21 Top Breweries in New England: The List

After arguing over the finer points—range of offerings, quality, and overall consistency—we've settled on this list of the 21 top beer-makers in New England right now. Cheers!
earth eagle

Find gruits, Belgian brews, and IPAs in Earth Eagle’s snug taproom. / Photograph by Pat Piasecki

14. 

Earth Eagle Brewings

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

IPAs may be Earth Eagle’s top-selling beer, but it’s the brewery’s revival of the gruit, an obscure medieval-style ale brewed with ingredients such as rose hips, sage, sweet gale, and spruce tips, that makes this cozy Portsmouth spot a true must-visit. eartheaglebrewings.com

Known for: Gruits galore (like Exhilaration, a lightly sour and floral variety).
But don’t miss: Belgian, English, and hop-forward styles with a twist.

Food: Small plates and sandwiches
Beer to go: Growler fills only
Swag: Yes
Taproom: Flights for a price


13. 

Jack’s Abby Brewing

Framingham, Massachusetts

For decades, craft beer had all but left the lager game: That stuff was for Europeans and Super Bowl-advertising macro-brewers. The game began to change when Jack Hendler and brothers Eric and Sam opened this Framingham enterprise in 2011, reinventing the crisp, bottom-fermented style with the type of tropical hops previously only seen in West Coast IPAs. Not only did they pioneer the now-popular India pale lager, they’ve also brought attention to less heralded Germanic styles with award-winning bocks, doppelbocks, and schwarzbiers. jacksabbybrewing.com

Known for: Hoponius Union, a game-changing India pale lager.
But don’t miss: Anything smoked, including the Fire in the Ham rauchbier, and the Smoke & Dagger schwarzbier.

Food: No
Beer to go: Growler fills and bottles
Swag: Clothing, hats, and a cooler bag
Taproom: Samples and flights for a price


two roads

A peek inside Two Roads’ vast state-of-the-art brewery. / Photograph by Pat Piasecki

12.

Two Roads Brewing Company

Stratford, Connecticut

Cofounded by a former Pabst marketing executive, Two Roads has been cranking out masterful beers, crafted by brewmaster Phil Markowski, since 2012. Find a wide range on offer here, from zesty saisons to Conntucky Lightnin’, a bourbon-barrel-aged strong ale made with corn grits. tworoadsbrewing.com

Known for: Ol’ Factory Pils, a German pilsner.
But don’t miss: Anything from its experimental Road Less Traveled series, like Philsamic, a sour beer made with 14-year-old balsamic vinegar.

Food: Food trucks are nearby
Beer to go: Growlers, bottles, and cans
Swag: Clothing, koozies, Frisbees
Taproom: Full pours and a beer garden


11. 

Mystic Brewery

Chelsea, Massachusetts

This Chelsea-based brewery follows old-world brewing methods to create its range of fantastic Belgian-style ales. What keeps them modern? A nerdlike fascination with yeast. For the “Vinland” series, Mystic forages for local fruit, isolates the wild yeast strains, and incorporates them into its brews, a process known as “yeast hunting”—with delicious results. mystic-brewery.com

Known for: Saisons from the “Cycle Saisonnier” series, which offers a new style each season.
But don’t miss: Table Beer, a dry and lemony session saison.

Food: Bring your own
Beer to go: Growler fills and bottles
Swag: T-shirts, hats, and glassware
Taproom: Samples and full pours


10.

The Alchemist

Waterbury, Vermont

There’s plenty of hype around John and Jen Kimmich’s Vermont brewery—their Heady Topper is widely considered the best double IPA ever. But the Alchemist lives up to its reputation with a beer that’s citrusy and piney, with an alcohol content—8 percent by volume—and a sturdy malt platform that accentuates those flavors. Getting your hands on it requires serious determination, but when the brewery/visitors center/taproom opens in Stowe in 2016, you’ll be able to get samples and beer straight from the source. alchemistbeer.com

Known for: Heady Topper.
But don’t miss: Focal Banger, an American IPA with Mosaic and Citra hops—if you make it to one of the Alchemist’s new ticketed beer releases.

Food: N/A
Beer to go: Coming soon
Swag: Available online only
Taproom: Coming soon


9.

Enlightenment Ales/Idle Hands Craft Ales

Everett, Massachusetts

One of the first nanobreweries operating in Massachusetts, Idle Hands produces an intriguing mix of Belgian and German styles in limited quantities. Enlightenment Ales, meanwhile, focuses on urban farmhouse and American-style ales. So why are we pairing them? The two partnered in Everett in 2013, with Enlightenment’s Ben Howe taking over as head brewer for both. enlightenmentales.comidlehandscraftales.com

Known for: Idle Hands’ Patriarch, a Belgian pale ale, and Enlightenment’s Brut, the only bière de champagne produced regularly in the U.S.
But don’t miss: Enlightenment’s Titania, a Nordic saison.

Food: No
Beer to go: Growler fills and bottles
Swag: Glassware, clothing
Taproom: Samples only


8.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids

Warren, Vermont (not open to the public)

Lawson’s represents all that’s great about Vermont beer—like luscious IPAs and maple-syrup-infused ales—without going overboard or slacking on quality. Sean Lawson has kept his Vermont brewery small and closed to the public, but he’s begun crafting batches at Two Roads (see: number 12), and teaming up with others. The brews are tough to track down, but you can find the lineup in Vermont (try Warren Store, in Warren, for bottles, and Waitsfield’s Mad Taco for drafts). lawsonsfinest.com

Known for: Double Sunshine IPA.
But don’t miss: Sip of Sunshine, an equally good IPA that can be scored in 16-ounce cans in Connecticut.

Food: N/A
Beer to go: N/A
Swag: Online only
Taproom: N/A



Yiqing Shao Yiqing Shao, Digital Editor at Boston Magazine bmagdigital+yshao@gmail.com