It was a 10-minute drive through fog and drizzle from where we were staying. The atmosphere was low-key and friendly, and as we made our way towards the bar, I felt that we were perhaps the only non-locals in the whole place. There were two empty stools towards the middle, and the first thing I noticed as we took our seats were rows of ceramic mugs hanging from hooks on the ceiling, over the bartender's head. There must've been at least fifty. Some were glazed blue, others brown, some cream, some mixed. I hoped that we would get to drink from them.
The bartender reminded me of my laid-back, beer-loving uncle who lives in Orange County, NY. He told me I could try whatever draft I wanted and when after three I still couldn't decide, I asked him what his favorite was. "Tonight, I'd be drinking a Maibock," he said. "It's smooth, a little bit sweet." And so I ordered myself one of those. He poured it into a 16 oz glass printed with the tavern's name, a foamy beer lit up by an electric burst of yellow, and an arc underneath that read "SOLAR POWERED BEER."
"Is the cask beer what's served in those?" I inquired, pointing to the mugs. He explained that each mug belongs to someone. "When they come in, they like to drink out of their own." I recognized then, looking into the mirror opposite the bar, that there were names or initials etched into the bottoms of each one.
"I like that," I said.
It was Friday evening, and as we sipped our beers, we let the weekend settle in. A bowl of chili was set down in front of the grey-haired man to the right of my boyfriend. He dove right in, looking up to happily say, "yes, another brown," when asked if he needed anything else. I noticed he was married and I wondered briefly why he was enjoying dinner alone until I looked to my left. To my surprise, another grey-haired man was buttering the piece of bread that came with his own bowl of chili. He had a glass full of what looked like the blonde ale to wash it down.
"Look," I whispered to my boyfriend, turning my head in each direction to indicate the mirror image playing out on each side of us. He didn't seem to care, but I was giddy. Was I dreaming? I still don't know.
Have you ever felt like a fly on the wall in a local joint that's not your own? Was it kind of weird, but also wonderful? As always, I'd love to hear your story.
Barrington Brewery & Restaurant
420 Stockbridge Rd, Great Barrington, MA 01230