As promised in our first installment of The Bay State Craft Beer Drinker’s Guide to 2017, this year is off to a fast and furious start. A bevy of legislative bills have been proposed (including one that would restore distribution rights to craft brewers), three new breweries have announced plans to open in Boston (Turtle Swamp, Democracy Brewing and Mighty Squirrel), and already nine new breweries (Battle Road, Zelus, Shovel Town, Bear & Bramble, Arcpoint, Skyroc, Craft Roots, Moby Dick, and Henry and Fran) have debuted in the first quarter of 2017, pushing the total of commercial beer producers up to 132 statewide. As if that weren’t enough, Lord Hobo, RiverWalk, and Slumbrew have all recently announced expansion plans, and Ambient Film Production has started shooting a documentary about the the Bay State’s beer culture called The State of Beer. Wow, a lot is happening! But no rest for the thirsty, here’s what’s going on for the next three months.
April: Don’t Be A Fool, Drink Local
With so many recently opened breweries (Skyroc, Craft Roots, and Moby Dick to name a few), as well as a number of festivals, you might want to take cover from the April showers by ducking into a brewery or beer store to catch up on all the new Bay State brews. Get started right away with the Brew Woo at the DCU Center on Saturday, April 1st. It’s no April Fools joke, Worcester’s original craft beer festival is back, and tickets for it’s two sessions are only $35. If the reasonable price doesn’t entice you, then some of the lesser explored breweries in attendance, like 3Cross, Cold Harbor, True West and Swing Oil, should.
Rest up on Sunday because not only is April 3rd #MassBrewMonday, but it’s also World Party Day. Meet some friends at one of your favorite local breweries, or invite them over for a bottle share. Feel free to let us know what your drinking by posting it on social media and tagging us.
Another early April event to check out, especially if you live on the South Shore, is the 2nd annual Hingham Community Center Craft Beer Tasting, including Blue Hills Brewery, Start Line Brewing, and heralded home brewers Vitamin Sea, who plan to open the first brewery in Hull later this year.
You’ll also want to carve out a day to get up to the Ipswich Ale Brewer’s Table, where contract brewer Clown Shoes will be in the midst of a two-week taproom takeover. They’ll be pouring at least six of their brews, selling merch, and getting crazy from the 1st to the 12th.
Take the day off from work on April 7th to get an early start on National Beer Day, the anniversary of when selling beer in the U.S. became legal again. If pressed by your boss, say what Franklin Roosevelt said on this day 84 years ago: “I believe this would be a good time for a beer.” It’s also Session Beer Day, so pick up some Notch, whose brewer Chris Lohring was the first in the U.S. to focus exclusively on crushable, low ABV offerings. It won’t be finished yet, but their Salem taproom will soon have even more space to sit and sip session beers. Head back at the end of the month for their anniversary on the 29th. A non-ticketed event, it will feature special food vendors, a revival of the unstoppable cask (dating back to Lohring’s Tremont Brewery days), and the return of the tables to the outdoor biergarten. Another option for Session Beer Day is the new Foreman Special lager (4.5% ABV and less than 20 IBUs) from Iron Duke Brewing in Ludlow, who after a dispute with its landlord will finally be allowed to have food trucks and live music again.
On April 8th contract brewer Bay State Beer has an offer you can’t refuse – BBQ, Blues, and Brews. Vito Corleone won’t be there, but several small batch beers from their Leicester pilot brewery will be. Can’t make it? Look for their popular double IPA, Becky Likes the Smell, released for the first time in cans this month.
Headed to the 121st Boston Marathon? Enjoy a Boston 26.2 Brew from Sam Adams and help them celebrate the anniversary of the release of their first batch of beer, which came out on Patriot’s Day back in 1985.
