Friday, October 14, 2016

Exhibit 'A' Brewing, Springdale Barrel Room Solidify Downtown Framingham as a Craft Beer Destination

When I wrote a blog post in April that Framingham overall was becoming a craft beer destination, little did I know that six months later I'd be writing another post that downtown Framingham specifically was becoming a craft beer destination of its own.

 Sour and barrel-aged beers are two of the hottest segments of the growing craft beer market, niches that Jack's Abby has been in, but will now put much more emphasis on. That downtown Framingham will be home to such a cutting-edge venture is astounding.
But here we are, and after I was enchanted over the summer with the debut of Exhibit 'A' BrewingJack's Abby Craft Lagers launched an October surprise of its own this week, announcing that they will be opening a subsidiary at their Clinton Street property by winter that will focus on barrel-aged ales.

The new venture, Springdale Barrel Room, will be adjacent to the current brewery and beer hall, and will have a tap room with seating for a hundred people, and offer games like ping pong and corn hole, and retail space on the ground floor, and over 30,000 square feet of warehouse space on the second floor, housing thousands of wooden beer barrels, aging brews ranging from sour ales to IPAs and saisons.

But back to Exhibit 'A' Brewing. In several visits I've been mightily impressed by both the quality and diversity of the beers, and the enthusiasm and hospitality of owner Matt Steinberg as he works the room, effusively chatting up his customers. The energy and positive vibe in the tap room as locals and visitors gather to try the latest brews and buy some to take home is infectious.

The brewery is making good on its promise to become a supportive member of the community, already having hosted a fund raiser for pediatric cancer and a fund raising exercise class. And to bring another fun urban touch, they had a Jamaican food truck parked out front one day as a dining option for their customers.

With the opening of Springdale Barrel Room within a few months, downtown Framingham, with three craft beer outlets, will reach critical mass as a destination for folks who relish these brews. People are already talking about organizing pub crawls. With all three establishments within easy walking distance, it's a sure-fire way to increase the foot traffic in downtown. 

And with several new, large apartment complexes being proposed for downtown to target young professionals also attracted by the proximity to the commuter rail to Boston, the area is poised to become even more of a vibrant scene for Framingham and indeed all of MetroWest.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Some Welcome New Eateries in Framingham Centre

Since the closing of Red Pepper, the Chinese restaurant at the foot of the east side of Edgell Road, the area abutting it, with two buildings containing retail and office space, had been decidedly less vibrant at night.

That's changing now, with the recent opening of Dulce D Leche Gelato Cafe at 5 Edgell Road, which specializes in Argentinian-style gelato, as well as as fruit sorbet, handmade chocolates, coffee drinks, and other baked goods. Open from early morning until 9 p.m. most days - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the shop has decidedly increased the number of people in the area at night.

The business is owned by a Framingham husband and wife team, Samanta Stavar and Jules Remenar, who are seeking to recreate the treats she missed from her native Argentina.  In Buenos Aires, the famous Italian ice cream was adapted by Italian immigrants to Latin American tastes by often blending dulce de leche, a confection made of heated sweetened milk, into some gelato flavors. After working my way through some of its more than twenty flavors (they gladly offer samples to help you decide) on multiple visits since they opened earlier this month, it's quickly become my favorite local ice cream shop.

And opening in August or September about one hundred feet away in the same plaza, at 1 Edgell Road, is a second location of Volturno, a 120-seat artisanal Neapolitan-style pizzeria (they also serve other Italian fare such as pasta), which will have a full liquor license and outdoor patio seating. A highly-acclaimed eatery since it opened three years ago on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, Volturno is also locally owned and hoping to expand its success eastward, attracting more diners from the Boston area. Having dined at the Worcester location, and eaten pizza in its birthplace in the Italian city of Naples, I can definitively say Volturno is the real deal.

Now, if we can only get a new restaurant in the old Red Pepper space (I'd love to see a farm-to-table style gastro pub with a creative selection of craft beer, wine and cocktails) we'll have a veritable triangle of food and drink options in close proximity in Framingham Centre.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Framingham As a Craft Beer Destination

It's said that success begets success, and in Framingham's growing craft beer scene, that's becoming increasingly apparent.

First we had the meteoric success of Jack's Abby Craft Lagers put downtown on the map for craft beer fans all over eastern Massachusetts and beyond. Now, by summer, a second craft brewer, Exhibit 'A' Brewing, will be producing beer from the old Jack's Abby facility on Morton Street. Owner Matthew Steinberg, a veteran brewer, was quoted in Boston Magazine as saying that he plans to make Framingham a beer destination.

Add to that the two brewpubs in the Route 9 corridor, John Harvard's Brewhouse and Framingham Beer Works, plus, also on Route 9, a location of the regional beer bar chain British Beer Company, and you've got the biggest concentration of craft beer establishments between Boston and Worcester.

Travel & Leisure magazine lists Boston as number 16 on its list of the top 20 beer cities in the United States, and typically, nearby locations with good craft beer offerings get a fair amount of visitors as well. The state's Mass Grown web site, targeted at visitors seeking made in the Bay State agricultural products and culinary tours, includes Framingham's brewers on its craft brewers map.

There's also a Route 9 location for the Craft Beer Cellar, a retail store chain that offers about 650 craft brews for those who want to stock up for later consumption. Pubs and restaurants that are making downtown a culinary and entertainment destination, including the Deluxe Depot Diner, The Tavern, and Pho Dakao are also increasingly offering more (and particularly local) craft brews as well.

In total, we've got quite the critical mass of craft beer destinations within our town borders.

Truth be told, I knew we had turned a corner when I started meeting people in the Jack's Abby tap room a few years ago who had traveled from all over the Boston area as well as other states, to try and buy Jack's Abby beers. Like the guy from Weymouth standing in line with six empty growlers, who told me he and two friends took turns making a run to Framingham to get their growlers refilled. And then last fall, while eating dinner at the new Jack's Abby beer hall on Morton Street, a group of twenty-something hipsters from uber-cool Somerville told me they wished there was a Jack's Abby location in their city.

With the amount of business travelers the Framingham area gets during the week, I suspect there's a decent percentage of them who end up at one of our craft beer destinations after the work day ends, for an evening out for a few pints and dinner. And with the summer vacation season approaching, I'm betting there will be more than a few beer tourists adding Framingham to their itineraries as well.