Back with more news from around New England. Affable brewer and beer lover Dave Thompson, assistant brewer at Owen O’Leary’s brewpub in Natick, Mass recently informed the Beer Advocate crowd that the pub was closing down and the 10-barrel JV Northwest brewhouse was being removed. Tucked into a corner of a local hotel chain, off the beaten path, I managed to miss Owen O’Leary’s, both in terms of travel and in reputation, during the first five years I traversed the area in search of good beer. It was only when brewer Dan Kramer, of Opa Opa Brewing and the Brewmaster’s Tavern in Western Mass, took over that I started to take notice. Frankly, we aren’t losing much in terms of the pub itself, which I describe this way in The Good Beer Guide to New England.
From the outside, O’Leary’s does little to draw your attention. It looks like a typical chain restaurant with its white brick exterior and simple signage. Moving beyond the front entryway, the rest of the pub resembles a rundown, underground sports bar, complete with lottery ticket systems and a multitude of flickering televisions. Patrons quietly sit at the bar, sip Budweisers, and watch life go by. As a cross between a Bennigan’s and a neglected Irish pub, there was little to be said about Owen O’Leary’s.
I don’t envy the guys in having to tear out that brewing system. Again from the book:
The pub’s layout is disjointed, with the large main bar area feeding off into several smaller, distant feeling sections, including a pool and video game room. The vaguely Irish theme comes and goes throughout the place, giving way in the back room to gloriously cheesy décor including a funny wooden beer keg. The brewing setup is sizable, but blocked off from any real public view by the clumsy layout.
There is some suggestion that the brewing operation may be relocated to one of the chain’s other locations, such as in Southboro or Brockton (both places decidedly lacking in local brewing outfits). Dave reports that the pub managed to make a respectable 550 barrels of beer last year and that the owner plans to seek out contract brewing operations when the final kegs run out.