The Beers of New England
September 14, 2010 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a brewery tour and beer tasting in New England?

I'd like to take Mr. Llama on a beer jaunt somewhere in New England. The beers that I particularly like are geographically out of reach, while the ones that I am less fond of are handily next door. Is there any brewery tour in New England that you would recommend?

I like: Bear Republic, Dogfish, Stone
I like less: Magic Hat and Harpoon

Although if you told me that visiting Harpoon is a blast and has a good restaurant attached, it would be okay. I mainly just want to do something fun w/Mr. Llama.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's Redhook in Portsmouth. The tour was okay but nothing special if you've already visited other breweries. Also, it's kind of in the middle of nowhere.
posted by halogen at 2:23 PM on September 14, 2010

I know nothing about woodstock inn and brewery besides someone in my general neighborhood occasionally parks one of their trucks on my street. That said, it's a lovely area up there in NH.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:39 PM on September 14, 2010

These folks in Westport MA used to have a nice brewery tour and they recently started just doing small batch beers and I have no idea if they have a tour anymore or not. I'd call them. If they have a tour, it's a neat part of New England and it was a funky place to visit and there is neat stuff to do nearby. I've heard the Magic Hat tour was underwhelming. The Harpoon Brewery is nice and has a nice pub but I don't know much about the tours, though Windsor VT is nice and interesting in its own right. Here is the Tour Map for the VT Brewers Association which might help you make some decisions. Long Trail is one of my favorite local breweries, but they have a self-guided tour which may be nothing special. Other beers I really like: Trout River and the Alchemist stuff, don't seem to have real tours either.
posted by jessamyn at 2:42 PM on September 14, 2010

Well I was all set to come on here and recommend a trip to Berkshire Brewing, but I just checked their website and they only do tours on Saturdays at 1pm and they can't sell beer directly to the public (yet - hopefully).

At any rate they brew real good beer and are worth picking up if you are in the neighborhood.

Based on your likes, I would suggest you pass on Woodstock, not impressed with their beer.

My favorite secret beer experience in New England was at the Norwich Inn in Norwich Vermont. They have a small lineups of small batch beers, and had great food when I went, but that was two years ago.

This is the online version of the local brew paper they have some good info on there, but the web version is a bit hard to navigate: Link here
posted by WickedPissah at 2:51 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are going to Norwich, then Long Trail is also nearby.
posted by gregglind at 3:00 PM on September 14, 2010

Although if you told me that visiting Harpoon is a blast and has a good restaurant attached, it would be okay.

You might consider the Harpoon/Boston 21st. Annual Octoberfest (October 1 &2) and the Harpoon/Vermont 10th. Annual Octoberfest (October 9 & 10). It's a fun time ... and local vendors serve food, etc.
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on September 14, 2010

Dogfish Head is just outside Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I have been and the tour is definitely worth it; you get to see the whole operation from start to finish, and the guide is pretty hilarious and friendly. You get to taste one of their regular IPAs, usually, and then a couple of their odder selections at the end (and buy some, of course). The brewery is outside town, but the brewpub is in downtown Rehoboth, a beach town, so you could make a day trip of it.

You're hitting the limits of New England by visiting the southern tip of Delaware, but if you're headed in that general direction, you might also visit the Victory brewery in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. They are a bit bigger now, and some say their Hop Devil and other beers aren't as good as they used to be, but it's a matter of taste. Their pub fare is uniformly good, IMO.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:11 PM on September 14, 2010

If you head to Vermont, depending on your itinerary, also consider Maple Leaf Malt & Brewing Co. (Wilmington),The Flying Goose Brew Pub and Grille (New London) and The Alchemist (Waterbury). I've enjoyed my visits at each brew pub.
posted by ericb at 3:19 PM on September 14, 2010

You're hitting the limits of New England by visiting the southern tip of Delaware...

Um, no you're not.

