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Craft Beers and Brew Pubs(Is that redundant?)

We have a nephew coming to visit that is a real beer hound. For those of you really into these things, which are the really essential boston area spots? and does Portsmouth NH have a particularly worthy craft beer scene/ worth the one hour trip time? I've also heard there were some good brewers in the Newburyport/merrimac area? And if you were doing a New Eng tour, what would be excellent locations? or if you could link me to a CH thread or an article.... much appreciated! Thx again.

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  1. craft beer and brew pubs aren't necessarily the same thing (I'd posit that most (all, depending on one's definition) of all brew pubs serve craft beer, but there's a lot of craft beer not made in brew pubs).

    Portsmouth Brewery is a worthy option as a brew pub. If you don't mind an extra hour drive north, Portland ME has a phenomenal beer scene (e.g. Novare Res, Great Lost Bear, etc) but both are outside the scope of this board. I don't think that I'd personally travel the hour up to Portsmouth w/o something special drawing me up that way - KtG day would be an example, at least back before it got insane.

    In terms of greater boston area, IMO you would be well served to hit up the burgeoning scene in Cambridge. Within a short walk of each other you have Lord Hobo (very good beer list), Meadhall (very large beer list, but not as well curated), Cambridge Brewing Company (used to suck, has gotten much better over the years), as well as other decent options in the vicinity such as Atwoods. There are also spots in and around central square with smallish but quality beer selections such as Green Street. The general Harvard Square area has Russell House which has a pretty good beer program (for instance I once bought a bottle of Black Ops there) as well as other similar spots. Cambridge Common is nearby as well.

    A canonical answer in the area is the Publick House in Brookline. Not my favorite, but that's a long story.

    Personally I don't think there's much further out that's any better than some of the spots I've already mentioned although there are spots that are serviceable if one doesn't want to come into the city. An example of that would be the Union Brewhouse in Weymouth which I like, but there's absolutely no reason for me to leave the city to go there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jgg13

      jgg, you are soooper! would you take a look on the northern new eng board too bec i'm going to post my question there too(nephew "will travel for beer".) There was a big article the other wk in the globe or nytimes on VT as NE's craft beer capitol.

    2. Lord Hobo and Meadhall. I don't like the atmosphere at either place all that much, but they are good destinations for craft beer. Redbones has a very good selection and is an enjoyable place to experience some good food (but not "good BBQ") and beer. Sunset in Allston has a huge list (a lot of it bottles) but I usually don't think it's worth the shitty BU ambience. Another place with a good selection (and cheap burgers) but overall unpleasant is Bukowski's, due to excessive noise. Cambridge Brewing Company is pretty good and there are no better brew pubs in the area.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Luther

        I'm curious what you don't like about the atmosphere at Lord Hobo. I personally love everything about that place.

        1. re: mkfisher

          I just don't like it. Not a place I've enjoyed hanging out for beers. Personal taste I guess.

          1. re: mkfisher

            The common complaint is that it gets too loud. This is an issue with most newer places, as the current trend is toward hard surfaces & the like. It doesn't take too many people to start making a place deafening.

            1. re: jgg13

              I guess I could see this being annoying. We've only ever been right when they open or for Sunday brunch. I'd imagine it's a lot less fun when it's crowded

              1. re: jgg13

                Yes it's too loud. I don't know a beer bar that isn't.

                1. re: jajjguy

                  I'm not a big fan of the trend towards louder bars, but I manage to put up with it :)

                  Note that what I'm talking about is simply the acoustics of a room causing the general din of the crowd to be too loud. This is in contrast to say, Bukowski in Inman, which is too loud due to blaring music.

                  1. re: jgg13

                    Yep, room acoustics. A few restaurants these days are being designed for better (less loud) acoustics, but so far not bars, that I know of.

              2. re: mkfisher

                I'm with you mkfisher. I've totally fallen in love with Lord Hobo. I've found myself at the bar there about 10 times in the last month.

              3. re: Luther

                Lord Hobo is too loud for me, too. Park in Harvard Square is my new favorite for atmosphere. It doesn't have the longest menu, but it has a decent beer selection (and nice cocktails).

              4. Depending on your nephew's level of beer geekdom, there are several excellent breweries and beer bars around. My opinion is a real beer bar has many more options than a brewpub. Some favotites of mine are Jack's Abby brewery in Framingham. Their Hoponius Union is the best IPL I've ever had. Actually the only IPL (India Pale Lager). It's an all lager brewery which sets them apart. If the neph is partial to Belgian beers, Armsby Abbey in Worcester, Driftwood Public House in Plymouth and Ebeneezers in Lovell Maine all have unique beer lists and some good food to match.
                For large selections the Sunset in Allston has the biggest selection and college cuties as well as college swillers abound. Horseshoe Pub in Hudson has around 100 taps, neither breaks culinary ground.

                2 Replies
                1. re: trufflehound

                  I love Armsby Abbey. I try to make sure to stop in every time I'm anywhere near Worcester. I didn't include that due to the location. But I prefer it to anything I mentioned in my first post, it just happens to be in timbuktu :)

                  Have not managed to get to Ebeneezers yet, and that's something I need to rectify. Too many people that I trust have loved it for me to be missing out.

                  1. re: trufflehound

                    I agree that a good beer bar will have many more options than a brewpub. In most cases, it will generally be much better beer as well.

                  2. I would consider Lord Hobo, CBC, The Publick House, and Deep Ellum as the elite beer destinations in the Boston area, but there are many second tier bars (some already mentioned) that offer some great beer too. An interesting craft beer crawl could be enjoyed in Davis Sq. with Redbones, American Flatbread, The Foundry, and Five Horses. A couple of places I steer clear of are Sunset (too large of tap/bottle selection that doesn't turn over quick enough and drafts are just kept/served way too cold) and Bukowskis (short pours, staff attitudes, and deafening/bad music).

                    The craft scene in Portsmouth is expanding rapidly as of late. The Portsmouth brewery has always been a solid mainstay along with well curated selecttions at The Press Room, Blue Mermaid, Flatbread, and the Barley Pub out in Dover - and I have read that the Gaslight next door to the brewery has expanded their selection recently too. Also a new multitap type place recently opened in Portsmouth called The Thristy Moose. Lately, Black Birch and When Pigs Fly in Kittery have been serving up good craft beer as well. Interesting stops to/from Boston are the Amesbury Ale House, and The Tap/Haverhill brewery in Haverhill.

                    As a beer destination in New England, I would pick the Waterbury/Burlington area of VT. Alchemist cannery to pick up cases of Heady Topper, and Black Back pub, Reservoir, and Prohibition Pig for craft watering holes. Hill Farmstead and Lawsons breweries which are getting nationwide beer geek recognition are also served in town. Burlington has VT Pub and Brewery, Flatbread/Zero gravity, and Farmhouse Tap and Grill. On the way up 89 is a cute little brewpub in the Norwich Inn that is a great place to stop for lunch. Flying Goose and 7 Barrels brewpubs are also on the way.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: LStaff

                      +1 for the Amesbury Ale House. Good beer list, pretty good food. I especially like the tuna entree (hold the chili sauce).

                      There is also a very good, long beer list at "The Grill Next Door" on Route 97 in Haverhill (just off of Route 495). Unfortunately, I find their food, which is mainly pub grub, only fair to middlin'.

                      And, as to Armsby Abbey, which somebody mentioned - that actually *is* worth a trip to Worcester. Great beer and cocktail list, and some very good, locally oriented food. Unfortunately, they're quite small, so they are best visited on a weekday afternoon, if you can swing it.

                      1. re: srgoodman

                        Another +1 for Amesbury ale house, always great stuff on tap.. And Ebenezers is a Belgian beer lovers dream. Chris also owns another beer bar that gets great press Lions Pride in Brunswick.

                      2. re: LStaff

                        wow, you posters to this thread are amazing! My nephew is going to be sooo stoked!

                        So now i have another beer question. I know completely zilch about beer. It looks like we will also be hosting a British friend of a friend sometime this winter. For all i know, this could be a stupid or 'There is no one answer' question, but >> do British people generally turn up their noses at American beers?(and i do get it that Bud is v. different from craft beers) Would Brits more likely be more interested in our Irish pubs here in Boston?

                        My only reference here is that I have known a few Brits who just would not drink American tea.
                        Thx for your help.

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          Many brits with an open mind do enjoy US craft beers - quite a few are exported to the UK these days. I probably wouldn't offer them a west coast IPA as the sheer amount of hops might be shocking to them, but they should find many new england pale ales, ambers, brown ales, and stouts to their liking. Also keep in mind that mass produced lagers are very popular in the UK just as they are here, so its going to depend on their experience to what kind of beer they like.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            In my experience one of the bigger aversions Brits have toward American beer is the cold temperature at which it's generally served. In terms of beer styles they won't turn their nose up at just about anything other than light beer (i.e. Coor's light, Bud Light, Miller Lite).

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              There are many places offering Cask beer now a days. British Beer Company(many locations), Gulu Gulu tap a cask every thursday night I think, The Pub at Cape Ann Brewing has one just about all the time, and most of the beer bars in Boston should offer it as well, although I'm not sure which ones to be honest.

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                And yet many London bars are offering beer well chilled, American style-- even Guinness!

                              2. re: opinionatedchef

                                American craft beers are much more experimental than most British beers IMO, so if your friend is into trying different flavor profiles in beers, they will have a great time here.

                            2. You can't go wrong with a trip to the Kendall Sq area between Meadhall, Area Four, Lord Hobo and Catalyst there are plenty of options for good food and great craft beer. If your nephew has been paying attention to the Boston scene he'll want to try Lord Hobo for sure.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: AndOne

                                The Catalyst list makes me angry. Namely, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel makes me angry. Add in the obligatory Sam & Harpoon (though I do quite enjoy the White IPA) offerings and you're left with mediocrity. I just want them to do better. I so enjoy sitting at the Catalyst bar that I wish they could take that next step. End rant.

                                1. re: mkfisher

                                  ummm...it's only beer. No need to get angry. :-)

                                  1. re: mkfisher

                                    Kentucky bourbon barrel has become pretty ubiquitous in that area. Atwoods, Meadhall, etc all feature it pretty prominently.

                                    It is a gateway beer for barrel aged beers, which is a good thing. The negative are all of the people thinking that it is somehow unique or novel, but c'est la vie

                                    1. re: mkfisher

                                      I'm with you. It's my list favorite on my list but they will often have a thing or two interesting on tap and their food is good.

                                  2. Condition of draft beer is even more important than selection. Various beer geeks told me this for years, and I never knew what they were talking about, I figured they were making it up or it was beyond my capacity to discern. Then I had a palate opening experience of tasting the same beer on tap in different places within days, and found them to taste very different! One was thin and flat while the other tasted like great beer!

                                    Bars in town with excellent draft beer, both in condition and selection:
                                    Deep Ellum
                                    Lord Hobo
                                    I know of no others!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: jajjguy

                                      Ah, I forgot about Deep Ellum. Another bar that I really dig, although I often end up drinking cocktails and not the beer - but it depends.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        Yeah, their cocktails are great too. They often have special beer in cask or small gravity casks that sit atop the bar, and the beer from these is smooth and wonderful.

                                        Redbones is also very good, though they've sometimes mishandled casks, which require special knowledge and treatment.
                                        CBC is not my style personally, but they do an excellent job.

                                        I avoid Bukowski's, Sunset/Big City, Cambridge Common, and Mead Hall because they've served me beer in poor condition on multiple occasions. Yuck.

                                    2. Thank you for all of this.

                                      I'm very into wine and pairings,etc but my beer is PBR (a high school habit )

                                      I'm gonna school myself up on beer right quickly thanks to y'all

                                        1. Atwoods is my favorite place for beer in Boston now. Amazing beer list, knowledgeable servers and an amazing back patio.

                                          As for NE beer destinations, go to Portland ME. You can do brewery tours at Maine brewing, Allagash, and Gearys. They are all in the same complex and all have distinctly different tours. Maine is a small intimate brewery and have great experimental beers to taste, Allagash is new, shinny and very large now, and Gearys is old school and crusty! A great contrast! THen you can go hang out in Portland and have a few beers at Novare Res (best beer bar and beer list ever IMO). They have an amazing deck and cornhole. And of course Portland also has many amazing dining options.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: David_A

                                            Yeah, I like Atwoods. I guess I haven't been there in a while, because I've never seen the patio.

                                          2. As a beer and food lover I was pleased visiting Rendezvous in Cambridge. Solid New American cuisine and beer from Pretty Things, DFH, unibroue, etc.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              There are quite a number of restaurants serving smaller selections of well chosen, well handled beers. Bergamot, Highland Kitchen to name two.

                                              1. If you happen to be in the Salem area Gulu Gulu has 24 very solid taps along with a nice bottle list and good sandwiches.

                                                1. If your nephew is coming to visit at the end of November, there is this event in Boston - http://drinkcraftbeer.com/falltowinte... -
                                                  that is sponsored by Drink Craft Beer. Their summer saison fest was fantastic.

                                                  1. If your nephew is coming this week then he's in luck as it's North Shore Craft Beer Week. Here's a link to a website for the going ons of it.


                                                    For brewpubs in the area, there's The Tap in Haverhill, The Pub at Cape Ann Brewing in Gloucester, 2 Boston Beer works (near Fenway and near the Garden), Salem Beer Works, Portsmouth Brewery, Martha's Exchange in Nasshua, Offshore Ale House on the Vineyard, Gardner Ale House, Wormtown Brewery is attached to Peppercorns in Worcester, Northampton Brewery, Cambridge Brewing Company....I'm leaving out a lot of them but these are all within an hour drive of Boston. You can't go wrong for some great beer at any of these locations. I've personally been to all of these places and have had a good time at all of them.

                                                    If he wants to try local beer, then he's coming to a great area for it. As an aside, Oktoberfest starts tonight so look for a good Oktoberfest event this weekend.