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!

By Lauren Clark, Heather Vandenengel, Andy Crouch, and Christopher Hughes


banded horn

At Banded Horn, in Biddeford, you can fill up a growler and then partake in a game of Ping-Pong. / Photograph by Pat Piasecki

Sam Adams and Harpoon may have kicked off the craft-beer revolution a couple of decades ago, but these days there’s way more to the craft-beer scene in New England. So much more, in fact, that whittling down this list was an extremely tall order. Luckily, we had the beer-nerd brain trust that is Lauren Clark, author of Crafty Bastards, beer writers Heather Vandenengel and Andy Crouch, and our own resident brew guru, Christopher Hughes, to argue over the finer points—range of offerings, quality, and overall consistency—and settle on this, the list of the 21 top beer-makers in New England right now. Cheers!

gansett

Skip ‘Gansett’s flagship lager in favor of these top-notch tallboys. / Photograph by Pat Piasecki

21. 

Narragansett Brewing Company

Providence, Rhode Island (not open to the public)

You know Narragansett for its famed “Hi, Neighbor!” slogan and its delightfully cheap (yet incredibly dull) flagship. But ’Gansett is so much more: It brews some truly excellent beer, including the Bock, a Bavarian helles lager with bready malt flavor and noble-hop zing, and Fest, a toasty, malty brew that’s a classic for fall. narragansettbeer.com

Known for: ’Gansett Lager, a staple of concerts, ball games, and house parties.
But don’t miss: Collaborations with Rhode Island institutions like coffee-syrup giant Autocrat (coffee-milk stout), and Del’s Lemonade (a tart, refreshing shandy).

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


20.

Cambridge Brewing Company

Cambridge, Massachusetts

This Kendall Square brewpub has cranked out innovative beers and consistent favorites for more than 25 years, thanks to brewmaster Will Meyers and a long lineage of talented brewers. It continues to evolve with sake-beer hybrids, a commitment to sourcing local ingredients, and a formidable barrel-aging program. cambridgebrewingcompany.com

Known for: Timeless classics like Charles River Porter; hybrids like the hoppy pilsner Remain in Light.
But don’t miss: Whatever barrel-aged or funky offering is on tap, be it a summer barley wine (Arquebus) or a light-bodied saison with Brettanomyces (Brett Grisette).

Food: Burgers, salads, and pasta
Beer to go: Growlers, bottles, and cans
Swag: Pint glasses and T-shirts
Taproom: Yes, with free samples


19.

Lost Nation Brewing

Morrisville, Vermont

Founders Allen Van Anda and James Griffith execute a range of sessionable (read: low in alcohol) styles done right, from a wheat-based IPA to a Belgian blond ale. The charming taproom, meanwhile, is a must-hit on any Vermont beer trek. The brewery is located just off a year-round recreational trail, so outdoor types can ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, or bike to their beer. lostnationbrewing.com

Known for: Gose, a tart ale brewed with coriander and sea salt.
But don’t miss: Vermont pilsner, because the world needs more hop-forward, crisp and clean pilsners.

Food: Local meats, cheeses, and sandwiches
Beer to go: Growler fills and bottles
Swag: Glassware
Taproom: Full pours, no free samples


18.

Tree House Brewing Company

Monson, Massachusetts

For years, Tree House’s flavorful IPAs have drawn massive lines to the small brewery’s idyllic facilities, first in Brimfield and later in Monson. Now, founders Dean Rohan, Jonathan Weisbach, Damien Goudreau, and Nathan Lanier have opened a 9,000-square-foot space across the street, where they’re making fruited wild beers, barrel-aged stouts, and canned versions of their cult-favorite IPAs. Eventually, Lanier plans on cooking wood-fired pizzas on the premises, as well. treehousebrew.com

Known for: Julius, an easy-drinking IPA.
But don’t miss: Sap, a peachy, resin-y IPA.

Food: Bring your own
Beer to go: Growler fills and cans
Swag: T-shirts, glassware, mugs, totes
Taproom: Yes, with free samples


17.

Banded Horn Brewing Co.

