Harvard Brewery Reopens

John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House reopened Wednesday after months of rebranding and renovations to its flagship location at 33 Dunster Street.

According to Lindsay Rotondi, deputy team leader for the rebranding initiative, John Harvard’s closed two months ago and subsequently embarked on extensive renovations and a rebranding campaign designed to streamline a previously cumbersome menu for drinks and food.

“We need a balance to both refresh and renew and to maintain the history,” said Michael S. McBride, general manager of John Harvard’s in Cambridge.

Centerplate, Inc., a concessions company based in South Carolina, acquired the John Harvard franchise about 18 months ago, prompting the decision to revamp and rebrand the flagship restaurant, Rotondi said.

For 20 years, the brewery has specialized in traditional food from colonial New England and Elizabethan England and claims to use recipes of John Harvard and William Shakespeare.

But after the rebranding initiative, the brewery’s chefs have added unique twists to their traditional comfort fare. Building on the restaurant’s origins as a brewery, John Harvard’s chefs have incorporated byproducts of the brewing process into dishes like their Spent Grain Pizzas. Dishes are around $10 to $12.

McBride said that the 20-year-old interior also “really needed to be renovated and updated.”

The new space now features a boosted sounds system, a new lighting scheme, eleven televisions, and space for live performances. Patrons can also see the two brewing tanks responsible for making John Harvard’s eight trademark beers, including the brewery’s mainstays–Demon DPA, Provision Ale, Pilgrims Porter–alongside seasonal brews.

During renovations, the management decided to preserve aspects of their previous decor, including the original wood pilings, warm brick walls, dark wood paneling, and the ironic stained glass windows that depict Richard Nixon, Humphrey Bogart, and others.

“We really wanted to preserve the historical feel,” McBride said. “There’s a lot of nostalgia here.”

Along the back wall, the restaurant now features a timeline that spans from 1560-1992 and depicts the trajectory of John Harvard’s association with the brewery.

The brewery lists John Harvard, whose legacy and library endowed Harvard University, as its namesake. According to McBride, Harvard, the grandson of an ale taster, grew up helping his father sell grain to local brewers and later moved to the New World. At one time, the University had a brewery associated with its campus, but the institution burned down, only to be reopened in 1992 as John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House.

John Harvard’s now has six other locations in Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts and maintains a shop with John Harvard merchandise for patrons.

—Staff writer Laura K. Reston can be reached at