First, I’d like to give a little phonetic lesson in how to pronounce this: It basically sounds like Wis-tah. Don’t ask me how it’s pronounced like this, but after many episodes visiting the area, I’ve just accepted that this is how it is.
After leaving Boston, I headed out to my hotel in Providence. I was going to be working there for the next week. It took me a day or two, but I was finally able to get out to one of my favorite bars of all time: Armsby Abbey.
As you can tell, this wasn’t my first time here. Two years ago I was attending the New England Metal Festival at the Palladium down the street from the Abbey and stumbled upon this place. Ever since then, I’ve made it a mission to stop in every time I’m within an hour radius of it. I was there for their stout festival earlier this year, and was there for their Stone/Troegs tap takeover for the collaboration beer a few months later. This time I was just visiting for dinner and there wasn’t any special events going on.
Armsby Abbey is located on Main Street in Worcester (Wist-ah) across the street from the police station. They’ve been in business for only a few years, but have developed an incredible reputation for the quality tap/bottle list, along with the very tasty, locally sourced menu. On a strip of road that has a decent amount of random bars; Armsby Abbey sits by itself casually and modestly at the end on the corner. It doesn’t need to have neon beer signs or a fluorescent back-lit advertisement. It sells itself on the quality that it provides its customers and the low-key casual atmosphere.
Walking into the bar, it’s very simple. It has bar that stretches across the right side with seating for 20-30 people with a series of 20-something taps. Behind the bar are the shelves of liquor, with specialty Belgian glass wear and beer memorabilia tastefully placed among it. Underneath the shelves is a series of small refrigerators featuring some of the best beers available in America. On both sides of the entrance is bay window seating which can comfortably sit 10 or more people. The rest of the bar features high-chair style seating which can seat parties of two to six. The ever-changing beer menu is featured on a chalk board high on the left wall and stretches half way across the place.
I came in on a Tuesday night and was able to be seated immediately. I was given a menu and took a look at the beer selection o figure out what I was going to have first. To my surprise, they were one of the few bars in Massachusetts to get Hill Farmstead on tap. I couldn’t pass that up, and decided to check it out. One thing worth noting is that when I had mentioned the beer I wanted, the waitress seemed to know everything about it. It’s VERY obvious that this place educates their staff to understand what’s being sold.
As far as food goes, I wasn’t as sure about what I wanted. Every time I’m in the Abbey, they change their menu. Since they get their ingredients locally sourced for the most part, their menu always changes with the seasons due to whatever the harvest is at that time. After getting completely schooled in cheese/beer tasting, I decided to get the cheese platter, and then the pulled pork sandwich for the main course. When I say schooled, I mean that the waitress knew exactly what everything was, how it would pair with the beer, and why she thinks I would like it. Absolutely incredible. She also noted that they have a policy to not make substitutions in their meals.
I can completely respect this decision. They’re spending the time to locally source everything, come up with a seasonal menu and offer an incredible meal. It would be in very poor taste to destroy that effort by adding or taking something away. I also recall not seeing any ketchup, which I can respect as well.
Beer wise, I was incredibly surprised to see Hill Farmstead on the tap list. While at the brewery previously in the week, I had asked where I was able to find their beer. They explained that although they go through distributors, they are still very picky as to where their beer is served. The places where it’s served has to meet the breweries standards. Obviously, Armsby Abbey was deemed worthy. Needless to say, I ordered Edward, their Pale Ale.
The food came out – first the cheese and then the pulled pork. The cheese plate came with locally made preserves, locally made honey, and a house made mustard. It was also served with house baked bread and candied pecans. The pulled pork sandwich came afterwards prepared with locally sourced pork, fresh coleslaw (on the sandwich) and a side salad made with fresh greens.
After finishing the meal, it only felt appropriate to try some other beers, and the waitress made some suggestions. She carefully asked me what type of beer I enjoyed and where I was from so that she could try to find something I may not be able to find where I live. I wound up trying Oppigårds Amarillo. It was a beer from Sweeden which was brewed with Amarillo hops. After trying the single hop Amarillo at Hill Farmstead the past week, I thought that this may be a good follow-up.
What I found interesting about this beer was that although they primarily only used Amarillo, the beer tasted completely different from the Hill Farmstead beer. This one was softer and with a longer more bitter finish. The mouth feel was much softer and the smell was more toned down. It was great to try something different and I’ll be purchasing more beers from this brewery in the future.
Although this was the end of the trip in New England, it certainly won’t be the last time I visit this awesome bar and restaurant. I don’t give ratings here, but let’s just say that I highly suggest visiting if you’re in the Boston area. It’s worth the drive.