8 of New England’s Top Craft Breweries
Little old New England may not have much in the way of land mass, but the bucolic region is home to some 300+ breweries—including trailblazers like Sam Adams and Harpoon, and new(er) innovators like Alchemist and Magic Hat. Here, just 8 of New England's finest craft brewers—AKA where to get your drink on in the great Northeast.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
Allagash Brewing Company
In 1995, Rob Tod started a one-man brewing operation in Portland that would result in the iconic Allagash White. In his eyes, the American market had already cornered German and British beers, but no one stateside had managed to master Belgian brews. Flash forward a few decades, and it was clear Tod was onto something. Drop by the brewery any day of the week for a $4 tasting flight—you get four 3 oz pours—and/or a tour of the facility (in which flights are free) including an overview of their oak barrel aging and spontaneous fermentation processes. Grab a few cases on your way out, too—Allagash is so fond of its home state that the brewer started Give Where You Live, an initiative that funnels proceeds back into local community organizations.
Boston, Massachusetts & Windsor, Vermont
Founded in 1986, Harpoon got its start the same way many craft breweries do; with a group of guys who really loved drinking together but found that beer choices were in short supply. After renting a waterfront warehouse in Boston’s Seaport District and finding success, the trio opened a second location in Windsor, Vermont. Stop by either for brewery tours, UFO pints, and soft pretzels.
Providence, Rhode Island
If ever a brewer had a soap-opera-worthy backstory, it’d be Narragansett. The Rhode Island company got its start back in 1888, after investments from “the Original Six”—businessmen John Fehlberg, Augustus Borchandt, Herman Possner, George Gerhard, Constand Moeller, and Jacob Wirth. From there, the company withstood prohibition and World War II before their iconic “Hi Neighbor. Have a Gansett” marketing campaign brought them into the heyday of their success in the 30s and 40s, only for them to narrowly avoid bankruptcy for nearly thirty years starting in the 70s. Luckily nowadays, the Pawtucket-based brewer is back on its feet. Drop by the taproom to try out their flagship lager, coffee milk stout, Bermuda-style Pilsner, and more, or check out their events calendar (they host bashes all over Rhode Island).
Smuttynose Brewing Company
Hampton, New Hampshire
This New Hampshire-born brewery came about in 1994, borrowing its name from Smuttynose Island—one of nine rugged islands that form the Isles of Shoals, an archipelago that straddles the NH-Maine border. Though they got their start in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s oldest brewpub moved its headquarters to Hampton’s Towle Farm in 2012. Swing by the facility for a tour of their 27o barrel fermenting tanks and try out a few classic and seasonal brews like the Shoals Pale Ale and Blueberry Short Weisse.
The Alchemist Brewery
Waterbury & Stowe, Vermont
Nearly 15 years ago in Waterbury, The Alchemist came to fruition as a family-run, 60-seat brewpub. After emerging as one of Vermont’s most popular hangouts, owners John and Jen Kimmich decided to add two small production breweries to the mix. Nowadays, the Alchemist operates a 15-barrel facility in Waterbury that brews and cans their flagship IPA Heady Topper, and a state-of-the-art brewery in Stowe which pumps out seasonal varieties and their second mainstay, Focal Banger. If you’re looking for a tour or tasting, drop by the brewery and visitors center in Stowe. FYI, it’s family and pup friendly.
Magic Hat Brewing Company
South Burlington, Vermont
Magic Hat is perhaps the most eclectic brewer on our list, working at the crossroads “where ancient alchemy meets modern day science.” Since 1994, the South Burlington-based company has been producing “elixirs” like the #9 Not Quite Pale Ale and Circus Boy Hefeweizen. Today, their facility pumps out more than 175,000 barrels a year. Looking to taste test some of their more experimental brews? Venture out to the Artifactory—their bar and tasting room—where you can try out 15 beers on tap, exclusive monthly pilot batches that are only released there (get in quick—they only have 20 kegs), and regionally-inspired pub grub like Vermont-sourced Cabot Creamery grilled cheeses.
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New England Brewing Co.
New(ish) to the Northeast brewery scene is New England Brewing Co. The circa-2001 company set out to turn canned beer on its head, transforming it from “bad, old man beer” to fresh and exciting flavors with names—Sea Hag, G-Bot, Combover with Apricots, and Fuzzy Baby Ducks—to match. Hang out with friends at NEBco’s on-site taproom, and don’t leave without grabbing a growler.
Samuel Adams Brewery
When it came about in 1984 with just one family recipe to its name, Sam Adams was a pioneer on the forefront of New England’s craft brewing scene. Now, after 30 years of brewing its iconic Boston Lager, and running three facilities—the OG in Boston, and two additional production-only breweries in Ohio and Pennsylvania—the company has cemented its status as one of region’s finest. With more than 50 different beers (seasonals, classics, brewmasters, specialty, etc.) there’s always something new to try out. Take a tour of the Jamaica Plain brewery to get a look at the process, sniff some specialty malts, and sample some of their latest suds.
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