Cocktails: Brick & Mortar
567 Massachusetts Ave., (617) 491-0016
Check out menu highlights from Brick & Mortar here.
Beer Program: Grafton Street
1230 Massachusetts Ave., (617) 497-0400
By Tim Gagnon
Most people start entertaining thoughts of beer in the waning hours of a work day, but Grafton Street General Manager Morgan Carney starts most mornings with a beer run on his mind.
“Distributors send out these emails on Monday morning, some of them at 6 a.m., with what they have,” he says. “I set my alarm just to get that email order in immediately. You’ve got to be really on top of it.”
Carney’s early-morning buying pays off—Grafton has some of the region’s most sought-after beers, but for the general manager, it’s also a matter of creating variety amid their 14 tap lines, two of which are perennially claimed by Guinness and a regular cocktail on tap.
“We don’t have the luxury of having, like, 30 tap lines,” Carney explains. “When you do any beer list, you want to have as much variety as you can, but you want to keep certain things in mind depending on the type of restaurant you are, where you’re located, trends within the beer industry, and the number of tap lines you have.”
One of Grafton’s proudest claims of late, Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA, was on Carney’s radar for a few years before it became available in Massachusetts. Aside from the Tampa-based brewery crafting a “very approachable” IPA with refreshing citrus notes up front, the demand for it locally was simply too great to pass up.
“I think we got it three weeks after it became available,” Carney says. “That’s been our biggest seller all summer.”
Grafton’s regulars and the Harvard Square community have responded in kind to Carney’s early-morning enthusiasm; during the recent World Cup final, Carney says the bar area was packed with around 300 die-hard fans for the early afternoon match.
Arguably the most impressive bit about Carney’s process is how few of the drinks he tests; claiming he “got all [his] drinking out of the way in [his] 20s,” he now solely tests cocktails occasionally, letting BeerAdvocate, Draft Magazine, regulars, and the advice of certain bartenders help him curate Grafton’s beer menu.
“If bartenders feel like they have a hand in the menu or come up with a really good cocktail, they get more excited about it and can sell it really well,” Carney adds. “It gives them a sense of ownership over their work environment.”
Bartender: The Rising Bar – Ian Doody
1172 Cambridge St., (617) 714-4130
Meet Ian Doody
Hometown: Dublin, Ireland
Bartender since: 2012
Favorite cocktail creation: Coconut margarita
Fun fact about you: Can drink a pint of Guinness in four seconds
What you like about being a bartender: The ability to change someone’s day around with good old-fashioned hospitality and drinks.
Liquor Store & Wine Shop: Inman Square Wine & Spirits
1226 Cambridge St., (617) 945-2902
By Reena Karasin
When Joseph Sousa’s family started Inman Square Wine & Spirits in 2015, they knew they wanted—and needed—to offer something different than big-box stores.
“Our aim was to offer artisan products for all occasions, particularly on the wine side,” manager Jonas Atwood says. “We focus mainly on small producers, which tend to be the best. We have a wide selection of sustainable and organically produced wines, and really for all occasions—not just on the high end, the whole range.”
Inman Square Wine & Spirits has gained a reputation for having the best selection of craft beers, wines, and ciders in the area, and that’s not by accident.
“We put a lot of thought into the products we carry,” Sousa explains. “It’s not just the newest, or the most advertised on commercials, or whatever a salesman tells us. There’s a reason why we have everything that we have.”
“It’s all curated,” Atwood adds. “I’ve tasted all the wines on our shelves, and selected them based on whatever criteria or category they would be selected for—whether it’s a certain price range, from a certain region, or a certain grape varietal we’re looking for.”
Brewery: Cambridge Brewing Co.
1 Kendall Square, Bldg 100, (617) 494-1994
By Tim Gagnon
Considering the boom of new breweries across Cambridge over the last decade, Cambridge Brewing Company’s win this year is especially earned because … well, let’s be frank: after almost 30 years, they can’t quite call themselves spring chickens anymore.
“We are seasoned chickens,” CBC founder Phil Bannatyne quickly jokes with the mention of the term.
“When you’ve been around for that long, you have the opportunity to learn an awful lot,” he says. “We come out with a new beer pretty much every two weeks, so there’s probably 25 new recipes per year that debut here at the pub. We’re always innovating, we’re always thinking about new styles, we’re thinking about old-world styles and how we can emulate them. Thirty years is a long time, but that doesn’t mean we’re resting on any kind of laurels.”
CBC entered into a virtually non-existent craft brewing scene in 1989, and Bannatyne remembers being just the fifth brewery to open in Massachusetts.
“It used to be if it wasn’t Budweiser, Miller, or Coors, no one would touch it,” he recalls. “People coming of age now have … options, and the landscape is really quite changed, but because of that, there’s more adventure, experimentation, and wider range of choice.”
Bannatyne attests that a lot of the brewery’s newest concoctions spring from past ideas in their recipe book, including Banryu Ichi, an experimental sake/beer hybrid that utilizes yeast and koji (a steamed rice with mold spores regularly used in Japanese wine) on top of barley malt.
“The resulting beverage is very sake-like, really floral, and somewhat sweet and viscous,” he says. “It’s just delicious and quite strong … there are a gazillion sake brewers, obviously, but I don’t know of anyone that does this particular kind of hybrid.”
While CBC holds tightly to traditions—like touting out 16 different, sour options for its Sour Beer Fest every March, and its Halloween-driven Pumpkinfest in October—it also keeps evolving. Bannatyne mentions a “facelift” for the brew pub’s glass facade in September to modernize, but most of all, to help maintain its decades-old status as a gathering spot in Cambridge. The new windows will open up the pub to the patio, allowing air in and more direct communication between the two areas.
“It’s inviting, and you get a warm smile when you come here,” he says. “You get to hang out at the bar and talk to old friends, or new friends and strangers that become friends, in an atmosphere that is accepting of all.”