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Top Breweries in MA

Discussion in 'New England' started by chipawayboy, Apr 7, 2017.

  1. chipawayboy

    chipawayboy Devotee (449) Oct 26, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

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  2. JakerLou

    JakerLou Meyvn (1,041) Jan 6, 2013 New Hampshire
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Not having Jack's Abby in the list is suspect :-).
    mjco04, ceeg, LeRose and 9 others like this.
  3. mschofield

    mschofield Meyvn (1,463) Oct 16, 2002 Massachusetts

    Sure is, best MA brewery that you can pretty much buy beers from any place, any time.
    Rysk22 and JakerLou like this.
  4. jbertsch

    jbertsch Meyvn (1,107) Dec 14, 2008 Massachusetts

    Because their overall rating is 3.96 and therefore doesn't make the cut. Seems that's really all this list uses to judge...superficial, but most lists are.

    Only weird that Clown Shoes is included since they don't have their own brewery and aren't "open" per the criteria...yet at least. No knock on the beer quality though.
  5. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (688) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    If you produce mostly "New England-style" IPAs and various riffs on the same beer using differnt hops, that inflates your ratings.

    There's no good measuring stick from a statistical standpoint. Personally I put Notch and Jack's Abby as 1 and 2.
  6. kinopio

    kinopio Disciple (342) Apr 30, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    BA reviewers and this list punish breweries who make anything other than a IPA, stout or sour or make their beer widely available. Any top 10 MA list without Jacks Abby and CBC isn't worth a look.
  7. Phishagonia

    Phishagonia Disciple (346) Jan 28, 2011 Connecticut

    Isn't Notch Left of the Dial brewed at Two Roads in CT?

    I know it's a MA brewery, but odd to see that particular can pictured
  8. Capt_Quint

    Capt_Quint Initiate (186) May 29, 2015 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    May have been in the past, but they have their own brewery in Salem now. What's odd about the can?
  9. Jmr85

    Jmr85 Aspirant (295) Nov 25, 2013 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

  10. oldbean

    oldbean Aspirant (250) Jun 30, 2005 Massachusetts

    Pretty sure all the distributed stuff is still brewed at Two Roads.
    Capt_Quint likes this.
  11. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Zealot (546) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Harpoon left off? Only the oldest craft & probably highest volume in MA, but sure, they're inconsequential <eye roll>. And try to get on a tour (or a seat) at their tasting room, even on a Tuesday.

    These types of lists are stupid.
    LeRose and mschofield like this.
  12. lic217

    lic217 Champion (880) Aug 10, 2010 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Had a fresh harpoon IPA for the first time in years the other day...WOW, well made beer.
    AlcahueteJ and SunDevilBeer like this.
  13. oldbean

    oldbean Aspirant (250) Jun 30, 2005 Massachusetts

    Notably, this is not a list of the oldest, highest volume, or most consequential breweries in Massachusetts. Or the ones with the busiest taprooms for that matter.
    eaglephile and gclaw4444 like this.
  14. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Aspirant (249) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire
    Beer Trader

    I've gone on the harpoon tour twice and had a seat in the tap room 5+ times with little issue...all on weekends. Not sure how this is relevant.

    Nice to see Mystic on a list. There are some really notable omissions, but change the parameters in targeted ways and I could fit any brewery I wanted onto this list. Such are lists.
  15. smutty33

    smutty33 Defender (621) Jun 12, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    IMO, Clown Shoes at #4 is silly. Never was much of a fan. I'll give a mention as well to Jacks Abby missing. List is good though overall.
    JrGtr and papposilenus like this.
  16. nolanz14

    nolanz14 Aspirant (291) Aug 31, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I disagree with Clown Shoes and Notch being on that list. The Harpoon talk is silly. The one brewery that I think should be on there is Mayflower. Almost everything I've had from them have been above average to great.
  17. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (688) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Mayflowe is a solid choice as well. Maybe even Ipswich.

    Notch deserves to be there, the styles they're doing at sessionable ABVs is very impressive. Even more impressive is that they're on this list period, considering it's based on ratings and everything they do is 4.5% or lower.
  18. JakerLou

    JakerLou Meyvn (1,041) Jan 6, 2013 New Hampshire
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    These lists are always great for getting a discussion going.

    IMO, it's hard to argue that Trillium and Tree House aren't two of the best breweries in New England (or U.S.A) right now, but I'm amazed at the number of different styles that Jack's Abby and Night Shift brew. They both really cover the spectrum and usually brew very good to great beers. Sure there are a few clunkers in there, but for the most part their line ups are pretty solid.

    I've recently become a pretty big fan of Mystic and seek out their beers every chance I get, so nice to see them on the list (they're a little under rated, IMO). I'm a sucker for BA stouts so seeing Clown Shoes on the list is fine by me but I get why people disagree.

    All in all it's a good time to be a beer drinker. Hard to keep up with the beers being brewed just by MA brewers.
    mschofield likes this.
  19. MrDarcy

    MrDarcy Aspirant (277) Aug 28, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Harpoon beers are dated and mediocre for the most part. Enough with the nostalgia vote.
    nolanz14 likes this.
  20. Phishagonia

    Phishagonia Disciple (346) Jan 28, 2011 Connecticut

    Sorry, didn't really mean to stir the pot here, but I guess I just didn't realize Notch was that big versus others in MA, and what I've had by them was brewed in CT. Maybe with the new spot in Salem they will bring everything in house soon.
  21. oldbean

    oldbean Aspirant (250) Jun 30, 2005 Massachusetts

    They won't. The Salem brewery is only a ten barrel system (they do hundred barrel batches at Two Roads IIRC) and was never meant to replace their contract operations. Nothing wrong with that, the contract brewed beers are excellent quality and their own smaller system gives them more creative freedom for their taproom only stuff.
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  22. ChrisLohring

    ChrisLohring Initiate (150) Jan 25, 2010 Massachusetts

    Year round beers are brewed at Two Roads, the Salem brewery is roughly 50% for tap room and 50% for distribution (draft only, currently).
  23. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Zealot (546) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Then please shoot them an email to quit brewing beer - & also to the massive number of people to stop drinking them.
    JrGtr and chipawayboy like this.
  24. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (688) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I haven't asked lately, but maybe a year or two ago I asked the beer manager at my local liquor store which beers sold the most in his store. After Bud/Miller/Coors of course, there was Sam Adams and then Notch.

    This is akin to Founders' best selling beer being All Day IPA. We get so caught up in our niche here on Beer Advocate, and then see the eye-popping lines at a place like Treehouse, that we forget beer is a volume product first and foremost.

    Sessionable beers, in most cases, will sell more volume than anything else. Always great to have some Notch Pils in the fridge...never a bad time to have one...except maybe like 6:00 am before work...maybe.
  25. MrDarcy

    MrDarcy Aspirant (277) Aug 28, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Will do.

    A lot of people drink mediocre beer. Sounds like you're one of them :wink:
  26. SpauldingSmails

    SpauldingSmails Initiate (197) Sep 11, 2014 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'm certain it's not worth sacrificing my health to get worked up over, but lots of people drink Sam/Harpoon etc..., and it mostly sucks. I'm terrified that the craft beers are going to continue to get closed out of distribution and pay to play schemes, and we will be left with Goose Island IPA and what ever other shit InBev can throw onto a tap list. They could do better, but they choose not to - maybe for good reason (profits), but still. I just keep reminding myself that millions are fine with Dominos for pizza and a Big Mac for a burger. I had a cloudy-ish Harpoon the other day and it was certainly a distinct improvement over their Standard IPA, but nothing compared to the T's or other great craft brews in MA or anywhere recently. Thank goodness for Be Hoppy as it is often the saving grace on otherwise mediocre taplists at some bars.
  27. wehaveamap

    wehaveamap Initiate (193) Jan 16, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I wouldn't say Harpoon sucks, they cover a lot of styles and outside the fruit forward IPA they do them all well. They make solid beers, and it's nice that if you're in New England and interested in more than bud light you're getting started on something as good as Harpoon or Sam. That said, in terms of quality you've got four or five obvious ones that blow them out of the water, and plenty of competition for tier 2. I haven't had Building 8, Brick & Feather, or a good handful of others but I suspect they're very solid as well. BA ratings are hardly the be all end all of beer ranking, but I don't think it's a knock on them that Harpoon isn't showing up on this list.

    Another thing, the Tree House and Trillium only make hazy IPAs narrative is tired. Their stouts are better than almost any beer made by breweries that would rightfully make a top 10 in mass list - Ipswich and Mayflower both deserve consideration for their oatmeal stouts alone and if we're being honest Double Shot and PM Dawn are even better than that. TH has made a few really good lagers. And as much as the Soak and Native series have a ways to go before catching up to Hill Farmstead or the other best wild brewers in the country, they're very competent entrants into the category.
  28. meefmoff

    meefmoff Disciple (342) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I don't mean to be too harsh here but this sentence sounds almost like a parody of a beer geek. Harpoon IPA is one of, if not the, benchmarks of its style (an American take on an English IPA). It is an excellent beer and has been for over 2 decades. It is not in any way, shape, or form analogous to McDonalds. If you don't particularly care for it, that's perfectly fine. Implying that their new beer, by virtue of being cloudy apparently, is somehow by definition an improvement is... well it's something.

    Harpoon makes a lot of beers aimed at people who aren't beer geeks and I don't drink all that many of them myself these days. But there's nothing quality-wise wrong with any of them, and when I head to the taproom before a show at Harbor Lights (Blue Hill's Pavillion my ass) there are always some interesting and tasty things on tap. I always get a Harpoon Dark at the Somerville theater too.

    And I'd rather drink a Harpoon IPA than Be Hoppy myself. Never have understood the hooplah about that one.
  29. gclaw4444

    gclaw4444 Initiate (157) Jul 30, 2015 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I cant speak for tree house, but i definitely disagree on trillium stouts. Also the narrative is there because it's 90% of what they make.
  30. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (688) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    What about them is mediocre or sucks? Harpoon and Sam make quality beers, unfortunately many of them aren't barrel-aged stouts, turbid IPAs, or sours.

    Harpoon IPA and Boston Lager are both excellent beers, just because they're not popular with the beer geek crowd, doesn't mean that they're not "quality" beers. If a company makes a Pilsner though and it's raging with diacetyl, well then, that's a low quality beer.

    This last part is exactly the reason I wouldn't say that there's "four or five obvious ones that blow them out of the water". Not to mention you can't even compare the difference in scale between a Treehouse and a Harpoon.

    Maybe this will happen in the future if someone figures it out, but I don't see a Treehouse or Trillium or whoever scaling up and distributing their "New England-style" IPAs to the level of a Harpoon IPA anytime soon. One of the Sierra Nevada reps has been on here discussing the logistics of this for a larger brewery. It wouldn't be easy.

    Just my personal opinion, but making stouts and sours along with hazy IPAs isn't really flexibility. They're all "bolder" beer styles that are popular with the beer geek crowd. I would love to try their lagers myself though, as I use a brewery's Pilsner as a gauge for how good they are. But let's be honest too though, the majority of what Trillium and Treehouse do are IPAs or hop-forward ales. Nothing wrong with that, they appear to do it better than everyone else, but I don't consider either of them having the range of styles that say a Jack's Abby brews.

    Ipswich's Oatmeal Stout is kind of different in that it's just a regular straight up oatmeal stout. And I still consider it in my top ten New England beers of all time...both past and present.

    And this covers everything else I would have said! Also, try Harpoon IPA on cask, it's sublime.
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  31. Resuin

    Resuin Meyvn (1,292) Jun 18, 2012 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    The main takeaway from this thread seems to be that beer is very subjective. That said, whenever I bring Trillium to parties, people that generally are used to drinking Harpoon or Yuengling or Sam Adams, etc. are always very impressed and it quickly becomes one of their favorites.
  32. wehaveamap

    wehaveamap Initiate (193) Jan 16, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Well, I certainly don't back that person's analogy of mcdonald's or dominos, and if anything I'm a bit of a Sam/Harpoon apologist, but the comparison of scale doesn't really move the needle for me. I know Tree House and Trillium need no defenders, and I wouldn't quibble with anyone who prefers Jacks or CBC, but I feel like penalizing the hop houses for focusing on what sells best is questionable when for the most part they've risen to the occasion when deviating from IPAs.

    Totally agree this stuff is subjective, but it does seem to me that at the top end of the scale there are a handful of breweries that have a leg up on the others.
  33. meefmoff

    meefmoff Disciple (342) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'm sure that's true (and I've had the same experience) but I would guess that has more to do with Trillium making approachable and new-to-their-palate styled beers than it does with an impression of improved quality.

    Also, to be clear, while I'm stepping up to defend Harpoon (and SA if necessary) in this thread, I don't have any personal desire to fight for Yeungling :wink:
  34. lic217

    lic217 Champion (880) Aug 10, 2010 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    I like Boston lager, ipswich oatmeal stout, and harpoon IPA. I think those three beers are as good as any brewed in Massachusetts. All three have a lot of complexity without being too high in abv or intense in flavor.
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  35. pattmettt

    pattmettt Initiate (38) Dec 22, 2014 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    My gripe with this list, that is besides all the ones allready listed by others in this thread is putting BLDG8 in the #3 spot. The make a really good Ipa, but with basically only one beer offered(I know they make a sesson and double but they hardly ever brew them) I don't see how they could be considered for a list like this let alone #3rd best in the state.
  36. SpauldingSmails

    SpauldingSmails Initiate (197) Sep 11, 2014 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'll try to keep this succinct. I would argue that Sam hardly makes a series of quality brews. Their Rebel and the derivative IPA's are a giant hot mess. Plus, they only make their lives harder by letting them sit on shelves for too long. They made zero effort in making something palatable. BTW, there are tons of great IPAs that aren't of the NE style that are pretty great. Harpoon just isn't one of them (Sculpin, Pliny, Alchemist, Stone). Maybe the battle lines here are simply a distaste for malt. The new, more highly regarded IPAs really don't have it unless you let it sit for too long on the shelf. BTW, how is the Harpoon IPA not totally like a Dominos pizza? A pizza that isn't the best you can make if you stay local, but tends to travel pretty well. That seems to be the argument that the person from Sierra was making. Although, have they ever tried Born Yesterday? Maybe they should ask Lagunitas how they make it happen.

    Sorry, Sam Adams Boston lager sucks. It's a malt festival. I'll be totally fine if others like it. I just know that if it was the only beer available, I would get a vodka drink.

    Not that I'm searching for common ground (obviously), but I agree that a great Pilsner is one that I have spent a good deal of time looking after. I believe that the brewers take great pride in it as well.
  37. meefmoff

    meefmoff Disciple (342) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Soon to join the annals of historic philosophical queries such as "To be or not to be?" and "Dude, where's my car?"

    There's so much I fundamentally disagree with in your post that I'm not sure we share enough common ground to have a meaningful conversation. So I'll just agree to disagree and leave it at that.
  38. juliolugo

    juliolugo Initiate (44) Jun 22, 2015 Massachusetts

    LOL. It's a Vienna style lager (although not necessarily one of my favorites). If your Vienna lager doesn't have the malt front and center, you've made a pretty awful Vienna lager. It's not an IPA.

    Like how Sprang by Trillium is a terrible kolsch (it's purported inspiration), but a really great IPA.
  39. SpauldingSmails

    SpauldingSmails Initiate (197) Sep 11, 2014 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Well there you go...that explains it.

    I'm not a fan of the Sprang.
    runmn likes this.
  40. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Defender (688) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Taste is very subjective. Quality is not. I think this seems to be the main confusion in this thread.

    Just because a beer style isn't popular anymore, doesn't make that particular beer "low quality", or more to the point, "a beer that sucks".

    I'll admit, the Rebel series disappoints me. I haven't had them enough, or in quite some time, to remember if there were actual flaws in the beer...but I simply didn't know what they were going for. I love Harpoon's IPA, but I can't say I enjoyed any of the Rebel series (I've just had the regular IPA and Raw).

    But they have many quality beers, they're just incredibly boring by most standards. Boston Lager, Boston Ale, Scotch Ale, Cream Stout, Utopia if you want something extreme, and even Light (that's right, I like Sam Light). They're not my favorite brewery by far, but they make quality beers.

    As @meefmoff said, Harpoon's is a different type of IPA. It's not like those either. This is kind of like saying Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a shitty beer because it's nothing like Zombie Dust or Fort Point.

    That's different with the Dominos analogy. Harpoon isn't using subpar ingredients, and making beer to appeal to your Average Joe. That's Budweiser, sort of. Even Budweiser is an incredibly well made, quality beer, but they're purposely replacing a great deal of malt with rice to lighten the beer. Harpoon can't make ONE style of beer (New-England style IPA) because logistically it's a nightmare. But that doesn't mean they're cranking out subpar beer otherwise.

    Born Yesterday is the first "New England-style" IPA I've seen nationally distributed. That being said, it didn't completely work. There were two very different batches, one that was slightly hazy, and one that was completely turbid, each with a different set of flavor profiles. Brewing at a national scale, and brewing hyper local are COMPLETELY different types of brewing. Moreover, it was a limited release, so this gave them the luxury of selling all of it in a short period of time.

    The Sierra Nevada rep had a number of reasons for why they couldn't do it, I can try to dig up his post, it's a great one. There may have been other reps that replied from other breweries as well. First and foremost, is shelf life. Sierra Nevada has INCREDIBLE quality control to make their beers taste great longer than most. There's a reason people still love Celebration Ale 5 months down the road.

    But when was the last time you saw a Sierra Nevada beer less than a month old? IPAs like Trillium's and Treehouse's aren't going to hold up very long. What happens if Sierra Nevada brews one, it doesn't reach the consumer for over two months, and has been sitting in a room temperature warehouse the entire time? Lagunitas did get Born Yesterday out VERY quickly, but they don't do this for other releases. Doing it for just one limited release is one thing, for multiple releases all throughout the year is another.

    What's the freshest Boston Lager you've ever had? It is, whether people in 2017 think so or not, a hoppy beer. But it's hoppy in the sense that something like a Czech Pale Lager may be. The Noble hops really pop in this beer when fresh, and truly round out the beer. But those hops fade quick, and even when they fade slightly (in my opinion) too much caramel malt comes through and brings the beer down a notch.[/QUOTE]

    Well, sort of. It's not really a Vienna lager. They don't even use Vienna malts. It uses "Samuel Adams" two row pale malts and Caramel 60. There aren't even German malts, period. I think it was labeled a Vienna lager over the years due to its color and the use of Noble Hops. But it's really more like a Brooklyn Lager or Yuengling (except Yuengling uses adjuncts, so, not exactly Yuengling).

    Boston Lager is really just an American amber lager using Noble hops.
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