Top 3 MA Breweries

Discussion in 'US - Northeast' started by mattosgood, Jun 5, 2015.

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  1. mattosgood

    mattosgood Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2014 Massachusetts

    Didn't want to hijack the Lord Hobo thread with an off-the-cuff comment and thought I'd move the conversation here because I am interested in continuing.

    I wrote that, in some order, the top three Mass. breweries are Jacks Abby, Tree House, and Trillium.

    Other people threw some other names out there: Notch, Night Shift, Berkshire, etc.


    My reservation with throwing Trillium in the conversation is that they're mostly hop-forward beers. I'm on record saying I love Pot & Kettle and I really enjoyed PM Dawn, but their bread and butter seems to be aggressively-hopped IPA's that I've found a little too aggressive for me (though I really like the original Fort Point). Tree House, on the other hand, does a top-notch milk stout, a coffee stout, and a blonde ale that are all terrific. And JA is really diverse as well.
  2. RKing44

    RKing44 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2012 Massachusetts

    Trillium > Tree House > Jack's Abby for me.

    I would say TH gets as much hype as Trillium for their hop forward beers. In fact, I would say TH has a more aggressive approach to hop forward beers than Trillium does. Trillium always has saisons, sours, porters and stouts on tap and in bottles whereas TH usually has all hop forward beers and one stout on.
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  3. mattosgood

    mattosgood Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2014 Massachusetts

    I think my vote at this point takes accessibility into account. It's hard for me to get to TH or Trillium. Jacks Abby is in every store. It's usually super fresh and always affordable. Makes a huge difference to me.
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  4. BAMF

    BAMF Initiate (0) Jul 11, 2007 Massachusetts

    In my very humble opinion it is Trillium and Tree House a cut above all the others, and then a second tier of a number of very good breweries, including Wormtown, Jack's, Night Shift, and some of the tenant brewers. And before it starts, allow me to make a plea that we not try to rank or compare Tree House and Trillium. They are both absolutely fantastic, and we Bay State-ers are lucky to have access to both.

    I think I respectfully disagree with this concern. Given the limitations of their space I actually think Trillium does a good job of providing some seasonally-appropriate alternatives to heavily-hopped IPAs. I think it just might be the case that they move a lot more of the IPAs, whereas customers don't buy as much of the other options, so they don't devote as much tank and shelf space to them. I guess what I am saying is that Trillium limits their IPA alternatives because that is what we, the consumer, have dictated. Personally, I have Trillium Imperial stout, Belgian strong dark ale and barrel-aged Belgian dubbel in my fridge right now, and I've been meaning to make it over to grab some of these wheat ales they've been rolling out. I expect that with the Canton brewery we will see further style diversification.
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  5. Psychmusic

    Psychmusic Aspirant (273) Jun 22, 2012 Massachusetts

    I think that Tree House stands apart from the other two in that I've never had a beer from them that wasn't really exceptional. If you randomly pulled one beer from each of their line ups, I think tree house would be the most likely home run.

    That said, Jacks Abby's whole business model is really incredible. I think they've been admirably thoughtful in the manner and rate of their expansion, and have never compromised quality in the least, which I'm sure is quite challenging given their scale relative to the other two. (I think their production is orders of magnitude higher, isn't it?

    I haven't had enough trillium to argue much on my first point here though.
  6. SRBush1974

    SRBush1974 Initiate (0) Apr 18, 2015 New Jersey

    I would say Trillium > Tree House > Night Shift. Of course, you'll need caveat that I haven't had any Jack Abby's yet (although I have a 6 of Hoponius Union that I just picked up Wed in Boston). Also, I mainly drink IPA/DIPA's. Have had one of Trilliums darker beer though.
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  7. mattosgood

    mattosgood Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2014 Massachusetts

    @BAMF Great thoughts. I promise I'm not trying to start any fistfights in comparing Trillium/Tree House (or anyone else). Just looking for opinions and reasons why.

