Off Campus

Craft Beer at the Five Horses Tavern

By Molly Rubin


If there’s one thing I’ve learned while working as a bartender at the Five Horses Tavern, it’s that there is a beer out there for everybody. For those of us who don’t leave campus very often, it’s sometimes hard to remember that beer exists beyond the confines of frat party kegs and the 30-rack of Coors Light you keep in the back of your fridge.  Craft beer taverns have become more and more popular in recent years, however; as bar-goers come to expect a higher standard in their ales and lagers, they are looking beyond the corporate grasp of Budweiser and Rolling Rock to beers that challenge their tastes and their expectations of what beer can be.

The Five Horses Tavern (located at 400 Highland Ave., where Sagra used to be), recently opened by Dylan Walsh, the former manager of Bukowski Tavern in Inman Square, features 36 constantly rotating drafts and 80 bottle brands. There is also a full bourbon bar, equipped with over 100 brown liquors. With two bars (one for drafts and the other for bourbon), five TVs, a massive beer cooler, and a mix of townies, beer nerds, and your average bar-goers, the Five Horses is a great place to spend a Saturday night. The menu features some awesome bar food with a modern twist. All the food is locally sourced, including plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and everything on the menu is under $20. Go for the pork belly taco (1 for $5, 2 for $9)—it’s insanely tasty and a great compliment to a pint of beer.

Walsh’s main goal is for people who have never tried craft beer before to sit down, hang out, and find the brew that changes the way they feel about beer. He’s super friendly and loves talking to customers to find out what they like and how he can tailor his bar’s drafts and food to fit the needs of what people want to find in Davis Square. The Five Horses is the perfect place to try things you’ve never tried before, so come in, talk to a bartender, tell them what you like and what you don’t, and prepare to be wowed. Trust me—once you start drinking good beer, you won’t stop.

Right now is a great time to be a beer drinker, especially in Somerville. The opening of Five Horses is symptomatic of the growing popularity of craft beer that has consumed bar culture in recent years. Redbones has carved a name for itself in the local beer scene, with 28 awesome drafts to compliment its insane BBQ. The Foundry, which opened last year on Elm Street, is a nod to art deco old-world bars with 20 drafts and an extensive cocktail list. Great beer is only a Joey ride away.

After Prohibition ended, only about 300 breweries renewed their businesses. Between 1933 and 1982, the number of breweries actively brewing in the US reduced from around 700 down to about 50. The options for local and expertly crafted beer were slim to none. But as more and more people started brewing beer in small batches at home, the term “microbrew” came into existence, and has since evolved to “craft beer.” Homebrewing grew in popularity and quality. Those with a passion and a knack for making beers opened small breweries with a focus on quality and flavor. Now there are thousands of small and independent craft breweries in the US, and the trend keeps growing.

If you’re cold and looking for a beer to warm you up, why not try the creamy and smoky Murphy’s Irish Stout on a nitrogenated tap? Do you like light and crisp wheat beers? The Blanche de Bruxelles is a great import with a lemony taste and comes in its own personal glassware. Are IPAs your thing? Take the Avery Dugan A, an imperial with a bright hop taste and a sweet finish. I could go on forever, but the point is that you don’t have to resign yourself to the tasteless and bland flavor of corporate lagers that are so ubiquitous on college campuses.

I’ve been working at the Five Horses for two months, and I’ve already tried beers brewed with chocolate, pecans, clementines, Thai basil, and espresso, to name a few. I love it when a customer comes up to the bar and asks for a Bud Lite—if I can instead get them to try something new, something they’ve never heard of, then I’ve done my job right. Craft beers might not buy ads during the Super Bowl or be endorsed by celebrities and sports stars, but they are out there, and they’re quietly becoming the new standard for what beer can be.

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