Sixteen Massachusetts Breweries That Need To Be On Your Radar
My previous four profiles that I have written included some of the most popular breweries in Massachusetts; Trillium, Jack’s Abby/Springdale, Night Shift and Tree House. When you ask a beer geek from outside the Northeast about Massachusetts beer, they will probably bring up these four breweries along with Sam Adams and Harpoon, the two massive stalwarts of the local beer industry. I thought it would be fun to wrap up the series by highlighting other Massachusetts breweries that every beer fan should know. These places might not have the same level of buzz in beer trading circles or message boards, but they all make excellent beer. I tried to have a mix of newer upstarts that are gaining some buzz along with some older favorites that have stayed fresh and relevant through the ups and downs of the constantly evolving craft beer culture. This article was very fun to write because I love bringing more attention to underappreciated local breweries, but it was also challenging to pick which places to feature – I could have easily doubled the number! If you are traveling to the area or local, here are 16 other Massachusetts breweries that you should definitely check out.
Aeronaut Brewing Company: This Somerville taproom quickly established itself as one of the coolest places to hang out in the city, and they host a variety of interesting events ranging from art exhibits to bocce to talks by local scientists and academics. They also make some awesome beers. Beers you need to try: Double Hop Hop DIPA is a bold and delicious hop bomb while their crisp and refreshing pilsner Robot Crush is one of my favorite local takes on the style.
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Hello Coldwater Crisp, you hazy, golden, peach cobbler-inspired delight. With an aroma of honeyed granola + sweet malt, notes of stone fruit + vanilla, creamy richness, and a sessionable 4.3% ABV, you’re destined for many a pour. ***Friday 4/5: 16 oz. Can and Draft Release***
Barrel House Z: The relatively new venture from Russ Heissner, the first head brewer of Harpoon, specializes in small-batch barrel aged beers brewed in collaboration with other innovative brewers. I think there is a ton of room for style-barrel combinations that have been under-explored in craft beer, and Barrel House Z is leading the charge to change this. Beers you need to try: Sunny and 79˚ is a pilsner brewed with juniper berries and citrus to invoke the flavors of classic gin cocktails, they also make a version aged in tequila barrels. Zelato is a chocolate, vanilla and coffee stout aged in whiskey barrels intended to mimic the flavor profile of tiramisu.
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Have you had a chance to visit our Tap Room yet? We’re currently open Thursdays & Fridays from 3-9pm & Saturdays and Sunday’s from 12-7pm, with a free tour every Saturday at 1pm! Stop by and try our new Easy Like New England Style IPA or our Fiery Green Gown Double IPA brewed with Carolina Reapers! IPA’s not your thing? We’re also pouring our @deansbeanscoffee Nitro Coffeehouse Porter, Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale, Long Daze Hefeweizen, Gold Spike Kölsch, The Russian Imperial Stout, Farmstand Raspberry Barleywine, Cabin Fever Winter Ale, Drayman’s Porter, as well as our Inhopnito American IPA and Green Gown Double IPA! . . . #JustGoodBeer #berkshirebrewingcompany #EasyLikeNEIPA #InhopnitoWasHere #RaiseYourGown #hotpepperbeer #carolinareapers #steelrail #cabinfeverale #raspberrybeer #barleywinestyleale #russianimperialstout #classicbeer #traditionalale #germankölsch #nitrocoffeebeer #coffeebeer #deansbeans #localtaproom #checkusout #westernmassbeer #drinkMAbeer #drinklocaldrinkfresh
Berkshire Brewing Company: A veteran of the Massachusetts brewing scene, Berkshire Brewing has done a great job balancing old favorite beers with exciting new offerings. I am part of a group of local beer writers that does style-specific blind tastings of Massachusetts beers, and BBC has taken top honors at two of these tastings. Beers you need to try: I’ll go with the two blind tasting winners; Dean’s Beans Coffeehouse Porter is the perfect blend of rich dark malt and robust coffee flavor while Life on Marzen has the big malt flavors and easy drinkability that defines the Oktoberfest style without going overly sweet.
