Oct. 10, 2012 - Issue #886: Typhoon Judy
Boston, beer and baseball
Vue's beer geek strikes goldWe might hate the Bruins and Red Sox and can legitimately mock all of the US for its messed up health care system, but I gotta say we could learn a thing or two from Bostonians about beer.
I recently spent a week in Boston for work and found some time to explore their local beer scene. Generally beer fans know all about Denver, Portland and even San Diego and their unbelievable beer cultures. They are what we aspire to. Boston, on the other hand, flies a bit under the radar. Mention Boston and beer people nod their heads and say something unimpressed like “Yeah, they got some good beer”.
However, after a week there, I can say that even if it isn’t the best beer scene in the US, it sure beats the crap out of anything in Canada. Allow me to walk through a few of my experiences, in case you are heading down there anytime soon.
The first thing you need to know is that there are a LOT of breweries in the region. Greater Boston has 25 breweries (most of which you can reach by transit). Within a couple hours drive there are more than 100 craft breweries, almost as many as we have in all of Canada.
Of course, not all of them are something to write home about, but in that mix are some of the country’s finest craft brewers, including Samuel Adams, Allagash, Cisco, Harpoon, Wachusett, Magic Hat, Smuttynose and Shipyard. For the record, some of my local favourites were Magic Hat #9, Waschussett’s Green Monsta, Allagash White, Pretty Things Jack D’or and Jack’s Abbey India Pale Lager (write the names down in case you go there).
Of course, having plentiful breweries doesn’t mean much if there isn’t anywhere you can drink them. On the liquor store front, Boston was disappointing—I can get a better selection at Sherbrooke Liquor. But it was the pub scene that made Boston fun. Within easy reach of the subway there are a handful of first rate beer places that any beer geek would love to find. Right downtown I found two. The Parish Café on Boylston Street has a classy, refined feel. Their beer list of 10 on tap and about 40 in the bottle may not impress in terms of quantity, but the quality is unquestioned. Every beer deserves its place. And the staff had a good sense of beer and could talk you through the list.
A place that really warmed my heart was Bukowski’s Tavern (Dalton Street). I loved its local, working class feel. No bells and whistles here; just a long bar, a few tables and a gruff, no-nonsense atmosphere. Twenty-one amazing, constantly rotating craft beer on tap and another 100 or so in the bottle. Just don’t expect the bartender to make small talk. I happened to wander in while the Canadian women's soccer team was playing the US in the Olympic semi-final, and it was clear I needed to keep my allegiances to myself lest I not make it out with all my teeth. And this was soccer, goddammit!
Many tourists feel the need to work their way to fabled Fenway Park. I did too, but not for the baseball. As it works out there are two good beer places a Bautista slam away from the historic ballpark. The Yardhouse is a huge beer pub chain spanning the US, but don’t let that fool you. They know their beer. They have 142 taps, plus more in the bottle (I neglected to count). A good chunk are corporate beer, but I also found an impressive range of craft beer from across the US, plus the staff knew their stuff. The other Fenway beer place is a brewpub called Boston Beer Works. The beer was only average, but you gotta give it points for offering real beer right across the street from Fenway.
But my favourite Boston beer location had to be the Sunset Grill and Tap in the working class suburb of Allston (only a 30 minute subway ride). It has 112 taps and another 400 in the bottle, but that is not the only thing that makes this place great. It has a friendly, down-home atmosphere, a welcoming attitude and what is unquestioningly the most beer knowledgeable staff I have ever encountered. The bartender—an outgoing 40-something woman—was able to match me toe-to-toe in beer knowledge. She knew her hop varieties, her brewing traditions and loads of other knowledge. I knew I was home.
These are only a few highlights of what Boston has to offer a beer fan. Their beer culture is far more developed than anywhere in Canada and there is enough local beer that you can spend your entire time drinking 100-mile beer. And really, isn’t that something we all want? V
Jason Foster is the creator of onbeer.org, a website devoted to news and views on beer from the prairies and beyond.
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy