Almost four years ago, Sarah and Justin Brigham announced they’d move their popular South End brewery on Hawkins Street into a 16-story tower next door. But projects like these take time, especially when they collide with a pandemic. So Sycamore Brewing remained in the same renovated auto garage it had occupied since 2014 while construction began on the new building. The original taproom remained open until last fall, when it closed to begin the transition into the new 21,000-square-foot space.
In late May, Sycamore reopened in a two-story taproom nearly double the size of its original location. Much like the neighborhood itself, the brewery is bigger, louder, and flashier than it was a decade ago—and it’s in the thick of a construction zone. So in addition to the standard noise from the light rail, you’ll hear jackhammers and drills next door. But it’s South End. That’s part of the ambience.
The beer still gets top billing, but Sycamore also serves coffee and breakfast sandwiches, cocktails, shareable plates, pizza, and a kids menu. The Brighams kept the Airstream food truck from the original location, which now serves burgers with vegan and gluten-free options (natch).
Sycamore 2.0 is still a draw for millennials, Gen Xers, and the after-work crowd, but this spot is clearly designed with families in mind. They’ve got a ground-level beer garden, full-service taproom with a counter where guests order food, and a rooftop beer garden with artificial turf where kids and dogs can play. The brewery also hosts live music Thursday through Sunday with local and regional bands.
Beer favorites like Mountain Candy IPA and Southern Girl Blonde are on tap, and they serve frosé, cider, wine, and boozy popsicles, too. Cocktails on tap include a Frozen Margarita ($12), Bermuda Rum Swizzle ($13), Frozen Espresso Martini ($14), and an Aperol Spritz ($14).
The food is fine, but it’s only one piece of the Sycamore experience, so it’s not likely to make or break your impression of the brewery. After you’ve had a beer or two and start to get hungry, access the menu via QR code and order at the counter—just be aware the line can get long after 6 p.m. Your phone will ping when your food is ready; bring your order number to collect it at the counter and grab some paper napkins and plastic utensils to bring back to the table.
Shareable plates include Shrimp Dip ($15), Housemade Hummus and Olives ($12), and Whipped Goat Cheese ($11). The latter will disappoint you if you expected the fluffy, whipped ricotta you get at an Italian restaurant. This adaptation has a consistency closer to Greek yogurt, with crispy bacon bits and hot honey to give it some layers.
The Antipasto Grain Bowl ($14) is short on grains and looks like a standard arugula salad, but it’s a fine choice if you’re looking for something on the healthier side. The Italian Sandwich ($15) is well executed with a nice meat-to-cheese ratio on toasty ciabatta. It comes with a choice of three flavors of potato chips, but dill pickle is the correct move.
The pizza gets it right with a thin, golden crust and bubbling cheese. The menu typically includes three red varieties and three white. If you’re in the mood for something more complex than cheese or pepperoni, go for the Sausage and Calabrian Chili ($16), topped with spicy red sauce, chopped Calabrian chili, sausage, red onions, and hot honey. The 12-inch pies are plenty for one person with a big appetite and great for sharing if you start with a salad or small plate.
They’ve also got a kids menu that includes a Grilled Cheese ($7), Classic Cheeseburger ($8), and a Kids Hot Dog ($7). The wood picnic tables on the ground level and rooftop beer garden are ideal for messy eaters and those who like to get their wiggles out between bites.
Sycamore is noisy, crowded, and mostly self-serve. But that’s the thing about a brewery. The food doesn’t have to be phenomenal, and the beer doesn’t even need to be your favorite. Come as you are and let your kids behave like kids. Order another Southern Girl while they nibble a $7 grilled cheese and do cartwheels in the beer garden. Chances are the live music—or the sledgehammers and drills next door—will drown out any racket they make.
2151 Hawkins St.
Café: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
Taproom and Beer Garden: 11 a.m.-12 a.m. daily
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Parking on-site costs $5 for the first 90 minutes, which you’ll need to validate at Sycamore. After that, you’ll pay the standard garage rates.