Tuesday the 18th is Tax Day, we grant permission for everyone to drink heavily even though it’s only a weekday. Prefer not to explain to the IRS why you claimed so many drinkable itemized deductions? Wait until the weekend to drown those sorrows, or better yet, celebrate Navigation Brewing’s anniversary party in Lowell on Saturday, the 22nd. Don’t go to crazy, though. You’ll be back at it on Sunday, German Beer Day, which commemorates the Reinheitsgebot or German Purity Law. Consider a one-day hiatus from drinking local and head to an authentic German Beer bar like Olde Magoun’s Saloon in Somerville, Jacob Wirth in Boston, or Student Prince in Springfield. There’s also Armsby Abbey in Worcester, frequently voted best beer bar in Massachusetts. It’s not German, but always has a selection of highly-rated German imports on draft and in bottles.
The 26th is National Pretzel Day. Perfect excuse to get over to Wormtown or Shovel Town, both of whom offer Wicked Twisted Soft Pretzels for noshing. Rest up for a couple of days because its going to get crazy when Mass. Beer Week kicks off on Saturday the 29th. You’ll want to be at the Mass Brewer’s Guild’s Power Beer Fest in Boston where more than 60 Bay State breweries will be pouring, including hidden gems like far-off Bright Ideas Brewing in North Adams, boutique nano brewery Old Planters from Beverly, and soon-to-be open River Styx in Fitchburg.
If you’re a runner, Worcester hosts Craft Brew Races, a 5K featuring post-race libations from 20-plus Mass. breweries including active lifestyle brewer Zelus Beer and makers of the first protein-enhanced beer, Mighty Squirrel. If you’re more interested in exercising your arms, there’s also Rapscallion’s annual Hophead Fest, where you can hoist hoppy brews from a dozen area breweries including Homefield, Stone Cow, and Amherst Brewing. You can also get a sneak preview of Altruist Brewing, who will be pouring their Shiny Hoppy People IPA.
New brewery openings to look for this month include production brewer Vanished Valley in Ludlow, the Oak & Iron brewery and taproom in Andover, and 7th Wave in Medfield. Additionally, Abington’s 10th District could be pouring full pints before the end of the month, and Mayflower Brewing will welcome patrons to its expanded and renovated taproom with a Grand Opening on the 22nd.
Another notable opening is the barrel room at Eataly Boston’s new Terra Restaurant. In addition to having a killer draft list including IPAs from Night Shift and Trillium, selected beers will be aged in Italian wine barrels and poured from a one-of-a-kind nitrogenator mixed gas system called the Rack AeriAle. Among the first beers is Brett Conspiracy from Cambridge Brewing Company brewmaster Will Meyers.
New and special beer releases in April include a first-time canning run of the six classics from Brew Practitioners, first-time distribution by New City for four of their barley beers, a new double IPA from Saltbox Kitchen Brewery, and a long-awaited second release from Old Planters, Little Misery Pale Ale. There’s more: 3 Beards has starting canning, and has a new Belgian pale ale which you can now try on tap at the new Brewmaster’s Brewing Services taproom in Williamsburg. Another contract brewer that recently started canning is Entitled Beer, whose new session IPA, Therapy, just hit shelves. Then there’s Hitchcock Brewing’s Double Bottom and Wandering Star’s Loopy Juice, both IPAs, and both in cans for the first time. Flying Dreams also has an IPA ready for the spring, WooTang, a tangy New England style IPA that’s available only at the brewery.
May: National Meditation Month – Close Your Eyes, Breath, Imagine A Month Filled With Beer
May is also National Share A Story Month. Our story: we love drinking craft beer, especially when it’s brewed right here, in Massachusetts. Shouldn’t be too hard to find considering it’s Mass. Beer Week up through the 7th, which is also National Homebrew Day. Bay State amateurs worth checking out include Lightworks Ale Project, Charlton Beer Company, Ole’ Buzzard Brewing, Spacelab Beer, and Tipsy Wisdom.
If, like me, your significant other has been on your case about finding a hobby other than drinking beer, we’ve got your covered – beer photography. Join the Boston Area Beer Enthusiasts Society (BABES) on the 8th as they celebrate Mike Johnson from Festpics at Row 34 in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood.
