These days, it seems like a brewery opens every other week in Greater Boston, not that we are complaining. What's better than grabbing a cold glass of craft beer straight from the tap, fresh from the kettle? Maybe having some tasty, affordable food to go with it?
Sure, Winter Hill Brewing, which opened April 1, is first and foremost a brewery. In fact, it's the only place you'll find the outfit's beers — like the bracing kolsch, a spicy saison that's fermented with pomegranate molasses, and the light and thoroughly crushable cream ale ($5.61 each for a pint).
But it's also a place to bring your baby for an early dinner (we find the gentle din either lulls the little one to sleep or covers the fussing of witching hour) and enjoy a leisurely weekend lunch on the patio under an umbrella.
Though the space is small, it feels spacious, with a bar running the length of the narrow dining room and a counter looking out onto Broadway. Glossy wooden tables fill the industrial room, which has warm touches like a wood-shingled wall and brightly colored metal stools.
Winter Hill Brewing acts as a cafe before the beer starts flowing. In the morning they serve up Iggy's pastries, egg sandwiches, and Counter Culture coffee, brewed as skillfully as the beer. Plus, there's parking. A spot for both breakfast meetings and after-work drinks, Winter Hill Brewing feels, more than anything, like a neighborhood hangout.
The menu is short and sweet. Owner Breck Bailey tells us he and cofounders Bert Holdredge (general manager) and Jeff Rowe (brewer) aim to keep things simple and expand offerings slowly. Their newest addition is a hearty breakfast sandwich ($4.75) with tomato, arugula, and bacon ($1 extra). It's served on a Somerville Bread Company roll, like all of the sandwiches on offer. Round it out with a strong but smooth iced coffee ($3.25).
A pork banh mi ($13) is tasty enough, though it lacks the punch (and pate) of a more authentic rendition. It's slicked with cilantro aioli, and topped with crunchy pickled carrots and daikon. The Cubano features mojo-marinated pork, plus ham, with melty Swiss, pickles, and mayo, all pressed on a French roll — it may be our favorite of the sandwich offerings. The roasted chickpea gyro is a satisfying vegetarian option, with chickpeas, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and onion rolled into a soft, warm pita.
Though sandwiches are the backbone of the menu, the sides ($6) are the real standouts: indulgent mac and cheese is a rich and creamy dish of orecchiette topped with Parmesan. Brussels sprouts have been having an extended moment — being Buffalo-fried and tossed into Caesars and slaws all over town — but this is one take you don't want to miss. Spicy Korean Brussels sprouts are all crunchy caramelized sweetness, with a little kick.
It's hard not to like the beer-battered fried pickles, which are puffed and golden as a British pub's fish and chips. Beware the molten centers (it takes patience to let them cool) and dip them in the smoky paprika aioli that comes alongside. Pulled pork sliders are cute as a button, topped with a crunchy jalapeno slaw. The meat is flavorful, but a bit dry.
This is all perfectly fine drinking food, but if you'd like to lighten things up, vegetable-forward dishes appear in the "from the garden" section of the menu. We only sampled the Caprese ($8); with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic, it certainly isn't reinventing the wheel, but with ripe tomatoes and fresh, soft cheese, it really can't go wrong. There is also cool, sweet corn gazpacho ($6), plus the requisite beet and goat cheese salad ($8).
On visits morning, noon, and night, Winter Hill Brewing is brimming with friendly locals of all ages, and staff that's eager to make this a gathering place. Servers recognize your face and ask if you live in the neighborhood. Local business people hatch event ideas (movie night!) over coffee, and beer lovers geek out over the year's last keg of kolsch.
Saison, sliders, and babies at the bar. It's hard to believe Whitey Bulger's gang used to run these parts. Welcome to the new Winter Hill.
WINTER HILL BREWING
328 Broadway, Somerville, www.winterhillbrewing.com,All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Soups and salads $6-$8. Sandwiches $10-$13. Small plates $6.
Hours Cafe Mon-Fri 7 a.m.–1 p.m., Sat-Sun 8 a.m.-noon. Full kitchen Wed-Fri 4-10 p.m., Sat noon-10 p.m., Sun noon-9 p.m. (Bar Wed-Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-11 p.m.)
Liquor Beer brewed on premises only
What to order Cubano, mac and cheese, spicy Korean brussels sprouts, beer-battered pickle chips, Caprese salad.
Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.