Summer’s here and the time is right . . . for road trips to breweries. It’s a swell combo: windows down, music up, a chance to discover new brews, and — the best part — bring a growler or three home to savor said discoveries. A few notes re: those growlers before you hit the road: Mass. law says brewers can only pour into containers sold by the brewery — silly, right? — so you’ll be paying extra on your first (and only?) visit. In Connecticut, they don’t care where your growler came from. In MA, beerists can sell pints in their tasting rooms. Meanwhile, in RI, you can only purchase 72 ounces of beer at breweries (no growler origin restrictions); there’s no ounce-per-purchase limit at brewpubs. That law needs to change — it’s a long drive from Providence to Westerly, f’rinstance, for a half-gallon of beer. (And some freshness conventional wisdom: unopened/refrigerated beer has a shelf life of one to two weeks; when the seal is broken, finish it ASAP — oxidation ain’t your friend. But why sit on it? You just drove to get fresh beer!)
Here’s where I went on the last few Saturdays.
BOG IRON BREWING | 33 West Main St, Norton, MA | 508.952.0555 | bogironbrewing.com | @bogironbrewing
Bog Iron’s Brian, Matt, and Frank met at a homebrew club and decided to pursue the Nano-Brewery Dream (“putting in long hours and making very little to no money for their efforts,” as they crack wise on their website). They have a three-barrel system, and make a dozen or so beers on a regular basis. Their first fare hit neighborhood taps early in 2013 and growler sales started a few months later. I enjoyed samples of Burly Blonde and Comet Line (a Belgian Pale Ale with American hops), and took home a liter (they’re not doing half-gallon growlers due to their limited supply) of Stinger, a top-notch IPA made with 11 pounds of honey per barrel. My visit was a bit ill-timed: their taproom is thisclose to opening (waiting for final wiring/permits, etc.) and their space will be much more inviting soon, with visitors liberated from the 12-square-feet-or-so that currently accommodates folks lining up for fills. Bog Iron is open on Wednesday from 4-8 pm and on Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm, so go there early and then keep heading north to . . . .
JACK’S ABBY BREWING | 81 Morton St, Framingham, MA | 508.872.0900 | jacksabbybrewing.com | @JacksAbby
Jack’s Abby, which is open Wednesday-Saturday from noon-8 pm. It’s helmed by another three-man crew, Eric, Sam, and Jack Hendler (the name is a reference to Jack’s wife, Abby, and a wink at the European monks’ brewing tradition). We’ve been enjoying their offerings since November 2011, a few months after their launch, when they won their first-ever beer-making medals at Rhode Island’s Great International Beer Festival — Bronze for Hoponius Union in the IPA category and Smoke & Dagger in the Amber Lager category. I was one of a six judges on the IPA panel; what we didn’t know at that time is that Jack’s Abby is devoted to lagers, not ales (Hoponius is an India Pale Lager, which is still an “unofficial” style of beer). Lagering has a longer fermentation process and uses different yeast; their beers masterfully blend the smoothness of the extended tank time with the full and glorious range of flavors from the world of ales. Whenever we dare to cross state lines to Seekonk or Attleboro, we always grab a six of Hoponius and other offerings (Mass Rising Double IPL earned a Gold Medal at the most-prestigious-in-the-US Great American Beer Festival in ’13). And their brewery is worth the trip. There are more than a dozen beers on tap (in pints or four-ounce sampling flights) in their newish taproom (tours are offered on Saturday). Our take-home growler of Hopstitution, an extra pale lager, was super-savory. They recently started distributing in CT, adding to their MA/NY/VT footprint, and plan to cover the rest of New England ASAP. Here’s hoping they target Rhody before New Hampshire and Maine (in the meantime, we’re willing to keep daring to cross those state lines).