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Secret Beer Bars of Boston: South End

Author // Jeff Wharton

If you’re like me then you’ve noticed that your desire to drink a great craft beer is outweighed by some of your friends’ desire to go somewhere other than one of your “weird beer bars.” Craft beer may be exploding in popularity, but we’re still far from the majority. The solution? Well, you could hit up some of Boston’s phenomenal cocktail bars. Or, you could just suck it up and get a meal somewhere without sipping on a great brew. But why would you when you don’t have to? As craft beer gets more popular, there are more and more places putting thought into their beer selection without being craft beer-focused establishments. Want to take your girlfriend out but she only wants sushi? Want to take your boyfriend somewhere but he’s looking for a great meal and wine? Want to take your folks somewhere, but not to a beer bar? We’ll be putting together a series of neighborhood specific “Secret Craft Beer Bars,” with the Sound End first. Following up, we’re looking at Kenmore/Fenway, Back Bay/Copley, Cambridge, Fort Point, Newton and more. Got suggestions? Let us know!

The Criteria For a Secret Beer Bar

A Secret Beer Bar is a place that doesn't focus on just beer, or super-heavily on beer. They don’t do beer events, their social media doesn’t focus much on it, and they’re not the traditional spots you’d expect great craft beer...like we said, they’re the secret beer bars of Boston. That said, having a generic craft beer list doesn’t count, either. These are the establishments that told their distributor, “give us the ‘craft beer’ package.” These lists have thought put into them; they’re well curated. They don’t have to be huge, just well done.

Picco

513 Tremont Street
www.piccorrestaurant.com

I started coming to Picco years ago (back in 2006 or 2007) for the amazing pizza and the unparalleled homemade ice cream. Back then, they had only a few taps, but I was already impressed because they were some of the best curated handles I’d seen in Boston. Fast forward to 2013 and they’ve expanded to nearly 20 options on draft and many more in the bottle. Whether you’re a craft beer lover or not, you’re going to dig this place. The fish tacos in the summer are great, they always have amazing appetizers and rotate the menu seasonally with a variety of amazing options. But, if you really want my recommendation, wait until the heat wanes and then get a calzone with mozzarella, sausage and caramelized onions. My wife and I get it pretty much every time and it never gets old! That said, during warmer times of the year, they have a great patio and sitting on that patio is a real bonus. Also, make sure to leave room for dessert as their ice cream is some of the best in the Boston-area. The coffee ice cream is especially amazing! But, for real, this is an amazing place with a great vibe, an ever-expanding draft list and some of the most well chosen brews in town. Also they have good wine.

Picco Boston

BoMa

1415 Washington Street
www.bomarestaurant.com

This is a new find for me and I actually ended up here for my wedding anniversary recently after grabbing appetizers and a drink leading up to the date. They have nearly ten taps, but Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, Pretty Things Jack D’Or and the like are your choices, so any true craft beer lover will be stoked. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, curation was key here. Beyond that, though, the food is amazing and the vibe it great. Given the assumptions about craft beer bars, you’d never think that this place would please, but it really does! Check out the eggplant, the roasted pearl onions with potatoes and pretty much all of the entrees. Pair it with a great pint and I was a happy camper. You will be too!

BoMa Boston

Seiyo Sushi

1721 Washington Street
www.seiyoboston.com

Sushi. I love it. If you don’t, this is not the place for you. But, if you’ve been craving raw fish with your craft beer than this is the best place in Boston that I’ve found. I took my younger brother here a while back and we had a Pretty Things Jack D’Or and a Slumbrew Happy Sol. They’ve got a moderately sized, but very well selected, list of craft brews in the bottle that will not disappoint. Again, the key here is not the vastness of the choices, but the quality of what you can choose. There is clearly someone here who knows his or her beer. And the raw fish was great! If you want an excuse to drink craft beer while eating sushi, don’t go anywhere else! (I was really happy with photos from here, so I'm including three.)

Seiyo Sushi Boston

Mayflower Brewing's Ryan Gwozdz [5 Questions]

Author // Jeff Wharton

As longtime readers of Drink Craft Beer know, we've been friends with the team at Mayflower Brewing Co. since the very beginning. Their founding brewer, Matthew Steinberg, was a friend going back to his days at Offshore Ale House, so we made sure to get in to Mayflower as soon as it opened. Hell, I even spent a day there shadowing the brewing team for my Professional Brewer For a Day article. One of the first people we met at Mayflower, aside from Steinberg, was assistant brewer Ryan Gwozdz, who came over from Buzzards Bay Brewing. Matthew has since left, leaving the head brewer position, and Mayflower brewing operations, in the capable hands of Ryan. Since then Mayflower has continued to succeed and put out new and delicious beers. Well we thought it was about time we caught up with Ryan, who has come a long way since that pro brewer for a day article you last saw him in on this site. 

