Too many beers.
That’s the only way to describe Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston.
Their website claims 112 taps and 380 bottles.
It’s out of control.
I don’t pretend to know much about Allston-Brighton. It’s over on the Green Line, and takes FOR-EV-ER to get to, because the T makes about 73 stops along Commonwealth Ave for all the little Boston University snowflakes. Some of these stops are honestly about 100 feet away from each other. They only mode of transportation that have shorter distances in between stops are school buses. These behemoths seem to stop at each little dumpling’s individual house, and take 45 minutes to travel a half a mile when I just need to get to work and am stuck behind the yellow monster contemplating the engineering required to affix a battering ram to the front of my car. Or a rocket launcher.
Don’t think you’re going to drive over to Sunset either, as parking in the area is notoriously scarce and “permit only” for about 97% of the streets. If you park at Rite Aid, they will certainly tow you. So I don’t make it out to Allston much, with the exception of a pub crawl here and there.
Naturally, the Irish Lad is a big fan of Sunset, though the allure has kind of worn away, as now a trip to Sunset is usually followed by a visit to Do Re Mi Karaoke around the corner so Wifey and her friends can sing the most horrible songs in pop history. Loudly. Wifey can actually sing quite well, but her friends seem to think that volume = talent. Not the case. The Irish Lad does not sing. Evar. So for him to sit through these events is like an aural form of waterboarding. He keeps ALMOST going deaf, but never completely, because that would bring relief. Do Re Mi doesn’t allow alcohol, so generally a stop at Sunset is necessary for some Dutch Courage before venturing into the horrors of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” sung at Pratt & Whitney decibels. However, he suspects that he’s being conditioned to associate Sunset with pain, because Wifey doesn’t like beer, and as such, is not the biggest fan of a place that prides itself on 100+ taps.
Happily, on the last visit, it was the Lady Friend and Sissy, back from Cali for the holidays, who accompanied me to this Palace of Pilseners, Armory of Ales, Fiefdom of Fermented Fun. We snagged Sissy fresh off the plane at Logan, and headed directly for the bar. Being Sunday, we actually found the rarest of the rare: a free parking spot in Allston. Once inside the bar, I perused the list, while they each went with pre-determined samplers. The Lady Friend got the “Stick in the Mud” consisting of four, 5oz glasses of darker brews: Clown Shoes Pecan Pie Porter, Berkshire Brewing Company Coffee-Haus Porter, Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. Sissy started with the “New England Happy Camper” as being on the West Coast gave her a craving for New England beers. Plus, I suspect it’s hard for the hippie environmentalist in her to pass on something called the “Happy Camper.” That one loaded up the Magic Hat Ravell Porter, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, Jack’s Abbey Hopnius Union (India Pale LAGER) and Woodstock Inn’s Autumn Brew.
Meanwhile, I was having my usual problems with Sunset’s extensive list. I’ve come to learn that I have to choose three beers: my first choice, a backup, and a backup for the backup beer, since they NEVER seem to have my first choice, and occasionally, don’t have my second pick either. This occasion threw a new twist into the mix. I spotted Boulder Beer’s Mojo IPA on the list, a favorite of mine that I hadn’t seen in stores for awhile. The waitress assured me it was in stock, and she brought back a brew that was a much darker hue than the expected amber orange of an IPA. “This is Mojo IPA, right?” I was assured once more that it was. It had a thick head, and nosed of sweet malt, with vanilla, as if barrel-aged with a touch of bourbon. The taste was a mildly syrup sweetness, with a roasted/toasty malt characteristic. This was not Mojo IPA. When the waitress returned, I asked her to check what the tap was, and she reported back “Mojo Killer.” Well, that doesn’t actually exist, but the “killer” gave me enough of a clue to determine that it was actually Boulder’s Killer Penguin barleywine, nowhere near the hoppy delight I was expecting.
The Lady Friend was driving us back, so she nursed her first sampler, while Sissy moved on to an Allagash White witbier. Apparently Maine wheat beers aren’t terribly common in the wilderness of California. Slightly disappointed by my Boulder kerfuffle, I hesitantly dared to order the legend: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. Strangely enough, they actually DID have it. This sucker is beyond 100 IBUs, and clocks in somewhere in the range of 18-20% abv. It varies depending on the year. Last year there was a drought of 120min due to some problem at the brewery that led to the entire batch being dumped, but apparently it’s back. Nose: Hop. Wet, dank bitter, with some floral notes. The taste? Whoa. Wait a sec. Whoa. Syrup. Hoppy, but unlike any other. Malt, then an alcohol medicinal finish. It’s a boozy one. Apparently Sissy was starting to feel her beers as well, since she got rather chatty, and let several amusing quotes slip. She lamented living with a messy roommate claiming “Our [messy] bathroom is pretty much like her face,” and said that Lady Friend’s phone “…looks like Nintendo. It doesn’t look like a grown-up phone!” Ok there, Sissy. Time to get you home for some cocktails.
So. Sunset is awesome. IF they have the beer you want. The actual space consists of two rooms, and a downstairs (I don’t think I’ve ever been down there). Big City, a sister restaurant lives upstairs with pool tables and some kinda cool retro styling. But you have to go to Allston to partake of the wonders. It’s kind of like CBC in that manner… a great place, but many perils await. Thar be dragons. And tow trucks. BEWARE!