“How about we meet up at the Brewery?”
“Yeah, the Northampton Brewery….”
“Oh, heh, of course, the Brewery. How silly of me.”
I’ll be straightforward about this: yesterday afternoon, I looked up directions to “the Brewery” on Google Maps. It was exactly .17 miles away from my triangulated iPhone’s location. Considering my relentless enthusiasm for Northampton, for beer, and for Venn diagrams, I felt ashamed. My cheeks blushed rosyred in the fresh-cut humidity. What self-respecting Amherst resident would be caught momentarily unfamiliar with the Amherst Brewing Company’s longstanding legacy? And yet there I was, a burgeoning Northampton food writer, face awash with brewery oblivion. I needed a beer.
It’s not that I’d never heard of the Northampton Brewery—the place is a veritable institution of a brewpub. Rather, I had too often heard of the Brewery, too easily taken for granted its obvious and straightforward role as the white noise of Northampton-area drinking and dining. Regaining my composure, I consciously remolded my embarrassment into enthusiasm. “This will be just like re-watching The Matrix as an adult,” I thought to myself, hoping very much to experience the culinary equivalent of a “no spoon” moment.
The Brewery is sandwiched between two parking lots: the Thornes Market lot and the smaller, narrower one alongside Hampton Avenue. Architecturally, the building strikes me as an odd combination of country home and ski lodge: part angular yellow-painted brick of days past; part curvaceous wood paneling of days present. There’s this burgundy-metal and brown-wood theme going on that I’m surprisingly fond of. All in all, the quaint mishmash of a building manages to cohere, emanating an unexpectedly welcoming comfort and coziness.
When I think in general terms about the Brewery’s demographic, I can’t help envisioning a class-based schism between “upstairs” and “downstairs” folks or, alternatively, “outdoor” and “indoor” folks. I’ll leave the relevant sociological analysis open to your imagination. Truthfully, there’s not much to be said about the indoor seating: it’s spacious and comfortable and—at its best—illuminated with glorious natural sunlight. This time of year, however, the newly renovated rooftop patio is not to be missed.
I met my buddy Jake on the rooftop (we’re outdoor folks) for a couple of in-house beers, which were fresh and cold and tasty. An hour later we had stumbled upon a couple of orders of quesadillas, which were perfectly fine. As a gustatory experience, the Brewery really is a white noise kind of place. The menu is sleek and extensive, and features a number of locally sourced ingredients, but it’s nothing to write home about.
Despite that, I earnestly look forward to my next visit. The unremarkable and unmemorable aspects of the Brewery might not make for the best Greek salad you’ve ever eaten, but it deserves particular recognition and appreciation nonetheless. In a small town that is increasingly peppered with the neon, bum-tss-bum-tss allure of monosyllabic dance hauses such as Hinge, it’s difficult to encounter a restaurant that is merely and refreshingly… well, regular.
As Jake and I relaxed into the warmth and hum of the emergent season, pollen particles fluttered about our exposed heads in cautious, drowsy orbitals. The birds chirped reasonably. To my right, a table of high-school-graduates-to-be unknowingly celebrated the dawning uncertainty of years to come. The waiters and waitresses smiled actual smiles with great ease, unshackled from the Professional Smiles of flashier establishments. So I might not have had the “no spoon” moment that I’d initially hoped for, but I’ll say this much: I’ll never have to ask Google Maps for directions to the Northampton Brewery again.•