As amazing as beer is from all parts of the US and the world, craft beer drinkers could very easily and very happily drink nothing but Massachusetts-brewed beers. We have over 75 breweries and brewpubs in the state, many of which produce top-notch brews. Read on to find out more about our amazing brews.
Massachusetts was early to the first wave of craft breweries with companies like Sam Adams, Harpoon, Berkshire, and Wachusett being founded in 1984, 1986, 1992, and 1993 respectively. Sam Adams is actually now the second-largest American-owned brewery, a position they seem to swap annually with Yeungling. No other American breweries are particularly close to the two of them.
But wait, you cry, what about Bud, Miller, and Coors? Sorry, Charlie, none are really American companies anymore. Budweiser was bought by Belgian conglomerate AB InBev, Miller is owned by England’s own SABMiller, and Coors is now Molson-Coors and is therefore part Canadian.
Since I’ve trumpeted the virtues of local breweries Buzzards Bay, Mayflower, Offshore, Cisco, Berkley, Goodfellows, Cape Cod, and Pretty Things in the past, I’ll skip over them in today’s column. They definitely shouldn’t be skipped over at the local watering hole or store, though.
The granddaddy of Mass’ brewing, Sam Adams, leads the country in the sheer variety of beers produced. They literally put out hundreds of different brews, all of which are at least worth trying and some of which are quite good. My two favorites by them are Grumpy Monk, a Belgian IPA that’s only available as part of their mixed IPA box, and the Cream Stout.
Harpoon is best known for their restrained, but groundbreaking when first released, IPA and their UFO wheat beer offerings that go down really well in the summer months. They also put out a well-crafted “Leviathan” series of strong brews and one-off 100 Barrel series beers. I was surprised how much I enjoyed their 100 Barrel Oyster Stout, which is brewed with local oysters and has a nice slightly-salty tang that blends well with the rich roasty stout flavor.
My favorite Massachusetts brewery right now has to be Clown Shoes, out of Ipswich. Best known for their high-ABV brews, as well as their suggestive beer titles and labels, Clown Shoes puts out complex brews that are well-worth checking out. I rarely pass up their Tramp Stamp Belgian IPA, both of their Russian imperial stouts – Blaecorn Unidragon and Vampire Slayer – are excellent and hide their over-10% ABV well, and their Brown Angel breathes new life into an often generic brown ale style.
A recent entry into the Mass brewing scene is the all-lager, and all-amazing, Jack’s Abby Brewing, from Framingham. They push lagers, which are typically more limited in variety than their ale cousins, in all sorts of unexpected directions. Their Jabby Brau and Hoponius Union are both incredibly well-balanced beers, while the Smoke & Dagger smoked black lager is worth writing home, or writing a column, about.
Berkshire Brewing (BBC), is another top-notch brewery. From South Deerfield, Berkshire puts out a wide variety of unpasteurized brews that must be kept cold and therefore will only be found on-tap and in liquor store coolers. Their Coffeehouse Porter is a must-try, the Lost Sailor IPA is a near-perfect English-style IPA, the River Ale is a delicious dark wheat offering, and their Cabin Fever winter warmer makes winter significantly more tolerable. Finally, if you want to taste what American light beer SHOULD HAVE been, check out their Gold Spike Ale, a delicate, delicious, golden kölsch.
We’re also home to several good brewpubs, three of which produce really excellent beers that are available in bottle too – Cambridge Brewing Company (CBC), The Tap (from Haverhill), and The People’s Pint in Greenfield. CBC, with a base in Kendall Square in Cambridge, isn’t too difficult to find around here and puts out a massive variety of top-notch brews. The other two are more of a challenge to pick up around here, but are well-worth stopping at if you’re in Haverhill or Greenfield or worth trying if you’re lucky enough to find them in bottles or on tap.
There are quite a few other excellent breweries in Mass, and I have honestly only tried about half of them. Other ones to keep an eye out for include Battle Road, Blue Hills, Bog Iron (from Norton), Lefty’s, Notch, Night Shift, and Wormtown.
Originally published on June 20, 2013