Berkshires After Dark Restaurant Review, as published in the Berkshire Eagle, November 17, 2011

My Rating: 3 “Mugs”

Array of draft beer taps at the Purple Pub in Williamstown.

Array of draft beer taps at the Purple Pub in Williamstown.

As a 2010 graduate of Williams College, I was one of the unfortunate souls who never had the chance to experience the original Purple Pub as a student.

The sometimes-infamous, hole-in-the-wall establishment on Bank Street burned down a few months before I reached drinking age, and the shiny, new pub opened on Spring Street just a few months after I graduated. So my legal bar-hopping days as a student were limited to one skip down to the Red Herring. It was not the worst of fates, but disappointing  nonetheless.

Flash forward a few years. In the short time that it’s been open, the new Purple Pub has become such an integral part of the Williams experience (whether you’re a student or not) that you can’t even say the word “Homecoming” without stopping there first.

So naturally I headed there this past Friday to meet with some old friends, catch up, and have a few drinks the night before the big Williams-Amherst game.

What I did not expect was the absolute pandemonium that took me prisoner as soon as I set foot on the premises. Students, alums, and local patrons packed in to the Pub from every direction. The space is usually roomy enough that you don’t have to rub elbows with strangers while waiting for a drink, but on this night, the crush toward the bar was so dense that it was hardly possible to grab a seat or even put down your coat.

With only two bartenders slinging drinks, the pub was clearly unprepared for the Homecoming weekend crowd (Didn’t they learn anything last year?).

After waiting about twenty minutes to be served, I realized that mingling simply wasn’t an option in this sardine can, so I set about exploring my surroundings from my little spot near the front of the bar.

The pub will periodically host live performers, bands, or DJs. On this night Berkshire musician Tor Krautter strummed away in the back left corner. While I always appreciate live (and local!) music, it seemed rather silly to have scheduled Krautter for such a night. The large, loud crowd made it nearly impossible to really hear him, let alone even see him.

To his credit, I did overhear one friend exclaim upon catching a glimpse of Krautter: “Whoa, there’s someone playing live over there? I thought it was the stereo the whole time. He must be really good!”

Despite all this, the Purple Pub, named after Williams’ colors, does offer a fantastic selection of beers on tap, both local and international, and everyone did seem to be enjoying themselves (except when waiting in the mosh pit that was the line to the bar).

Plus the new and conveniently placed pizza joint right next door provided the perfect greasy ending to a hectic night.

Things seemed to be running much more smoothly on Saturday afternoon. Walking over from the game during the fourth quarter, I was greeted with a burst of warmth and the delicious smell of traditional pub food wafting from the kitchen.

Students, alums, and their families gathered around the large wooden tables and high-tops to munch on burgers, sip a beer, and watch the game live on the several huge flat-screen televisions hung all along the back wall. Now that’s my kind of Homecoming!

The staff seemed more at ease, and the entire atmosphere was much more inviting than the previous night.

So what lessons did I learn this weekend? Most importantly that the Purple Pub is just that: a pub first, and a college bar second. If you happen to be there on the one or two nights a year that crowds of alums flock to campus, simply be forewarned of what you’re getting yourself into.

However, if you’re not keen on standing in the mud watching a game you don’t particularly understand (and your team is losing), then the Pub is definitely your best bet, hands down.

If you go…
The Purple Pub: 65 Spring St., Williamstown, 01267; Tel. (413) 458-0095www.purplepub.com
Hours: Daily 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Price range: $8 to $18
Style: Brick-wall pub; folding doors open to courtyard in warm weather.
Dress: Casual
Cover: None
Food: American pub grub
Entertainment: Live music, karaoke, dance floor, several large flat-screens for sports viewing. Available for private parties.
Our rating: 1 mug, Run away; 2 mugs, Yawn; 3 mugs, Cheers; 4 mugs, “I’ll be back;” 5 mugs. “Round’s on me!”
Your rating: You can rate The Purple Pub at www.berkshireeagle.com/The413