Here’s a weekend getaway idea for you: Drink coveted IPAs from Hill Farmstead of Vermont, eat fresh-cut pastrami sandwiches, and spend half of what you would on a staycation in Boston. Sound good? Thought so.
You don’t have to trek up north to make it happen, either: All of that and more resides in Worcester. The city has revealed itself to be a food and drink sanctuary in recent years, and its central location keeps prices quite a bit lower than the immediate Boston area. And since everything there is in close proximity, making a weekend out of touring these spots is simple to map out. Here are a few beer-focused destinations to kickstart that planning process.
The Armsby Abbey
144 Main St., Worcester
This bar is arguably the grandad of Worcester’s beer scene, and it’s easy to see why: an unbeatable tap list of small-batch sours, bottled Belgian pours, and, yes, a lot of Hill Farmstead drafts. In fact, it’s one of only a handful of spots in Massachusetts to regularly find offerings from the brewery, since Hill Farmstead doesn’t normally distribute beer far from its Greensboro Bend brewery.
The bar also offers a selection of cocktails and wines, if you’re feeling like branching out for a night. Once you’ve had your fill of whatever, soak up your spoils with a charcuterie plate, grass-fed burger, or, on weekends, an apple- and egg-laden breakfast pizza. Arrive early if you can, though: This place gets packed at all hours.
The Dive Bar
34 Green St., Worcester
The name only tells about half the story here: The Dive is cash only, dimly lit, and offers little more to reveal itself than a neon sign out front. But a closer look inside reveals some heavy-hitting beer options: Trillium, The Lost Abbey, and, funny enough, more Hill Farmstead. Like most reliable dives, there are also plenty of cheap beers on hand if you want ‘em, as well as various liquors.
Since the spot doesn’t open until 6 p.m. daily, it only feels natural to head there after a night out. Alternatively, with those sorts of hours, it’s also easy to snag a few bar seats right at open. But don’t get too cozy with your setup either way, since the locals are more than aware of the Dive’s neighborhood prominence.
Flying Dreams Brewing Company
455B Park Ave., Worcester
Your next stop resides southwest — a bit outside of the center of town — but more than makes up for the trek with its beer list. Ease out of your morning routine with the cafe session stout, a 4.4% ABV coffee-infused ale, or go all-in with the Double Bock, a hearty dark lager that mixes flavors of caramel and toffee with a light hop presence. There are a number of 22-ounce bottles and growlers available to take home too, so no matter what you drink of choice is, make sure you don’t depart empty-handed.
Kummerspeck Restaurant and Delicatessen
118 Water St., Worcester
Deli by day, drinking hotspot by night. The food menu at Kummerspeck is rich with quality cuts of meat, ranging from turkey sausage breakfast sandwiches drenched with egg and jam to more classic takes on a pastrami and steak frites. There’s a dense list of wines and cocktail creations, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably waiting to hear the beer recs.
Kummerspeck has no drafts or taps, instead flaunting an extensive bottle and can list. Pick from local favorites such as Jack’s Abby and Rising Tide, or stick with a popular standby like Duvel or ‘Gansett. Prices don’t break the bank too much either, so considering opting for a more premium beer if the mood strikes, like the bar’s rotating seven-fifty bottle from Mystic Brewery.
72 Shrewsbury St., Worcester
A close proximity to the city center means Wormtown Brewery is easy to hit at any point in your bender. Most have come across a beer from this brewery before — it’s pretty ubiquitous in Boston — but the brewery’s actual tasting room is pretty small and full of spunky signs and merch. The spot also hosts live music semi-frequently.
For drinks, consider grabbing a full pour of Wormtown’s rotating lager series, or opt for a more limited beer like the Be Hoppiest triple IPA. Most beers can also be ordered in a small taster too, so building a custom flight is hardly a hassle, and sticking around for another round doesn’t have to be a commitment. After you’ve reached peak beer bliss, do the smart thing and hop next door for a slice (or pasta plate) at Volturno Pizza.
3cross Fermentation Cooperative
4 Knowlton Ave., Worcester
This bike-themed brewery, formerly 3cross Brewing Company, holds the title of Massachusetts’ first community-owned brewery. Located in the southwest part of the city, this spot prides itself on being a local meeting space for bikers and beer enthusiasts alike. The tasting room, donned with old school biking ads and a few fully constructed racing bikes, further bolsters that goal.
In that same vein, many offerings lean a bit lower on the alcohol spectrum to accommodate the active among us, like the Slipstream saison and Sheldon brown ale. A few offerings do breeze past 8% ABV for the tipplers among us too, like the 1200k double IPA. In time, the team also plans to delve into a few other house-fermented foods and drinks to offer on-site. Either way, you’ll enjoy the ride.
Bonus: Greater Good Brewery
55 Millbrook St., Worcester
Before long, Worcester will soon be home to a fourth brewery: Greater Good, an all-imperial brewery focused on only brewing beers around 8% ABV. The company has been contract brewing massively hopped double IPAs and robust milk porters for some time now, but it is weeks away from opening a devoted brewery and tasting room at 55 Millbrook St. No word on when that will be exactly, but keep the spot in mind for any future trips to town.
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.