Biddeford, Maine

After five years as the head brewer at Brooklyn’s Six Point Brewing, Maine native Ian McConnell returned home, launching Banded Horn on the banks of the Saco River in 2013. The brewery has since become a community hub, with Ping-Pong and cornhole games at night, “Brewsana” yoga classes by day, and, of course, plenty of great brews, including Pepperell, an unfiltered German pils, and the Jolly Woodsman, a highly sought-after coffee stout. bandedhorn.com

Known for: Veridian IPA, now available by the bottle.
But don’t miss: Greenwarden, an American pale ale brewed almost entirely with Maine spruce tips in lieu of hops.

Food: No
Beer to go: Growler fills and bottles
Swag: Shirts, hats, beer steins, pint glasses
Taproom: Pours available


16.

Marshall Wharf Brewing Co.

Belfast, Maine

Marshall Wharf is the house brewery for what might be the coolest beer-drinking destination in all of New England: Three Tides bar and beer garden. Located right on the waterfront, the beer garden overlooks a fleet of tugboats and boasts groovy touches like vinyl-upholstered booths and lampshade-covered string lights. And, yeah: There are 17 beers on tap. Three Tides opens at 4 p.m., but you can order beer, lobster, and shellfish at Marshall Wharf’s indoor/outdoor tasting room starting at 11 a.m. marshallwharf.com

Known for: Cant Dog imperial IPA, one of several beers distributed in cans around Maine.
But don’t miss: Sea Belt Scotch Ale, brewed with dried Maine seaweed.

Food: Snacks and shellfish
Beer to go: Growler fills and cans
Swag: “Canties” (panties in a beer can)
Taproom: Full pours and free tastes


15.

Notch Brewing

Ipswich, Massachusetts (not open to the public)

All of those low-in-alcohol, big-in-flavor beers you see everywhere? Notch pioneered this category, known as “session” brews. For five years, tenant brewer Chris Lohring has used other companies’ facilities to make his Czech-style lagers, Belgian-style saison, and Left of the Dial IPA, all of which allow drinkers to enjoy a few quality beers without being knocked sideways. A dedicated brewery, as well as a beer garden, are scheduled to open in Salem in 2016. notchbrewing.com

Known for: Notch Pils, a crisp, refreshing Czech-style pilsner.
But don’t miss: Černé Pivo, a Czech-style black lager that’s still packed with flavor yet somehow chuggable.

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


  • Brian

    Dispise these stupid lists. Call it “our favorite” which puts it in the right context. Either that or go and try EVERY one and their recent offerings, and then make a grand statement over who is “best”. Otherwise these lists are a waste of ink other than being fluff pieces.

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  • David Shanahan

    Treehouse 18th???

  • jacobtheprobasketballtalk

    Bog Iron needs some loving.

  • CMAC

    No Wormtown? They win best brewery in the US, but don’t make this list? This article loses all credibility, also their new taproom is open and its awesome.

  • TheFez98

    No Bog Iron (Norton, MA), no Wormtown (Worcester, MA)? This article is BS.

    • Mike

      I like WormTown Be Hoppy. Bought a growler of their Buddha Liscious at their grand opening and drank it 5 days later…not sure what happened because it was horrible and I had tasted it at the Brewery (and like it). I think I’ll just stick to Be Hoppy at the local bar on tap. Haven’t been to the place in Norton…

      • TheFez98

        You should visit the Bog if you like good brews. Right across the street from Wendell’s (excellent wing joint) on 123 (a nice combo). They are actually premiering a new Pale Ale tonight (Robble Robble – 5.2%).

  • http://www.monheganwellness.com/ Tara Hire

    What About Monhegan Brewing Company on Monhegan Island, Maine?

  • bud_man

    Thank you for finally finding CT on the map. A few things however:

    1. Treehouse that low, really? Should be top 10.
    2. You guys need to find Beerd.
    3. How do you miss OEC? Boston is one of select places it reaches an coming off a great appearance at Extreme, you would think they would be on the radar.

    • Mike

      I agree that Tree House should be top 10 MINIMUM.

