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Shot of the Week: John Harvard's beer sampler

Author: Team Totally Awesome
Posted: 03 Oct 2004

This is Tony and I am back like a vertabrae, bringing you the Shot of the Week once again. And, though I brought my "A" game and came to play, I didn't come alone. Please welcome Johnson to his first Shot of the Week.

This week follows the vein of last week in that way that the Shot isn't actually a shot. With any luck, next week we can get back to 1 ounce glasses of liquor, but for now, bear with us.

Anyway, Johnson called the bar this week, and we ended up at John Harvard's Brew House in Cambridge. We ordered a couple of beers and threw the usual pitch at the bartender. But, since John Harvard's is more of a beer bar than a liquor bar, seeing as how they brew their own beer, the bartender had no suggestions for us. I was all for finishing our beers and heading to another bar, but Johnson seemed convinced that John Harvard's was the bar for us. Dubious but willing to agree, as Johnson was footing the tab, I settled in and set my brain to work.

After awhile, it became clear we weren't going to come up with any cool shots that either of us actually knew the ingredients to. This led to a bit of worry, until Johnson spotted the "five beer sampler" listing on the beer menu. I immediately warmed to the idea, and we ordered it up. The bartender took our order, and five 4-ounce glasses of assorted beer were put in front of us. Here's a quick run down of each one:

Milk Stout

The Milk Stout was the first dark beer I've ever truly enjoyed. I mean, if you don't take an Irish Car Bomb into consideration, that is. This beer goes down smooth and tastes a little bit like chocolate, but chocolate beer. Definitely a must-drink. Johnson called it "a beer chocolate milkshake," or something.

And now welcome the esteemed Johnson for beers two and three:


This was an interesting one. And by "interesting," I mean not at all. It was watery, almost to the point of out-and-out watered-down. Keep in mind that I drink PBR like it's going out of style, too. There was no discernable aroma, no unique tastes, nothing. It was bland. A pretty auburn color, but bland.

Shakespeare's Wit

For these last three, we managed to get a shot of the menu's description. The first two were omitted because they swapped out Colonial Kolsch and John Harvard's Pale Ale on us (as those are what we ordered pints of to begin with, which I found rather thoughtful of her).

Anyway, the menu had this to say: This unfiltered, Belgian-style "white" ale is spicy, dry, and refreshing. Light malt and distinctive yeast notes are balanced by orange peel, coriander, and a secret spice.

Sounds good, right? Wrong. It's unfiltered, so it's cloudy. Not that that's bad, but you know you're in for something right there. It had a bold aroma and a bitter, biting taste. It was rather light in color, but hit like a cross between a lemon and a rock. I can't say I recommend this one, either, though it was at least more interesting than the Oktoberfest.

Back to Tony to bring it home:

Provision Ale

The menu's descriptions was as such: We imagine this dark ale might be similar to the beer John Harvard enjoyed on his voyage to the New World aboard The Hector. Notes of chocolate and caramel highlight this full-flavored beer.

A bitter, dark beer, this bad boy ain't for chugging. I'm not normally one for bitter beers, and to be honest, this was no exception. Were it bought for me, I wouldn't balk at drinking it, but this is not a beer I'd order for myself. Still, if you like to sip bitter, heavyish beers, this is for you.

Espresso Stout

As the menu says: This full-bodied, sweet stout has an eye-opening espresso character, and is a three-time medalist at the Great American Beer Festival.

This beer is as advertised. Bitter like espresso, bitter like stout, tastes like coffee brewed with beer instead of water. My love of coffee tempers my usual dislike of stouts when it comes to this particular brew, but I'm not sure if I could drink more than one pint without going back to a lighter beer.

While not all of the beers in the sampler were my personal favorites, I would recommend trying this out at least once. You get to try a variety of tasty homebrews (different every day, and often seasonal), and, at $4.95, it's not a bad deal. Also, if you chug each and every glass, you can get drunk rather quickly if you continue to order the sampler like it's going out of style.

And that's the Shot of the Week. Tune in next week, and I promise to bring you a true shot. But, in the intervening time, you can tide yourself over with tiny glasses of beer.

John Harvard's Brew House is located at 33 Dunster St, Cambridge, MA 02138.

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