“Finely crafted fare” is the slogan of The Beamhouse, a new restaurant in Glastonbury. It is fitting, as the place seems determined to incorporate every element one might associate with the word “craft” and all it has come to mean in the last decade or so. Robust beer list? Check. Converted former factory space? Check. Edison light bulbs? Apron-clad staff? Farm-fresh ingredients? Check, check and check.
All these elements come together in one big, with a capital B, restaurant housed in The Tannery, a former leather-processing site now home to, you guessed it, “modernly crafted” apartments. The restaurant seats 110 in the main dining room, has 30-foot ceilings and that modern casual atmosphere familiar to anyone who has ever been to a brewery. It all feels decidedly bearded, hand hewn and barrel aged in all the best — but also sometimes caricatured — ways.
During a visit on the Tuesday before Christmas, the place is unexpectedly crowded for a weeknight, even one before a holiday. Though The Beamhouse only opened in August, word has clearly already gotten out. The parking lot is full. (If you see empty spots, make sure they are not reserved for residents, a mistake I nearly made.)
Inside, after my party of three snakes its way around a long hallway — did I mention this place is big? — we are seated by the hostess at what appears to be the last table available in the main dining room. Surprisingly, given the size of the crowd and the height of the ceilings, the conversation is easy and ambient noise is minimal.
The restaurant is owned by Jonathan Lynch and Bill Driggs, who are a force in the Glastonbury restaurant world. Together they also own Birch Hill Tavern, while Driggs also owns Sayulita and 2 Hopewell. For this new endeavor they’ve recruited chef Nick Souza, a veteran of the Golden Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn, which closed in 2017. At The Beamhouse, the trio is doing many things well, though there is room for improvement.
The beer list lives up to the restaurant’s craft promise with several Connecticut options including Burst IPA, a great find from the increasingly acclaimed Fox Farm Brewery in Salem. Under the direction of bar manager Anthony DeVito, The Beamhouse also offers a variety of intriguing cocktails. The Butcher’s Daughter, which has a corn whiskey base and comes with a piece of bacon in place of an olive, is a good option for those who find many signature cocktail options too sweet. The Pickled + Dirty features potato vodka and house pickling brine. It tastes, true to its description, like pickle juice, and was fun to try a sip of, but it might be best to share one glass among friends unless someone in your party has a true taste for pickle juice.
The burger is another winning element. Made with hormone- and antibiotic-free beef from humanely raised cows, it is topped with a thick, beer-battered onion ring that provides the perfect crown to this two-hands-required burger.
Another strength is the margherita flatbread, and I say that as someone who had previously thought of flatbread as the frozen yogurt of the pizza world — an imposter with the appearance of pizza but lacking its flavor. With its thin crust and flavorful sauce, this pie is no imposter. This is partially because the flatbread, which has subtle differences from pizza in general, here is treated basically as pizza by another name. “To us, growing up in Connecticut, ‘pizza’ makes us think of New York, New Haven or Greek-style pies, and ‘flatbread’ reminds us of something smaller, more rustic, with fresh ingredients and a thin, but bubbly crust,” Lynch explains by email after my visit. “We started with ‘00’ flour using a simple dough recipe, then made small adjustments until we thought it was just right. Chef probably went through 10-15 different dough recipes before we found the one we loved.”
Elsewhere on the menu, one succulent-sounding appetizer, the crispy pork belly, was not as inspiring as one expects from this inherently flavorful cut of pig. The roasted duck was not worth its $32 price tag. And the autumn kale salad was not the fresh burst of vegetable flavor we had hoped for.
For dessert, a tasty lemon almond cake was the table favorite. A chocolate crème brûlée and cheesecake got the job done, but the latter two were both on the sweet side for my taste.
Lynch says the food offerings will “be constantly evolving based on seasonality, and most importantly by chef Nick’s daily inspirations.”
As a bearded, often flannel-wearing writer who has written two books dealing with beer and whose plans for 2019 include fermenting vegetables, I’m eager to see the direction of the ongoing craft revolution at The Beamhouse.