If you’d prefer to stick with your drinking hobby, head over to Dorchester Brewing Company this month. They’ve recently added a number of brewing partners and announced several collaborations, including one with brewery-in-planning Brato Brewhouse & Kitchen, who will be there with food and brews on the 12th. Another reason to get over to the DBC taproom is to try the Jalapeno Cucumber Kolsch from Bad Martha, whose Martha’s Vineyard brewery doesn’t open to the public until the end of the month. That brew should also be available in cans soon.
Boston Beer Summit, one of the city’s oldest festivals, is back on Saturday the 13th with two sessions and a plethora of local, national, and international beer. Or you could check out Abandoned Building in Easthampton for their 3rd anniversary, featuring an outdoor beer garden, food trucks, live music, and lots of corn hole.
Raise a pint glass to mom on Sunday, May 14th. If she’s a beer lover consider taking her to Black Hat Brew Works. The Bridgewater micro brewer recently doubled production and built a 500-sqare foot outdoor patio. Look for food trucks on Saturdays this summer, and the addition of Wednesday night hours as well. Another good option would be lunch at Battle Road’s new Brew House in Maynard. They’ve recently released three new beers: a Belgian stout, a hoppy pale ale, and a malty Scottish ale.
Not that you need an excuse to go on a 7-day beer drinking binge, but May 15-21 is American Craft Beer Week, a celebration of culture and community of craft brewers across the U.S.. One of the cooler local events is the Cask Festival on Friday the 19th at Cape Cod Beer, whose taproom renovation should be nearly finished by then. Bog Iron, Berkley, Independent Fermentations (IndieFerm), and Mayflower will all take part. Head to Malden on Saturday, the 20th for an all-day outdoor festival at Idle Hands Craft Ales. If all goes well, they may even have their new patio ready. Lefty’s also has their Spring Fever Brew Fest, and of course there’s HarpoonFest that weekend, which includes their 5-Miler Road Race on Sunday.
What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than by supporting the Black Ale Project, an initiative to raise money (nearly $14,000 so far) and awareness on behalf of U.S. veterans. Bay State breweries that have already participated include Medusa, Wormtown, Stone Cow, and Castle Island. Up next is Brazo Fuerte with a black IPA, conveniently available in cans for your weekend plans. Another option is to help Belchertown nano brewer Arcpoint Brewing, founded by two Air Force veterans, reach their Kickstarter goal. With the funds, they plan to upgrade their 2-barrel operation and start distribution. Another new veteran-owned brewery is Henry And Fran Brewing in West Boylston, whose beer should be in distribution by the holiday weekend. They also plan to start weekly can releases out of their production brewery in the near future.
New brewery openings to look for this month include contract brewer Down the Road in Everett, and 1-barrel nano brewer Two Weeks Notice in Westfield. In addition, Lowell’s Merrimack Ales, who recently revamped two of its IPAs, may also have its new taproom ready to go. And Cold Harbor in Westborough plans to have a beer tent set up on weekends so patrons can enjoy the great outdoors along with their great brews.
June: The Longest Days of the Year, It’s Time for Patio Beers
Kick the month off with Beer Advocate’s Micro Brew Invitational, a celebration of old school, small-batch brewing on June 2 & 3 at Seaport Trade Center in Boston. Bay State breweries taking part include Somerville’s Aeronaut, Lynn’s Bent Water, Western Mass. gems Brick & Feather and Honest Weight, as well as Framingham’s Exhibit ‘A’. Tickets are still available, but probably not for long.
Springdale barrel master Matt Cohen hopes to drop some knowledge on sour beer fans this spring. Along with general manager Joe Connolly, the two plan to offer a unique opportunity for craft beer drinkers to get their pucker on by tasting barrel samples and building a blend that will be bottle conditioned for participants to take home later.
Independent Fermentations has started a hop field, planting 100 bines (no, that’s not a typo, they’re actually called bines) on Wildland’s Trust conservation land in Plymouth. They also hope to launch their guest brewer program this month, which will allow upstart brewers without their own resources to brew small batches in their brew house.