We love his beer, so lets talk with the man himself. Also, if you want to say hello, come on down to Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest 2013 in Boston this November, where Mayflower will be pouring an assortment of their delicious brew!

Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft beer?

Ryan Gwozdz: While I was going to college for Environmental Engineering, my sister’s boyfriend would always buy different beers for us to try. This opened my eyes that all beer wasn’t created equally. I was working at Circuit City at the time and despised it. I finally decided that every job I had after that, I would actually enjoy. So I blindly called Buzzards Bay Brewing in Westport, MA one afternoon and left a message saying I was interested in learning about the brewing process. A couple hours later they called me back and told me to come in the next day to bottle with them. I was 19 then and 8 years later it still makes my day smelling the mash every morning.

DCB: What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?

RG: Those first few months working at Buzzards. It wasn’t necessarily beer, but more so learning the brewing process, being a sponge and relentlessly asking questions. I owe much of what I know about the industry now to Harry and Nate who took me under their wings and saw brewing potential in me. Thanks guys.

DCB: You walk into a magical beer shop with every beer currently available. You can put together one six-pack. What do you walk out with? Only one beer can be from your brewery.

RG: Cantillon Gueuze, Orval, Schlenkerla Urbock, Mayflower Summer Rye, Allagash Interlude, Half Acre Daisy Cutter. I’m adding a 7th, Molson (reminds me beers with my grandfather!)

DCB: You have one night in your favorite beer city. What city are you in and where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer)?

RG: Brussels, Belgium. Hang out at Cantillon. Order ceramic pitchers of beer at A La Becasse. Chug Mayflowers in front of Manneken Pis. Order Westy 12 and laugh at the hype of it. Late night drinking at Moeder Lambic. Drink cans of Jupiler while walking the city. Basically the same trip I took a few years back with some great friends.

DCB: What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t in beer?

RG: Working on an organic farm. My grandfather always had a huge garden that I loved, and I spent years working on my uncle’s orchard. The hardest part of brewing is being inside all day. It’s hard to beat the feeling of working outside. Understanding and seeing food grow the way it should be (small scale and naturally) is something I could see myself doing.

DCB: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer (or beer at all)?

RG: Coffee, bourbon, or chocolate milk. Gin & Tonic is my summer mistress.

DCB: You can brew any beer you like, no matter the cost and consumer demand, what would you make and what dream ingredients would you use?

RG: I would brew a grodziskie. It is an old Polish style that tart and brewed using smoked wheat. It would be 100% Weyermann Oak Smoked Wheat. They are making some of the finest malts available to the industry today. And who else makes oak smoked wheat?!

DCB: Thanks so much for your time, Ryan! Looking forward to seeing Mayflower at Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November!

Wormtown Brewery's Ben Roesch [5 Questions]

Author // Jeff Wharton

So I heard you like to drink local craft beer? Well maybe it's time you meet a man who helps bring you those local beers that you love so...and he's been brewing with local ingredients since before it was cool (although Ben not being a hipster and all, he probably wouldn't put it that way). You've see his beer throughout Massachusetts (his brewery, Wormtown Brewery, will even be at the 2013 Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November!), including Be Hoppy IPA, MassHole Hefeweizen and so many more delicious options. But why is his beer so delicious? Maybe it's the use of local ingredients in every beer, as mentioned above. Or maybe it's the fact that he trained under Will Meyers, Brewmaster at the acclaimed Cambridge Brewing Company. Perhaps he's just gifted? Or could it be a blend of all of that and more? Luckily, I was able to get some of Ben's time and so, without further ado, I'll quit my conjecture and go straight to the man himself for these answers.

And remember, if Ben seems like a cool guy who you'd like nothing more than to meet, you can! Just grab your tickets to Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November and he'll be behind the Wormtown booth pouring brew.

Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft beer?

Ben Roesch: I started drinking craft beer in college at UMass Amherst [with] Berkshire Brewing and Paper City being on tap at local bars. From their it grew to trying different styles and, eventually, getting into homebrewing to try my hand at it.

Wormtown Brewery's Ben Roesch

DCB: What was the turning point (a beer or moment) that made you love craft beer?

