Milly’s Tavern bills itself as the only microbrewery (or brewpub, depending on who you ask) in Manchester. I guess they’ve changed hands a few times since inception, and they do have a primo location: in a classic-looking brick warehouse (prime development in the rest of the country) right on the Merrimack River in downtown Manchester, the largest city north of Boston. So let’s start there; I loved the location. Out of the way from the main downtown strip of Manchester, sure, but what worthy boozery isn’t a tad out of the way? Once you find it, you have to purposefully seek out the entrance, which is on the left/south side of the building and down some stairs. The bar itself is below street level (very hipster, Milly’s), and the whole place has an underground feel: exposed brick, exposed duct work, exposed brewery lines. Dark lighting and loud music. I wanted to like it.
Like a lot of industrial urban areas, Manchester is attempting to revitalize it’s abandoned working zones. Long, brick shipping stores line the river in what could eventually be a district full of bars, shops and artists lofts with melancholy views of the lazy river.
But right now, there is one inhabited storefront in half a mile of prime riverfront real estate, and that is Milly’s Tavern. It feels a little dodgy late at night, but it adds to the speakeasy feel of the place. And it really is a neat, underground bar. They feature a lot of live music, including a Big Band night on Thursdays, and a Slam Free or Die poetry night.
Unfortunately, it feels (and tastes) like Milly’s is too busy being a bar to focus on creating good craft beer. It’s not *bad* beer, but there’s nothing particularly memorable about it. They are rumored to have a pretty great Pumpkin Ale, but it was out of season. We had a pale ale and a Scotch ale, and all I can remember is that both were fine. The menu is largely pub-food-oriented, heavy on the finger foods and sandwiches, with a couple of surprisingly good Near East dishes thrown in. But the focus here is really on the bar experience, which is fine; every city needs a quirky bar to satisfy the 20- and 30-somethings who want more than a Bud Light. It’s just not where I would go to savor a tasty, handcrafted microbrew.
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