Bog Iron Brewing: A quintessential neighborhood brewery, this Norton establishment has become a popular hangout for locals and people stopping in from out of town. The staff is always super friendly, and they intentionally have no TVs or Wi-Fi to encourage conversation. They make a wide variety of delicious beers from crisp lagers to hoppy IPAs to creative barrel aged beers. Beers you need to try: One Down is one of my favorite local porters, the addition of cherrywood smoked malt adds a subtle smokiness that works well with the rich dark malts. Middle Child is a cross-over DIPA that has the citrus and tropical fruit notes of a NEIPA with some of the backbone and bitterness of a west coast style IPA.
Brewmaster Jack: A contract brewer out of Western Massachusetts that has been pumping out a wide variety of flavorful ales for almost eight years. While the taproom model continues to dominate craft beer culture it is great to see that there is still room for a successful brand that relies on distribution. Beers you need to try: Tennessee Prinse is a boozy and complex quadruple aged in Tennessee Whiskey barrels that makes you wonder why more breweries don’t make barrel-aged quads. Total Eclipse is a rye porter with lactose that expertly balances sweet, roasted and spicy notes.
Cambridge Brewing Company: Cambridge Brewing Company has been crafting creative beers in the Kendall Square neighborhood of Cambridge for 30 years, watching the area develop into the hub of the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Brewmaster Will Meyers is widely renowned for his unique takes on classic styles, and CBC was well ahead of the hype train making world class sour and barrel aged beers. Beers you need to try: You Enjoy My Stout is as good a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout as you’ll find anywhere, I would put it up against any of the top hype stouts. Cerise Cassée is a solera style sour ale, where the barrels used for aging aren’t completely emptied each year, and instead get topped off with the new batch, resulting in a beer that is a blend of all previous batches.
Exhibit A Brewing: Exhibit A knew they had big shoes to fill when they decided to set up shop in the old Jack’s Abby Brewery (Jack’s Abby opened a larger brewery nearby). They have not disappointed, brewing a wide variety of styles from hop-bomb IPAs to malty stouts and porters to a crisp and refreshing Kolsch. Beers you need to try: Their two flagship beers remain two of my favorites, The Cat’s Meow is a top-notch NEIPA bursting with hop flavor and Goody Two Shoes is an easy drinking and very flavorful version of the Kolsch style.
Idle Hands Craft Ales: Idle Hands has been through several style iterations, first brewing modernized versions of classic Belgian styles, then traditional German lagers and finally adding modern American ales to round out an impressive portfolio. Their new taproom in Malden is a great place to visit and usually has a great variety of beers available. Beers you need to try: One of their first beers was Triplication, a bold and boozy Belgian style tripel that is an exemplary take on the classic style. More recently they debuted Six Seam, a DIPA that is only brewed a couple of times a year and is as good as any hop-bomb brewed in the state.
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Our second Saturday release is Space Monster! This West Coast IPA is hopped with 100% Chinook, a varietal known for its piney aromas and juicy flavor. With notes of peach rings, pineapple juice, and woodsy cedar, this beer balances caramel malts with prominent bitterness and a whole bunch of herbal and fruity hoppy punch. We’re super excited to have this one back this Saturday (cans and drafts), starting at 11am! P.S. the lovely label was sourced through a local art contest, with the winning design by L. Pajer and B. Reddy.
Lamplighter Brewing: A newer addition to the metro-Boston brewing scene, Lamplighter has quickly established themselves as a powerhouse, brewing a wide range of delicious ales and lagers. Even with a recent expansion their taproom gets packed during peak hours, fortunately I work down the street and can easily slip out at lunch to grab their newest releases! Beers you need to try: Major Tom is an amazing showcase of Galaxy hops, one of the quintessential varieties used in NEIPAs. Atari’s Lantern is a Belgian quad aged in port barrels, an amazing and under-utilized combination.
Mayflower Brewing: While many veteran breweries stubbornly stick to their classic beers, Mayflower has completely reinvented their line-up over the past few years, introducing an array of delicious new beers that complement a few standout old favorites. Beers you need to try: Mayflower Porter is my all-time favorite version of the style and a staple in my beer fridge during the chilly months. Their new American pale ale Boomerang is crisp and easy drinking with big hop flavor and aroma.
