Arts And Crafts Beer Parlor
An invite to a Grey Goose Island beer tasting event brought me through the subset doors of what I would soon discover to be an absolutely amazing craft beer pub.
After the event had ended, computer in tow, I was invited to stay at Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor, use the wifi, and work over their huge selection of beers. With such a genuinely kind offer, I bailed on my plans to fly solo to a favorite neighboring coffee shop and stayed around.
Being that the pub wasn't technically open to the public for the day, I began to see the ins and outs of what happened behind the scenes and knew at once that I had been welcomed into a niche community that felt far displaced from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world I'm consistently exposed to. It felt as though I was staring through the looking glass into a modern day "Dead Poets Society". Led by co-owner, Robert La France, the "oh captain, my captain" of the bunch, subtle toned plaid-clad employee after employee funneled in—even those one their day off—for their hourly toast. Glasses filled with their choice beers raised,
"To Arts and Crafts, long may we prosper" — all in chorus.
Once invited to join in their warm tradition, I proposed a feature, this feature, where I would share my story all about meeting my new great friends. Equally and mutually excited, Robert and his brother Richard gave me their tell-all experiences with this new—six-month-old—pub.
"This is my liability of the job. I have to drink beer all day" – Robert La France
Before I left, I made the promise to come back for a follow-up visit to meet for a one-on-one sit down with the co-owner Don Borelli so I could get the full story before sitting down to write. Any excuse to go back!
Instead of a story, let's call this my peek through the window into their craft beer with a touch of art-obsessed world. Let's start where it all began. Don was the FBI Attache Head of Terrorism who had just spent a hectic day filling in for Matt Lauer on the Today Show during the Boston Marathon Bombing was looking for a much-needed beer found himself parked at the bar at the Ivy chatting with Robert who was bartending.
"He knew what I did, he saw me on TV" — Don Borelli
After meeting over a beer, time and time again, the "desire to do something more lighthearted and fun" and the connection to the previous beer growler owners of their future space, the idea was planted. The gears quickly began turning and everything jumped into motion. After six weeks of renovating the space with beautiful reclaimed wood, dealing with what comes with a city protected building, to building a network, everything seemed to fall into place.
"I've had a lot of Forrest Gump days in my life" (where he just happens to be there at the right time) — Don Borelli
In went the twenty-four thirty-two degree cold press filter beer taps and two nitro lines too, as Robert notes, "try to make sure there is something for everyone" and where Don adds, "we do our best to surprise them with something new". There's the "awesome bathroom" that was built with women in mind with a full mirror and purse hooks. And, of course, that month's featured artwork was hanged.
"If you're going to do something do it right"— Robert La France
Once set up, it was time to officially open their doors. Robert would be the warm welcoming face that manages the bar that regulars would get used to and Don would take care of the "non-glam" parts—payroll, bills, the "game of nickels" as he calls it. A perfect balance.
"We want this [Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor] to be an extension of your living room" — Don Borelli
With such great craft beers that cycle in and out of the bar to make sure that there is always something new to try, the food lover in me had to know a bit about their eats—what's on the menu and why? Before I dive into that fully, let's take a step back and note that there isn't a "real" kitchen. So instead of shoving a bag of nuts in a bowl, they made really great decisions about how to make their unique menu. Let's remember, the idea here is to "serve really great beer with really great service" so while a food may seem like an afterthought, it certainly doesn't feel that way.
Now, I love this, there are meatballs on the menu from Meatball Obsession. After "eating their meatballs a lot when building our place" they chatted with the owners and mutually decided that they should be featured on the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor menu. Done! Love that!
After hearing that I wanted to know how they got Sigmund's Pretzels on their menu, "well, pretzels go well with beer", was the response I got. Ok. True. I'll take it. And wow does Sigmund's makes great pretzels, at that! Much in this same vein is the King's County Jerky which made its way on the menu because it's delicious, made with organic beef by good guys. The overall goal is to serve food at its freshest and most delicious.
I even promised to visit with an adapted-for-their-kitchen homemade hummus dish for them to try. Let's see what happens (stay tuned for the recipe)!
Truly welcoming and lovely people, they have created a space that lives up to the words that a policeman friend in Belfast Northern Ireland told them "the pub is the center of the community"—and what a wonderful one they have created! Make sure to stop by and say hi for me. The, perhaps hidden, beer lover in you will love it too!
To Arts and Crafts, long may you prosper!