Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A New Craft Beer Cellar In Winchester

The Passionate Foodie walks into a beer store...

I know, it sounds like the starting line from a joke but it isn't. On Monday, I checked out a newly opened beer store in Winchester. Yes, I went willingly. And even if you dislike beer, you should check out this store for its other offerings.

Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow used to work at the Cambridge Common restaurant and embraced the craft beer movement when it started becoming more popular. They eventually wanted to strike out on their own and, in time, decided on opening a craft beer store. In 2010, they founded Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont and with their success, they have desired to open additional stores, as well as sell franchises. On Monday, they had the Grand Opening for the New England Annex in Winchester.

The primary focus of the new store is beer, and they currently carry about 400 beers, all from New England, and at least half of them are from Massachusetts. The store is only about 1/3 the size of their Belmont store, so they can't carry as much and must use their limited space to the best of their abilities. Everything is displayed well, and it is easy to see all that they carry. They will hold free tastings most Thursdays to Saturdays. This is a beer lover's haven, especially for those who love it local and craft.

I asked Kate to give me three top beer recommendations, without regard to any particular preferences. She chose the Mayflower IPA, GreySail Flagship Ale, and the Pretty Things Jack D'Or. If you need a gift for a beer lover, and don't know their taste, try one of these beers. I then asked her what was the strangest brew they carried, and she pointed me to the beers of Night Shift Brewing. For example, they make a rye ale aged on habanero peppers, a saison fermented with honey dew melon, and a wheat ale with orange blossom honey that is aged on tea leaves. Very intriguing brews.

If you need a beer glass for your brews, they also sell a small selection of glasses of various shapes and sizes.

They don't sell just beer and their other offerings are compelling. First, they have a nice selection of local Hard Ciders, including Fatty Bampkins, Bantam, Woodchuck, Farnum Hill, Angry Orchard, Citizen Cider and more. I am a big fan of hard ciders and most stores don't carry more than 2 or 3, so it is nice to see this wide selection.

They also carry a nice selection of local Meads, from places like Moonlight Meadery, Honeymaker, Green River Ambrosia and more. Mead is another beverage which most stores only carry a few choices, so it is good to see all the available options here.

And, dear to my heart, they even carry 8 Sakes, and may add more in the future. Todd, of Boston Sake, helped them make the selections and there are some excellent choices available from cool breweries like Dassai and Nanbu Bijin, as well as the Kikisui Funaguchi in a can. I look forward to the additional Sakes they will eventually add.

You will also find approximately 20 wines available, though only one of those is from a local, New England winery. The Still River Winery Apple Ice Wine. Frankly, these wines seems more as an afterthought, just to have a few for any non-beer drinkers. Though the store's focus is on beer, I think this is a lost opportunity to extend the the theme of the store. As they carry all New England beers, ciders and meads, why not also carry just New England wines? As they only carry about 20 wines, they could easily fill that number with good New England wines, from Westport River Sparkling Wines to hybrid wines from Vermont. It would make this store more unique.

Overall this is a cool store, with a beer selection sure to please and even if you don't like beer, you can check out their meads, ciders and sake. I think it is great that most everything is from New England, though I think they need to extend that to include their wines too. There is passion to be found here and I would love to hear my reader's thoughts about this new store when you check it out.


Jason Phelps said...

Looks like quite the shop. We've had several similarly oriented shops open near home in NH in the last few years. Definitely the place to go to get good examples of well crafted local beverages.

Thank for sharing!


Mazarkis Williams said...


Richard Auffrey said...

180 Thompson St., Winchester, (617) 932-1885

Anonymous said...

Have you ever visited the "Burlington Wine & Spirits" next to Market Basket in Burlington MA ?

Holley said...

This is cool!