    Maybe we'll get some insight as to why someone likes a certain place and why we should give them a second or third shot. For me, that brewery is Clown Shoes. Can't get over the labels. Will never buy a beer because of them. Won't even buy them on draft.
  8. jbertsch

    jbertsch Poo-Bah (1,593) Dec 14, 2008 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    What factors are we taking into account here? Just beer quality? Talent of the brewers? Accessibility? Price? My answers would change if we were to focus each attribute individually.

    Something funny I noticed in myself when discussing favorite/top brewers…I generally like to take into account the brewer’s ability to brew a wide range of styles well. However, if we were talking another other business, like a restaurant, I don’t give a crap about that…in fact I generally don’t like restaurants that have a huge menu covering all kinds of food. I say focus on a handful of dishes and nail them. That really goes for just about any business…but I notice I don’t follow that rule when thinking of my favorite breweries. That’s why I generally rate places like CBC so high (if talking MA only).
  9. mattosgood

    mattosgood Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2014 Massachusetts

    100% agree with this statement.

    Umm, for me I'm just looking for opinions. Seems Trillium is a big favorite here. I've been more impressed with their non-hoppy offerings to be truthful. I just like hearing people debate why they like a place. As I wrote earlier, JA is probably my favorite because of accessibility; TH is there too because I don't think I've had a bad beer there.
  10. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (599) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    I haven't had enough Tree House to really judge them, but I wold say I wasn't impressed by Julius or Green. For me it probably goes Trillium, Jack's Abby, and CBC. My issue with CBC is that Flower Child cans are great, but the other stuff they distribute feels like a step down from the beers served at the brewpub, which can be phenomenal. After that I'd go Notch, Clown Shoes, and Ipswich. Ipswich really breaks down to a handful of beers: IPA, Route 101, and Oatmeal Stout. I think all 3 are near perfect for their respective styles, their original IPA being of the American interpretation of an English IPA variety.
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  11. JGLittle

    JGLittle Initiate (0) Mar 24, 2012 Massachusetts

    Tree House and Trillium are a toss up for me. Excited to have either of them. Probably Night Shift slides in at 3. I had some of the hoppy Enlightenment ales recently, particularly the Hoffman which was top notch too.
  12. jbertsch

    jbertsch Poo-Bah (1,593) Dec 14, 2008 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    Overall Beer quality: TH > CBC/JA tied > TR
    Best hoppy beers: TH > TR > JA
    Accessibility: JA by a mile
    JA is also tops for me in other categories like 'Fun Factor' (if that makes any sense) and 'Brewery I drink most'
    Favorite underdog brewery: Enlightenment (Mystic close 2nd)

    Just a note on Enlightenment - Ben makes some of the best beers anywhere, period. Seriously. They're really F'ing good. But format & price are big drawbacks.
  13. sts9fan

    sts9fan Initiate (0) Mar 7, 2015 Massachusetts

    I agree with this. Tree House is great but I feel Trillium has more great beers.
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  14. SveNss0N

    SveNss0N Disciple (347) Feb 16, 2014 Massachusetts

    And they're more accessible.
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  15. Sheppard

    Sheppard Poo-Bah (2,266) Mar 16, 2013 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    I would second this. Ben's saisons are awesome. His IPAs or Double Pale Ales have been great as well (Hofmann and Kesey). Kosmos is a terrific straight up stout. I would agree on price and format. I wish the saisons were more favorably priced.
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  16. TWStandley

    TWStandley Crusader (737) Jan 15, 2008 Massachusetts

    I'd have to go Trillium > Tree House > Jack's Abby

    Honorable mentions are CBC, Clown Shoes & Mystic.

    I'm generally not a huge Night Shift fan (while some of their beers are great, others shouldn't even see production - sometimes it seems that they sell everything they make regardless of whether or not it is actually good).

