Bayberry Beer Hall
381 West Fountain Street, Providence, RI 02903
Communal seating with reserved areas available
Life in Providence means outsize perks for being a small city in the nation’s smallest state, including but not limited to top-notch Italian cuisine, Atlantic beach access within an hour’s drive, New England historical charm and a convenient location between Boston and New York. Unfortunately, these advantages haven’t made up for the dearth of casual drinking establishments large enough to accommodate groups of more than two that don’t revolve around the Pats and Red Sox schedules (full disclosure: this writer is a born and bred Chicago sports fan who enjoys socializing in big groups while not watching Tom Brady throw the pigskin).
But when a Yelp “Hot and New” phone notification about Bayberry Beer Hall randomly flashed across my phone screen a few weeks ago, cautious optimism ensued. I quickly made plans to visit this brand-new West Side establishment with two rather discerning friends who happen to love beer and Providence culinary exploration. Almost immediately after making said plans for a Thursday evening, a friend planned her birthday celebration at Bayberry for Friday, setting me up for two nights in a row to experience this promising parlor.
Housed in a sturdy brick building once home to a horse stable and a brewery, Bayberry fully embraces its structural history while embodying the Instagram-worthy, industrial chic aesthetic popular amongst the millennial set these days, as exposed brick and piping, concrete floors and linear furniture frame the airy, open hall. Owners Tom and Natalie Dennen cite traditional German biergartens as a primary inspiration for their modern but inviting space on an equally modern website. While clearly evident throughout, this European influence appears with subtle twists, thanks to local firm HB Design & Build. Custom communal picnic benches feature warm wood surfaces with distressed black metal panels, and portable stools expand the capacity of the tables. A floor-to-ceiling wire grid forms a trellis wall of greenery bordering a cozy reserved seating area. Much to my excitement, two cushioned wicker seats hung from the ceiling near the entrance, and I plopped down in one soon after grabbing a beer at the bar. (In other words, I was living my best millennial life.)
Although the space is cavernous relative to most Providence bars, the communal seating arrangement, counter service and lively noise level make Bayberry inviting, intimate and accessible. It provided a festive birthday atmosphere while encouraging more focused conversation within groups. Seating yourself circumvents the formality of the standard encounter with a restaurant host. Ordering food and drinks at the counter minimizes interruptions by waitstaff and encourages patrons to linger as long as they’d like with as many people as can share a table.
Thankfully, Bayberry’s thoughtful, community-minded design complements its New England-centered domestic beer menu, which features rotating drafts, bottles and cans from established breweries like Allagash and Two Roads alongside relative newcomers like Portsmouth’s Ragged Island and Massachusetts-brewed Lord Hobo. I sampled the latter’s Glorious American pale ale, which lived up to its name by satisfying my hankering for bright, citrusy, hoppy ales with just enough alcohol. For fans of drinks other than #peakmillennial IPAs and APAs, Bayberry’s wood-lettered menu offers everything from sour goses to pilsners, witbiers to porters, and ciders to alcoholic ginger beer, as well as a substantial selection of wines by the glass and Nitro Cart coffee. True to form, beers are served in tasteful snifter-style glasses (do not ask me anything else about the glassware – my craft beer knowledge ends here) emblazoned with the minimalist Bayberry logo.
To accompany my crisp beer, I ordered the house burger, made with local beef, mushrooms, tomato jam and Vermont cheddar cheese because I never won’t order things with Vermont cheddar cheese. Given the $13 price tag, I was initially underwhelmed by the burger’s size and side of roasted potatoes, but it was juicy, flavorful and satisfying with the right balance of savory toppings balanced on a lightly toasted house-made bun. My friends ordered the sourdough pretzel with mustard butter, and I sampled more than a few bites of the snack once the combination of warm, pillowy pretzel and spicy ground mustard with creamy butter hit my taste buds. Although not extensive, the rest of the menu includes appealing, purposeful dishes of different sizes meant for sharing, from snacks, “mishmash” and handheld foods to entrees, shared plates and sweets.
After two visits, Bayberry Beer Hall has proved a welcome addition to a relative void in the Providence food and drink landscape by providing a vibrant, spacious, welcoming environment in which to share quality beer, snacks and conversation with friends and family alike (I even brought my mom on night #2). You’ll leave with a full belly, a warm heart and the perfect millennial Instagram photo.