Only I could like the “idea” of a beer bar more than a beer bar itself. This sentiment is similar to how I feel about nose and eyebrow rings. In my head, those things sound great. But, in reality, they wouldn't be that cool for me.
Last summer, the Amherst Brewing Company (ABC) gave up the best location in the town: a prime spot at the main intersection. To expand their brewing capacity they relocated to a cavernous retail space about a mile down the hill (and it IS a hill). The previous tenant was Gold’s Gym. The new ABC feels like someone turned a Best Buy into a bar.
I have worked at a few restaurants. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that location matters. I worked at two restaurants in the suburbs. One of them was near the center of town. The other was set back from the road in a terrible commercial/retail space. The former is thriving. The latter resulted in an $8 million dollar disaster; it remains the biggest debacle in the history of the Main Line dining scene. Location matters. Period.
I will never understand ABC’s decision to move. They lost their clientele from the center of town, Amherst College, and UMass. While they can brew more beer, who wants to have a beer in a cavernous soulless space? Beer bars require an atmosphere. The new ABC has none.
I was pleased to find out that the owners of The Moan and Dove decided to open a brewpub in the old ABC space: High Horse. Even though I don’t like the name, I was ready for a new beer bar in town.
The High Horse opened in December. The interior update has the feel of a nice bistro. Yet, the too-loud classic rock playlist clashes with any other attempt to create an upscale atmosphere.
The menu is eclectic and the portions are too small for the price. I’ve had the burger, the veggie burger, stuffed mushrooms, and the poutine. I don’t think the people of Amherst want an overpriced three-ounce burger.
The head brewer, with experience from Mayflower Brewing, has yet to hit his stride; the in-house beers are unbalanced across the board. The guest beers are basic craft beer choices (Lagunitas IPA, Allagash White, etc.). I realize my craft beer needs are on the on the extreme end of the spectrum.
Overall, I like the idea of the High Horse more than the actual High Horse. There is potential left and right, but no execution. In the several months that it has been open, not much has changed. It’s possible that they are making enough money off of their upstairs bar (for hipsters), to keep the downstairs bar going (for adults). But, I have no desire to go see “live DJs” and “Brojuice” perform. That’s just disgusting.
I wish them well. The center of town needs a solid restaurant/bar. Until High Horse improves, it remains just a nice idea.
24 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01002