This blog post was updated on September 12, 2019.
New England’s relationship with beer is one of history and necessity. When the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower began to run out of beer, they ditched their plans to land in Virginia and instead settled on Plymouth. Beer was a dietary staple for early New Englanders as it was safer to drink than water. And even today, New England carries on the tradition of trying with all their might to never be like those Pilgrims on the Mayflower and run out of beer. If you’re plotting a trip to the East Coast, these craft breweries open up their doors for some cool windows into New England’s beer scene.
Harpoon Brewery, Massachusetts
Started in 1986 by Dan Kenary, Rich Doyle, and George Ligeti, Harpoon is one of New England’s best-known craft brewing operations. The trio transformed a warehouse on Boston’s waterfront in 1987 and brewed up the very first Harpoon Ale. The employee-owned company sits in Boston’s Seaport District and offers one-hour tours of the facility. You can gain an up close and personal view of the brewing process and even enjoy a range of freshly-brewed Harpoon and UFO beers. If you do get the munchies, Harpoon also dishes out handmade pretzels in its Beer Hall every day.
Newport Storm Brewery, Rhode Island
Also known as Coastal Extreme Brewing, Newport Storm Brewery started as the dream of four college friends in 1997. Beginning with their first beer, Hurricane Amber Ale, in 1999, the brewery has gone on to make close to 100 different varieties of unique craft brews. Located in Newport, Rhode Island, the brewery boasts a constantly changing beer menu of seasonal, limited release, and featured beers. You can take a self-guided or guided tour of the brewing operations for $9. Your admission fee grants you four samples, a tour of the brewery and even a souvenir glass.
Allagash Brewing Company, Maine
If you get some cheap plane tickets to Maine, you can experience New England beer as it should be at Allagash Brewing Company. Started in 1995 as a one-man operation in a small corner of a warehouse in Portland, Maine, the brewery has grown into a full-blown craft brewing operation. Best known for its flagship beer, Allagash White, the brewery takes pride in producing Belgian inspired beers. Free tours of the facility are offered 7 days a week and at no cost. Included in your tour of the brewery are four 3 ounce pours of beer just for stopping by.
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Magic Hat Brewing Company, Vermont
Vermont boasts loads of craft breweries but very few offer tours. Magic Hat Brewing Company is the exception. The well-known brewery began in 1994 in south Burlington, Vermont and has since grown to a brewery that puts out roughly 175,000 barrels each year. With the tagline of, “Putting the performance into every bottle since 1994,” you can expect quirky beers and an even quirkier brewery out of Magic Hat. Tours are offered free of charge and can be guided or self-guided.
Smuttynose Brewing Company, New Hampshire
In operation since 1994, Smuttynose Brewing Company in New Hampshire takes its name from Smuttynose Island, the third largest of the nine islands that form the Isles of Shoals off the coast of the state. With an identity anchored in coastal New England, Smuttynose got its start in downtown Portsmouth. After 20 years in town, the brewery picked up and moved to its Towle Farm location in Hampton in June of 2014. Free tours of Smuttynose allow you to walk between, under, and around towering 270 barrel fermenting tanks and mingle amongst bottlers and brewers at work. Post tour, you can even get in a little exercise by playing the brewery’s on-site 9-hole disc golf course.
Two Roads Brewing Company, Connecticut
If you want to take the beer road less traveled and you also happen to be a big Robert Frost fan, head to Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford, Connecticut. Set up in an over 100-year-old former manufacturing building, the brewery takes its name after Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Less Traveled.” Opened in 2012 by brewing veterans, Two Roads offers brewery tours of its operations on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tours last an hour and cost $5 per person.
Have you been on a craft brewery tour that knocked your socks off in New England? Add your pick to the list in the comments below. Cheers!