A craft beer road trip in America’s northeast
Portsmouth is New Hampshire’s brewing capital, where both of our picks for this state can be found.
Smuttynose Brewing Company was named after Sumuttynose Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire. At the brewery, free tours and tastings start at 3 pm on Fridays and 11 am on Saturdays. Be sure to try the Old Brown Dog Ale, an award-winning brown ale that is a tad bit chocolatey.
Smuttynose’s sister brewery, Portsmouth Brewery, can be found just 10 minutes away, right on the coast. The brewery’s downstairs Jimmy LaPanza Lounge is always mixing things up with creative specials. Our favourite? Thursdays are “Parking Violation Nights”. If you are unlucky enough to get a parking ticket while in town, bring it with you to the bar along with your check book, and the folks at Portsmouth will drop your paid ticket in the mail for you and pour you a free pint of frothy cold beer. We suggest the Black Cat Stout (currently on draught) or the upcoming Oatmeal Stout, both of which should warm you up with smooth, chocolatey goodness as the New England winter approaches.
With one craft brewery for every 30,000 people, Vermont boasts more breweries per capita than any other state in the US, according to the Brewers Association. In this snowy state, brewing and drinking good beer is the best way we can think of to stay warm.
In Middlebury, the “fine organic ales” at Wolaver’s/Otter Creek Brewing, are just that: well-crafted and sustainably produced. The seasonal pumpkin ale, for instance, is made from local, organic pumpkins from Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham, Vermont. Otter Creek offers self-guided tours.
Self-guided or guided tours can be taken at Burlington’s Magic Hat Brewing Company on every day of the week except Monday. Whether you take the tour or visit the “growler bar”, opt to try the latest seasonal beer, Howl, a black lager so good (it is roasty and malty yet quite light) that they made this awesome animation just for it.
Thirty minutes east of Magic Hat, the Alchemist Pub and Brewery serves up some of the best beer nationwide. Try the Heady Topper, a double IPA that should go nicely with the pub’s three-cheese pizzetta, featuring Vermont chevre.
Hill Farmstead Brewery is another brewery that thrives on experimentation. It claims to rarely produce the same beer more than once or twice a year. Try one of the brewery’s collaborations – anything oak-aged should be delicious – or one of its Single Hop Series beers.
Maine’s natural resources make it a fantastic place to make beer. The blueberries make for a fragrant fruit ale, the oysters for a luscious oyster stout and the honey for pretty much any flavourful style.
Allagash Brewing Company in Portland makes some of the best Belgian-style beers in the country. Free tours and tastings (which are generous in portion) are offered every day except Sunday. Must-try styles include the tripel and the quadruple, called Four. Both are rich in flavour, the former tasting more of honey and the latter more of malty raisins with a hint of a wine flavour.
Ten minutes away, Shipyard Brewing Co offers a free “full brewery” tour every Tuesday night starting at 5:30 pm, but reservations are necessary. For the impromptu beer lover, walk in for a “video tour” and a free tasting.
About two hours north of Portland, the coastal town of Belfast offers fantastic seafood and fantastic beer. Every autumn, Belfast’s Marshall Wharf Brewing Company throws 120 local oysters into a boil to make its seasonal Permaquid Oyster Stout. Whether you are in the camp that finds oyster stout gimmicky or you are eager to try this experimental brew, one thing to note is that oysters do not actually bring their briny flavour to the beer. Instead, their protein gives this smooth stout an even silkier, more luxurious texture.