New England's limits are Maine's northern border with Canada and the southwestern tip of Connecticut! ; )

The six states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) which comprise the region are proud of the designation and are quick to point out that New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware can never claim to be part of New England, as much as they might like. The same goes for 'sparkling wines' wanting to be considered Champagne! No way, José.
posted by ericb at 3:29 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

I always thought New England included the thirteen colonies, but then I'm happy to defer to ericb. Southern Delaware well is out of the way of a trip to Massachusetts and Maine, in any case.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:35 PM on September 14, 2010

I always thought New England included the thirteen colonies...

No problem. A common misperception.

The original 13 Colonies:
New England: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts (of which Maine was part) and New Hampshire.

Middle Colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

Southern Colonies: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
posted by ericb at 3:44 PM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: Smuttynose Brewing Company is one of my all time favorite breweries and is located in Portsmouth, NH. Tours and tastings are offered Fridays at three PM and Saturdays at 11:00 AM.
Its sister company, The Portsmouth Brewery, is located in downtown Portsmouth. They brew some beer on site and serve the Smuttynose line as well. It has a full restaurant that serves above average standard brewpub fare.
posted by Crashback at 3:47 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

This spring someone gave me a Whale's Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewery and have been enjoying their beers all summer. They are located on Nantucket (about 2 miles from town) and they have a tour and tasting area (no restaurant, but Bartlett Farm is nearby).
posted by bCat at 3:53 PM on September 14, 2010

Wachusett Brewing Company has a fun tour. They're engineers and repurposed much of their equipment for brewing. That was interesting to hear about.
posted by ifandonlyif at 4:07 PM on September 14, 2010

You didn't specify "micro" so how about a Bud? Interesting for perspective, plus, the clydes.
posted by quarterframer at 4:08 PM on September 14, 2010

Not technically New England but we had a good visit to the Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown, NY, and there's that baseball thing there too.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:11 PM on September 14, 2010

I've been to the Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, ME. It was really low-key, but our tour guide was awesome and we drank a not-insignificant amount when it came to tasting. Portland's a really fun city to check out anyway.

The only time I tried to take the Sam Adams tour, they were slammed and started turning people away. I had a friend who went and he said it was a blast. The Boston brewery focuses more on experimental brews, I've heard. Anyway, the brewery isn't in a great neighborhood, but Boston has fun touristy things to do, and Cambridge Brewing Co. is just across the river. And Cambridge Common (hit your mute button) has beer dinners.

Mmm.. beer.
posted by giraffe at 4:34 PM on September 14, 2010

Response by poster: Sounds like we could go to both Smuttynose and Redhook and then go out for dinner in Portsmouth, am I getting that right? (I don't know why I'm disbelieving that there's two breweries in Portsmouth. I just looked at their websites twice.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:42 PM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: If the Redhook tour is anything at all like it was in Seattle, it will be a good time. There's a MeFite who used to work there a million years ago, I'll MeMail you his contact info and you can ask him for specifics.
posted by jessamyn at 5:00 PM on September 14, 2010

The original 13 Colonies...New England:

FWIW ... a footnote: The present State of Vermont was disputed between the colonies of New York and New Hampshire. From 1777 to 1791, it existed as the de facto independent Vermont Republic. In 1791 Vermont became the 14th. state.
posted by ericb at 5:07 PM on September 14, 2010

Response by poster: This is perfect guys -- I think Portsmouth is a good destination and I appreciate the bonus historical lessons!

Thanks everyone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:23 PM on September 14, 2010

Shipyard in Portland does put on a good tour, and you could eat at Gritty's to hit another local brewery (no tours but beer is brewed there). Or you could eat much better than pub food at lots of the great restaurants in Portland. So consider Maine for another NE trip if you're set on Portsmouth for this one!
posted by Sukey Says at 5:37 PM on September 14, 2010

New England Brewery is just outside of New Haven. It's a surprisingly small operation (like many of the breweries are when they aren't fancied up for the tourists), but very friendly guys and you can just wander by or call ahead and talk to the brewmaster.
posted by smackfu at 5:56 PM on September 14, 2010

I agree with Crashback, you should check out the Portsmouth Brewery, but I disagree about the quality of the food. I lived in Portsmouth for two years, and I ate there about a dozen times.. I was never impressed with the food (not even once, and I'm not much of a critic) but the beer is great. And they have a beer sampler that is fairly inexpensive and lets you try like 3-4 ounces of each beer on tap!

