square inch of wallspace.

We were told by the hostess that there would be a 6-7 minute wait, so we headed to the bar. We noticed about a dozen taps, many with offerings not often available on tap in New York State. On tap were such diverse brews as Lagunitas Lumpy Gravy, Mars Xmas Bock, Boulder Buffalo Gold, Great Divide Hiberator and Berkshire Brewing Lost Sailor. Javen and I tried the latter, a nice roasted English IPA with the vibe of an Extra Special Bitter.

Another impressive element of Ye Olde Forge is its two full coolers of diverse and sometimes obscure bottles. Usually when you see such tall coolers, they are filled with Molson and Michelob Ultra. To see the fridges full of Fullers ESB and Franziskaner Dunkel-Weisse warms the heart on a cold day.

Once seated, we scoured the menu filled with a good selection of pub fare. Since Javen had read about the wings, we started with a dozen of them, which were deceptively spicy. Jables enjoyed the Cup of Chili with cheese (only $3.50), and was even more impressed by the presentation. It was the right combination of spicy and sweet, he noted. I had the Turkey sandwich on focacci, which was moist and really delicious. The food received positive reviews all around.

There were a couple missteps (the server seemed slightly annoyed that we were there, she brought me the wrong beer, and Scott got a slight hassle due to having a perfectly valid NYS driver’s license),but nothing to sour a very positive experience. We all noted that we would spend 4-7 nights a week here if we lived anywhere near it.

Our second stop was Pittsfield Brew Works, a place we had both been before. The vibe in this stop was decidedly more modern, but no less charming. The PBW has a nice oak bar with a flat-screen TV, as well as a small dining area near the bar and a larger section behind it near the entrance. The traffic was very light, but we were told that it would pick up after about 7 or so.

The bar is stocked with a full selection of liquor, as well as up to 10 different microbrews made right on the premises. We ordered a huge bowl of nachos for $4.95, a bargain. But that value is nothing compared to the sampler: 10 selections for just $5.00.

Pittsfield Brew Works’ beers are all very competent, and some are excellent. This visit featured their Legacy IPA both on cask and on tap, McKenna’s Irish Red, as well as a very nice Pitch Pilsner and Dohoney’s gold. All the beers offered were competent and good, and a few stood out from the rest.

The Gerry Dog Oatmeal Stout was a nice coffee-ish stout with a motor-oil consistency and bitter finish. Javen and I agreed that our favorites were the Rauchbier — a smoky, delicious dark brew that has an almost BBQ flavor and aroma wafting out of it — and the Bees Knees Barleywine, a heavy brew with sweet and smooth honey accent which eases the harshness of what is likely a high ABV beer.

The barkeep at Pittsfield was friendly and knowledgeable, explaining some of the brewing processes, editorializing on the styles, and giving a brief history of the pub itself; exactly what you want out of a bartender. The whole experience was really enjoyable, so much that we sort of lost track of time (generally the telltale sign of a fun experience).

We had hoped to sample a few more spots in Western Mass but the sun went down and we had to begrudgingly come back across the border back into civilization. Perhaps next time we’ll get to visit Moe’s Tavern in Lee or Barrington Brewing Company. But for this brief visit, Mass. appealed to the beer enthusiast in all of us.

~ by William H on January 20, 2008.

2 Responses to “Yankee Quartet Invades Western Mass”

  1. Good read. That’s one of the great things about beer; you never know to which godforsaken burg it’ll take you.

    Every pint can be an adventure!

  2. So I move to Massachusetts and all of a sudden you swoop in and try and steal my thunder, eh? Not to mention no invite? Thanks a bunch. Lost Sailor is delicious by the way, and very understated for an IPA. I thought anyways.

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