Natick Brewery Crawl
A cold and crisp Saturday in March is the perfect day for a suburban brewery tour.
Football is over, baseball hasn't begun, and there are no days off in the public school calendar, so personal responsibility levels are as low as they get.
With the old Carling's gone, Natick is down to two breweries. Okay, that is a bit misleading. Carling's has been gone for a long time. And, for a long time, Natick had zero breweries. The craft beer explosion of the 2010's brought local beer back to town.
Lookout Farm Taproom
The Taproom was hopping when I showed up just after 1pm. A handful of people were saddled up to the bar, several tables were filled, and both of their event hosting rooms were occupied with what looked like birthday parties. One benefit of that is getting to see the side room that abuts the driveway - it has an ample amount of overflow chairs and tables.
Whoever was in charge of the taproom playlist was on top of their game. Grunge and alt rock was the flavor of the day, with stalwarts Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam interspersed with 90s one hit wonders like The Toadies and Cracker. It was a great Saturday.
Started off with a flight of beer. Tried the Dover Demon (Belgian Dubbel), Plowshare (Coffee Porter), Hold Your Horses (IPA), and Haybale (Belgian Golden Ale). Followed that up with a 1st American Cherry. The Lookout Farm taproom has really upped their food and drink game over the last few years, offering an expanded menu, more beverage options (cider and beer), and improving the overall space.
Protip: It's always good to eat on a pub crawl, so I got some chips and salsa while at Lookout Farm.
Grabbed one more Hold Your Horses before heading out. Since it's a crawl of only two bars/breweries, breaking the golden highlander-inspired pub crawl rule of having "only one" is par for the course. If this were a city pub crawl, having more than one would be in poor taste.
Kells Beer Company
Located on Summer Street in Natick Center, the Kells Beer Company is a much better place to end a pub crawl than begin one. So, that's what I did.
It used to be Barleycorns, probably for the better part of 20 years. Diagonally across from TCAN, Kells might be the best kept secret in Natick. Bad for the owner's wallets, good for patrons who want an easily accessible good time. Hopefully we here at Best of Natick can shed some light on Kells and encourage some foot traffic. They deserve it.
Speaking of secrets, Eli's is an unkept secret. Place is a total delight.
Checked in with the staff at Kells to see if they still let people brew their own beer. Yes, is the answer. Gonna set up a time. $250-300 seems reasonable.
There are folks currently bottling their brewed beer into cases as I sip on the Forever. I'm sold. Natick needed Kells in the 90s.
Got a "Forever". The Forever is a smooth and creamy chocolate milkshake with some added lactose. It's pretty good. Might go for a Time Trial or Stay Gold next.
(went with the Time Trial)
The crawl from deep South Natick to downtown is a real awesome one. You can admire the falls, pass through old town, and slowly shift your visage from farmland to brick-laden suburban town center. It's hard to appreciate the true stratification of town if you have never walked from one side to the other. There is a Simpson's, we have one of everything, vibe to Natick that could be complete with a ski mountain. And a monorail.
A strange thing occurred to me on the walk between breweries ... no one knows I'm on a pub crawl. In the city, you tend to Pied Piper a few stragglers who are always interested in adventure. Out here? You're just a person out for a walk. There is a plus side to that, but I can't figure it out just yet.
To note, a 3 mile walk isn't for everyone. Plus, there is a definitive elevation change on Union Street. So, take that to heart if you decide to give this a shot in the future. Should you take up the challenge and want a friend, reach out!
The downslope from Lookout to the falls is great to establish momentum. The uphill to the Woodland isn't too bad. Then, the downhill into town is basically a victory lap. Considered grabbing a slice at Pizza By Rocco.
If not a slice from Rocco, then the question is where to eat? Agostino's? Lola's? Walk to Pizza Peddler? If Peddler, perhaps a walk down Summer Street into the ol' Whoop-De-Doos behind Middlesex Ave and Hunter's Hill Ct.? If only I still had my BMX bike ...
Truth be told, this pub crawl is better suited for May, June, or October. And, I never thought a Framingham brewery crawl would be an easier walk (Jack's, Springdale, Exhibit A). Then again, I am not counting John Harvard's and Beerworks Framingham.
Final Verdict: Totally worth the time. The walk felt great. The beers felt better. I could have used a little more salsa with my chips @ Lookout Taproom, but who is counting?
Get out. Get exercise. And get some fresh, local craft beer.