Gardner Ale House Pivots to Follow the Changing Times

When you head back to the Gardner Ale House for the first time after the pandemic, it won’t look quite the same.

Besides a new name to highlight its focus as a brewery – Moon Hill Brewing Company at the Gardner Ale House – the menu has been nearly cut in half.

The public health crisis took its toll on restaurants throughout the nation and the Ale House, the only full-menu brewpub in North Central Massachusetts, was no different, said Rick Walton, president of Moon Hill Brewing Co.

But Walton said he took the opportunity to revamp the menu, known for its fresh, bistro-style food, to focus on what they do best.

“I’m not a cliché person but if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger really fits here,’’ he said. “We feel like we’re ready to be better than ever.’’

Once known as having something for everyone, Walton said the menu been pared down to be more efficient and to improve quality.

“Our menu was too huge because somebody would say, ‘Can you put this on the menu’ and we’d sell three of them,’’ he said. “I had to stop doing that.’’

After losing money for a year, the Ale House finally started to make a profit in April 2021, Walton said.

The Ale House and brewery opened in 2006 but this isn’t the first time Walton’s mixed things up. In order to be successful, he said you have to change with the times.

Over the years, the Ale House has gone from a dinner-only menu to adding lunch, then brunch, live music and then host of the popular Oktoberfest Party in the Street that attracted 6,000 people to downtown Gardner.

Before the pandemic hit, the Ale House was known as one of the area’s best live music venues. After after the pandemic hit, it went to take-out only.

But now the Ale House has re-opened and Walton is ready for the next phase.

While the menu may be smaller, the focus on fresh, quality products is still there, he said.

“We are a fresh-only house,’’ Walton said. “We don’t use prepared food almost at all. All of it is done in-house.’’

Beyond that, the Ale House is known for its brick oven pizza, generous portions of nachos, burgers, hand-cut fries, fish and chips and steak tips.

The new menu features a section called, “Taco Truck,’’ with three different tacos, all made in house and fresh.

And its beer offerings continue to expand as it makes its way to more local retailers. During the pandemic, the brewery purchased a canning machine, which allowed it to offer beer for takeout and to sell at local liquor stores.

“Now, all of our beer can be found in cans locally and primarily right here,’’ Walton said.

As a part of revamping the look and feel of the restaurant, including a remodeled outdoor deck, they are also changing the name to better reflect all it offers. Moon Hill Brewing Company has always been its corporate name but now it will take center stage.

“I’m feeling very optimistic and beyond hopeful,’’ Walton said.

The Moon Hill Brewing Co. at the Gardner Ale House is located at 74 Parker St. in Gardner.

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