As a Boston-based beer blogger probably the most common question I get asked is “I’m coming to Boston for a weekend, what beers do I NEED to try while I’m in town?” It is a tough question, so much of the response depends on the drinkers preferences, what time of year it is, and what beers are available at the bars/restaurants/breweries that they visit on their trip. Despite that, I thought it would be a fun exercise to make in-no-way definitive list of the beers that anyone visiting Boston from out-of-town should seek out. First, a few ground rules I used to make this list (although I am sure some people will ignore this preamble, browse the list and write angry comments like “Why didn’t you include Beer X? You know nothing Hoppy Boston!” What can you do).
- Only breweries based in Massachusetts are eligible. There are tons of amazing beers from other states that are sold in Boston and not in other parts of the country, and I would understand wanting to try them while you are in town. I needed to limit myself before the list became unwieldy. I’ll leave it up to some of the talented Maine-based beer writers to make a list of Maine beers to try when you visit Portland.
- I avoided beers that are distributed nationally. Sam Adams Boston Lager and Harpoon IPA are classics, but you can get them all over the country. I wanted to focus on local beers with a somewhat limited distribution.
- I only included beers that you would be likely to find on draft in metro Boston. You should absolutely try Treehouse Julius and Bog Iron Middle Child if you get the chance, but both breweries have limited distribution right now and you probably won’t find these beers without driving to the suburbs. I could make a whole other list of breweries worth driving to, but that would be a separate article. I guarantee someone will not read this and “call me out” for neglecting Treehouse.
- I limited myself to one selection from each brewery (kind of). I try to explain the reasons I picked the particular beer, whether it’s the best version of a particular style or incredibly unique.
- There are a number of really new breweries in metro Boston who are making some great beer (Aeronaut, Down The Road, Medusa, Lord Hobo, etc), but I tried to stick to more established brands for now.
Enjoy the list and let me know what you think (links are to full reviews where applicable). Any obvious oversights?
Cambridge Brewing Company You Enjoy My Stout: Too many barrel aged imperial stouts are overdone, just booze on top of booze, but this one has delicious and complex malt flavors that aren’t overwhelmed by the bourbon. If you’re in town definitely stop in Cambridge at the brewery and try their specials!
Idle Hands Triplication: A flavorful, somewhat hoppy and dangerously drinkable take on the Belgian tripel. Idle Hands is brewing on limited capacity as they transition into a new space, this reminds me that I need to stock up on some Triplication.
Jack’s Abby Smoke and Dagger: It was really hard for me to leave Hoponius Union and Mass Rising off this list, especially when I still see some beer drinkers claiming that they “don’t like lager beers”. If I’m picking from a bottle selection I might choose one of the IPLs, but most bars stock Smoke and Dagger on nitro, which jumps it ahead for me. Rich malt flavor and subtle smokiness that is perfect with the creamy body from a nitrogen tap. Yum.
Mayflower Porter: I love porter, and this might be my favorite version of the style. No gimmicks, no crazy ingredients, just a well crafted and supremely balanced dark beer.
Any Mystic Saison: A total cop out. My favorite Mystic beer is Mary of the Gael, their spring seasonal, but all of the seasonal saisons, along with their flagship Saison, Saison Renaud, and Table Beer are very good. Another must-try is the Vinland series, where they isolate and culture yeast from local fruit and use it to ferment their beer.
Night Shift Sour Weisse Series: Nearly perfect as an introduction to sour styles, but also great if you are well seasoned with tart beers. Ever Weisse, Somer Weisse, Cape Codder Weisse, and Mainer Weisse are each Berliner weisse beers brewed with different fruits that complement the acidity of the base beer.
Notch Session Pils: The beer that changed my mind on what pilsner could be. Light and easy to drink but still packs a ton of flavor. One of my go-to day drinking beers.
Pretty Things Jack D’Or: The beer that made me a fan of the saison style. More hoppy than traditional saisons, but not a hop-bomb like some new American takes on the style. Diverse malts and expressive yeast but everything is in balance. Bonus points for how ubiquitous this beer is in area bars.
Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale: I’m stretching my “readily available” guideline a bit here, but the brewery is located right in the city and there are a few bars that have Trillium on draft on a regular basis. Some people would pick their IPAs or coffee-infused stouts, but my favorite Trillium beer is still this hop-centric APA.
Wormtown Be Hoppy: One of the best local IPAs, tons of hop flavor without being overdone. This beer still sells incredibly quickly, but the recent expansion of capacity at the brewery should make it more widely available.
I am sure there are other beers I missed, but I feel like this is a pretty good starting point for someone on a quick trip into Boston. Let me know what you think!