HOME > Chowhound > Beer >


Best Microbrew in the North East

So... everyone else is talking about their favorites... I thought I would mention mine. It is from Brattleboro Vermont (that is in the south) and by far the best beer ever! Their many varieties, like their extra special bitter or smoked porter are even hard to get in Vermont, where I anxiously await the day each month when it arrives to my local grocer. What is it - I ask myself- about this beer that is so wonderful in every way?? Well, definitely the attention that is paid to every single brew. It always seems to me that brewers eventually stretch beyond their reach, past what they are good at and into the realm of uncertainty. Not McNeill’s, McNeill’s I suppose is made by someone who truly loves ALL of the forms of beer that they concoct. From the crazy hoppy ipa to the delicious stout, these people have beer truly figured out. Right now I am having a sip on their unfiltered seasonal Scotch Ale, which is bottle conditioned. Deep roasted amber in color and rounded in scotch ale flavors of coffee, chocolate, hazelnut it is truly an exceptional brew after a long hard days work during the depths of winter...Yummy!... what do you think? Have you had it? What’s your favorite?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Never heard of McNeill's, but I'm definitely going to look for it here in Maine. Smoked porter...mmmm...I had a good one years ago at the Vermont Pub & Brewery in Burlington, and I'm overdue for another. What is McNeill's putting out for spring?

    As I've said elsewhere, my favorite beer of all time, Northeast or otherwise, is Otter Creek Copper Ale, up in Middlebury. I hear Otter Creek has a Kolsch-style ale for spring that I've got to try. Don't know if they're doing Mud Bock Spring Ale this year. Check these guys out if you haven't!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kinnexa

      I don't think they have brewed the Mud bock in a few years. The Alpine Ale replaced it as the spring seasonal. I also miss their old winter seasonal - A Winter's Tale, but that got the axe too, the year after they had that rancid batch.

      1. re: LStaff

        I really dont like Alpine Ale for some reason... I think that Otter creek really missed the mark on that one. As far as Kinnexa's reference to the smoked porter at VT Pub & Brew... they still have it and it is still AWESOME. Probobally the best I have ever had. If you like VT Pub or get around B-town in the spring, they have a limited release maple beer. About 5 or so years ago I first had it and was blown away. I guess that they actually trade a bunch of beer to a maple syrup producer for his very low grade syrup (which is better for cooking purposes anyway). I try to make sure to have it every spring time now. It is deep and dark and rich with all of the fun flavor of maple syrup and not the sugar..... yumm

      2. re: Kinnexa

        Geeze, Copper Ale is about the only brew Otter Creek makes that I *don't* like. My favorite has got to be Stove Pipe Porter.

      3. Ten years ago, there was no better brewer in New England than McNeill's. Today other breweries have left poor Ray standing still - maybe if he stepped back into the brewhouse and put out a few batches himself, it might be a different story. But the quality issues that have plagued McNeill's beers within the last few years has taken its toll. Hopefully the new production brewery is what is needed to get Ray to put the boots back on and get excited about brewing again.

        But for now, The Alchemist is the new king of New England. Holy Cow IPA is one of the few IPA's made in New England that pushes my hop head buttons - Heady Topper DIPA, Alena, El Jefe as well. Solid regular lineup with a great porter and tasty red ale too.

        4 Replies
        1. re: LStaff

          totally agreed on the alchemist, although rock art's new extreme series beers including infusco (barrel-aged spiced belgian), ?riddler? (trappist-style dubbel), hell's bock (hoppy dopplebock), vermonster (double ridge runner) and sunny & 75 (orange wit) are placing them hot on the alchemist's tail.

          mcneill's new scotch ale is really good, on tap anyways. got bottles to test out in the week ahead.

          1. re: goodbyeohio

            I like the stronger non-belgians Matt is making for sure -and the regulars are solid beers (albiet a bit boring for me). I don't know if things have changed in the later batches of the belgian styles, but I tried some of the early batches at EBF the last two years and did not like them at all due to rough alcohol flavors.

            1. re: LStaff

              Alchemist, but gbo does point out that RA's brews are up and coming. I've been digging them as of late.

          2. My absolute favorites are Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA and Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout. Both have a very high alcohol content and are extremely rich and complex. The brewery is in Delaware, but they distribute all over. Not always easy to get as they only release certain brews a few times a year.

            5 Replies
            1. re: rrems

              So are you saying that you would like them less if they were as rich and complex but had less alcohol?

