Just in time for class, John Harvard's Brewery & Ale House is back in business after a summer makeover that spruced up the Harvard Square hang. However, the question arises as to whether to drink your beer or eat it, or do both. This 20-year-old brewpub's beer and brewing by-products flavor the ale-battered fish, ale-steamed clams and a bourbon-and-ale salmon. Still, nowhere outside of a glass is beer more pungent a flavor than in the spent grain pizzas, which incorporate the post-brew mash (spent grain that's usually discarded or used as animal feed) into the crust. This is pizza with a whole other dimension of taste, one of wine-y beer flavor that's perfect with the melted fontina and organic chicken topping. (Pair with the West Coast Pale Ale and it's pizza-beer heaven.)
The menu uses organic chicken either roasted or in a sandwich and offers vegetarian options such as a chickpea-and-buckwheat burger with Portobellos. It's a welcome progressive attitude, adding to the brewpub's eco/enviro plus side -- drinking doesn't get any more local than a brewpub, after all. But John Harvard's isn't trying to be slow-food: it's a casual place to share a giant plate of nachos, chow a huge burger -- say The Dunster, topped with bacon, smoked gouda and a luscious big onion ring -- or snack on a quesadilla with spicy smokey poblano and sweet corn kernels.
Interestingly, the stained glass "windows" are artifacts from the original build-out in 1992, which cut back to the basic stonework and exposed brick, where these unusual works were uncovered. Where else are Bobby Orr, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, Joe Namath and Humphrey Bogart posed as saints?
If you go
John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House
33 Dunster St., Cambridge
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