The Best 5 Local Breweries
New England’s beer culture is as rich and robust as a dark, toasty stout. Our region boasts more than 100 breweries, so picking its five best beermakers poses a rather enjoyable challenge. Kerry J. Byrne, a food and beverage writer for the Boston Herald (and creator of coldhardfootballfacts.com, a site devoted to beer, food, and football), did the hard work of sampling.
1. Atlantic Brewing Company
A combination beer garden, smokehouse, and brewery tucked behind an unassuming white farmhouse on a leafy country road at the edge of stunning Acadia National Park. The beers are straight out of the old New England tradition: that is, British beer styles that often take advantage of American-grown malts, hops, and other native ingredients. Best brews: “Special Old Bitter Ale,” “Coal Porter,” and “Blueberry Ale,” made with wild Maine fruit. Bar Harbor, ME; atlanticbrewing.com
2. Gritty McDuff’s
No trip to Maine is complete without a stop at one of these cozy and inviting brewery taverns. Best brews: “Best Bitter” and “Black Fly Stout,” preferably served at one of the pubs via traditional hand-pull. Auburn, Freeport, and Portland, ME; grittys.com
3. Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project
Longtime New England brewer and Connecticut native Dann Paquette specializes in what he calls “American artisanal” styles: beers brewed in the rustic Belgian tradition, but with American malts and hops and our nation’s gift for style-bending creativity. Best brew: “Jack D’Or,” a domestic version of the saison-style farmhouse ales of Wallonia. Cambridge and Westport, MA; prettythingsbeertoday.com
4. Boston Beer Company
Although its Samuel Adams Boston Lager is brewed mostly in Cincinnati, Ohio, Boston remains the corporate home of the largest American-owned beermaker. The firm’s small pilot brewery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood–where brewers experiment with small-batch and vintage beer styles–is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. Tasty test batches are served in the brewery’s two taprooms. Best brew: “Samuel Adams Utopias,” the world’s strongest commercial beer. Boston, MA; samueladams.com
5. Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Named for Smuttynose Island, this maker produces year-round and seasonal beers that are sold up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest, plus a selection of limited-release brews for local markets. Best brew: “Finestkind IPA,” a generously hopped India pale ale and, in my opinion, the single best beer brewed in New England. Portsmouth and Hampton, NH; smuttynose.com