New England Beer Hall of Fame Part 1: My Picks

Twitter (and other forms of social media) has an amazing ability to be both a cesspool that amplifies the voice the worst parts of humanity and an awesome source of community that connects people who have similar interests. My frequent readers know that I have written a number of articles based on conversations with fellow beer geeks on Twitter that needed further exploration. The idea for this article started from this tweet by the irreverent and eclectic beer muse Will Gordon (@WillGordonAgain):

I loved the idea of a Hall of Fame for the classic beers that helped build the vibrant New England scene. I made a quick pick of my top 10 beers for the New England Beer Hall of Fame in a Twitter reply, but felt the idea was worth further exploration (and I got the OK from Will, because I only steal awesome ideas with permission). My hope is to do this article in two parts. First, I will cover my choices of the top 10 beers deserving induction to the New England Craft Beer Hall of Fame, and then I will allow my readers and fellow beer geeks to submit ballots in a Cooperstown-style vote that I can tabulate as part of a follow up article (see below for details). First off, some ground rules (please read if you are planning on participating):

  1. The beer must be brewed by a New England-based brewery. I know that Sam Adams and Shipyard make some of their beer in other parts of the country but they are based in the region so their beers count.
  2. The most important factor is the impact the beer had on the craft beer community in the region. While many of these beers still hold up today, I care more about the influence they had on a generation of beer geeks and aspiring brewers than how they would do in a blind tasting against current versions of their respective styles.
  3. The beer must be a classic, I am thinking ~10 years old as a minimum (first brewed in 2008 or earlier). Mike Trout is the best player in the MLB and a clear cut Hall of Famer, but he won’t be elected this year because he is still early in his career (and there are a bunch of rules against it). Beers like Tree House Julius and Trillium Fort Point are Mike Trout, future Hall of Famers that get plenty of accolades but don’t make this list yet.

With those factors in mind, here are the 10 beers I am picking for the inaugural class of the New England Craft Beer Hall of Fame!

Sam Adams Boston LagerSam Adams Boston Lager: Probably the most obvious choice to lead the list. It’s impossible to describe the history of modern craft beer without mentioning the flagship for one of the most important breweries in the country. Boston Lager still holds up too, a balanced and easy drinking but full flavored Vienna lager. Sam Summer, Winter and Oktoberfest also deserve honorable mentions, I’m sure they were the first seasonal beers for many local beer drinkers.

Allagash WhiteAllagash White: Allagash makes some of the most creative beers in the country, especially their barrel aged and Coolship line-ups, but they founded and expanded the brewery on the strength of White. This beer served as an introduction to Belgian style beer for many, and is still one of the best witbiers on the market.

Harpoon IPAHarpoon IPA: If you ask any New England resident over the age of 30 what their first IPA was it is a good bet many will mention Harpoon. When I first moved to Boston you could simply ask for an IPA at most bars and they would hand you a Harpoon, it was rare to find any other version of the style on tap (crazy how things change, can you imagine doing that now?). While the juicy NEIPA style is all the rage now the bright hop flavor and solid malt backbone of this classic still stands the test of time.

Narragansett LagerNarragansett Lager: Every region seems to have it’s own local adjunct lager brand, the one that held onto a small piece of the market when big beer ran most local breweries out of business. Narragansett was essentially one of those casualties until the brand was purchased and revitalized, brewing a wide range of styles in support of their flagship lager. If you want a light and easy drinking beer with more character than the macros, grab a ‘Gansett neighbor.

Smuttynose Old Brown DogSmuttynose Old Brown Dog: Smuttynose is a New Hampshire staple, I was really glad that the brewery was purchased by a new ownership group that is moving the brand forward. Old Brown Dog is one of their original beers, and while brown ales aren’t the most popular style in modern craft beer circles this is still one of the best. Bonus points for the fact that this is the beer in Will’s tweet above, which was the catalyst for this article.

Gearys Pale AleGeary’s Pale Ale: There is no beer label in Maine more iconic than the lobster on Geary’s Pale Ale. Maine’s first craft brewery has long been a staple for locals and tourists alike. I was tempted to pick HSA or London Porter, both incredible beers, but for impact factor it’s impossible to beat the flagship Pale Ale.

Long Trail AleLong Trail Ale: While many long running breweries have abandoned some of their classic recipes under incresed pressure to keep up with the tastes of modern drinkers, Long Trail has added popular new beers to their portfolio while sticking by some of the classics they built the brewery on. This full flavored altbier has a great mixture of full malt flavor, hop bite and easy drinkability.

Alchemist Heady TopperThe Alchemist Heady Topper: The beer that is widely credited with starting the New England IPA style. Heady Topper doesn’t have that “juicy” flavor that many newer NEIPAs feature, but it does have bright and bold hop character, low bitterness and a smooth finish. An absolutely revolutionary beer that lives up to the hype.

Pretty Things Jack D'OrPretty Things Jack D’Or: Some baseball Hall of Fame voters stick entirely to the stats, while others can be swayed by personal impact. For example, advanced stats put David Ortiz a little short of the cutoff for the baseball hall, but any Boston writer will have to cast a ballot for Big Papi in honor of the amazing impact he’s had on the city. Jack D’Or was an incredibly important part of the Boston beer scene exploding over the last decade, and also a very important beer for my development from someone who likes beer into a full fledged beer geek. Damn, I really miss this Pretty Things.

Grittys Black Fly StoutGritty McDuff’s Black Fly Stout: Gritty McDuff’s is another member of the Old Guard of Maine breweries, brewing traditional English styles. Their pubs are always a good stop, quality food from fresh ingredients plus a variety of classic beers. Black Fly is one of the best, a low ABV and well balanced American stout, especially good if they have it available on cask.

Toughest Omissions: Mayflower Porter, Shipyard Export, Wachusett Blueberry Ale, Ipswich Ale, BBC Steel Rail, Cambridge Brewing Tripel Threat, Switchback Ale.

Now, here is the part where I need your help. I am only one opinion, and I would like to do a follow up article where a significant number of local beer enthusiasts have a say in selecting the Hall of Fame. To participate simply pick your top 10 (or fewer is you are a small-hall type) and send it to ryan.brawn80@gmail.com or through a DM on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. If there is a beer you feel strongly about that wasn’t on my list you can include a quick blurb about why it should be included (please provide your name and twitter handle so I can credit you). Please follow the rules outlined above, I will reserve the right to throw out any ballots that don’t follow the rules. I’ll tabulate the votes and try to put the article together in the next week or two. Let me know if you have any questions and thanks in advance for your help. Cheers!

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