Outvoting 2 a.m. at The Hawthorne
There are a lot of nice things to say about The Hawthorne, the Hotel Commonwealth’s somewhat new bar that sports a sleek, Don Draper-esque atmosphere pushed 40+ years into the future.
I met up with some old friends there not long ago to check out their beer selection. Places like The Hawthorne run the danger of being too loud and busy, leaving patrons unable to talk unless you’re two inches from somebody’s face. Whoever planned the layout of this place must have kept that in mind because there’s plenty of seating, counter space, and of course, the bar to have some meaningful catch-up with friends.
The music wasn’t too loud, and remained a nice mix of current and old. Hearing a couple of Gang Starr tracks was a nice surprise.
Our server couldn’t have been more attentive. She was polite, genuine and gave us plenty of time to decide on our drinks without forgetting us. And the kid who came by to refill our water was faster than Speedy Gonzales.
The beer menu? It needs a little work.
There’s nothing on tap at the Hawthorne — at least from we saw during our recent visit. Their beer list sported about eight or ten choices of larger bottles that were selected by the Commonwealth’s own beer importers, the Shelton Brothers. We spent several minutes perusing the list and then — inexplicably — it was suddenly spirited away without explanation, like Alec Baldwin getting bounced from an American Airlines flight.
My beer drinking panel: Mr. X, Fredo, and 2 a.m., who picked two beers to try.
The bottle of Nordic Rye Ale was the highlight of the night. It’s a Scandinavian Farmhouse Ale, with sweet flavors and a malty taste similar to something found in a Brown ale. It’s got an 8-percent ABV, and the first taste will only make you want more. I wasn’t so dazzled by the Bluebird Bitter (imported by Shelton Brothers), which, it was explained to me, was a lovely IPA with a taste of bitterness.
Drinking that beer was kind of like the first time I heard that T.I. song, “Rubber Band Man.” About two minutes in, I kept asking myself, “When does the rapping start?” I thought it was just me. I asked Fredo, Mr. X, and 2 a.m. to try it. 3 to 1, my vote carried the day. 2 a.m. thought we were nuts. Maybe.
Maybe I’m simply not Hawthorne material, but here’s my other problem: The not-so-great bitter beer that didn’t taste much like an IPA cost me $10. It’s not that I can’t afford it. I just don’t want to pay that much. Paying $10 for a beer is for suckers. I don’t care how big, small, hoppy or rare it is. It’s still beer. Paying $10 for a beer is for the same people who fall for the $60 beer pairing dinners cooked up by some marketing fabulist. If I’m dropping ten scoots for a drink, it’s not going to be a beer. It’s going to be a glass of George T. Stagg at the Parker House. (They just ran out of it for 2011, but you can still go there and order something nice.)
In the defense of The Hawthorne, they are neighbors to Fenway Park, and they know a good deal about serving overpriced beer. In fact, even Ben Cherington, the new Red Sox GM, walked by us as we were trying our beer. Some guy at the bar with his face jammed into his smartphone started giving Cherington the stink eye. Wisely, Mr. New General Manager was out.
After that, we left too. We didn’t want to talk with Cherington — like fanboy at the bar — we just decided the cheaper beer around the corner at Boston Beer Works somehow tasted a lot better.