The Beer Bloggers Conference will beer it up in Beantown, so if you’re not a citizen beer blogger, fix that in 10 seconds: become one on WordPress or Blogger, or just sign up for Twitter and join the chorus of microbeerblogging. Visit this popular destination in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for its historical significance, its artistic contributions, its air of erudition and its common wealth of beer culture. Plan your trip starting before the BBC begins and catch a Red Sox home game at iconic Fenway Park.
Our guide to the Cradle of Liberty is John Holl, not only All About Beer’s new editor, but also co-author of the new guidebook, Massachusetts Breweries, with April Darcy. They sagely begin by advising wearing comfortable shoes. A great first brewery visit is Harpoon Brewing (306 Northern Ave.; HarpoonBrewery.com) on the waterfront, seeing as it is Boston’s (and Massachusetts’) first craft brewery. Tours are offered daily and provide a chance to try not only its UFO (Un-Filtered Offerings) series, but also its range of IPAs and more. It also makes some tasty ciders.
No brewery is more associated with Boston than Boston Beer Co. (30 Germania St.; SamuelAdams.com), known primarily as makers of Samuel Adams. Hourlong tours delve beyond the story of the flagship Sam Adams Boston Lager and reveal a brewer’s playground of styles and ingredients coming out of America’s largest craft brewery.
On a much newer and smaller scale, Holl suggests hitting Night Shift Brewing (3 Charlton St., Everett; NightShiftBrewing.com), a few miles north of Boston proper, where the brewers are doing some “really funky stuff, playing with the established Boston notion.” The decidedly Young Turk approach to brewing yields “core” beers where teas, peppers, flowers and more find their way into the mix.
The founders, three friends from Somerville, MA, are fans of the Berliner weisse style. Not only do they make Somer Weisse (with ginger and lemongrass), but you’ll also find some other exclusive sour wheat ale at the taproom, and every Monday marks the unveiling of a new beer from their Art Series. From there, you’re mere seconds and feet away from Idle Hands Craft Ales (also at 3 Charlton St.; idlehandscraftales.com), the first nanobrewery to sprout up locally. Specializing in Belgian-style ales, try Triplication, a tripel, and—fingers crossed they have it—B3. Called B-cubed for beer, barrel, Brett, this is a wine-barrel-aged tripel soured with Brettanomyces.
Smarter than heading across the Charles River to Harvard University in Cambridge is booking it to Cambridge Brewing (1 Kendall Square #100; CamBrew.com), a brewpub that should be on everyone’s bucket list. First, Holl declares that the food on the menu is “consistently great” and goes well beyond pub grub, keeping it local as well. Try the New England shellfish cioppino for dinner. On the lunch menu, the fish ’n’ chips contains Gulf of Maine pollock (beer-battered, naturally.) There’s even a “beerunch” menu that starts with a house-made S’mores Pop Tart with bacon candy! Enjoy it all on the patio and pair your meal with Arquebus, a beer described as a summer barleywine. “The beer has the potential to save the world,” says Holl, only minutely hyperbolically.
Since you’re already in Cambridge, Lord Hobo (92 Hampshire St.; LordHobo.com) is a stellar beer bar tucked away almost in an actual backyard in Inman Square, but when you offer 40 taps of such quality, they will come. Expect hard-to-find stuff from Vermont’s Hill Farmstead or Central Mass’s Blatant Brewing, and then realize the bottle menu features even rarer rarities.
Another neighborhood pub Holl recommends nearby is Cambridge Commons (1667 Massachusetts Ave.; CambridgeCommonRestaurant.com), purveyors of solid comfort food and 30 taps plus a cask engine that recently featured Sassy Rabbit Rye Ale from The Tap Brewing Co., located north of Boston in Haverhill. There’s a good chance you’ll find something from Slumbrew (Slumbrew.com), a new gypsy brewer that Holl—and just about everyone else—is keen on. His picks include Slumbrew’s My Better Half (what the brewers call an imperial cream ale) and Happy Sol, a blood-orange saison.
And finally, another hefty duo of pubs on the south side of the river is The Publick House (1648 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-277-2880) and Deep Ellum (477 Cambridge St.; DeepEllum-Boston.com) in the neighboring Allston hood. Both cater to the short-in-the-tooth yet beer-savvy crowd. The Publick House is more Belgiancentric and serves killer crab cakes. Deep Ellum’s well-curated tap list dazzles with treats from the likes of the local Mystic Brewery (Mystic-Brewery.com), whose beers come in series designated by degrees Plato, such as their 16 degrees saisons among heartier Belgian styles. Holl says that Deep Ellum’s fried chicken is not to be missed.
What with all the beer and comfort food, it’s a good thing there’s the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail that runs, or rather walks, through a plethora of historic sights from the Bunker Hill Monument to Boston Common, the 50-acre park in the heart of it all. Along the trail is Faneuil Hall Marketplace (FaneuilHallMarketplace.com), described by Darcy as “a landmark public building built in 1742.” Besides the downstairs food market, “right behind it is Quincy Marketplace … a pedestrian mall with boutique shopping, street performers and a bustling food court area made up of stalls from local Boston restaurants.”
As for where to recuperate from all the rambling and beer sampling, the BBC’s host hotel is the historic Boston Park Plaza Hotel (50 Park Plaza; BostonParkPlaza.com) located at the foot of Boston Common. Attendees get the rate of $135 a night. Nearby in Beacon Hill is the John Jeffries House (14 David G. Mugar Way; JohnJeffriesHouse.com), formerly a part of an infirmary, a quaint B&B starting at $125 a night.
Brian Yaeger is the author of Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey.