Keep on your High Horse

By Lindsey Davis

What would happen if Amherst Coffee had a love child with Lit that was then raised by The Spoke? A High Horse.

Saddled up at the top of the North Pleasant Street bar strip, High Horse takes the reigns as an intriguing bistro-bar replacement for Amherst Brewing Company, whose move to University Drive left many late-night pool junkies and barroom conversationalists at a loss while wandering downtown.

Oozing with the maturity and mood-lit ambience of Amherst Coffee, yet enhanced with the pool tables and drink selection of The Spoke and trimmed with posters of the Wu-Tang Clan and André 3000 typically preferred by the cliental of Lit, the identity crisis of the High Horse can either be seen as an expression of irony or the answer to a much needed hot spot for a diverse demographic.

Depending on the staff behind the bar, the music of choice ranges from 1940s jazz combos to hipster-chic guitar rock to Jay-Z. Whatever they decide to be, they want partiers to know that they are not the average college town bar as can be seen in a disclaimer on their sarcastically sassy menu, “Sorry no-Irish car bombs, long island iced teas, grateful dead I’m broke and on a mission to throw up on my roommate in the cab type drinks.”

They are the beer bar.

The establishment has two sections, Downstairs and Upstairs, for two different nightly needs.

Downstairs serves two purposes. The first is dinner. After just a couple months since its New Year’s Eve opening, the menu remains a simple list of typical pub food including steak, fried chicken and burgers but with quirky twists. The most raved-about dish is the “Crafty Mac and Cheese” – a cheesy goodness drizzled in buttery breadcrumbs and warm broccoli that has potential to join the ranks of Amherst’s highly coveted comfort foods. Purpose number two is to share an intimate candle-lit drink with a lover or anyone on the “To Impress” list.

Sophisticated cocktail connoisseurs are encouraged to spend the evening on the lower level.

“Downstairs we focus on the more complex mixology and upstairs it’s like a party,” said bartender Nick Brown.

Do not expect find the hard alcohol range Upstairs.

On a given week night, the Upstairs is a haven for procrastinators winding down over a pint and a round of pool or sports fans watching the big game. As the semester trots on, the Horse has become the more spacious and laidback competitor to McMurphy’s for students on weekend nights out. The four $1 pool tables are the objects of desire and the dragon Viking ship-inspired bar tap never stops flowing.

Owner Jason DiCaprio is the man also responsible for The Moan and Dove, a watering hole in south Amherst known for its eclectic variety of international brews. For beer enthusiasts without access to a car or patience for PVTA, the High Horse is an accessible carriage house for beer exploration that does not include anything that begins with a ‘b’ and ends with ‘light.’

Before ordering the obvious Guinness or the Smutty Nose, try the bar’s own brews on draught. Beyond the Pale takes the cake for best house brew on the menu. Its refreshingly sweet finish is worth the $6 price tag. The Minx Saison is a decent follow-up consisting of midrange strength and an almost minty undertone.

There really is no unpleasant option when ordering off of their draught menu, but for those who need to wet their whistle a little more than others might find the $4 to $6.50 price tag a little unsatisfying. Instead of breaking the bank on a college budget while testing beer, opt for half pints for about half the cost. Pitchers are an alternative for groups looking to split the cost. Yellow Pint 44 and the Libertine Porter are safe choices to share among diverse taste buds.

Definitely not a brewski aficionado? The Upstairs bar does offer a well-rounded cocktail menu.

“We didn’t want to serve all of the same old drinks that everyone in Amherst serves,” said Brown. “But we know people like certain drinks so we messed with [the recipes] a bit.”

The classic rum and Coke has become Cereza Suelta, a cherry topped concoction of rum, amaretto and cane cola and the White Russian is the Caucasian.

Lindsey Davis can be reached at [email protected].