              1. re: Chinon00

                No, not at all. I just mentioned it because it is unusual, and meant to be drunk in small quantities.

              2. re: rrems

                Damn good beer but it has has more calories than a 10 pack of Chicken McNuggets so watch out!

                1. re: rrems

                  dogfish head does a 60 and a 90 minute IPA also. It's the amount of time that they are continually adding hops. If you are in search of the bitterness level you prefer. Just an FYI everyone.

                  1. re: ECU

                    They are also different strengths: 6% for 60 minute and 9% for 90 minute. Perceived bitterness varies with amount of hopping and the maltiness of the beer.

                2. I don't think I'd go so far as to call it the best, but one that doesn't get as much press as it should is Paper City Brewery in Holyoke, MA. They're doing great stuff. I could drink their Winter Palace Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale) all winter.

                  1. In terms of the larger "craft" brewers, my vote would have to go to Dogfish followed by Victory.

                    In terms of the smaller brewers, Weyerbacher does a tremendous job as does Troegs.
                    By way of brewpubs, Harvest Moon in central NJ is always top notch.

                    just my two cents.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: yankeefan

                      agree with dogfish.

                      does brooklyn count? six points can do no wrong.

                      1. re: TBird

                        another nod for six points; reliably great beers (hell yes brooklyn counts!)

                        1. re: jimmyjazz

                          I like Six Point. I had the Diesel Stout from a small a cask and Atlantic Antic Amber, both fine beers. I think Blue Point's beers are still better.

                          I've also had some Southern Tier's I liked recently.

                          1. re: Captain

                            I have been to the Brooklyn Brewery, and I have to say that the Brooklyn Monster is great. They have a festival in the summer. If you are in the area, you should give it a shot.

                    2. I've been digging pretty much every Geary's I've ever had. Love their Hampshire Special Ale. Like their standbys and their seasonals are equally good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: franksnbeans

                        At one time Michael Jackson gave HSA world classic status in his pocket guide, a huge achievement for a style from another country.

                      2. Living near Acadia National Park's tourist draw we are blessed with great beer offerings that our rural population distribution would not normally allow. Some our faves:
                        Bar Harbor Brewing Company: Cadillac Mountain Stout, Thunderhole Ale, and surprisingly Ginger Mild Brew.
                        Atlantic Brewing Co.: Real Ale, Coal Porter, and seasonally, Scottish Export Ale
                        Jack Russell's : they put out some really excellent dark brews and you can buy a refillable "frog" for economical drinking. Great steaks too. Superior brews: Expresso Stout, Great Head Ale (love the name) a couple of Irish Stouts. Cheers!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          Love the Alchemist as well. Does anyone have any information on flying goose (new london, nh) and jasper murdock's (norwhich, vt)?

                          1. re: melissaosu

                            ive been to jasper murdock's.. quaint little pub tucked in a side/back room of a victorian style inn. beers are ok, on a ringwood system i believe. the liver and onions that i had was top-notch. go for the food and ambiance, continue on to bboro, waterbury or burlington for great beer.

                            1. re: goodbyeohio

                              Have you had the opportunity to try out the gritty's brew pub in maine? They have the best fish sandwiches and a super bar!

                              1. re: goodbyeohio

                                this was the place that i went to after i got engaged. Was the perfect setting for the end of the perfect day. The brewer, Patrick, does good things and will continue to shine. It's a small pub depending on the locals and the people staying at the pub. Not ringwood all the time. He does use dry yeast though.

                            2. re: Passadumkeg

                              I really like Dogfishhead and Smuttynose brands but today Passadumkeg brought me a Thunder Hole brown ale that was just outstanding! I can't wait to try the Cadillac Stout.....

                            3. Wow, i can't believe no one has mentioned Allagash! It's hands down my favorite in the Northeast. Bar Harbor and Atlantic would be a close 2nd and third. I'm a Maine kinda beer girl, what can i say.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: amandaconda

                                And I can't believe no one has mentioned Smuttynose/Portsmouth...yes they are big, but quality is great, especially their limited edition or "big beer" series. An on-tap sample of Jack Daniels barrel-aged S'muttonator is one of the best beers I have ever had.

                                1. re: kenito799

                                  The Smuttynose Big Beer lineup is fantastic. I haven't tried the version of S'muttonator you mention, but the regular bottled one is fantastic. The most recent to the series, a Baltic porter, is also terrific. I can't wait for their next release of their maibock.

