Good Beer Guide To New England Update

A Comprehensive Update To The Good Beer Guide To New England…

It’s a running joke in the travel publishing industry that your product is out-of-date before it even hits the shelves. This time-tested maxim has again proven to be true when applied to The Good Beer Guide to New England. Published by the University Press of New England in May 2006, the guide has sold quite a few copies and been critically well-received. While a remarkable amount of the book’s content has withstood the test of time, I’ve been compiling information to keep the book updated online (in anticipation of a second edition down the line). If you have any updates, please feel free to contact me with your information. The comprehensive and dedicated Updates Page can be found here or by clicking on the Updates Page on the sidebar of any page.

The craft breweries of New England, which for you New Yorkers is defined as the six states of the Northeast, excepting your own, have experienced impressive stability in turbulent times. Of the 96 breweries and brewpubs (counting chain operations only once) and 11 beer bars profiled, only two have closed shop (Franconia Notch, which the book noted was in the process of closing, and the Manchester location of the Hops brewpub franchise, which was a victim of a corporate bankruptcy). Two breweries have converted their production operations into contract brewing operations (Casco Bay Brewing and Concord Brewery). During the last two years, we’ve seen nine new beer destinations open. In Massachusetts, the following brewpubs opened for business: Pittsfield Brew Works (Pittsfield), Gardner Ale House (Gardner), Mayflower Brewing Company (Plymouth), Cody Brewing Company (Danvers), and John Harvard’s opened another location at the Jiminy Peak ski area (Hancock). Maine saw the creation of two new places, the Marshall Whaf Brewing Company (Belfast) and the Inn on Peak’s Island (near Portland). Each of the other New England states had one new opening: Southport Brewing opened a new location in Hamden (CT); Pennichuck Brewing in Milford (NH); and Stonecutters Brewhouse (VT). Another two breweries came and went in the time since the guide was published. We hardly knew Hornpout Brewing (VT) and the Whale Tail Brewpub (ME).

In the first edition of the guide, I limited my selection of Great Beer Bars to 11 places in New England. In so doing, I defined a ‘great beer bar’ as being “comprised of a combination of rarely achieved elements.? These places excelled in several crucial respects, including “extraordinary selection of craft beers, respect their clients in terms of keeping prices fair, hold events promoting craft beers (from beer dinners to brewer meet-and-greets), make craft beer key to their business, and also offer true character as pubs.?

By these hard-to-meet criteria, I would now add the following four places to round out the list as the “15 Great New England Beer Bars.?

The Dirty Truth, Northampton, Massachusetts. Proprietor Daniel Lanigan has built a massive multi-tap destination in downtown Northampton to rival his sister pub, Amherst’s the Moan and Dove. The Dirty Truth doesn’t capture the attitude of the M&D but it does provide another worthy addition to the local nightlife and the Massachusetts beer scene.

Ebenezer’s Pub, Lovell, Maine. Owner Chris Lively goes all out to provide the ultimate geek adventure for true beer enthusiasts deep in the Maine tundra. A big fan of Ebay, you’re likely to find a lot of unexpected offerings both listed on the menu and on reserve if you know to ask for them. Make sure to ask for Chris if you visit (he lives in the house attached to the bar).

Cambridge Common, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The dedicated ladies who run Cambridge Common probably sponsor more beer events than any other beer bar in the Boston area. The tap lists often favor hard-to-find regional beers, including usually never seen offerings from Sebago and others.

British Beer Company, multiple Massachusetts locations. A powerful influence for beer good on the south shore, the BBC locations have an even mix between imports and American craft beers. I had the opportunity to review the Walpole location last year.

With any luck and some free time, I hope to keep the Guide’s page on updated with any news or changes, before a second edition of the Guide is published.



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4 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Update To The Good Beer Guide To New England…

  1. I wholeheartedly agree on Cambridge Common. I recently moved to the Porter Square area, and CC has been a very pleasant surprise in both the quality and quantity of great beers they serve. To me, they are in the same league as Redbones and Deep Ellum, yet they don’t get as much love on BeerAdvocate.

  2. I am just so surprised not to see Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston, MA on this list as number 1.
    One hundred tap beers from every corner of the planet and hundreds more in bottles. They have a separate 20 page beer menu with thorough descriptions by type and region. Honestly, The Dirty Truth was so unimpressive we left after one purchase. Wow.

  3. Hi Jim-

    The list is actually in no particular order. With the exception of Ebenezer’s. I’d say the original list of 11 is still the most solid in terms of New England beer bars.

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