Lord Hobo

This convivial corner of Hell is actually beer Heaven
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  February 17, 2010
4.0 4.0 Stars

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Lord Hobo | 92 Hampshire Street, Cambridge | 617.250.8454 | Open daily, 5 pm–1 am | AE, MC, VI | Full bar | No valet parking | Sidewalk-level access
What act could follow the B-Side Lounge, beloved home of craft-cocktail scholars? Well, how about a bar-restaurant for beer geeks? Now, this doesn't mean just any beers. The more than 40 draught microbrews at Lord Hobo are so recherché that the only brand this veteran restaurant critic had ever tasted before was Dogfish Head, and even that not nearly in the recondite Olde School Barleywine flavor that topped the list with 15 percent alcohol. The microbrews are so obscure that when someone admitted to wanting something "sort of like a Samuel Adams," the server brought her little tasting stem glasses of Bear Republic Nor Cal pale ale and Mayflower Golden Ale.

Beer geeks are weirder than computer geeks, even. On a recent weeknight visit, the crowd consisted of 80 percent young men in dark clothes, so the restaurant — done up in dismal red and black — seemed to glow like a particularly convivial corner of Hell. (One reserved for monks who missed confession because they were lingering in the brewery, thinking about adding some cider to the wort or whether to use Kentish or Bavarian hops.)

Unlike Hell, Lord Hobo has rather good food, albeit expensive. But the beers are so fresh and spectacular (it is the beer menu that changes daily) that we really should start there. Perhaps not with Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine ($7/12 ounces) served in something like an oversize white-wine glass, but there we were. This is a sipping beer, hardly quaffable, sweet as cream sherry, but built on layers and layers of malt with just enough hoppy bitterness to take the edge off.

By comparison, St. Bernardus Abt 12 ($10/12 ounces), at a mere 10.5 percent alcohol and served in an enlarged snifter, was smooth and went right down, with a much drier and more balancing hop aroma (flowery) and bitterness. Ridgeway IPA ($7.50/pint) was almost silken, with a foamier head and a positively sleek body, despite a very decent seven percent alcohol. This one is from England, imported in casks and hand-pumped in the old English real-ale manner, but freshness was the hallmark of everything we tried at Lord Hobo.

The eventual choice of the Sam Adams fan, the Bear Republic Nor Cal ($6.50/pint), had the double hops (cooked in for bitterness, then more "dry-hopped" at the end for aroma) of a Sam, but with the additional winey complexity of an ale, rather than the cool, clean flavor of a lager. Lord Hobo also has some craft cocktails (in case the old B-Side crowd comes back), bottles of beer, and even a decent-looking wine list. But don't be foolish: you're in a glorious garden of lovingly collected draught beers. Take proper advantage.

Of course, you'll need some food to soak up some of the high-octane beers. Luckily, this is solid gastro-pub fare with a capital PUB.

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