Full disclosure: I am not what’s known as a beer nerd. I just enjoy fun activities so if you are a self proclaimed beer nerd, please don’t judge the following adventures of a novice too harshly.
One of the most well known beers tied to Boston is Sam Adams. The brewery is located in Jamaica Plain and from what I’ve heard from locals, the tour is so-so. I know a lot of tourists come out and visit the brewery, so it’s certainly on my activity must list, at which time I will rank it appropriately!
However, another popular brew in Boston comes from the Harpoon Brewery. Harpoon is known for its IPA (or India Pale Ale, for those non-beer connoisseurs out there). In any case, I’ve tried various kinds of Harpoon and have always been told to visit the brewery, especially since I’ve visited a few others in my travels including Cape Cod Brewery, Shipyard, Allagash and Red Hook.
The Harpoon Brewery is out in the Seaport and the company recently renovated an area of its building, turning it into a beer hall. I’m not sure how the tours and experience was prior to the opening of the beer hall but now, Harpoon seemed to take a page out of Disney World’s book. The line you enter to purchase your tickets for the brewery tour winds around one section of the bar, where guests can purchase samples or glasses of beers on tap. This was actually a really great idea since you can see the other section of the beer hall, where guests are already comfortable, munching on snacks or sipping a cold one — you essentially avoid having any beer envy while you wait.
While the tickets for the brewery tour are first come first serve (and cost only $5), and you can’t get them online before arriving, the line set up helped calm our fears of the tours being sold out on a Saturday. However, I will say, if you want to take a tour on the weekends, definitely get to the brewery early and pick up tickets. The staff allows you to pick your tour time so you could pick your time for later in the day, after a scrumptious lunch in the Seaport.
Waiting in the beer hall, you sit at big wooden picnic tables, and while it gets a bit loud (because the ceilings are fairly high), it’s actually pretty pleasant. If you have time to kill, definitely get a pretzel. The pretzels are made with the grain used to make the beer and its soaked in or cooked in Harpoon’s IPA. Whatever they are made of, they were fantastic — and you get a choice of two dipping sauces which were equally yummy.
The tour itself was pretty fantastic. While I’ve take a few brewery tours before this, I have to say that this was one of the best. The tour is approximately an hour, and our tour guides were just the right kind of sarcastic and knowledgable about the beer that was being made. You could tell they loved beer (which I think also makes a huge difference). I doubt I accurately remember all the interesting factoids about the brewery (just look above when I talked about the pretzels — that was a tidbit picked up from the tour), so I won’t repeat any others here. However, at the very end of the tour, you get 20 minutes in a private tasting room, where you can sample various flavors and types of beers currently on tap.
Overall, I would recommend the brewery tour for anyone looking for a laid back activity in Boston — and definitely, for those who have taken the tour, a visit to the beer hall. I don’t think the beer hall is a place that you can hang out all day but its worth a stop by.