99 Bottles

Why Boston is a special beer town


Boston Beer Week is a deserved celebration of beer in the city, but the party doesn't have to stop after seven days. In fact, this is one of the best places in the world to have a beer at any time. The beer culture in Boston rivals beer culture anywhere.

You can get a good beer in Boston at almost any bar. Local stalwarts Samuel Adams and Harpoon have taken care of that. Even the most collegiate Faneuil Hall or Allston bars typically offer a Sam Boston Lager and a Harpoon IPA. You can sip your way through a bad cover band's set just fine with that.

Boston's Irish pubs are simultaneously underrated and overrated. They're a big reason why people come here to drink, but they also shouldn't be the end-all. I've walked past popular bars with lines and covers and spent the last two St. Patrick's Days in offbeat Southie Irish bars within walking distance of my house. I've returned to these places with friends on a quiet weeknight. There is genuine, neighborhood bar culture in Boston that should not be dismissed. Some of the nicest people you'll ever meet can be found there. You can get a proper Guinness.

There's something of a craft beer movement afoot (maybe you've heard of it), which is why I get to devote a column to the subject in the first place. Some of the finest craft beer bars anywhere in the world exist here. These are my 10 favorites. Austin and Asheville and New York City and Portland (both Portlands) and San Francisco all have a great culture of beer bars, but I'll pit Boston's up against any of them. Inspired, original beer is being brewed in Everett and Chelsea and Ipswich and Framingham. We frequently tap gems from Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Local and sustainable are more than buzz words.

The restaurant scene is changing. Any good food joint worth its weight in pancetta knows that you're not going to settle for a mass-produced lager anymore. Hipster-ironic beer lists (You serve Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, Miller Light, and PBR?) are being replaced by more respectful, locally-sourced beer menus. If you're going to put a Sisyphussian amount of effort into your food, you might as well give some thought to the beverages you serve.

All of this is happening, en masse, in Boston. Students and empty-nesters are rubbing elbows at the bar and sipping unironically from tallboy cans and tulip glasses, in equal proportion. Big brewers are sharing ingredients with those just getting started. You can get good beer at TD Garden and at the bars next to Fenway Park. Now if only we could infuse some small business sensibility and good taste to expand the offerings inside the ballpark.

There's plenty of great beer here, from the South Shore to the North Shore, Brighton to Jamaica Plain. Enjoy the week's festivities. There's a stool with your name on it, with the name of a beer you might not recognize on the bar top, waiting for you anytime you want to come back.

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