Ok, so I only had 24 hours in Boston and had already stopped by Lord Hobo on my way to a reunion, but with the party wrapping up around midnight, why not scratch one more bar off the list before calling it a night? I hailed an Uber and headed for the Publick House in Brookline.
Though it can get boisterous with the younger college set, its old-world trappings exude a staid charm, its wooden fixtures as warm and welcoming on a cold Boston night as the compendious beer menu heavy on classic Belgian styles. The lunch and dinner menus also reflect the Belgian frame of mind, with traditional moules frites and Belgian stews and meatballs, in addition to classic pub fare like fish & chips. The beer finds its way into many of the accompaniments, like beer mustard or apricot IPA barbecue sauce, or Duvel gravy on the meatballs. It’s one thing to have grub on the menu, if a bar serves food at all, but it’s quite another to have the beverage threads so mindfully intertwined with those of the kitchen. In fact, you’re just as likely to find the Publick House on Draftmag’s list of the best beer bars in the country as you are on Food and Wine’s list of the best mac & cheese, to which you can add everything from scallops to braised short ribs to fried eggs.
But it’s not just Trappist at the Publick House, Admiral Ackbar. Owner David Ciccolo is also an inveterate hophead, and renowned for his annual Hop Head Throwdown, featuring some of the most outstanding examples from New England’s venerable hop-forward pantheon, including Boston’s own Trillium Brewing. Trillium is almost like a hybrid of Jester King‘s wild farmhouse stylings and the unapologetic IPA blitzkrieg of Brash. They’ve brewed the Publick House IPA in honor of the eponymous craft beer mecca, and later collaborated with the bar to brew OneBoston, an American IPA, to raise funds for victims of the marathon bombings. Thus, on my visit, I ordered Trillium’s Board Shorts IPA, a collaboration with Danish gypsy Evil Twin Brewing, hoisting a juicy dry-hopped nose of Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic up on robust malt shoulders slightly softened with oats.
With so many bars following a certain rubric to attract craft beer dollars, the Publick House sets itself apart by not only serving some of the best beers available, but refracting that light through every aspect of the enterprise: incorporating those flavors into the food, developing relationships with local breweries, and espousing a sense of place through love and support of its city. It’s no wonder they’ve sat atop so many “best of” lists for years.