I love art. I love museums. And I also love great food and beer! With A-OK BBQ and Bright Ideas Brewing at MASS MoCA in the northern Berkshires, I can have all of this at the same time.
First of all, if you’ve never been to the wonderful world that is MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), you should know that it’s more than a museum in the traditional sense.
It’s a sprawling campus that has repurposed the buildings and grounds of the former Sprague Electric Company in North Adams, Massachusetts.
Because of its size, visiting MASS MoCA is always a highly participatory experience. You’re walking through huge installations, exploring miles of hallways, meadows and courtyards, and sometimes becoming part of the art itself.
This sense of interaction and community is reinforced by the other tenants that are part of the museum campus.
The main courtyard is ringed by a number of galleries, shops, and spots to eat and drink — and my two favorites are A-OK BBQ and Bright Ideas Brewing.
A-OK Berkshire BBQ is a walk-up BBQ joint inside the old Sprague Electric guardhouse. I don’t want to call A-OK freewheeling, exactly, because there’s clearly so much hard work and dedication going into every dish.
They smoke everything on premises, make all their sides from scratch, and bake their own bread.
But it’s always a fun surprise to see what meats are going to be on the menu when you show up. Pulled pork sandwiches and smoked chicken are regulars, but sometimes there’s brisket and sometimes they’re doing smoked pork ribs.
Every once in a while, you’ll get there on a burger day (I’ve never been this lucky, but a girl can dream).
The flavor of the house-made sausage changes every now and then, too; recently there’s been Cheddar jalapeño andouille, fennel and Cheddar, and honestly, I can’t remember what I had on my breakfast sandwich, but it was incredible.
Oh yeah, weekends at A-OK mean there are breakfast sandwiches on the menu, available with or without meat. Vegetarians can also always order a yamwich with roasted yams, collards, slaw, and pickles on a roll. (Reminder that all of those ingredients are made in-house, baby.)
Hours vary based on the season, so check A-OK’s website and Instagram for updates before you go.
Across the way, Bright Ideas Brewing is pouring drafts that go down all too easy. Their ever-changing roster means you’ll always get a pleasant surprise when you visit, whether you’re into hazy IPAs, crisp lagers, malty ales, roasted porters, or (hello, my love) sours.
All Bright Ideas beers are brewed on-site, so what you’re getting out of the tap is as fresh as can be. And if you want to take a little bit of Brightness home with you, they’ll can it up in a crowler on the spot.
In a moment of kismet, passionfruit was the Super Splash flavor of the moment (Super Splash being their rotating series of summer sours) when we visited, and if my favorite sour fruit flavor is on deck, I’m going to be guzzling a bunch of it. So I did.
Sadly, the limited edition status of Super Splash meant I couldn’t get it to go in crowler, so I contented myself with taking some Squeezy Thang, a low-ABV Meyer lemon sour, on the road with us to Cape Cod.
This time around, we also kept going back for seconds (and thirds) of the Painted on the Sky IPA and the Split Rock DIPA, whose name pays homage to the Don Gummer sculpture “Primary Separation,” located across the street from the brewery.
Since I first visited these two spots in 2019, MASS MoCA has transformed the courtyard from a parking lot to a colorful communal space. No doubt this change was motivated by the need for an outdoor dining area, but it’s shifted the tone of the entire space.
It feels wonderfully festive on a summer afternoon with a DJ spinning vinyl outside A-OK and kids spinning on crazy top chairs outside the ROAM gallery next to Bright Ideas—and sometimes convincing their parents to give it a go too.
Art. Beer. BBQ. The Berkshires. It’s the perfect recipe.
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