If you’re like me then you’ve noticed that your desire to drink a great craft beer is outweighed by some of your friends’ desire to go somewhere other than one of your “weird beer bars.” Craft beer may be exploding in popularity, but we’re still far from the majority. The solution? Well, you could hit up some of Boston’s phenomenal cocktail bars. Or, you could just suck it up and get a meal somewhere without sipping on a great brew. But why would you when you don’t have to? As craft beer gets more popular, there are more and more places putting thought into their beer selection without being craft beer-focused establishments. Want to take your girlfriend out but she only wants sushi? Want to take your boyfriend somewhere but he’s looking for a great meal and wine? Want to take your folks somewhere, but not to a beer bar? We’ll be putting together a series of neighborhood specific “Secret Craft Beer Bars,” with the Sound End first. Following up, we’re looking at Kenmore/Fenway, Back Bay/Copley, Cambridge, Fort Point, Newton and more. Got suggestions? Let us know!
The Criteria For a Secret Beer Bar
A Secret Beer Bar is a place that doesn't focus on just beer, or super-heavily on beer. They don’t do beer events, their social media doesn’t focus much on it, and they’re not the traditional spots you’d expect great craft beer...like we said, they’re the secret beer bars of Boston. That said, having a generic craft beer list doesn’t count, either. These are the establishments that told their distributor, “give us the ‘craft beer’ package.” These lists have thought put into them; they’re well curated. They don’t have to be huge, just well done.
513 Tremont Street
I started coming to Picco years ago (back in 2006 or 2007) for the amazing pizza and the unparalleled homemade ice cream. Back then, they had only a few taps, but I was already impressed because they were some of the best curated handles I’d seen in Boston. Fast forward to 2013 and they’ve expanded to nearly 20 options on draft and many more in the bottle. Whether you’re a craft beer lover or not, you’re going to dig this place. The fish tacos in the summer are great, they always have amazing appetizers and rotate the menu seasonally with a variety of amazing options. But, if you really want my recommendation, wait until the heat wanes and then get a calzone with mozzarella, sausage and caramelized onions. My wife and I get it pretty much every time and it never gets old! That said, during warmer times of the year, they have a great patio and sitting on that patio is a real bonus. Also, make sure to leave room for dessert as their ice cream is some of the best in the Boston-area. The coffee ice cream is especially amazing! But, for real, this is an amazing place with a great vibe, an ever-expanding draft list and some of the most well chosen brews in town. Also they have good wine.
1415 Washington Street
This is a new find for me and I actually ended up here for my wedding anniversary recently after grabbing appetizers and a drink leading up to the date. They have nearly ten taps, but Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, Pretty Things Jack D’Or and the like are your choices, so any true craft beer lover will be stoked. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, curation was key here. Beyond that, though, the food is amazing and the vibe it great. Given the assumptions about craft beer bars, you’d never think that this place would please, but it really does! Check out the eggplant, the roasted pearl onions with potatoes and pretty much all of the entrees. Pair it with a great pint and I was a happy camper. You will be too!
1721 Washington Street
Sushi. I love it. If you don’t, this is not the place for you. But, if you’ve been craving raw fish with your craft beer than this is the best place in Boston that I’ve found. I took my younger brother here a while back and we had a Pretty Things Jack D’Or and a Slumbrew Happy Sol. They’ve got a moderately sized, but very well selected, list of craft brews in the bottle that will not disappoint. Again, the key here is not the vastness of the choices, but the quality of what you can choose. There is clearly someone here who knows his or her beer. And the raw fish was great! If you want an excuse to drink craft beer while eating sushi, don’t go anywhere else! (I was really happy with photos from here, so I'm including three.)