GREAT BARRINGTON -- A brewpub is a special thing, and there aren't many of them around these parts. By virtue of serving their own beer, usually brewed on the premises, they offer a unique product and ensure that it's fresher than any other pint you can find.
By doing so, and by also offering hearty food, such a venue becomes a point of local pride; a place to bring your out-of-town guests when you want to prove that the Berkshires are just as interesting as [insert major city here].
I'd never been to Barrington Brewery and Restaurant before, but I'm already planning to take my next carful of visiting friends to this lovely venue that offers better-than-expected food and delicious solar-beer.
To quote the placemat that sat on my table, decorated with diagrams explaining the brewing process, it is "the first brewery on the East Coast to use a solar-energy hot-water system to brew our beers."
This may sound like a humorous, hipster-bashing line from a Portlandia sketch or a brutally on-point episode of Louie. But it's real and it's delicious and it's situated right on Route 7.
I only tried one -- the Ice Glen IPA -- but if the other 19 solar brews are as well-balanced, light, and fresh tasting, then a party of 10 could drink two rounds and discuss nothing but the unique characteristics of their pints. This alone guarantees my return.
But this isn't alone. It's accompanied by a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere as well as above-par, generously portioned food at Recession-proof prices.
This restaurant truly impressed me, and here's precisely why.
I went on a Tuesday night, hardly primetime. But the many seating areas were largely occupied. It was immediately apparent that some of the people were regulars. I could tell from their familiar banter with the servers, from the fact that they didn't bother to look at the menu, and from many overheard statements such as "You've gotta try the chicken pot pie" and "The stout is my favorite."
There are plenty of places to sit. The main dining room is divided into several private-feeling nooks by well-placed partitions. There's an outdoor patio, too.
The bar is a whole other scene, barely visible from the dining room. And, I'm told, the second floor contains a pool table, jukebox, and view of the brewing equipment.
There are no closed doors. Every area opens into others. But the placement of walls and doorways creates many private, calm sections.
Dim lighting adds to this atmosphere.
The food evokes similar comfort. I ordered the dinner combo of a chicken quesadilla and brisket. It came with a salad, cole slaw and a choice of fries. I opted for the shallot-herb house dressing, which was better than expected, overflowing with flavor. It topped a plate of noticeably fresh lettuce, tomato, onion and chickpeas. The crunchy freshness was impressive.
The main course was even better. I'm so glad I got the brisket. Its texture was ideal; tender like county-fair pulled pork, glistening with fat. The sauce that topped it was explosive. Sour and sweet, it completed the dish.
The chicken quesadilla was also quite good. I think I detected cumin, and there was certainly a spice to it. It was the kind of spice that warms the mouth without overpowering the food's flavors or lingering on too long. The entrée was large and I only finished half of it.
I wish I'd discovered the Brewery sooner, but am glad that I have the entire menu to try. I can't imagine anyone who likes beer and hearty pub food leaving dissatisfied. The price is right, too.
And this business about solar-power-brewed beer is too forward-thinking and cool to not mention for a second time.
If my description sounds appealing to you, then don't hesitate to give it a shot. If you're on the fence, then I urge you to check out the website. It's got plenty of menus, photos and information about their unique brewing system.