There’s a new pub in Bristol, a town that already has its fair share of bars. The latest to open, the British Beer Company, challenges folks to stop in and “find out what a real pub is all about.” Having been to some “real pubs” in Ireland and the UK, I thought I’d see what this local chain – there are 10 locations in Massachusetts – had to offer. The Bristol location is on State Street, right next door to Persimmon and a couple doors over from the popular Judge Roy Bean. The design of British Beer Company, both exterior and interior, certainly has a pub feel to it. It might not be completely authentic, but the exterior façade is nicely painted like a traditional pub and the interior woodwork looks great.
Since British pubs are gathering places for entire communities, including family members of all ages, I went to the British Beer Company with some extended family. There were five adults and two young children in our group, and we weren’t the only party in the restaurant with kids in tow. I should note that the seating is almost entirely bar stools and high-top tables, which was a little tough for the youngest in our group. There is one small booth in the back of the restaurant, if hightops or bar seats aren’t your thing.
I don’t think I’ve ever been greeted with as much genuine warmth and helpfulness as we were at British Beer Company, at least not outside of Ireland. The manager and staff wanted to find the right table for us, make sure we had the chairs and booster seats we needed and immediately brought us snacks (Cheez-Its) for the children and a variety of beer samples for the adults. To say they were hugely accommodating might even be an understatement. In addition to the hospitality, there is also an assortment of games laid out around the restaurant if you’d like something to pass the time. I saw dominos, backgammon, Jenga, Yahtzee and cribbage available. There are several televisions around the pub; thankfully none of them were blaringly loud. I was expecting at least one of them to be turned to a soccer match though.
As you might expect at a place calling itself British Beer Company, there’s a lot of beer available. I counted about 18 taps and over 30 bottles. A lot of it is from Britain, though there are a few domestic selections as well. There are some really great beers here, a few of the usual brews, but a lot of the beers you wouldn’t find in most bars. I had a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Fuller’s London Porter and Wells' Bombardier, as well as a taste of my wife’s Angry Orchard Crisp Apple. The beers are offered in 12-, 16- and 20-ounce servings and all of the
ones I had were excellent. There is also a list of cocktails and some wine by the glass. But I was at the British Beer Company, so what else was I going to drink but beer?
Bristol’s British Beer Company location has a limited pub food menu. We ordered five of the six menu items and told our server we were going to share. As another show of great service, the kitchen went ahead and portioned out all the meals so that each of us could get a taste of everything. The clear favorite of the table was the London Pride Pastrami ($8). It’s not going to beat out a real deli pastrami sandwich, but the combination of beer-steamed pastrami, mustard and multigrain bread made for a delicious dish.
The Newcastle Ale Chili ($8) was also a popular item at our table. It’s not a particularly spicy chili; it had great flavor and came with a generous helping of tortilla chips to make for a happy salt and beer combo. Thinking the chili would be even better on hot dog, we also ordered the Big Arse Chili Dog ($7). The Shepard’s Pie ($10) was a hearty dish though it didn’t seem to meet most people’s expectations of Shepard’s Pie. Lastly, we had the Chicken Pesto Panini ($8) which was also served on multigrain bread and seemed to be second favorite after the Pastrami. Ultimately, we proved that soup (Chili) and sandwiches were the most
successful pub food. The sandwiches came with bags of Cape Cod potato chips and the very helpful staff made sure we had extra bags for the kids.
Overall, I liked the British Beer Company. A big reason for that was the wonderful service and just generally pleasant disposition of everyone working there that served us. I did feel it lived up to its billing as a pub. I would happily stop in again for a really great beer and a quick bite, and maybe a game of cribbage.