Enjoying the local revolution in craft brewing (see what I did there???)
Just based on the key ingredients, you almost don’t even need to keep reading to know Battle Road Brewpub (https://www.battleroadbeer.com/ ) is worth visiting: refurbished in an old mill, with a feeder pond abutting it; outdoor seating to enjoy the view, or indoors amongst old wood and exposed brick; comfort food and quality barbecue, and of course a quality beer lineup. But it’s worth reading on for the details.
Battle Road Brewing started off as a brewery in 2012 before expanding to add the brewpub along with a 15-barrel brewery in Maynard, a small mill city in central Massachusetts. The vibe is casual and fun, with different seating zones and some games such as darts and shuffleboard. It can be fun for an after-work drink, weekend fun, and can be enjoyable for both grown-ups and families.
The beers features a lineup of regulars, from the rich and malty 1775 Tavern Ale to the Stow’s Farms Session Ale, a light but flavorful and less alcoholic beer. Despite the proliferation of hops-intensive beers, the lineup is also nicely diverse. For example, the Sustenance Breakfast Stout features coffee from the local Hogan Brothers; the colonial era Midnight Porter includes molasses, maize, and hints of chocolate. But if it’s an IPA you’re after, the Lexington IPA features a mix of five hops, and the General Haze Double IPA is heavily hopped with Azacca, Calypso, Amarillo, and Columbus hops. With flights and growlers, any beer fan can certainly find something that will work for you.
The accompanying menu complements the beers. There’s classic pub fare such as chili, nachos, wings, burgers, and sandwiches. But Battle Road added unique offerings such as chicken fried pickles, street corn, and veggie burgers, as well as fantastic barbecued brisket, pulled pork, and dry ribs.
But along with the traditional beer and pub food, Battle Road is conscious of all potential customers. So those in your group who might prefer wine or cocktails have their own choices, and that extends to the menu with its salads, veggie burgers, flatbreads, and some vegetarian appetizers.
Given the success of Battle Road, along with being somewhat unique for the immediate area, it’s not a surprise that Battle Road is expanding to a second location at Patriot Place in 2019. Once again, it will fill a niche, despite Patriot Place’s already robust offerings. With the quality beers, food, and service, it’s well worth putting on your itinerary for either location and in any season.
Enjoying my reward for venturing off the beaten path!
With the explosion of craft breweries in recent years across the country and certainly in New England, it becomes a little more challenging for a place to distinguish itself. The recent opening of Rek-Lis Brewing’s tasting room is one example of a new business clearly getting it right, which is quickly creating its own challenge of maintaining what makes it special.
Rek-Lis moved a few months ago from a shed to a wonderfully renovated site on Main Street in the small and picturesque town of Bethlehem, New Hampshire. It feels spacious, offering different zones, from a bar to some tables, and an upstairs as well as the covered porch. In fact, it’s actually a small building, and we lucked out with one of the last tables when we checked it out recently.
Rek-lis is so named for the way of life the owners, Ian and Marlaina, embody on a daily basis. The general goal is to take a chance on a labor of love, and to brew beers as over-the-top great as the adventures they or others might have enjoyed before sitting down for a cold one.
Speaking of their beers, there’s a constantly evolving list. In part, it’s based on the mad scientist attempt to pursue perfection. And, in part, it’s because Rek-Lis quickly became enough of a hit to now need to hustle to keep up with demand. Our visit was an example, with six of the eight samples in our flight being Rek-Lis brews, with two guest taps rounding out our flight. There was a clear tilt towards IPAs, which provided a chance to compare styles, but limited our ability to go in other directions, such as porters and stouts.
As their website illustrates, they’re zealous in their pursuit of craft brewing. But they do have a small yet solid menu and now also offer wine, creating options for those in a group who might not be beer connoisseurs. This also allows people to linger longer, which is important because it ties to what distinguishes them from many others.
