At an inconspicuous corner in a rustic old Victorian homestead with a white-fenched porch near the center of Ambler’s small center of town resides FOREST & MAIN BREWERY & PUB. Open for business since April 2012, the quaint English-styled plank-floored pub sixteen miles north of Philly relies on its cozy ambiance to set the proper relaxed atmosphere.
Specializing in small-batch British and Belgian styled beers while offering a fine rotating food menu (Roasted Guinea Hen with butternut squash and braised leeks, Croque Madame pork rillette with egg-fried green tomato jam and Parmesan Gnocchis), this Montgomery County hotspot keeps gaining respect.
The intimately candlelit green-walled bar room has four barstools and several chairs along the walls. A private right side dining space and two upstairs lounges get serviced by the backroom kitchen and rear brewtanks. A draught menu to the right of the bar lists three disparate saisons, one cask-conditioned Extra Special Bitter and one mocha-laden dark ale during my initial two-hour mid-January ’14 twilight jaunt.
As Beck’s tantilizing retro-rocker “Hot Summer Girl” emulates from the speakers, I dig into St. Mary’s Saison, an approachable ‘classic’ saison that borders on a golden ale with its crisply dry grassy-hopped citric entry. A wild yeast strain brings leathery barnyard, hay and herbal notions to the resilient lemony grapefruit-orange tartness.
Next up, dry-hopped Farmhouse-styled Saison Aloof brought a fresh floral bouquet to peppery coriander-spiced fruiting. Its lemon-pitted grapefruit-peach-nectarine tartness superceded banana bubblegum whims.
Just as good, sessionable light-bodied flagship Folk Saison draped lemon-soured brettanomyces acidity above compost-wafted lemongrass-peppercorn-wheatgrass illusions and coriander-salted leathering.
Hand-pulled Tiny Tim took British malts on an ESB trail where dewy peat and herbal-tinged grains softly recline atop the dry rye backbone.
For a robustly complex dessert treat, Gmork Imperial Stout lathered creamy molasses-smoked dark chocolate malts across oats-charred hop bittering, soured dried fruiting and oaken bourbon notions, leaving ancillary Baker’s chocolate, roasted coffee, dark cocoa, chocolate cake, hazelnut, anise and toffee illusions in its rich wake.
Perfect as a casual neighborhood cafe or nifty beer-centric destination spot, Forest & Main’s just another welcome addition to the revolutionary 21st century craft beer crusade.
On my second trip to Forest & Main, the brewery, now a seven-barrel nano system, had expanded with an ivy-lined front porch and white subway-tiled right side bar featuring community tables and a small stage. In seven years of operation, the pub’s now crafted over 300 different one-off beers.
Dry Chinook/ Huell Melon-hopped Evening King IPA plied lemony passionfruit, gooseberry and kiwi tartness to orange blossom-honeyed wheated oats with cool assurance.
Pleasantly wheated dark ale, Running Friend, a mixed culture sour saison, let sharply spiced orange-dried lemon rot infiltrate mildly vinous green grape acidity, hard cider bittering and tart plum-prune sedation.
Bright Mosaic-hopped IPA, Secret Kind, allowed lemony orange-candied tanginess to saturate sugary wheated oats, leaving minor wood shavings at the fruited tail end.
Cold-brewed coffee insistence overlaid nuttily-oated Maris Otter malts for casked dry stout, Man & Bear, a lightly creamed sedation with charcoal-stained Goldings hop astringency battling back chocolate brownie residue.
A true community watering hole, you’ll find sundry locals of every race, creed and sociopolitical affiliation at the fabulous Forest & Main.