John Seven: Welcoming yet foreign, brewery feels just right
This column has been modified to add the name of the food service provider at the brewery.
NORTH ADAMS — Among the lifelong ambitions I never knew I had was to live a short walk from a brewery.
I discovered this is one of my big goals last night when I finally went to check out Bright Ideas Brewery on the Mass MoCA campus in North Adams. Finally I had achieved what I ultimately aimed for, and the best part of it was not knowing until I got there.
But that's the effect that excellent beer, fantastic food provided by Bon Tricycle and awesome atmosphere have on you — they infiltrate your soul and begin to define your desires, but they have more stamina because they are local. Sometimes you don't have to travel to Budapest, say, to find something special.
I had gone to Budapest a month ago, actually, and found a lot special there. Much like stepping into Bright Ideas, it wasn't until I hit the ground in Budapest and lived in it that I realized that I had wanted to be there all my life, I was just only aware of this desire upon stumbling into it. It's easier to know these things and plan, of course, but the best things in life don't often work out that way, I have found.
One of the most interesting phenomenons in Budapest is that of the ruin pub. Basically, empty, unwanted spaces are taken over and turned into bars that have come to define the nightlife in that city. There are low key ones, the little quiet corners of existence where humans gather casually, and then there are those that look as if urban explorers have decided to squat in an abandoned shell.
This can make for quite a spectacle, as it did in my favorite ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, which was like a junkyard mini-mall of bars. Labyrinthine and dark, there must have been 10 different bars with as many specialties, as well as food and a huge outside courtyard where you could purchase a hookah (full disclosure: I did not, I'm a dedicated drinker) and partake of it in a shell of a car. Inside you could go to the wine bar, go to another nook or cranny and order some Unicum or Palinka, blunder into a bar you hadn't noticed the previous go-around and get some Hungarian craft beer, with friendly, talkative bartenders and an age-mixed crowd. It was friendly, exciting and strangely comfortable.
That's the sort of thing I had in mind when I sat in Bright Ideas, enjoying the porter and munching on a meat and cheese platter. Not that Bright Ideas and Szimpla Kert were remotely the same thing, they weren't, but what they did have in common was a cheerful and welcoming vibe that was impossible to separate from the geographic location, and a sense of surprise.
While offering up the best aspects of the local personality, both had tricks up their sleeves that prevented either from becoming too quickly familiar as you experienced them.
This is all very good, very good indeed, because it is hard to create spaces like that. I'm not a person who has ever owned or run a bar or restaurant, so I don't know this for sure, but to create that type of experience must be hard.
I imagine it's a precision alchemy that relies on the canniness of the folks shaping the venture, but also the catalyst of the patrons entering into it. And when it works, it creates places that are both welcoming and foreign at the same time, a very delicate formula to achieve.
So I welcome Bright Ideas Brewery to North Adams, and thank them for fulfilling that dream I never knew I had, as well as becoming another shining spot in the world for others to find.
Contact John Seven at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @damnjohnseven.
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