Friday, July 13, 2012

High Horse (Amherst, MA)

 High Horse has taken over the former location of the Amherst Brewing Company, a locally well known brew-pub that moved to a vastly larger (and vastly inferior) space a short way away, opening the door for this new, superior brew-pub to enter the local bar scene.  Both the beer and the food are better at High Horse than at ABC, and the look is better; my only gripe is the volume level, and that may have been a one time problem.

I've only tried one beer at High Horse so far, having had the Libertine Porter both times I went; it's a dark, hefty beer--though at only 5.2% you won't feel like it's hitting you over the head--with strong coffee and malt notes.  It feels similar to drinking a good stout mixed with decent espresso, but with a nicely melded flavor.  The color is beautiful, just the right depth of blackness, without appearing ugly or one note, and the head is a lovely brown foam.  I was such a fan the first time I went that I got it the second.  It is pictured above and left.

The food at ABC was solid-average, but nothing to write home about, with the exception of a few delectable appetizers like fried pickles or very tasty nachos.  Having only eaten one thing so far at High Horse, the poutine (pictured with the Libertine Porter), I'm very impressed; it is by far the best I have had south of Old Orchard Beach, ME, and from that area north there is a heavy influence from the Quebecois, or French Canadians.  This poutine's only problem was having a bit too much cheese, but the fries were fried nicely, so as not to be too soggy except for the last few that had been swimming in gravy for a while, and the gravy itself was thick and delicious, with a strong meaty flavor that manages to not overwhelm the others in the dish.  Overall, something I'd strongly recommend.  I don't know if getting french fries there is a good idea or not, as the fries alone didn't have a ton of taste, but that could be because they don't season them the same way for the poutine as for a plain order.©

For those people who went to ABC, the upstairs of High Horse will be very familiar (I haven't been downstairs yet), as they only changed a couple things, but I felt like it looked better overall.  They eliminated the "two bar" set up, and instead have one large continuous bar, with a very neat tap station located behind it (see picture at right).  The back room, which is always my favorite place to sit because it's typically way quieter, was awful the first time I went, despite my friend and I being one of just two groups back there; the speakers were BLARING some awful attempt at rap music, to the point where I couldn't hear well across a small table.  The bar was not hugely crowded for a Saturday night at 11pm, certainly not so much so that it was necessary for the music to be that loud.

The second time I went was much nicer, on a Thursday evening from around 10pm to a little after 11pm.  It was pretty quiet, enough so that the bartenders and I had time to carry on a couple decent conversations which were only intermittently disrupted.  The bartenders that night were fantastic, very friendly, knowledgable (one engaged me in about a 10 minute conversation about the relative merits of poutine in different places, and was quite funny), and just overall a lot of fun.  The friend who was meeting me that night didn't show up until about 10:30, so I was there alone for over half an hour alone, and still had a lot of fun just talking to them.

Lastly, the bar offers a few decent whiskies, including a small batch whiskey that was quite tasty.  Black Maple Hill is smooth, with light notes of vanilla, and a true bourbon taste.  It doesn't lack the "fire" a good bourbon has, but it's more like embers than a bonfire.  There were others on the list I'd like to try, but this was recommended by one bartender, and she was absolutely correct.


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