                                2. re: amandaconda

                                  oooh, seconding the Allagash. I've only tried Allagash white & black and they've both been amazing.

                                  Don't know if anyone's mentioned Ommegang yet (upstate NY, but that counts as north east no?) -- if you like Allagash's stuff, you would probably enjoy Ommegang methinks.

                                  1. re: dandandan

                                    I've been to both the Brewery Ommegang and Cooperstown Brewing Company (both near Cooperstown). I liked the Ommegang beers better, but I really liked visiting the Cooperstown Brewing Company; being a brewer myself, I found the people there to be both friendly and knowledgeable (and quirky!), and we ended up getting into an intense conversation about the different kinds of hops and yeast used. Great folks there, but I have to give the nod to the Ommegang beers and ales.

                                3. dogfish, victory, weyerbacher

                                  1. Victory for sure. Everything they make is outstanding. I'd include DFH but that isn't really the Northeast.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Ralphus

                                      not really north east - weyerbacher, brooklyn, dogfish head
                                      north east proprer - alllagash, smuttynose, stone coast, sebago, sheepscot

                                    2. Victory, Flying Fish (Cherry Hill, NJ), and DFH are my go-to's.

                                      1. Where are the Maine beer lovers? Good God almighty we have a great micro-beer culture here. Considering New Jersyy's population, tne micrbeer scene is almost nil. I'd love to see some wonk draw a microbew pub to population correlation.
                                        Where iz youse guys? Although, excellent, Joisey beer on a New England beer post? Jeesh! Whatsamatterwhichya? Forgettaboutit! Jeeez.
                                        Hey, gimme a Bud Lite, will ya?

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                          I'm guessing by your name that you have a clue about beer, but if you're not familiar with what's coming out of the greater Philadelphia area (which Cherry Hill and Flying Fish are), then I would question that point.
                                          Chinon explained the geography bit.

                                          1. re: JCap

                                            JCap &Chinon00, please forgive my silly humor. Up here we call it cabin fever. My mom lives in NJ and We maineline Flying Fish when we visit. I grew up w/ family and college girlfriends in Philly. We visited Philly Xmas with out youngest who is at college in Amherst, Ma. another beer mecca. I went to college in Allentown, had a Yuengling as a room mate, and can remember how pi**ed I was when they built the old Schaeffer brewery in the Lehigh Valley. Where ever we travel we are beer hounds. In Feb. we discovered a superior brew in Austin, Live Oak Ale.
                                            We plan a beer hound trip into Philly next trip.
                                            Passadumkeag is a small town north of Bangor, Me (not Bangor, Pa which is on the Delaware, north of Easton.
                                            A local band, The Wicked Good Band has a song "Hey Bartender,Passadumkeag!
                                            Come up to Maine on a summer beer tour. You won't be disappointed.
                                            Google Maine Breweries, you might be surprised for a rural state w/ only 1 mil. pop.

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              From one old hippie to another (I'm reading between the lines here) I am interested in your Maine thinking on beers. I like a good IPA and have tried many in the state. Even like the mass produced Shipyard. Have you tried the new beer pub in Belfast? Do they have a good IPA? Worth the drive from Surry?

                                              1. re: kickin back

                                                Not yet, maybe we can go together to Belfast and you can be the designated driver. Or we can split the driving; I'll drive there and you drive home. Every morning I take the pooch for a walk along Union bay opposite the tall communication towers and wonder which house is yours.
                                                How did you know that I'm restoring a '67 VW van?
                                                Make love not war!
                                                I had 2 nieces that went to Clemson and they would take cases of Atlantic Brewery's Peach Ale down w/ them. As a Georgia boy, have you tried it?

                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                  Either way it sounds as if I loose on the driving thing! I think since I am from "away" you should DD. I may get lost. We live just a ways down from the tower. Just past Carrying Place Beach but on the Morgan Bay side. Great area to kayak from over to some of the small islands. I know I am from the Peach State but Peach Ale just sounds TOO sweet for my taste. I like my beer pretty hoppy. But I did have a neice graduate from Clemson! Class of 02 or so. Did you go to the Beer Festival in Southwest Harbor in Oct? Good selection of Maine beers I thought.

                                        2. Anyone else like Magic Hat out of Vermont? Yummy beer and never a hangover. I'm also a big Victory fan as well.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: morganast

                                            "Yummy beer and never a hangover."<---we obviously don't drink alike...

                                            magic hat rocks, tho.