      • tracymt

        I thought the same exact thing–but then I read they’re going off of availability, which coincides with ‘gansett and Allagash being so high.

  • gregk

    No Fiddlehead?

    • Zack

      the best part of that brewery is Folinos

  • Blatherbeard

    Portsmouth Brewery. one of the best in ne and one of the only ones that had at least 1 beer that people NOT in new england had heard of. (KtG is the only beer outside of ne that ive ever been asked about, i moved to Tx.) Glad to see pretty things and CbC get some attention, even though CbC should be higher on the list as well, IMO. Will also admit, that ive never even HEARD of 90 percent of the list.

    so ymmv and my opinion subject to change.

    😉

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    • sowseeds

      Maybe come back to New England and try some of the 90% you haven’t then your opinion will change. Many of these are semi recent start ups that are putting New England on the map as world class. Tree house should definitely be higher up and Wormtown is missing. I also think Bissell Brothers deserves a spot on this list especially with the release of swish but maybe that’s a better kept secret…whoops.

      • Blatherbeard

        Yeah, i def want to do a beer trip up there one o these days. I did discover Able Ebeneezer last trip up, which was some great beers as well.

      • Dominic Leo

        Swish, dinner, substance , epiphany, lunch,etc

        Not a lot of messing around in maine these days

        Dinner is number 27 top beer in world on beer advocate right now

  • Paul

    Just tried the beers at Medusa Brewery in Hudson. Very impressive. My favorite was the Moffat Scottish 80 Shilling but all the beers we tasted were impressive. 111 Main Street Hudson MA.

  • Mike

    I was not impressed with Medusa. I look for beers that stand out with originality, and Medusa reminded me too much of Amherst Brewery. Bought a growler but won’t refill it with anything they had at their initial opening. Tree House and Trillium have ruined me for beers that taste like every one else’s. I also like Pretty Things Meadowlark enough to buy it regularly at Julio’s.

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      I went to Medusa a couple of months ago and thought their beers were pretty damn good for a brewery that just opened. I had one of their pale ales and it was super crisp and fresh with a a nice light bitter finish. I find that I’m pretty hard to please but would take the 45 min drive there just to hang out and drink!..and of course find refuge in a hotel room and/or pee pee soaked heck hole.

  • David

    What no Night Shift? Boooo!!!

  • Bruce Thomas

    No Long Trail? Really?

  • kfg

    Anyone ever hear of BuzzardsBay Brewery????

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  • Hubis

    Anyone who has ever had Tree House knows they don’t belong outside the top 5. This list is a joke. I’m skeptical they’ve even had their beer since they list Julius as an IPA when it’s an APA. Morons.

    • GamehendgeBrewingCo

      I agree… but Julius is most definitely an IPA

  • Steve Petrarca

    How Long Trail, Bog Iron, and Trillium are not on this list is beyond me. Also, Rising Tide!

    • Renee Giusti

      Ahem…there are 3 pages in the article. Trillium is page 3, #3 🙂

  • Christopher Perry

    You missed Kelsen in Derry, NH with their Gold Medal Paradigm Brown Ale.

  • Liam

    As someone that works in the beer industry… anyone that thinks Naragansett makes this list and Night Shift doesn’t, obviously knows nothing about beer. Fiddlehead and Wormtown are also massive snubs. I get that this is about pageviews but if you were looking for brand recognition on page one Smuttynose would have been a much better choice.

  • Dan Stevens

    Tree House at #18, are you f#$5ing kidding me? Plenty of their beers are among the top ranked beers by Beer Advocate & they cant keep up exploding demand. Two Roads is an impressive facility but their beer is by and large thoroughly mediocre. They do brew the incredible Sip of Sunshine as a contract brewer, but come on now.

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  • Hudson Valley Slim

    Hill Farmstead & Trillium. Well hell, someone has good taste.

  • Disappointment

    How much did Narragansett and Notch pay you to get on this huge swing and miss of a list…have you ever drunk beer prior to writing this article?

  • balcobomber25

    Long Trail, Wachusett, Shipyard, Smuttynose, Otter Creek all should be on this list.