Medusa Brewing: Medusa is everything you want in a neighborhood brewery; they are even credited as a major contributor to the revitalization of downtown Hudson. In a craft beer culture that overly praises a few popular styles I love that they make a huge variety of ales and lagers including underappreciated beers like dubbel, mild and Scottish ales. Beers you need to try: Citra Legacy is the rare rye IPA that manages to showcase both the hop flavors and the spiciness of the grain, while Activate is a coffee porter that expertly melds the flavors of roasted malt and coffee.
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Bonus Life is a beer that goes back to our early stages of experimenting with NE IPA. Using the same interesting blend of hops we took this beer, and with some small adjustments bring to you a version of Bonus Life that has layers and layers of juicy flavor while still holding on to it’s slightly resinous roots. Hopped with Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, Ekuanot and Summer this double IPA has strong notes of papaya, peach skin, pithy citrus and lime; coming in at 7.6% abv for extended play. Available tomorrow. $20 per 4 pack.
Mystic Brewing: Mystic launched with a line-up focused on creative takes on traditional Belgian styles, with a focus on flavorful saisons. Some of their most interesting beers were the Vinland Series, brewed with yeast strains cultured from local fruit (note to Mystic: bring back the Vinland beers!). Recently Mystic has expanded their lineup to include popular American styles including an array of IPAs that will please any hop-head. Beers you need to try: It is difficult to pick my favorite Mystic saison, but their dry-hopped spring saison Mary of The Gael is an excellent choice. Day of Doom is a rich and boozy Belgian style quadruple that could hold it’s own with the top-rated abbey beers from Belgium.
Notch Brewing: In 2010, when Notch founder Chris Lohring decided to launch a brewery devoted to low-alcohol session beers and headline his lineup with a pilsner, many people thought he was crazy. Instead, he proved that there was a market for full flavored, easy drinking beers in a variety of traditional and innovative styles. Beers you need to try: Session Pils made me a fan of the pilsner style and is still one of my favorite pale lagers. Infinite Jest is a hoppy session wheat ale that is incredibly smooth but has enough hop flavor to please a hard-core IPA fan.
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🚨Release Alert 🚨 Don’t Worry IPA is now available in the taproom!!! Come down for a pint and take home all the 4 packs of our Right Coast IPA!!! . . . #dontworrybehappy #dontworrybehoppy #dontworry #behoppy #beerrelease #taproom #worcester #drinklocal #wormtownnation #wormtownbrewery #wormtown #ipa
Wormtown Brewing: Wormtown Brewery’s founders were originally going to name their brewery Worcester Brewing after the business’s hometown, but instead decided on Wormtown, a nickname for the city that originated with their vibrant punk rock scene in the ‘70s. Since 2010 Wormtown has been churning out beers that fit this punk rock ethos, from bold IPAs to crisp and clean lagers. Beers you need to try: Their quintessential flagship IPA Be Hoppy is loaded with hops and toes the line between west coast and NEIPA styles. Norm is a delicious coconut oatmeal stout named after legendary local beer writer Norm Miller.
Winter Hill Brewing: In addition to being a must-follow Twitter account, Winter Hill Brewing Company is brewing some delicious beers in a neighborhood of Somerville whose previous claim to fame was being the headquarters of Whitey Bulger’s gang. Winter Hill makes a variety of small-batch ales on draft at the brewpub, and in cans over a small distribution footprint. Beers you need to try: Mosaica is a juicy NEIPA featuring Mosaic hops while Suburban Home is a crisp and hop forward pale ale perfect for a warm day.
Vanished Valley Brewing: Over the last few years many breweries have launched that almost exclusively brew New England style IPAs. Vanished Valley is one of the strongest recent additions in this vein, their beers are well crafted with big hop flavors, and they taste like unique beers not just slight tweaks on a single beer. Beers you need to try: Watershed is a juicy and delicious flagship IPA while Iso 7 is a showcase of Ella hops, it started as an entry on their rotating IPA series but became a regular release.
Those are my 16 picks for other Massachusetts breweries you need to check out. With that I will throw it to my readers; what is your favorite under-rated Massachusetts brewery? For those who live in other parts of the country, what is the brewery you would most like to visit in the state?