                                            1. re: TBird

                                              New York in da house...

                                              Southern Tier and Middle Ages are 2 great craft brewers in the northeast.

                                              1. re: JoeyBeerBelly

                                                I second Middle Ages!! Stuff from The Ithaca Beer Co. is pretty good, too.

                                                1. re: al b. darned

                                                  I was lucky enough to have an Excelsior 10 from Ithaca. Served on tap at the Peekskill Brewery, this is one big beer. Think of it as Cascazilla on steroids. Hoppy, Malty, Big Kick at 10% and amazingly balanced with great mouthfeel, creamy but shortlived head and a long finish with nice bite.
                                                  Doesn't get much better than this

                                            2. re: morganast

                                              Love Magic Hat, started with No.9, moved onto liking Circus Boy better. Still like No.9, but it has to be really cold. Took me forever to find it here in Greenville, NC though!

                                            3. from pleasantville, ny in westchester county comes Captain Lawrence Brewing Company. Every one of their products is a winner. Tastings at the brewery every weekend and growlers to go. http://www.captainlawrencebrewing.com...

                                              This beer is seriously good and Scott makes about 8 different varieties

                                              extra gold is amazingly special

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. I'm a big fan of the Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter. There are a lot of different flavors packed in it, all of which are good, IMO.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: hiddenboston

                                                  Oh, that porter is pure heaven...

                                                  I was at the Providence Beerfest this weekend and DH and I both agreed that Woodstock Inn Brewery, in Woodstock, NH, had the best beer of the day with their Pig's Ear Brown Ale. It was nutty and rich, with an amazing caramel nose. I know everyone's gone IPA crazy of late, but this beer is worth checking out.

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                    I love the Red Rack Ale at The Woodstock Station!

                                                  2. Oh, I've really been enjoying Peak Organic's Nut Brown Ale (Portland, Maine) also.

                                                    1. Does Troegs count?

                                                      Freaking mindblowing. If I only had to live off one liquid form, it would be the glory of Nugget Nectar.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: yankeefan

                                                        I totally agree with you. Nothing from Troeg's disappoints.

                                                        without reading all of these posts, My top three Northeast breweries in no particular order really are Troeg's Smuttynose, and Dogfishhead, with Brooklyn getting a special mention.

                                                      2. The Sackets Harbor Brewing Co. in northern NY state put to a couple of good brews. I like their War of 1812 Amber Ale and Thousand Islands Pale Ale. Their distribution seems to be limited to central and northern NY.

                                                        1. I've visited most of the breweries mentioned here but I'm most partial to the Great Adirondack Brewery in Lake Placid,New York.
                                                          I love their rich abbey Ale,and their blond ale is great also.
                                                          They make a smoked porter that I love as well now and then.
                                                          The Lake Placid Brewpub ,also in Lake Placid,makes an outstanding Ubu Ale.
                                                          Since I love smoked porter the Vt. Brewpub in Burlington makes a great smoked porter as well.
                                                          I just tried Rock Art American Red Ale.
                                                          I usually don't like red ales but this one really tasted good.
                                                          Another place I rarely miss when I'm up taht way is the Long Trail Ale brewpub in Bridgewater,Vermont.
                                                          Their Long Trail Ale is one of my favorites also.
                                                          It doesn't hurt that you can get great pub food at all the places that I have mentioned .
                                                          I haven't been to the Rock Art Pub as yet however.

                                                          1. Has anyone else had Theobroma by Dogfish head? Does anyone else think it rocks?

                                                            My friend brought over a bottle and now I'm trying to get my hands on another.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                              I've had most of the brews mentioned here, I'd like to add an up and comer. Cape Ann Brewery out of Gloucester, Ma. If you happen to see Fishermen's Brew or Ale, you won't be disappointed. If you are lucky enough to catch the tasting room open at the brewery, and Tea Party is available, try it, you'll like it.

                                                              1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                                I haven't had it (haven't even heard of it), but one thing I really like about Dogfish head is that every single beer I've had from them has been at least good/worth tasting-- so I'm always trying their crazy brews, and some of them have been really good.

                                                                Clipper City out of Baltimore is another brewery that deserves more love.

                                                              2. I do like Dogfish, but I LOVE Flying Dog Ales. Their Gonzo Porter is amazing! Their Snake Dog IPA is also really tasty! If you go to their new location in Frederick, MD on Saturdays you pay only $5 for a tour, pint glass to keep, and unlimited refills! Its great!