Current Massachusetts Craft Breweries – A Timeline
Part 1 of our 3-part series on Craft Brewing in the Bay State looks at the record number of brewers currently operating in Massachusetts. We tallied 126 commercially licensed beer makers (an all-time high) that we consider Massachusetts breweries. The list Includes brewpubs, visitable breweries, production breweries, and contract brewers. We define a brewery as “from Massachusetts” if it brews here (the vast majority do), headquartered here (like Mighty Squirrel), or originated from and is sold in the Bay State (Farmer Wilie’s, Wash Ashore, Naukabout, Brazo Fuerte).
Below is a list of all current brewers (defunct brewers will be discussed in Part 2 of the series) and the year that they “opened” if they’re a visitable brewery, or “started brewing,” in the case of contract brewers or production-only breweries. Have a look at the list and then let’s see what useful information can be gleaned from it.
1985: Jim Koch launches the Boston Beer Company and starts contract brewing Sam Adams Boston Lager at a Pittsburgh brewery.
1986: Harpoon opens the first Massachusetts brewery.
1987: Sam Adams opens its Jamaica Plain brewery and brews its first beer in Boston. The Northampton Brewery opens.
1989: Cambridge Brewing Company opens.
1991: Ipswich Ale Brewery starts brewing in Ipswich.
1992: Boston Beer Works opens next to Fenway Park and John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House opens in Harvard Square.
1993: Concord Junction Brewery opens in Concord.
1994: Wachusett Brewing opens in Westminster, Berkshire Brewing opens in South Deerfield.
1995: Barrington Brewery & Restaurant opens in Great Barrington, Cisco Brewers opens on Nantucket.
1996: Paper City opens in Holyoke, John Harvard’s opens a location in Framingham, Salem Beer Works opens.
1997: The People’s Pint opens in Greenfield, Amherst Brewing Company opens, Offshore Ale opens on Martha’s Vineyard.
1998: Buzzard’s Bay Brewing opens in Westport.
1999: Ipswich Ale Brewery is bought and changes its name to Mercury Brewing Company, they continue to brew Ipswich Ale and soon begin contract brewing other brands.
2001: Boston Beer Works opens a location next to Boston Garden.
2002: Concord Junction Brewery moves to Shirley and drops “Junction” from the name.
2003: The Tap (Haverhill Brewery) opens.
2004: Opa Opa Steakhouse & Brewery opens in Southampton, Cape Ann Brewing opens in Gloucester, Cape Cod Beer starts brewing, Nashoba Valley Brewery opens.
2006: Gardner Ale House opens, Cape Cod Beer opens in Hyannis.
2007: Concord Brewery is sold and changes its name to Rapscallion, after its popular lineup of beers, Mayflower Brewing opens in Plymouth, Opa Opa opens a production brewery and partners with Brewmaster’s Tavern in Williamsburg.
2008: Lowell Beer Works opens.
2009: Blue Hills Brewery opens in Canton, Element Brewing opens in Millers Falls, Deadwood Cafe & Brewery opens in Dorchester.
2010: Hingham Beer Works opens, Lefty’s Brewing opens in Greenfield, Wormtown Brewery opens in Worcester, Enlightenment Ales opens in Lowell, Artisan Beverage Co-op starts brewing Ginger Libation, Contract brewers Notch, Clown Shoes, and 3 Beards start brewing.
2011: Tree House opens in Monson, Mystic Brewery opens in Chelsea, Wandering Star Craft Brewery opens in Pittsfield, Jack’s Abby opens in Framingham, Bay State Beer starts brewing in Leicester, Amherst Brewing moves to a new space, Brewmaster Jack, Backlash, Blatant, and Slumbrew (Somerville Brewing) all start contract brewing.
2012: The beginning of the current craft beer boom starts with sixteen new brewers debuting. Night Shift and Idle Hands Craft Ales both open in Everett, Westfield River Brewing opens, Big Elm opens in Sheffield, Newburyport Brewing and Riverwalk open in Newburyport, High Horse opens in Amherst Brewing Company’s former space, Kretschmann opens in Webster, Owen’ O’Leary’s opens in Marlborough and starts brewing for all three of its locations, Scantic River starts brewing in Hampden, Berkley Beer starts brewing in Berkley, Portico, Naukabout, Battle Road, Entitled Beer and Landmark all start contract brewing.
2013: Spencer Brewery, the first Trappist brewery in the U.S. starts brewing, as do nearly a dozen others. Bog Iron opens in Norton, Hopster’s opens in Newton, Trillium opens in Boston, Abandoned Building Brewery opens in Easthampton, Framingham Beer Works opens, Cochituate Brewing starts brewing in Wayland, Glass Bottom Brewery opens in Lee (they have since closed the brewery and converted to contract brewing), Rapscallion relocates to Fiskdale, in Pioneer Brewing’s former space, Banner, Bad Martha, Percival and Swing Oil start contract brewing.
