The Boston area has always been an enigma to me. With its one-way streets, psychotic drivers and countless rotaries, Beantown is a tough town for this guy to love.
Nevertheless, like most people who live in southern Maine, I often find myself heading down Interstate 95 toward Boston. Despite its standoffish nature, Boston is a New England cultural milieu, boasting the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, the Bruins, the Red Sox and a slew of great colleges.
The area is also experiencing a beer boom like many big cities in America. Though Portland’s beer scene is, in my biased estimation, stronger than Boston’s, the big city to the south does have some tasty brews worth imbibing.
So the next time you find yourself careening down 95 to visit a museum or hit up a concert, here are four microbreweries you should add to your itinerary.
Night Shift Brewing in Everett first came on my radar when I heard that Portland’s Bissell Brothers were doing a collaboration beer with the Boston-based brewery. The sprawling Night Shift tasting room is filled with picnic tables, cornhole boards, and ample outside-the-box beers. On my visit, most of the beers on draft were sours that had a subtle tartness and a beautiful finish. The beer to highlight is the Nature of the Experiment – their collaboration beer with Bissell Brothers. It tastes like a mash-up of The Substance and a Granny Smith apple. Portlanders need to try this inspired beer.
Night Shift Brewing Company
87 Santilli Highway, Everett, Massachusetts
Open 3 to 10 p.m. Mon. to Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
Only a five-minute drive from Night Shift, Idle Hands Brewing is housed in a warehouse that feels a bit shifty. But trust your GPS as you wind through the abandoned-looking buildings. You’re not going to get stabbed; you’re going to drink nicely crafted, Belgian-style saisons and farmhouse ales. The tightly packed brewery in this old garage is industrial chic. Try their generous beer tasting for $4. My favorite brew was the Rosemary for Remembrance, a Belgian field beer crafted with sweet potato, rosemary, and a touch of smoked malt.
Idle Hands Brewing Company
3 Charlton St., No. 4, Everett, Massachusetts
Open 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday
Across the Mystic River in Somerville, Aeronaut Brewing is another brewery in a repurposed industrial building. In square feet alone, this space is immense. On a Saturday, the brewery hums with live music, food trucks and craft beer lovers. Lawn chairs strapped with balloons hang from the ceiling, giving the whimsical feeling of being in the movie “Up.” On my visit, the Session With Dr. Nandu, an American pale ale, hit the spot. It’s a hop-forward session ale low in alcohol and laden with passion fruit flavors.
Aeronaut Brewing Company
14 Tyler St., Somerville, Massachusetts
Open 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesday to Friday; 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Located in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood in Boston proper, Trillium Brewing Company is making some of the best American-style ales in Massachusetts. In the same section of Boston as the legendary Harpoon Brewery, Trillium’s two staple beers, the Fort Point Pale Ale and Congress Street IPA, are so finely crafted, I’ll gladly drive through the mania of Boston traffic to fill a growler. Congress Street IPA (named after Boston’s Congress St., not Portland’s) has a well-deserved 99 rating on BeerAdvocate. It pours a hazy gold, has a tropical fruit aroma, an herbal, pineapple flavor, and a light pine finish. The beer is world-class from start to finish.
Trillium Brewing Company
369 Congress St., Boston, Massachusetts
Open 4 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Wednesday, noon to 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday
Though there’s not much reason to leave Portland if you’re looking for great craft beer, when you inevitably find yourself in the Boston area, hit up one of these microbreweries to get to know a softer side of our sister city.