A red herring can be defined as an idiom that refers to a logical fallacy that misleads or detracts from the actual issue at hand. The Red Herring in Williamstown isn't exactly that, but one can suppose people are right when they say location is everything.
The Red Herring, located on Spring Street, is slightly elusive to those who don't know it's there. And it's a gem for people who stumble upon it. It's also one of the go-to pubs for Williams College students.
Once you find the bar, located right next to Images Cinema, a set of stairs leads you down (or up) to a long room, with two lounge areas at either end. The bar is lit by red twinkle lights, and the mood is that of a college bar only college kids know about.
The lounge areas are nice and big, leaving just enough room for the place to fill to capacity -- about 140, including the upstairs. But one drawback is when you get to the Herring when it's filled to the max, you may get stuck there for some time. Patrons tend to bottleneck near the front door, maybe not realizing there is a back patio? The patio welcomes smokers and nonsmokers alike to hang out in the warmer months, but come Columbus Day, that area of the pub will close.
Behind the bar is a nice selection of eight drafts (Big Elm, Steel Rail, PBR, Blatant IPA and more) plus a few bottles, along with the mixed-drink necessities. Drink specials ($6) as of my last visit included a Dark and Stormy, a creamsicle-like beverage and my favorite of the evening, the "Philip Rosenberg" -- a mixture of Ruby Red vodka, cranberry juice and sprite.
If alcohol isn't what you came there for, the Herring offers coffee and other beverages, along with a decent dinner menu. The kitchen is open Sunday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and serves foods like meatloaf, burgers, fish and chips and other sandwiches. Prices are relatively inexpensive, ranging from around $8 to $12, depending on the order.
I've been to The Red Herring when it's both packed and quiet. Most recently, a Monday night, there were two others in the bar -- Williamstown locals, I believe - leaving the rest of the place wide open. A TV played a Broncos versus Raiders game while a man dealt with his MacBook, maybe doing homework.
The bluesy music set up a relaxed atmosphere as the bartender chatted about the business and its future. A few college girls and guys showed up around midnight, having a few and taking off before the bar closed up shop.
On the other hand, I've been to the Herring when a rush of kids come through the door, causing that bottleneck again. I've been pinned to my barstool, unable to free myself because a man much larger than me refused to move. I've seen girls fall on their butts for a number of combined reasons. And I've felt that fresh air couldn't have come quick enough.
With The Red Herring being one of the few bars in town for college kids to do what they do, it's likely if you stop by, the students will be there. If you're looking for a quiet place to hang out in Williamstown on a weekend, I don't suggest the Herring. But if you're looking for a great drink or two, food and some downtime during the week, go there.
Unlike a coffee shop where everyone likes to go to study, the Herring offers a nice escape -- at the bar or at one of the lounges -- for the studious person. With relaxing music, a beautiful bar and maybe even a lovely conversation, the Herring is at the very least a must-see and at the most, a cool community bar that attracts all types, not just college students.