Late December is always a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead. It has been a crazy year for local beer, and 2018 looks set up to be another one. Fortunately we have the Mass Brew Brothers around to keep track of the rapidly changing landscape of local beer. Here is their summary of the year in Massachusetts beer, and a complete list of every brewery that opened in the state this year. They also have some regional articles focused on the beer scenes in Metro Boston and Northeast MA. We had 39 breweries open and only two close in Massachusetts this year, it’s hard to imagine that numbers like that will be sustainable. I think a huge number of breweries will open in 2018 too (Boston Business Journal says the number could be as high as 50), but a large number will probably start to close, including a few that will catch people completely off guard. I’m not hoping for this, I would never wish for a business to fail, but I can’t imagine that this rate of growth is sustainable.
The Brewers Association also has a year in review piece with a more national perspective.
One of my favorite articles of the month is Bryan Roth’s treatise on New England Style IPAs. One of the best parts of the article is the way Bryan pokes holes in the arguments many cynical brewers and beer writers make when they are trying to convince anyone that will listen that NEIPA is just a flash in the pan fad.
Vine Pair interviewed a number of people in the beer industry to get their predictions on beer trends in 2018. One that I really hope comes true is that people realize their time is important and there is no reason to wait in line for whalez when so many amazing beers are readily available.
The most creative article of the month has to go to Dave Patterson, who reviews the year in Maine beer in the form of a poem.
One of the biggest local stories this month was the news that legendary Allston beer bar Sunset Grill and Tap is closed for good. Norm “The Beer Nut” Miller has a well written post mortem. It is hard to overstate how important this bar was to many local beer geeks, for a long time there were so few places in Boston with extensive beer programs, and Sunset led to the discovery of many different beers. The place definitely had issues, it was loud, usually full of college kids trying to drink DIPAs like they were Natty Light, there were issues with the draft lines, and it is really hard to have consistently fresh beer when they stocked so many options. As more local beer-centric bars opened these issues became much more evident. I’ll still remember Sunset fondly as a place that introduced me to many beers that were important parts of my journey into beer geekdom.
As the year ends you always get a bunch of “best of the year” lists. I don’t do one because I summarize the best beers I reviewed every 3 months, you can find these lists HERE. If you are interested in the opinions of others I’ve gathered a few best beer lists, including articles from Hop Culture and Draft Magazine and the best breweries list from Paste (based on results of their blind tastings this year).
Eater Boston also hands out some end of the year awards, including best taproom to a rising star of the metro Boston beer scene.
I participated in another blind tasting this month, evaluating 10 local porters with a panel of local beer enthusiasts. There are a ton of great local porters, from classics like Berkshire Coffee House to innovative beers like Bog Iron One Down. The two beers I wish had been included in the tasting were Night Shift Awake and Mayflower Porter, two of my favorites and I would like to see how they stacked up in a blind panel.
Springdale Brewing is going to start distribution in 2018. This is nice to see, I think their IPAs and sours can go toe-to-toe with anything being brewed in the state, and their beers are about to be much more readily available.
Trillium has opened their winter beer garden in Roslindale, and here is a first look from Boston Magazine. These beer gardens are really a brilliant idea, and appear to be a huge success.
Worcester Business Journal has a summary on how Tree House created a cult-like following. Tree House makes some amazing beer, but the craziness that surrounds it also turns many people off.
Good Beer Hunting has an interview with Dan Kleban of Maine Beer Company. The interview touches a number of topics, from independence to sustainability to their charity work and the direction of the industry. It would have been nice to see a question about their packaging, I would love to see them move away from the 500 mL bottles.
Boston Voyager has a profile of Zelus beer, a local brewery marketing their product towards active beer drinkers. SommBeer also has an article on the “science” behind Zelus. There is a lot of talk about brewing salts here but not much of an explanation as to why they are important for an “active lifestyle” beer.
Wachusett has opened their new taproom in Westminster. I need to check this out soon. My wife and I got married in nearby Gardner and had a number of Wachusett beers on tap at our wedding, so I will always have a special connection to that brewery.
Sam Adams is considering another taproom in Downtown Boston. I think this is a brilliant idea, at the very least it would immediately become a hot stop for tourists.
The new Slumbrew American Fresh Brewpub is open in Assembly Row. I’ve heard very good things about the space, the food and the beer.
Altruist Brewing is open is Sturbridge, with a tasting room pouring a variety of ales.
I am excited for Amory’s Tomb to open in Maynard, another brewery that will be very close to where I live.
Bissell Brothers is opening a second location, and it’s going to be way up north.
Thrillist ranks every state in the US based on their beer. My god, this article is a brilliantly devious piece of click-bait, and I not only clicked on it I linked to it. What can you do.
That is it for December and for 2017, thank you all for reading and your continued support of Hoppy Boston. I am having a blast writing the blog and communicating with other local beer fans, and I hope you’re all still enjoying the content. Look for some new stuff going forward in 2018!