Live Music, Tasty Poutine And So Much More At A-Brews Tap and Grill
Sep 08, 2017 03:45PM
● By Terry Badman
Canada knows its pub fare.
America’s northern neighbor is famous for a many things: Ice hockey, maple syrup, Neil Young, public health care, and the general politeness of its population.
But one of Canada’s greatest contributions to the world is its unofficial national dish: Poutine.
Originating in the pastoral regions of Quebec, French Canadians crafted this pub staple sometime in the 1950s. A true plate of poutine consists of hand-cut French fries, served smothered in rich, brown gravy and topped with melty cheese curds. The dish’s popularity rose across the nation in the decades since, becoming one of Canada’s culinary treasures.
Thankfully for hungry Americans, you don’t have to trek all the way to Canada for authentic poutine: It’s just down the road.
A-Brews Tap and Grill serves the best poutine in the Merrimack Valley. And for good reason.
“I’m from Canada,” said owner Sonia Abreu, who was born in Montreal. “I wanted that one thing on the menu to set me apart. Everyone loves it.”
Abreu moved to Dracut at 5-years-old. Growing up in the area, she went on to spend years working in various local eating and drinking establishments. In June 2016, Abreu took those decades of experience and opened A-Brews in a quiet corner of Bridgewood Plaza on Bridge Street in Dracut.
“I wanted it to be a place for everybody and anybody to feel comfortable,” Abreu said. “Not to be stared at when you walk through that door. I have been bar tending for 20 years so I know that look. Everybody’s great here. Everybody’s been wonderful.”
As with opening any new business, there were challenges. Abreu initially had some trouble deciding on a name for the location, but found inspiration close to home.
“My son came up with the name,” she said. “He got off the bus one day and recommended A-Brews. I said, ‘no, we’re not putting our name on the sign.’ He said, ‘no mom: where you goin’ for a brew?’”
“This kid is like 12- or 13-years old,” she said. “I thought it sounded good so we put it on our shirts.”
Other members of the Abreu family also left their mark. Sonia’s husband, Jim, took the task of crafting the existing space into something new, cozy, and welcoming to all.
“Jim did all the construction,” Sonia said. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the remodeling. He was a hugely important part of this.”
Once the signs were up and the space was its own, A-Brews needed to establish clientele from scratch. The previous owners operated the space with limited hours, leaving little to no existing fan base to build on.
But soon enough, through a solid local following and word of mouth, the crowds began to return.
“Between Pelham and Dracut, we get a lot of traffic,” Abreu said. “It’s a nice clientele that’s been building and building. We have people from age 21 to 90. And we have some great people that work here. They go above and beyond. It’s amazing. We’re very lucky.”
Something for Everyone
In addition to poutine, the food menu boasts numerous pub grub favorites like burgers, wings, and sandwiches, as well as daily specials. The full bar boasts an impressive collection of craft beer, wine and spirits.
“We wanted the menu to be reasonable and have something for everybody. Something everyone could afford,” Abreu said. “Same thing with the beer. We have Pabst in bottles, but we also have up to $10 beers. Anyone can come in here and afford to have a beer.”
Beyond food and drink, patrons can take a chance on Keno and scratch tickets, or play arcade cabinet classics like Big Buck Hunter or Trophy Bowling. Sports enthusiasts can cozy up to the bar and watch the latest Patriots or Bruins game on one of several flat screen TVs above the bar.
And speaking of the football, the Lowell Sun voted A-Brews the best place to watch the Patriots in 2016.
“It was awesome,” Abreu said, “and we were only open like a few months.” A-Brews also serves half-priced appetizers each week during Patriots games.
A-Brews hosts numerous events each week. Mondays are for trivia, which rewards gift cards to the top teams. Dart teams are welcome every Tuesday and Wednesday night. Karaoke night is each Thursday, while Sundays are reserved for open mics. Pool leagues, paint nights, comedy competitions, and charity events have also had a presence at A-Brews.
A-Brews recently held a bike rally that helped raise $7,100 for the 50 Legs Charity, an organization that helps cover the cost of care and prosthetics for amputees.
And then there’s music: free live music.
“One of the biggest things I didn’t want to do was charge a cover,” Abreu said, adding the venue hosts live music every weekend. "I wanted a place where people didn’t feel obligated to pay to see good entertainment, have fun, and socialize.”
In time, A-Brews plans to expand its footprint to the building’s basement, which includes a small-size function hall directly beneath the upstairs space. Complete with a separate, full bar and kitchen, the space is currently being renovated. Hopes are it will one day host numerous events and gatherings.
“It was used years ago, but we have to remodel it. It’ll have the same concept as upstairs,” Abreu said. “We’re slowly chipping away at it. Not a lot of places in Dracut have a small-size function hall. Most are too small or too big. It’s a great space. I’m excited about it.”
Come One Come All
There is no shortage of eating and drinking establishments in the Greater Lowell region. A few are great. Many are good. Others are less so. A-Brews aims to be one of the few. And so far the outlook is promising.
“I come here because I find it friendly. I feel relaxed. It has a great vibe,” said Aimee, who lives in Dracut and tries to keep it local. Hailing from a French Canadian family, she also vouches for the poutine quality. “And I like craft beer. They have great drafts and they mix it up.”
Jerry and Jay, two regulars from Pelham and Dracut respectively, sat at the end of the bar and echoed similar approvals.
“I like the environment,” Jerry said. “The music is right up my alley. Good pub fare. They keep a couple of really good IPAs on tap. It’s easy to get to. I can’t complain. Sonia’s just the best. Her and the wait staff are just the best.”
Jay sang equal praises.
“I like their specials,” he said. “There’s always good music. Beer’s always cold. Jack Fire is always cold. Bartenders are awesome and the service is phenomenal.”
Between sips from their pints, both men went on to praise everyone at A-Brews: the owner, the staff, and those who call a bar stool home for a couple hours each week.
“It’s absolutely a very friendly bar to hang around at,” Jay said. “Some bars you can go to and it can get a little intense. You have a good mix of regulars and new faces here.”
“And it’s comfortable. More than anything, you can come in and sit down. Nobody’s gonna bust your balls,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, or how you come in or what you’re riding or what you’re driving.”
“Nobody cares here,” he said. “It’s just comfortable.”
A-Brews is located in the Bridgewood Plaza at 1794 Bridge Street in Dracut, Mass. Service is available every day from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. For more information, please visit www.abrews.com.