Editor’s Letter: Down the Hatch

Our May issue: A no-holds-barred look at Boston, brewskies, and brawling.

IF YOU’VE LIVED IN BOSTON for a while, you may be wholly unaware of the fact that this is a beer town. You probably assume that restaurants in every city make sure there are multiple locally brewed offerings on tap, that “What’s today’s IPA?” is a perfectly normal question for your bartender. If you’ve lived here for a while, in other words, you pretty much have no idea that you’ve been totally spoiled by great beer, and that the poor slobs in other cities are condemned to a selection of brews whose only real merit is that they come in cans that change color to alert you to how cold they are.

Fittingly, then, it took a visit from some out-of-­towners to remind executive editor Donna Garlough of what a great beer scene we have — one worthy of serious celebration. And when she and the rest of our staff started talking about beer culture in Boston, we realized there was an entire local economy built around water, barley, malt, and hops. We have malt producers. Homebrew shops. Breweries large and small, and craft-beer bars galore. Most important, though, our region boasts so many great-tasting, small-batch suds that you could never come close to tasting them all.

That’s not to say we didn’t try. To crown the 15 best microbrews in New England, we researched offerings from breweries in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine — from established outfits like Long Trail and Shipyard to emerging nano-breweries like Wormtown and High & Mighty. After winnowing down the options, we held three marathon tastings, each consisting of at least 30 samples in 15 styles. You’ll find the results of our exhaustive research over here.

If there’s one thing that defines many of today’s best craft brews (which can have alcohol contents of 7 percent and higher), it’s the wallop they pack. But we also learn this month that a stiff beer isn’t the only way to get a good kick to the head around here. As associate digital editor Shannon Fischer reports, Massachusetts is home to a growing number of successful UFC combatants — those guys who punch, knee, choke, and wrestle each other in the middle of a steel octagon. In her profile of up-and-coming East Bridgewater brawler Joe Lauzon, Fischer finds that while some cage fighters fit the meathead stereotype, many others do not. Lauzon, for instance, is a former computer programmer who graduated from the ­Wentworth Institute of Technology. What Lauzon has not done so far, however, is manage to win a UFC championship. Neither, for that matter, has any other fighter from Massachusetts. Lauzon is certain he’ll be the first, and Fischer chronicles his pursuit of a belt.

So that’s our May issue, a no-holds-barred look at Boston, brewskies, and brawling. I’ll raise a cold one to that.