By Jamie Magee
Yankee Brew News February/March 2009
Not since the tornado of 1953 has Worcester felt an impact like the one made to its craft brew scene by Armsby Abbey’s owner Alec Lopez over the past few years. When Lopez evolved the tap line up at the Dive Bar, the Green Street hangout that has been a bar for almost a hundred years, he unleashed a torrent that has rewritten the Worcester beerscene. And in the center of that rich, cascading
storm of craft brew now lies the culmination of Lopez’ experience and passion: Armsby Abbey.
Armsby Abbey’s mantra is that it “aims to celebrate the artisan craftsman in all aspects of our establishment, support sustainable agriculture and promote a SLOW existence.” Not your usual beer bar credo!
“My wife and I wanted to combine everything in one spot,” Lopez said. “Her love of wine and artisanal spirits, my love of craft beer and food.” (His wife, Sherri Sadowski, is General Manager.) Their combined restaurant experience helped them with their vision for Armsby Abbey. “This project was on paper for many years and then we fell in love with this location.”
Housed in a classic brick building on Main Street in Worcester’s Historic Court District (just four blocks from the DCU Center),Armsby Abbey opened last August after a four month, full-scale renovation and seats around 80, including cozy front window bays for small groups.
Almost everything metal was fashioned by Alec’s brother Andres, (it helps to have a handy relative), including the draught tower. But the centerpiece of Lopez’ devotion to craftsmanship is the centuries old Douglas Fir drink rail that runs down the middle of the restaurant. Made from a beam that was rescued from the demolition of a 150-year-old Powder Point Bridge in Duxbury, the longest wood bridge in the US, the rail is fascinating, almost Tolkienesque, and makes a comfortable place to stand, enjoy a beer and take it all in.
Armsby Abbey’s spacious wooden bar is also emblematic of the attention to detail: it was handcrafted by Master Craftsman John Sammis in Petersham, Mass., and is made entirely out of sustainable South African mahogany. Behind that bar are 22 “Rotating Craft Draughts,” as well as a beer menu featuring “over 140 Unusual Bottles (100+ Belgian).” A gigantic black chalkboard on the wall indicates what’s on tap, with six taps dedicated to Belgian beers at any time. Pleasantly, beers are always served in appropriate glassware. Lopez noted that there is also an inspired choice of wines and local artisanal spirits.
As much as Lopez enjoys the creations of local brewers, a look at the menu betrays his other passion: local food. In fact, the mission
statement of the Abbey says that it will use locally grown produce and livestock, whenever possible, and when not, only items that support
sustainable agriculture. The menu features “an array of farmstead cheeses from New England and beyond; artisan baked breads, farm fresh salads, small plates, sandwiches and hearth baked rustic pizzas.”
A further sign of Lopez’ devotion is the Old World bakery and cheese shop called Crust, which Lopez is currently finishing in the neighboring space and should be open this Spring. Next summer there should be twelve umbrella-shaded tables in the beer garden. Outside seating is a passion of Lopez — last summer he created the huge beer garden behind the Dive Bar. Down the road, Lopez hopes to have a street festival featuring brewers, chefs and other artisans. The ideas, like the beers, keep flowing.
144 North Main Street