There’s a lot to write about when it comes to craft beer in and around the Boston area. Whether it’s an old standby like the Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston, a relatively new joint like Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square, or Brookline’s legendary the Publick House, the pickings are far and wide. Add to that places like the unlikely Row 34 in Fort Point or the gritty Anchovies in the South End, and the list goes on and on. With this in mind, I’m going to touch on at least one of my favorite places each month this year, whether to revisit or to write about them for the first time, in hopes of turning on new fans and pissing off the regulars. My first shot across the bow is Olde Magoun’s Saloon.
Nestled into the neighborhood nook of Magoun Square in Somerville sits one of my all-time favorite bars to steal away the afternoon in while drinking stunning German offerings alongside local and regional pours and gorging on some of the best homemade offerings anywhere. It appears at first glance to be a dark but inviting local pub, but this rather spacious and warm room is anything but a pub. As you enter, a long, beautiful bar lines the left wall, complete with unassuming detail and comfortable but simple bar chairs that pull you right in. Within easy eyesight are almost 30 draught lines covering the obscure like Andechs Dunkel and Badische Pils from Germany to Wormtown Be Hoppy and Downeast Cider. Of course, that’s what’s currently being poured; there are some standards that remain consistent, but as the month and year progresses, owner Greg Coughlin personally picks a dizzying array of his favorites—soon to be yours—so the choices are never static or stale.
Set into the wooden frame behind the view of tap lines is a sick selection of over 20 small-batch bourbons to choose from. The range from Buffalo Trace to Speakeasy makes choosing the right one both mind-numbing and simple; in the end, there are no bad choices available. While these are accompanied by other craft spirits and the good old standbys you’d expect, it’s this special selection that you should focus on, and that’s certainly what I did on my last visit. But there was something even more special I had to try, and it should be a testament to Coughlin’s quality and attention: a double irish whiskey aged in house for at least two months in 20-gallon barrels along with Luxardo Abano. It was lacking a proper name still, so I coined it the Olde Bitter and holy shit was it good! Incredibly mellow and smooth, this is an absolute must-try for anyone even remotely curious.
Since my visits here tend to be midafternoon, I’m often caught in between the lunch and dinner options I love and usually end up having some of the amazing chicken wings or an equally delicious albeit extremely filling pretzel. But there is no shortage of incredible plates to choose from without being overwhelmed or disappointed. Chef Howard “Howie” Haywood is an unsung genius when it comes to things like the simple but hearty grilled reuben with bacon-infused dressing or the little Havana smoked pulled pork mind-fuck of a sandwich. The mac and cheese menu is out of this world, to be sure, and they’ve picked up some extra buzz from it as of late, but dig a little deeper through the burger menu and signature sandwiches along with weekly specials. Everything listed is tasty, served perfectly, and almost always pairs perfectly with what’s on tap. One final note on the food: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Oktoberfest menu in the fall. It is absolutely hands-down not-even-close the best plated knockwurst, bratwurst, kartoffelsalat, and all-around German fare you will have this side of heaven (and Munich). If I could only get him to make it year-round…
So back to the top. This place is first and foremost about the careful choices on tap and craftiness found in each cocktail. The food just makes it that much more of a must-visit saloon. The locals may leer a little if you come back too much, but it’s worth making the trip every time, and eventually you’ll get to stare back with a wide-open grin. This should be everyone’s local.
Olde Magoun’s Saloon. 518 Medford St., Somerville. magounssaloon.com