    I see Mystic/CBC climbing in the rankings though once they get their new brew house up and running and start pumping out some more wild ales!
  17. mcintire78

    mcintire78 Zealot (563) Dec 16, 2006 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    It all depends on what factors you think are relevant. Taste, obviously, but that depends on what styles you like, and I think most people would agree that price and originality are important factors as well. To me, plopping down a brewery in the center of Boston that makes (admittedly good) hoppy beers is like shooting fish in a barrel. Jack's Abby, on the other hand, is making all lagers at a price point that should be embarrassing to places like Trillium and has great hoppy (Hoponius Union) and malty (Framinghammer variants) beers. No contest for me on this one.
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  18. MacQ32

    MacQ32 Meyvn (1,178) Mar 5, 2010 South Carolina

    Treehouse > Trillium > Night Shift > Jacks Abby > Mystic
  19. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    For me Tree House, CBC and Trillium are the top tier. JA, Enlightenment, Ipswich, Notch and a handful of others are the second tier. Night Shift is the wild card. When they are good they are great and when they miss they miss big. They've put out some beers I deeply love and also some of the worst beers I've ever had. Then there is the third tier and there is some good beer (all the way down to the worst of MA) to be had there too but just not relevant to the conversation.
    #19 Sweatshirt, Jun 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  20. emannths

    emannths Initiate (0) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Mystic has a lot of potential. Hopefully with this new CBC collab, the two of them can get a broader range of beers out to distribution. I love Renaud, but if they can broaden their lineup I see Jolly Pumpkin-like things in their future.
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  21. sts9fan

    sts9fan Initiate (0) Mar 7, 2015 Massachusetts

    I think because TH is harder to get it get a tiny bit more red in the geek world.
  22. patrickcmcd

    patrickcmcd Initiate (0) Dec 25, 2010 Massachusetts

    Jacks beers arent always fresh in stores.
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  23. PatriotsRule

    PatriotsRule Initiate (0) Sep 25, 2012 Massachusetts

    Never been to Tree House, Medusa, Bog Iron, or some others... Here are my top fifteen in rough order of preference:

    Jack's Abby
    Night Shift
    Berkshire Brewing Co
    Idle Hands/Enlightenment Ales
    Clown Shoes
    Boston Beer Co

    We live in a great state for great beer. Cheers!
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  24. Jbrews

    Jbrews Disciple (351) Aug 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    Trillium, Treehouse, Jacks Abbey
  25. wehaveamap

    wehaveamap Aspirant (208) Jan 16, 2010 Massachusetts

    Tbh I've never had any of these undrinkable Night Shift beers. Wondering what ones they are. I'd rate the barrel vanilla porter as as good or better than the Framinghammers, and Whirlpool/Morph/Santilli as bested only by Trillium and Tree House for MA hops. They have a definite argument for top 3 in my opinion. I feel like it's not said here but I still think JA holds themselves back with the lager only model.
  26. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (599) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    Night Shift's Weisse and wild beers can be all over the place and I think their IPAs are a significant step down from Trillium. To me Whirlpool is kind of a gimmick beer and tastes more like homebrew. Morph is better and I haven't had Santilli yet.
  27. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    They hit all the flavor profiles that cater to an ale drinker's palate. That's thier gimmick. They aren't really brewing traditional lagers. They are also expanding at an astounding rate. I'm not sure what you mean by 'holding them back'. Thier business is going as good or better than most any other brewery in MA.
  28. JakerLou

    JakerLou Meyvn (1,226) Jan 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    For me right now, Trillium is the best brewery in MA. Their (I)IPAs, and pale ales are phenomenal. I also love their porters and stouts, especially Night and Day.

    I've only had a few beers from Tree House but they ranged from very good to outstanding. Double Shot may be my favorite beer of the year so far. I need to get out there more often.

    Picking a third is tough. I'd narrow it down to Jack's Abby, Night Shift, or Clown Shoes. Jack's Abby makes a nice variety of beer and they are all solid and some are great. Night Shift makes so many beers, and like others have said, they miss sometimes but they also make some great beers. I can see myself drinking a lot of Santilli, Morph, and Whirlpool this summer. I wouldn't have considered Clown Shoes three months ago but their last three releases have been excellent in my opinion. Specifically, Crasher in The Rye, Breakfast Exorcism, and Billionaire.

    It's a good time to be a beer lover in MA.
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  29. orion123

    orion123 Initiate (0) Jan 17, 2013 Massachusetts

    For me it's Trillium>TH>JA, which seems to be a theme. I agree that TH and Trillium are basically interchangeable, it's just that I tend to gasp when I drink a Vicinity, Congress St, or Melcher St. To those who say they're only good at hop-forward, their namesake Trillium and Sprang are absolutely stellar. I'm fairly new to TH, and still haven't tried Green yet, but they're incredible.

    I'd consider putting Nightshift in the 3 spot over time. If they were only Whirlpool and Morph and Santilli, they might be #3, but they have some godawful stuff (seriously, have you tried Viva Habanera yet?) that keeps them as a wildcard for now. Best in-person experience of the group though!
  30. MVP09

    MVP09 Initiate (0) Oct 19, 2012 Massachusetts

    My Top 3
    1 Trillium
    2 Jacks Abby
    3 Tree House.
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  31. MVP09

    MVP09 Initiate (0) Oct 19, 2012 Massachusetts

    Two excellent beer I wish we saw more of from Trillum are Big Sprang and Sunshower. I know SunS is out now, been meaning to make a visit.
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  32. jbertsch

    jbertsch Poo-Bah (1,593) Dec 14, 2008 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    Sprang is hop forward, not a traditional kolsch.
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  33. TWStandley

    TWStandley Crusader (737) Jan 15, 2008 Massachusetts

    Big Sprang is absolutely insane. One of my favorite beers of all time. But shhh...its not hyped yet!
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  34. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    Santilli is the best hoppy beer I've had from NS to date. It's still a large step down from being near the top of the style against beers in this state or out.
  35. Capt_Quint

    Capt_Quint Initiate (158) May 29, 2015 Massachusetts

    This is tough, but I'd have to agree with this. I just don't have good enough access to TH.

  36. robNSB

    robNSB Initiate (148) Oct 6, 2009 Massachusetts

    I personally, don't care for Viva Habanera but that beer sells insanely well and has a huge following. For the longest time it was our best selling beer (now eclipsed by several other beers) .We tried to kill it off and stopped making it for like 6 months and the backlash was huge. Steady stream of emails, phone calls, and conversations with customers and stores/bar owners led us to bringing it back. Taste is subjective, I never drink Viva but those who do love it and repeatedly buy it. To each their own.
  37. mattosgood

    mattosgood Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2014 Massachusetts

    100% agree here. Great time for MA Beer.

    Can't disagree more. I hear that a lot. "They only brew lagers, how can they be considered top anything?" I call BS. Every other brewery we mentioned only brew ales. No one says only brewing ales holds them back.
  38. MVP09

    MVP09 Initiate (0) Oct 19, 2012 Massachusetts

    Yes had Big Sprang last year. A friend grab a growler. Opened it in a bottle share. 4-5 guys took first sip and immediately reacted with a "WTF face this beer is phenomenal". All us agreed totally unique beer.

    On the Bog Iron note. 2 years into it and these guys are hitting their stride. Year one Stinge and Blonde were very good beers. Blonde was a bit more impressive at 7% plus. Most recently Middle Child is excellent. Just tasted Robble Robble great hoppy "nuvo" pale. Similarities to the "big boys". Can't wait to try Jump Back this weekend.
  39. orion123

    orion123 Initiate (0) Jan 17, 2013 Massachusetts

    I love that you guys tried to kill it, hilarious. The market has spoken though! Definitely to each their own. And I'm excited for the cans you've been putting out. I've been telling everyone I meet that Whirlpool is the beer of Summer 2015, hands down.
    robNSB likes this.
  40. wehaveamap

    wehaveamap Aspirant (208) Jan 16, 2010 Massachusetts

    They are obviously doing what they want and are very successful at it, I'm not arguing that. I'm not even saying I don't respect or like them for it. But that said, stuff like Calyptra (very very good) makes me wonder how awesome their IPA's would be if they made them. And I can't be the only one who would be interested in the Framinghammer barrel aging and flavor profile in an imperial stout. It doesn't make them not one of the best breweries in New England, it just makes them not my personal favorite.
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