It’s a good time to drink up in the Bay State. There are currently over 100 different breweries scattered across Massachusetts, many of which boast their own tasting rooms and distribution efforts. Depending on whom you talk to, this growth is causing the beer scene to either flourish, flounder, or simply bubble up.
Despite the odds, local brewers are pushing forward and planning big things for the year ahead. Here are five Boston-area establishments that drinkers should pay particular attention to in 2018 — and this is by no means an exhaustive list. There is so much beer-related action happening in and around Boston, with a myriad of new breweries and trends emerging each week. If there’s another brewery or upcoming concept we should pay special attention to this year, let us know.
Early last year, two Cambridge Brewing Company alums set out to carve their own paths, and come early 2018, we’ll finally taste what they’ve been plotting. Brato Brewhouse has decided to hunker down in deep Brighton and is currently crafting a “fork-to-glass” menu of fermented foods, artisan grilled cheese sandwiches, and plenty of beers.
Once the brewpub opens, it’ll be a welcome addition to an area that hasn’t seen a ton of brewing action as of late. And, unlike most concepts still in the planning stages, Brato has already unveiled much of what’s in store during its many pop-ups across the city. Because of that, founders Alex Corona and Jonathan Gilman — the previous head brewer and sous chef at CBC, respectively — have set the bar high for Brato’s impending debut. So far, so good.
The brewery has garnered enough attention as a neighborhood tasting room full of warming baltic porters and traditional ales. But the contract brewing leg of Dorchester Brewing is what will likely set it apart in the coming months. By offering its space as a brewing facility for roaming brands like Evil Twin and Omnipollo, Dorchester Brewing has established a brewing powerhouse that shows no signs of slowing down.
That makes the coming year all the more exciting. Dorchester Brewing has already hinted at the addition of two new partners, including Decadent Ales of Mamaroneck, New York. And once current tenants like Backlash Beer Co. get settled into their new facilities, there will be room to bring in more fresh faces from around the globe. Tack on the possibility of new releases from existing partners, and Dorchester Brewing-brand beers, and the future looks bright.
Back in September, Exhibit ‘A’ shared that it was on course to increase production by 40 percent by 2018. With that kind of anticipated growth, coupled with the forthcoming releases from the Framingham company, local drinkers seem in for a treat.
It’s hard to say what exactly those new additions will bring. New beers? More from the company’s slumbering barrel program? Expanded distro? All seem likely. Co-founder Matthew Steinberg has a lot of ingenuity and ideas swarming his brewery, but a lot more is still under wraps for now. Expect Exhibit ‘A’ to be loud and tenacious this year.
In what seemed like an about-face, Mystic more or less rebranded and emerged as a hop juggernaut for the city late last year. Where there was once an IPA-less catalog, the Chelsea brewery is now pumping out double IPAs like Illegal Dance Moves, a 9 percent ABV monster made with Citra and Mandarina Bavaria hops, and more anomalous styles like Fabrication X, a hoppy farmhouse ale brewed with lactose. Where there was once a long list of corked-and-caged bottles, there are now cases of 16-ounce cans that sell out instantaneously.
The brewery hasn’t abandoned its farmhouse roots by any means: Saison Renaud remains a staple, and newer releases like the Brett Renaud and the can-conditioned Table Beer simultaneously challenge convention and retain tradition. If the brewery keeps at this pace, Boston drinkers should only expect bigger and badder things from the brand.
Springdale Barrel Room
The all-ale offshoot from Jack’s Abby has offered an eclectic mix of barrel-aged sours and hop-forward beers out of its Framingham taproom since opening, but upcoming distribution plans will soon take those drinks to the streets. Starting February 1, Springdale will begin distributing four-packs of cans and 500ml bottles to area stores, starting with sippers like the Brigadeiro Breakfast Stout and an unnamed new pale ale.
With distribution making Springdale’s already-popular catalog more readily available, the brewery is bound to make some big moves in the next few months. Widespread distribution could also help the brewery hone in on a core lineup to throw its weight behind. Before we know it, stouts and IPAs from the brewery could be as ubiquitous as Jack’s Abby’s Hoponious Union.
This story is part of Beer & Mortar, a series in which Eater Boston contributor Alex Wilking explores the beer scene in Boston and beyond. Stay tuned for new installments each week, featuring profiles of both classic breweries and soon-to-open ones, reports on local beer trends, and more.