John Harvard’s Brewhouse
33 Dunster St
Visited on February 18, 2008
I don’t remember a whole lot about the third and final brewpub I stopped at during my last trip to Boston. It was my shortest stay and also the least memorable. The only thing that sticks out in my mind are carvings or sculptures or something of different historical figures throughout the restaurant. I remember thinking it was a really nice place even though it wasn’t corporatized at all. As for the food and beers, I’ll have to defer to my thoughts back then. Although I always say, if something doesn’t stick in my memory, it probably wasn’t really worth remembering.
John Harvard’s is a small chain that currently owns and operates eight different establishments in five states. But this one, located in the heart of Harvard Square, is the original, and you can tell. It’s located in the basement of a three-story ode to commercialized, mall-style food. But you could never tell upon entering. The entire restaurant is made completely out of dark, rich wood that is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never been to an old-world style pub in England, but I imagine this is what it looks like. That is, until you notice the giant row of stained-glass windows. Each is adorned with a person, and each has the face of (I assume) a locally famous person. Oh, and plenty of seating and TV’s for the entertainment aspect.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the food, but it certainly wasn’t bad. It seemed like it might have been house-made, and even if it wasn’t, it was a cut above your typical chain restaurant. I had a “knife and fork” meatloaf sandwich. The two pieces of meatloaf, lightly glazed in barbecue sauce and lightly topped with a brown mushroom gravy, were delicious. The adorning plate of carrots and peas were obviously thawed from a plastic Green Giant bag, but hey, where else are going to get little chopped up veggies? It got an A for taste, but a C for effort.
This location featured 7 beers, only 5 of which were “staples” and on the sampler I ordered. The Pale Ale was lightly hopped for a pale with well-defined citrus notes, and was very good. The Brown was too hoppy for my tastes (not sweet like a traditional nut brown) and the light lager was typical of an American-styled lager. I don’t remember much about the other staples, but I certainly remember the cask conditioned Provisional Ale! Now here was the brown, nutty, creamy, lightly carbonated, slightly warm, and absolutely delicious beer I’d been craving! It completely redeemed the establishment in the beer categories of originality and craveability.
There was a very attentive waitress at the bar (they weren’t exactly busy). But she made some good recommendations and gladly poured a couple of shot taster’s of the beers that weren’t on the sampler.