Mine's a Pint — New England's Breweries
The biggest revolution in New England since 1776? That has to be the rise and rise of the microbrewery. In the six states of New England, you are never far from a good brew. The more colorful the name the better. Think Big Claw Pilsner or Ginga' Ninja, Pumpkin Eater Ale and Wolf's Breath Winter Warmer; check out The Vermonster or the complex Three Peak Holiday Stout that is barrel-aged on French-roasted Kenyan coffee beans, no less! What makes New England beers so interesting for enthusiasts is the way that brewers respect tradition but admire innovation.
Alongside the IPAs, stouts and brown ales, organic lagers and Hefeweizen, they are happy to experiment with natural New England ingredients, such as wild blueberries, cranberries, maple syrup and pumpkin. Slumbrew, the Somerville Brewing Company’s rich porter, even uses cacao nibs from their award-winning neighbor, the Taza Chocolate factory. So, where to track down this amber nectar? That’s easy. Small breweries are so popular that every state now has a beer or brewery trail of some kind.
On the Trail of a Perfect Pint
- Connecticut, neatly wedged between the connoisseurs of Boston and New York, features a dozen breweries, craft brewers and events on its busy Connecticut Beer Trail.
- Maine: In the past 28 years, more than 50 breweries have sprung up in Maine. The Maine Brewers’ Guild has a Maine Beer Trail. Download the map; on each visit, get a signature and you can qualify for goodies, such as baseball caps or Maine Beer Gear. Don’t have a designated driver? Join enthusiasts aboard the Maine Brew Bus. For active fun, there's even a "bike and brews" tour!
- Massachusetts: In 1634, the first 'publick house' opened in Massachusetts; 354 years later, Jim Koch of Samuel Adams revived the ancient art. In Boston, tour Sam Adams, the Harpoon Brewery or take a Boston Brew Tour; head west on Route 2 for the Valley Beer Trail that links nearly 30 destinations in western Massachusetts and southern Vermont.
- New Hampshire takes its brews so seriously that the state has created a downloadable Brewery Map, listing a dozen or so of the best spots for a pint…or two! Head to Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack for a complimentary factory tour to see how Budweiser is crafted, plus see the world famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses. New in 2013: a brewery bus, Granite State Growler Tours, LLC.
- Rhode Island: Beer and sailors have always had a special relationship. No wonder Rhode Island, with its nautical tradition, is part of the revolution, with 13 breweries, including four in Providence, one in Newport and even one on tiny Block Island. Sample beer AND rum at the Newport Storm Brewery with the Thomas Tew Distillery on site as well.
- Vermont has more craft breweries per capita than any other state. View a map listing nearly 30 establishments; plan your route; pick up a "passport" and take the Vermont Brewery Challenge. Get a stamp on each visit to a Vermont brewery. The more stamps, the better the prize, from a bottle opener to beer gear! Or, let someone else do the driving with Burlington Brew Tours or Vermont Backroad Tours.
Great Festivals, Great Fun
The six states all host beer festivals and Oktoberfests, where you can taste the best of the best under one roof. Here are some of the most popular for 2014. Great live music and food are part of the fun.
- Great International Spring Beer Festival, Providence, Rhode Island (April 25, 2015) – 250+ craft brews.
- The Connecticut Craft Brewers’ Beer Festival, Naugatuck, Connecticut. (May, 2015) – The state’s longest running beer tasting event celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014; 50 breweries and brew pubs, 200+ craft brews.
- American Craft Beer Fest, Boston, Massachusetts (May 29-30, 2015) – 140+ brewers, 640+ beers.
- New England Brewfest, Lincoln, New Hampshire (June 26-28, 2015) – Celebrating its 11th anniversary, it includes 30+ of New England's top microbreweries.
- Vermont Brewers Festival, Burlington, Vermont (July 17-18, 2015) – The east coast’s longest-running festival, featuring Vermont and neighboring brews.
- Acadia's Oktoberfest Food & Crafts Festival, Southwest Harbor, Maine (October 10-11, 2015) – 88 brands of Maine's finest beer and wine, plus all-day music.
- Also see this list of New England brew festivals.
New England's Octoberfests
Below are just a few of the Octoberfest events you'll find amidst the beautiful fall colors of the region.
- Newport's International Oktoberfest, Newport, Rhode Island (October 17-18, 2015) – A bona fide Bavarian weekend.
- Oktoberfest at Loon Mountain, Loon Mountain, New Hampshire (October 10-11, 2015) – Celebrate fall colors with German music, food and beer.
- Stowe's Oktoberfest, Stowe, Vermont (October 2-4, 2015) – An annual celebration of the harvest and fall foliage.
- Harpoon Brewery's Octoberfest, Boston, Massachusetts (October 2-3, 2015) – Three stages with live music and a selection of Harpoon beers and ales.