2 Center Plaza (on Cambridge Street across from Government Center/City Hall)
Boston MA 02108
The Kinsale is a faux Irish pub located on the ground level of the Center Plaza at Government Center. It just happenes to be the same building I work in so I used to frequent it a lot when I first started my job 9 years ago. It was before I became the beer geek that I now am, but I quickly realized this place had little more to offer than the standards: Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Harpoon IPA, UFO, Sam Adams, Guinness, Bass, Harp, Blue Moon, and if you were lucky Hoegaarden. Granted it helped foster my love of hefes/wheats/wits with UFO, Blue Moon, Hoegaarden, but otherwise it got boring real quick. After a couple of years myself and my friends slowly drifted away from what had by the end become jokingly referred to as “The Irish Conference Room” because it was just another suit and tie bar and there were better places to go.
Fast forward to about 9 months ago when late on a week night my fiancé and I dropped into The Kinsale out of desperation for food. It was the usual decent if slightly spendy pub grub it always was, but I was shocked and giddy to see the beer menu had gone into a whole new league. The list is now craft heavy and chocked full of top notch New England brews as well as tasty domestics and imports. Because of that the Kinsale has come to the forefront of my rotation of places to grab a pint downtown especially when I’m looking for a broad selection and to try something new. You would think that in a town like Boston it would be easy to find a good beer bar and unfortunately you would be wrong.
Over the past several months and visits myself and my friends have enjoyed such beers as Abita Purple Haze, Smuttynose Baltic Porter, Ommegang’s Hennepin Saison, Erdinger Hefeweizen, Founders Dirty Bastard, Allagash White, Victory Pils, Oskar Blues Old Chub, and Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady to name a few. More impressive than just having these outstanding beers they actually have proper glassware and know what beers go in which glass, a feat more difficult than you would expect around here. The table wait staff isn’t always keyed in to the beers they’ve got, but usually if you are sitting at the bar the bartenders are relatively well versed and can give you a hand in deciding.
The most recent trek was a Friday night (4/11). It was packed, but we muscled to the bar and staked out a corner. There were a handful of us and the beers we ordered were pretty varied: Wolaver’s Organic Brown Ale, Bellhaven, Cambridge Brewing Company Charles River Porter. But truly the most popular amongst our group was the Smuttynose Imperial Stout. This is a bloody amazing beer. Deep dark and complex. I would call it one of the top three imperial stouts I’ve had thanks to it’s balance of malt sweetness, rich dark fruit notes, and just the right touch of dry bitterness at the finish. Put it on tap, served in a proper snifter, and I was in love. The downside is it’s technically a winter brew so they were working off their last keg. The upside is I’m sure it will be replaced with a fantastic spring/summer brew.
While it may not be the hippest bar in town the Kinsale is the best beer bar you are going to find in the heart of downtown Boston. Yes, there’s Bukowski’s Tavern near Hynes Convention Center, but to be honest their pours are getting smaller while the prices are going higher and the pointlessly loud music makes normal conversation almost impossible. So while Kinsale isn’t as punk rock and lacks an 800-bottle deep selection your wallet and ears won’t take as much of a beating and you will have no problem finding a great brew. You could argue The Elephant & Castle down in the financial district is a beer bar given its extensive beer list, but the reality is my experiences there show it to have a lot of great beers on paper, but few in their coolers and on their taps. The game of continually sending a waiter/waitress away with three beers you would want and having them come back to say they don’t have any of them is as annoying for you as it is for them.
If you’re a local looking for some place new or a tourist who has already grown tired of the Sam Adams/Harpoon stranglehold on the taps of Boston and need some more esoteric relief give the Kinsale a shot.