The upscale farmhouse ambiance was instantly inviting, with interesting lighting and flights served in reclaimed wood. The beers were tasty and well crafted. But what really jumped out at us was the cheery vibe and immediate sense of community. The table we snagged was next to one end of the bar. As we looked around, we observed people happily engaged in conversations: locals critiqued their beers alongside tourists; millennials fell into discussions with retirees; and the friendliness of staff and owners inevitably pulled us further into the scene. We wound up chatting happily with transplants from Massachusetts, laughing with several waitresses, and were introduced to the owners as well as members of a barbershop quartet serenading the crowd (one of whom was the father of an owner).
That, to us, ultimately represented the true test that Rek-Lis will face. Their beers were legit. But the immediate sense of belonging, of being sincerely welcomed in like long-lost friends is what made our visit truly fun and worth driving out of our way. We felt as if we temporarily but clearly belonged there, and if we returned with any sort of regularity that we’d be remembered and appreciated. It’s not easy to start up a business or to create a series of solid beers, and it’s extremely hard to so quickly create such a genuinely inviting community.
Rek-Lis is already outgrowing its footprint, and is now looking at an addition to the building. The challenge isn’t just scaling up beer production. It’s on being able to grow while maintaining what makes it special and unique. For now, at least, the best advice to anyone journeying anywhere near the Franconia Notch region would be to set aside a couple of hours to enjoy the beers, food, setting, and especially the friendly enthusiasm that Rek-Lis joyfully serves up.
Start Line Brewery in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is one of a number of fairly new craft breweries, with a group of friends hoping to turn their passion for quality beers into a sustainable and fun way to make a living. Judging from our visit, they’ll probably do just fine.
Start Line, named for the Boston Marathon’s route which begins in town, will celebrate its one-year anniversary at the beginning of November. It appears they’ve solidly established themselves with six year-round beers and other seasonal or short run beers as well. Their tasting room is small but was adequate for our time there. The layout is good as well, with views of the production facilities, outside, and the Water Fresh farm connected to it.
The beers represented a good mix, from pretty hoppy choices such as Hop Load Citra, to the deep red, caramel-flavored Craic Irish Red Ale, to the Hazelnut Cold Brewed Stout that’s a great alternative to your weekend afternoon coffee run. A flight includes four five-ounce samples for $10.
Start Line is located at Water Fresh Farm, which is a great spot in its own right. It has food ranging from vegetables grown in their hydroponic greenhouse; great snacks and candy; and fresh, hot meals. Start Line uses them as well for a limited menu. The farm also has a good wine selection with a chilling machine in case you get a bottle of white on a way to a friend’s and need it quickly cooled. The ice cream shop also means that parents can bring their kids and everyone can find something on the premises to enjoy.
We really enjoyed both the quality and the variety of the beers. Start Line’s friendly staff, picturesque setting, and mutually beneficial store and tasting room make it absolutely worth a visit. With their one-year anniversary approaching, they seem well-settled and ready to start another year of producing a great product. Not a bad outcome from some friends who started out dreaming big over some pints!
Perks started out as a great little coffee shop in Harwich, one of the quieter towns on Cape Cod. But three summers back, it experimented with using its outdoor space for a beer garden in the afternoon and evening. It's evolved from not much more than a plywood bar to now having a great ambiance.
Now serving craft beers, both locally and nationally sourced, along with wine and cocktails, it covers all its bases, along with food such as appetizers, salads, and burgers.
The seating, bar with outdoor TV, fire pit, and lights strung over everything provide a relaxed, pleasant feel. The shades in one area shaped like sails provide relief from the sun as well. And the live music is fun but not too loud as to drown out conversations with your friends.
Perks has grown the beer garden into a great atmosphere that fills a nice niche for Harwich, and is worth visiting from surrounding towns as well. We stumbled across it by accident, but will definitely seek it out again!
The Good Life...
can't exist alone. Places form the setting for your memories. People around us allow experiences to be shared, enriched, and leave us feeling connected and loved.