Publick House Alum to Open Charlestown Beer Garden

The Brewer's Fork to feature alfresco dining, eclectic beer, and seasonal, wood-fired pizzas.

The modern evolution of Charlestown continues late this summer when Michael Cooney (The Publick House) and Chef John Paine (Sorriso Trattoria, Les Zygomates) open a new beer garden in Hayes Square. Named The Brewer’s Fork— after a “magical” brewer’s paddle mythologized at the De Dolle Brewery in Essen, Belgium—the beer garden will feature 24 beers on tap, a reserve beer list, alfresco dining, and seasonal, wood-fired pizzas.

Cooney, currently a bartender at The Publick House, will focus his bar program on Belgian offerings and local craft beer from the likes of Jack’s Abby, Allagash, and Trillium Brewing. The site has a 2100-square-foot basement that he’ll utilize to store rare beers like Cantillon and large-format Trappist ales for special occasions.

“I’ve always been a big fan of a reserved list,” says Cooney. “When I was visiting Orval in Belgium they served flights of their beer at several different ages: six-months, a year, two years, and even older. That’s one of the things that really got me into beer and it’s something I want to do here.”

Paine met his business partner as the executive chef of Sorriso Trattoria. The Concord native is a veteran chef who was trained by Ana Sortun at Aigo Bistro. His menu will focus on pizza and small plates prepared exclusively in a wood-burning oven. Almost all the ingredients on Paine’s rotating menu will be local and seasonal, including salad greens from Blue Heron Organic Farm out of Lincoln, mozzarella from Narragansett Creamery, charcuterie from Moody’s Delicatessen in Waltham, and produce from Verrill Farms.

“I’ve always cooked this way,” says Paine. “I started down this road long before the farm-to-table and farm-to-fork movements really became popular. We don’t want to wear it on our sleeve like so many other restaurants, but for our pizza we’re not going to have things like flour or San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy. We’re going to use as much American stuff as possible. The flour is from Vermont and I have a friend in New Hampshire that grows about 100,000 pounds of organic heirloom tomatoes a year, so I’m talking about using his tomatoes for sauce.”

Some pizza choices you can expect to see are a wild mushroom and blue cheese, an asparagus with fresh ricotta, an autumn pizza with Vermont cheddar, Honeycrisp apples, and shallot, and a specialty pizza Paine developed at Sorisso that pairs prosciutto with corn and arugula.

Small plates will include an array of Paine’s house-made pâtés and terrines, as well as a beef tartare, a burger, and beer-roasted Wellfleet clams served alongside house-baked bread.

Inspired by a trip to Roberta’s in Brooklyn almost four years ago, Cooney and Paine began their search for real estate that evoked that same laid-back aesthetic. They finally found their ideal location in a former rundown dry cleaner in Charlestown.

“At Roberta’s, we loved the unpretentious vibe and obviously the pizza and the food,” says Cooney. “It was all about your experience there. It had nothing to do with the design or some $700 lightbulb that they put in. That’s what we were trying to find, a rustic spot like a beat-up garage or an old brick building.  We looked around for a long time and when we found this spot, it was like, ‘Whoa, this is it.'”

“All these major companies in Boston do restaurant design and build-outs and everything is shiny and spanking brand new,” says Paine. “We wanted it to look like it’s been there for a long time, like a 50-year-old restaurant that’s been cranking along all these years.”