2014: Westfield River Brewing moves to Southwick, and 14 new brewers launch. Independent Fermentations opens in Plymouth, Bad Martha Farm Brewery opens on Martha’s Vineyard, Old Colony opens in Whitman, Aeronaut opens in Somerville, Iron Duke opens in Ludlow, Fort Hill opens in Easthampton, 3Cross opens in Worcester, Bentley opens in Southbridge, Navigation opens in Lowell, Still River starts brewing in Ayer, Merrimack Brewing opens in West Newbury, Craft Roots starts brewing in Milford (they will soon open a new brewery), Old Planters starts brewing in Beverly, Homefield starts brewing at Rapscallion, Larboard Beer and White Lion begin contract brewing.
2015: 21 new brewers debut, an all-time high. Devil’s Purse opens in South Dennis, Black Hat Brew Works opens in Bridgewater, 10th District opens in Abington, Trillium opens a 2nd brewery in Canton, Castle Island opens in Norwood, Brew Practitioners opens in Northampton, Building 8 opens in Northampton, New City opens in Easthampton, Honest Weight Artisan Beer opens in Orange, Brick and Feather opens in Turners Falls, Medusa opens in Hudson, Cold Harbor opens in Westborough, Flying Dreams opens in Worcester, Lord Hobo opens in Woburn, Merrimack Ales opens in Lowell, Slumbrew opens a brewery in Somerville, Stoneman starts brewing in Colrain, Outlook Farm starts brewing in Westhampton, Down the Road, Mighty Squirrel, Brazo Fuerte, and Farmer Willie’s Ginger Beer all start contract brewing, Still river Winery starts brewing an apple rauchbier, Nashoba Valley Brewery changes its name to Bolton Beer Works.
2016: 21 new brewers premiere, marking the 5th straight year of double-digit growth. Ipswich Brewer’s Table opens at the Ipswich Ale Brewery, Gentile opens in Beverly, Bent Water opens in Lynn, True West opens in West Acton, Winter Hill opens in Somerville, Bright Ideas opens in North Adams, Hitchcock Brewing opens brewing in Whatley, Wash Ashore starts contract brewing, Bone Up opens in Everett, Hog Island opens in Orleans, Idle Hands re-opens in Malden, Saltbox Kitchen Brewery opens in West Concord, Barrel House Z opens in Weymouth, Notch opens in Salem, Stone Cow opens in Barre, Dorchester Brewing Co. opens in Boston, Homefield opens in Sturbridge, Exhibit ‘A’ opens in Framingham, Lamplighter opens in Cambridge, Medford Brewing Co. starts contract brewing, Start Line opens in Hopkinton, Greasy Luck brewing opens in New Bedford, Greater Good Imperial Brewing starts contract brewing, Opa Opa sells its production brewery to Brewmaster’s Brewing Services, who is now an independent contract brewery.
2017: Contract brewer Battle Road opens in Maynard, Zelus starts contract brewing, Bear and Bramble starts brewing, Shovel Town opens in Easton, Skyroc opens in Attleboro, Craft Roots opens a new brewery in Milford, Moby Dick opens in New Bedford, Vanished Valley starts brewing, Arcpoint starts brewing, Henry and Fran starts brewing, Oak and Iron opens in Andover, Turtle Swamp opens in Jamaica Plain, Two Weeks Notice starts brewing, 7th Wave opens in Medfield, River Styx opens in Fitchburg, Charlton Beer Co. starts brewing, Shire Brew-Haus opens in Dalton, Tree House opens a 2nd brewery in Charlton, Plymouth Beer Co. opens.
104 of the 140 Massachusetts beer makers are visitable breweries or brewpubs, 19 are contract or gypsy brewers, 17 are production-only breweries. Blatant Beer is no longer brewed in or affiliated with Massachusetts. Banner Beer and Wicked Pissa are currently on hiatus, and Enlightenment Ales has moved to the West Coast.
First by region: Metro Boston – 1st brewer Sam Adams (1985), 1st brewery Harpoon (1986) / West – Northampton (1987) / Northeast – Ipswich/Mercury (1991) / Central – Wachusett (1994) / Southeast – Cisco (1995).
The Massachusetts craft beer era started in 1985-86 with the opening of Boston Beer (Sam Adams) and Harpoon. Only two others, Northampton Brewery and Cambridge Brewing Co., that started in the 1980s are still open. There are 15 brewers who started in the 1990s and are still brewing, and 20 brewers who began between 2001 and 2010. In all, only 42 of the current brewers were established in the first 25 years of the modern craft beer movement in Massachusetts.