BRIGHTON – If 2019 has been unimaginatively dubbed the year of the food hall, then the past decade could easily be considered the decade of the brewhouse. How many have opened in the greater Boston area in the past nine years? It’s not easy to estimate. For every one that closes, at least two will pop up to take their place—not counting expansions. It’s a far cry from ten years ago when you didn’t have a whole lot to rely on other than Boston Beer Works and their surreally flavored concoctions which seemed less like beer and more like a hallucinatory journey down the mind of an alcoholic Willy Wonka you really wouldn’t like to repeat again (it tastes like blueberry flavored, Violet! Blueberry!)
But what constitutes a brewhouse? Good question. If you look at the likes of Jack’s Abby, Idle Hands or Aeronaut, you’re not going to find a particularly extensive menu. And with good reason. They’re tap rooms. Licensing boards don’t tend to issue fully functional kitchens at tap rooms. And in Boston, they seem to be as equally selective about issuing alcoholic beverage licenses to traditional restaurants; which may make the seeming enmity between beer gardens and restaurants announced earlier this year all but seemingly lost among the Medusa-like tendrils of red tape and permit lotteries.
But a beer garden is not a tap room. And a tap room is not necessarily a brewhouse. The difference is more than merely semantic. A tap room is the physical space in which a production brewery can serve alcohol—and they’re frequently limited by law to solely operate the space as a drinking establishment. A brewhouse, while also a production brewery, can offer full scale dining options and frequently distilled spirits and cocktails. In other words, no one’s going to bat an eyelash if you walk into a tap room with a pizza. You’ll likely be ostracised and pronounced as anathema if you were to do so at a brewhouse.
But food offerings have been almost invariably negligible at brewhouses. Buffalo wings and sliders may always be the eternal drinking companion of every red blooded American habitue , but there’s no need to gussy them up with a cajun remoulade and a couple scanty slices of arugula to justify a $15 surcharge. And for the most part, that’s historically what you’re going to find at a brewhouse. The same bar food you’ll find at a suburban Chili’s repackaged to remind you that no… you’re not technically eating at a suburban strip mall Chili’s
Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen may not deviate too far from that model, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.
Founders Alex Corona and Jonathan Gilman may have caught your attention through any one of their 400 pop ups at the likes of Idle Hands, Lamplighter Brewing and Trillium since 2017. Which is equivalent to one pop up every other night—essentially making the two Cambridge Brewing Company veterans the dining equivalent of Anthony Hopkins. But unlike Hopkins, their focus is on four basic elements: sausage, grilled cheese, fermented sides and beer.
“We really want to be a place that pushes the fact that we’re both beer and food at the same time, and we’ve always believed in that,” Gilman told Eater earlier this week.. “I think simple is always better and I think it’s actually bolder to cook simpler because you’re not hiding behind different frills and gimmicks. If you’re competent in your cooking ability, the best thing to do is create good food simply and just execute it well.”,
Both Gilman and Corona have committed themselves to developing a complementary beer and food concept, where the same ingredients used in their beer offerings can also be matched to their in-house baked bread or where menu items will also reflect what’s on tap. So if you’re wondering, no… it’s not the same as grabbing take out from Roxy’s to go with a four pack.
“The main crux of it is grilled cheese and sausage,” Gilman said in 2017. “The goal [there] is not to obliterate the cheese as you cook it… sort of presenting a cheese plate in an applicable manner that people can relate to.”
“Something that I want to try out with the brewery is decoction brewing. It’s an old German technique where part of the grains in the water when you’re mashing are put into the kettle and boiled. This creates the Maillard reaction, which gives a little more complexity to the flavor and helps clarify the beer as well.”
While Brato officially opens on November 1st, the brewhouse is still awaiting gas hook ups to be installed before full operation in early December.
Pork. Cheese. Kimchi. And beer. If you're still craving Chili’s, you may want to reconsider your priorities.
Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen is located at 19 North Beacon St in Brighton and is scheduled for a grand opening on November 1st. For more information, visit Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen