Holy hops! I’ve done a similar trip to the Boston area and Vermont before, but I’ve never had this massive of an appreciation for the incredible New England style IPA. If you need a quick refresher on the definition of a NE style IPA, they have a primarily very hazy appearance with a creamy mouthfeel, distinct lack of bitterness, and tons of tropical fruit juicy aromas and flavors. For a more deep dive on what constitutes the style, I recommend checking out this or this article. This style obviously began in New England and primarily Vermont and Massachusetts, and it has since spread all around the country. Even Houston is getting in on the craze. After a seeming call to arms from Larry Koestler at Houston Beer Guide, there have been multiple beers in the vein of the NE style IPA produced by Houston area breweries. I was able to try a couple of these, and I was generally impressed by what our local breweries were producing. However, coming back to New England and trying the originals has given me a new appreciation for this incredible style of beer.
To start off my trip proper, my friends and I drove straight from Boston Logan airport to Tree House Brewing Company. If you’ve never been to the brewery, I will warn you that it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere Massachusetts about 1.5-2 hours west of Boston. I considered that a good thing as rural MA contains some beautiful scenery. What wasn’t so beautiful was the 35℉ rainy weather we were greeted with. With the promise of hazy hop dankness merely minutes of waiting away, the weather was but a small distraction. As the availability and selection of Tree House beers is a general crap shoot, we were thankfully able to procure cans of their flagship Julius and growlers of Julius and Doppelgänger. Unfortunately no tasters or full pours were being offered at the time, but I was a bad ass rebel and opened a can of Julius back in our car in the parking lot. What I was greeted with was magical: an incredible aroma of tropical fruits, an immediate creaminess as the glorious liquid hit my palate, and a flavor bursting with hop derived fruitiness accompanied by little to no bitterness. There’s a reason this beer has been consistently rated one of the best IPAs and best beers period in the world. It truly does deliver on all it promises.
On the drive back to Boston, I had to make the pilgrimage to Jack’s Abby. I would argue that it’s the premier lager only brewery in the US. What they’re able to do with the often neglected type of beer is incredible. I chose to start off with a flight of hoppy India Pale Lagers (IPL) and finish with a flight of barrel aged Baltic Porters. Not to be outdone by their awesome beer, we also satiated our hunger with a pretzel, wood fired chicken wings, and 3 separate pizzas: house spicy fennel sausage and ricotta, clam and bacon, and wild mushroom. All of them were delicious, but I was partial to the clam and bacon. It was quite the unusual but surprisingly well matched combo. After eating our group was ready to head back to Boston, but we were informed of a new brewery opened by Jack’s Abby located next door. Not one to pass up a good brewery nearby, we had to check it out. Springdale proved to be quite the random find. This relatively new brewery is basically Jack’s Abby’s foray into ales and barrel aged beers including some great sour beers. I managed to try a couple great IPAs, a funky Brett plum lager, and a coffee barrel aged Baltic porter.
Once back in Boston, it was time to get real serious about our drinking. Having heard good things about Mystic Brewery and Night Shift Brewing, I decided it was time to check them out, and I was not at all disappointed. Mystic was a small and intimate spot with a legit selection of draft and bottle beer. I ended up trying a dank ass IPA, a funky sour, a really solid saison, some boozy still ales, a Belgian Quad, and an Imperial Stout. Not far away was Night Shift, and at this more lively spot I tried a little bit of everything. Their IPAs stood out as being good all around. They weren’t of the hard core NE style, but they still delivered. Thinking that the night was still young, our intrepid group headed to Aeronaut Brewing. At this spot I tried a very tasty Double IPA, but it was also rumored that I took a short nap while attempting to finish my beer. This can be neither confirmed nor denied, and there’s definitely not any Snapchat evidence that exists of this alleged event. It was probably bedtime at this point. Another rumor exists that I drank part of a growler of Doppelgänger upon the return to our Airbnb.
After waking up to some growler Julius Saturday morning, it was best that we put some food in our bellies. What better way to do so than to pig out at a Jewish deli. Mamaleh’s in Cambridge certainly hit the spot. The smoked lox on an everything bagel was particularly on point, and I was ready to begin another day of super cereal drinking. First spot: Trillium in Canton. Not only do they pump out some of the best NE style IPAs, but they also do it in large quantities with plenty of cans available to go (not bitter at all against Tree House, no). I won’t go into an exhaustive list of everything I tried at Trillium, but suffice to say they’re putting out world class IPAs along with some incredible stouts and sours. Their double dry hopped (DDH) series of IPAs are notably amazing. As a defining feature of the NE style, these beers are dry hopped to hell and back, and the complexity of their flavor is astonishing. After a Lyft ride back to Boston, it was time to hit up a couple Cambridge breweries. Beer and food at Cambridge Brewing Company was followed by another brew at Lamplighter. These were both cool spots, but none of their beers stood out. Then again, it’s hard to do so when you’re following up an afternoon drinking at Trillium. After these breweries an ill-advised whiskey shot nightcap at Lord Hobo put us at the “need to go to sleep” stage, and that’s exactly what we did afterwards.
After an early morning scramble to the airport and a slightly hungover flight back to Houston, I was afforded some time to reflect on the beercation experience. It was a treat to try some of the best IPAs being made in the world, and they beautifully represented (and even defined) the NE style. One takeaway I hadn’t expected to gain was that Houstonians have a world class IPA available any day of the week. If you don’t know what I’m referencing, it’s obviously Yellow Rose from Lone Pint Brewery. Even though it’s not a NE style IPA, the complexity of hop flavors and lack of bitterness are absolutely on par with New England’s best. I brought back a new appreciation for this incredible beer, and I’m honored that such a world class IPA is readily available to me in Houston. I also brought back a lot of beer from Trillium, so if you’re interested in helping me drink some of those let me know…