Somerville’s Hyper-Local Craft Brew Fest is back, with 3 sessions on the 9th & 10th. Newburyport Brewing and Portico will both be pouring, and the Friday night session will feature a special cask beer conditioned by NERAX cellarman Randy Baril.
A cool event for animal lovers is Fort Hill Brewery’s 2nd annual Barks & Brews fundraiser for the Dakin Humane Society on Sunday the 11th. That’s also the day of Bog Iron Brewing’s 0.0 K charity event. In addition to serving up their own tasty brews, Black Hat Brew Works and 10th District will also be pouring. Another option on the 11th is the Ipswich Ale Brewery’s Good in the Hood block party, which features beer from the Ipswich Ale Tapmobiles, a variety of food trucks, live music, local vendors, and activities for all ages.
Western Mass Beer Week is back, and will run from June 10-17. Highlights include five days of tastings at Berkshire Brewing, an open house at Building 8 (who acquired a one-day pouring permit to serve full pints), another at The People’s Pint (featuring rare vintage brews from the brewery’s cellar), and a number of special collaboration beers including one from the region’s newest brewers, Vanished Valley in Ludlow and Westfield’s Two Weeks Notice. The festival culminates with a pair of popular annual events, the Pedal to Pints Summer Ride and the Worthy Fest in downtown Springfield, both on Saturday the 17th.
If you happen to be traveling out West and, dare i say it, you’re travel partner isn’t a craft beer fan, you might consider a stop at Element Brewing. They recently received their distillery license and produced their first batch of moonshine called Black Lightening.
Beers For Good will celebrate its ninth Nashua River Brewers Festival in fitchburg on the 24th, with proceeds benefiting various North Central Mass. charities. Breweries you’ll definitely want to get some pours from include White Lion, who plans to open a pilot brewery in Springfield this summer, Spencer Brewery, the only certified Trappist beer maker in the U.S., and Moon Hill, a new distribution brand of Gardner Ale House.
To round out the month, soak in the sun on a few of the longest days of the year by sipping some suds at one of the many Bay State breweries with patio seating. A few of our personal favorites include Cape Ann Brewing’s harborside deck in Gloucester, the Kretschmann Beer Garden in Webster, The Tap’s spacious deck in Haverhill, and the rooftop bar at Northampton Brewrery.
Another that’s sure to be on our preferred list when it celebrates its grand opening on the 17th is Wachusett Brewing’s new Brew Yard. Featuring an outdoor bar alongside a huge copper kettle fire pit, it promises to be a unique experience.
A new beer that should pair well with early summer is Mayflower Brewing’s first New England style IPA. They’ve settled on a recipe but no word on a name yet. Another seasonal release to look for is Buzzard’s Bay Brewing’s Sow & Pigs, a perfect take along for fishing. Half the proceeds from all sales will go to the non profit Buzzard’s Bay Coalition to support its efforts toward cleaner waters.
Speaking of water, if you’re headed to any of the Cape’s beaches this month, now you can pack some Devil’s Purse in the cooler. They recently partnered with Isle Brewer’s Guild and will expand distribution of two of their flagships, Handline Kolsch and Sufman’s Check ESB. Two Hog Island Beer Co. offerings should be available in cans by beach season as well, their White Shark Wheat and Outermost IPA.
In case you missed the news last month, Somerville’s Slumbrew will add a new brew house at Assembly Row this June. The 3,600-square foot space will have 20 tap lines and a full kitchen. The existing Beer Tent will eventually go away, but the new brew house will offer plenty of patio seating.
A barrage of potential new brewery openings this month include the highly anticipated River Styx Brewing in Fitchburg, contract brewer Percival Beer Company, who will now brew and pour beer in Norwood, Brewery Silvaticus in Amesbury, True North Ales in Ipswich, and the Cape’s newest addition, Barnstable Brewing. Also, RiverWalk expects to be moved in to its new brewery and have its taproom open by month’s end, and Castle Island will debut its new 1,500-square foot taproom that features 16 taps and capacity for 100 people.
If you know of a top-notch Bay State beer event that we missed, let us know in the comments section below. Stay thirsty friends.