The only unfortunate issue with Brewbakers is that it is located in Keene. Entering Keene from the north a couple of years ago, we had the impression that it was a small New England bible college town; on subsequent visits from the south, it became clear that Keene is a weekend shopping resort contrived for the taste of Massholes.
Our journey to this outdoor mall had its roots in the capitals of France, United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic. I had traveled to those villes solely for the fact that they were hosts to Country Life, a loose chain of vegan restaurants run by Seventh Day Adventists; every experience with Country Life in Europe had been phenomenally pleasant, and I sought to relive those days a bit, albeit perversely and from a distance. To this end, we peeled out of Waterville, Vermont, at 11am, disregarding every ‘Speed Limit’ sign on the highway to Brattleboro, letting the pedal off the floor only long enough to careen into rest areas for a few ‘Pay what you wish’ cups of Green Mountain.
I can not describe what was consumed at Keene’s Country Life. It was unmemorable. This Country Life is a buffet-style establishment; you pay a set fee and take what you can from the bar. My fear, which was fulfilled, was that we would arrive so close to closing time that the operators would be disinclined to refill the trays of food, leaving us with the day’s dregs — all the tofu and tempeh chunks would be filched out of the dishes, and only limp, oily slices of red pepper and onions would remain. We were given only one hour to hurriedly shove, without pleasure, massive amounts of pastes, souffles, and patties into our mouths, frantic to consume everything in sight, lest rival customers scoop the last mounds of food onto their plates, leaving us with only scraps. We attacked the buffet with no holds barred, for the final insult was the disappearance of the previously sighted dessert bar; with no cakes for which to save room, our bellies were stuffed with breads and salads we might otherwise avoid.
Disrelishing the idea of sitting in the car for untold hours with overfull stomachs, we decided to round the corner onto Main Street and investigate Prime Roast. The facade made it clear that Prime Roast was an overbearing cafe which seeks to orchestrate your experience in the manner of Slowdown Cafe; determining that we would not take a coffee at the establishment, we stepped inside to at least verify whether they actually roast coffee as their sign suggests, which they do. After taking stock of the wide variety of beans offered and flipping through their assortment of photo albums, we departed without beverages. Fortunately for our digestion, after a short stroll down Main Street from Prime Roast, we noticed a sign promising ‘organic coffee’ which we giddily followed to Brewbakers.
I have drunk a lot of terrible coffee. I have had not unexpectedly terrible coffee, like they serve in Flying-J or Sheetz, and I have had a fair share of terrible ‘good’ coffee, like they serve in Mani’s or Green Line Cafe. Most of the time, though, I just drink cup upon cup of regular coffee without enjoying it, abiding by a philosophy that this is just how coffee is; is an unpleasant beverage to which we have grown accustomed. When I say ‘we’, I refer to those of us who drink coffee, and when I say ‘coffee’, I refer to the product of brewing hot water with ground coffee beans, not to sugary, syrupy milkshakes known as ‘lattes’. As such, I have not been the custom of consuming coffee that I have truly enjoyed.
Terra Nova’s Red House blend, then, is a personal watershed. Before Brewbaker’s I assumed in my ignorance that coffee had to be bad; after Red House I lamented that every cup before me was not Red House. Served in a mug which – as is proper — had been warmed before filled. Exhorting my non-coffee drinking companion to taste the brew, but not to taste too much, I scoured the Terra Nova display for bags of beans to pack for use at home but found no purchase.
The reinstatement of Country Life’s vegan dessert bar notwithstanding, I have no plans to revisit the nu-towne of Keene, but the proximity of the town to the more agreeable luxury destination of Brattleboro coupled with the urge to redeem a second chance at inquiring about the Brewbakers’ ‘Cafe Genera’ add to a strong case for a return.
The inexplicably sweltering restroom can not be worked easily into a tableau.
Brewbakers97 Main Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03431
soymilk: no extra charge
fair trade: available