Also, I have the same tastes in beer as you (dogfish/stone) and also dislike Magic Hat, but I lived in Burlington for 5 years and checked out their brewery once for the hell of it. It's a pretty sweet tour! They show you the whole bottling operation and everything, which is actually pretty unique, from what I hear...

Woodstock in makes an awesome brown ale called Pig's Ear Brown. They're definitely in the middle of nowhere though....

Lastly, what about some Long Trail? What a classic New England brew...
posted by Glendale at 6:28 PM on September 14, 2010

I don't believe anyone mentioned Sam Adams. Since you said Harpoon is nearby I assume you'll be in Boston. The Sam Adams tour was a great time for us one a number of reasons. They showed you the whole process which was nice and took maybe 15 minutes then they whisked all of us into a room with long tables and handed us a 5oz glass to keep then started pouring pitchers of beer. They had 3 on tap, Boston Lager, Their current seasonal, and another type. We definitely drank our fill! And the best part all this was free!

The brewery was a subway ride from town and just a short walk from the terminal. You really should make it part of your trip!
posted by mi6op at 6:51 PM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: Portsmouth is a great choice - Portsmouth Brewery is by far the best of the (three) breweries in town, and the brewpub makes a great night out. Smuttynose is owned by the team that owns Portsmouth Brewery, but the two are run separately. Portsmouth Brewery is where brewer Tod Mott creates small-batch, truly craft beer. Smuttynose is great beer, but brewed in larger quantities for retail sale and export out of state. Portsmouth Brewery is where you want to go. Go for a Brewery Tour - I think they're on Fridays at 5, check the website - and be sure to get the tasting sampler.

If you want to wake up the 2nd day, you can also sample Maine's Gritty MacDuff's and Peak Organic and other small beers nearby.

Redhook? They have a sorta fun, prepackaged brewery tour. It's pretty industrial. The pub is nice in a generic way. It's no Portsmouth BRewery.
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on September 14, 2010

Sounds like you've already settled on Portsmouth, but if you're still wavering (or want to book a second trip), I'll chime in with another vote for the Sam Adams Brewery. It's a quick tour, followed by a trip to the tasting room. Since the Boston location is their R&D facility, they tend to have some delightfully weird stuff to try (last time I went, there was a dark belgian (!) on draft along with two of their staple brews), and if you are so inclined, it is entirely possible to consume a pleasant amount of beer in your 45 minutes there. There's a beer garden outside where you can then retire, and the attached complex has some really good food, and they run a trolley down to JP's most-renowned pub twice an hour. It's also a 3-minute walk from the Orange Line, so all of Boston is then accessible to you if you wanted to make a day/weekend out of it.
posted by Mayor West at 4:28 AM on September 15, 2010

I'm going to come out of left field here and say that you should skip New England and go straight to Montreal. The beers are better, and, in my experience (I have several friends that work for breweries across NY/New England/Quebec), the brewers and staff are a heck of a lot more fun than some of the bigger microbreweries in the US.

Burlington, VT also has several awesome brewpubs/bars/breweries (Switchback, Zero Gravity at American Flatbread, Farmhouse Tap and Grill, Three Needs, VT Pub and Brewery) and is only an hour or so from Montreal. I'm biased, though, as it's my home town.

Memail me if you have specific questions or want me to put you in touch with anyone at a brewery / brewpub around here.
posted by brand-gnu at 8:16 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to recommend a visit to Portland if you're going to be in Portsmouth for more than a day or two. It's about an hour's drive and Shipyard is a decent tour and tasting experience. Plus, as mentioned, you can have your pick of many really good restaurants and a pair of fine-to-decent brew pubs.
posted by that's candlepin at 8:36 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Allagash in portland is really good
posted by bzbb at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2010

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