BR: My own first recipe and homebrewing. I went out to a farm and got sap and syrup and then brewed a maple lager in my roommate's closet. It showed me that with attention to detail and inspiration I could make craft beer happen. That was also the first spark of using local ingredients that I have carried with me throughout my career. 

DCB: You walk into a magical beer shop with every beer currently available. You can put together one six-pack. What do you walk out with? Only one beer can be from your brewery.

BR: Cambridge Brewing Heather Ale, Harpoon Saison Various, The Lost Abbey Red Poppy, Jack's Abby Fire in the Ham, Wormtown Buddha's Juice, and [North Coast] Old Rasputin XII

DCB: You have one night in your favorite beer city. What city are you in and where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer)?

BR: Portland, Oregon staying at McMenamin's Kennedy School, visiting Powell's Books, hitting numerous brewpubs and food trucks.

DCB: What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t in beer?

BR: Forestry- that was what my degree is in from UMass. I would not regret a day spent on the Quabbin Reservoir where I was just a few days away from accepting a job before I decided to accept my first head brewer job. 

DCB: What do you drink when you’re not drinking craft beer (or beer at all)?

BR: Lots of coffee and water, occasionally kombucha, hard cider, bourbon, and whiskey.

DCB: Where do you see the craft beer industry going in the next year? And, in that vein, can we get a sneak peak at what new to expect from you in the coming year?

BR: More breweries opening, more consumer confusion about who and where the beer is actually being brewed, breweries that can't  consistently make quality beer will eventually have to close. Wormtown will be canning beer in early 2014, working on an expansion and possible new location. And I'll be out sourcing more local and unique ingredients. 

DCB: You can brew any beer you like, no matter the cost and consumer demand, what would you make and what dream ingredients would you use?

BR: Imperial stout brewed with all maple sap no water. Barrel aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels.

DCB: Thanks so much for your time, Ben! Looking forward to seeing Wormtown at Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest in November!

Craft Beer Summer Six Pack 2013

Author // Jeff Wharton

A few weeks ago our friends over at Thrillist Boston contacted us for our top two beer recommendations for summer. It was a hard choice and made me realize just how many awesome options there are for the hot weather! Many people decry summer as a time of mediocre golden ales, but we’re here to tell you that this ain’t so! From easy drinking cream ales to crazy, tart German-styled brews we’ve got you covered for any cookout, camping/beach trip, stoop drinking (for you city folks like me) or what have you.

Craft Beer Summer Six Pack

So come join us in drinking these delicious summer libations! And, if you’re not in the New England area, we’re trying to help by providing a style to look for and we’d love to hear your suggestions! Finally, if you're in Boston for July 12 & 13, come down to Drink Craft Beer Summerfest (at Space 57 in Downtown Boston) to sample 80+ summery beers from 25 of New England's best brewers! Get the info here.

Grey Sail Flagship Ale - The All Day Drinker

Grey Sail Flagship Ale

When you think of a lower alcohol all-day drinker, this is it. A cream ale is similar to lager in taste, clean and crisp, and this one fits the bill. It’s got a mild aroma with a grainy character that says, “this is just a beer.” It’s going to go great with a burger or bbq chicken…plus, it’s low alcohol enough that it won’t mess up your ability to play yard games!

Can’t get this one? Try a few different cream ales. What do you suggest?

Mayflower Summer Rye - The All Day Drinker, But More Interesting

Mayflower Brewing Summer Rye

If you’ve been reading Drink Craft Beer for any length of time, you know of our love for this beer! We were going to select it for our Thrillist recommendations, but the wise Suzanne from Craft Beer Cellar beat us to it. This was the surprise hit at a buddy’s wedding a couple years ago, with craft beer lovers and grandparents who drink nothing but lager all going back for more! Slight Belgian-influenced, it’s got fruity/citrusy notes, a wheaty, minerally dry body and carbonation that keeps you asking for more. And, again, low alcohol makes it great for the heat!

Can’t get this one? Try some Belgian Wits. It’s not identical, but they’re close. Or do you have other ideas? What do you suggest?

Mystic Brewery Table Beer - The Fancy Beer

Mystic Brewery Table Beer

So you need to fancy up that cookout? Everybody is going to sit around a table together, all formal-style? Well then grab a couple of these corked and caged beauties from Mystic Brewery and you’re good to go! You can tell your friends this is basically what Belgian farmhands drank after a hard day in the fields…very similar to a leisurely day at your place, right? Crisp and complex, this one derives everything from the yeast isolated by the fermentation geniuses over at Mystic (seriously, founder Bryan Greenhagen has a PhD in fermentation). It’s a little spicy, just a touch of apples and a hint of banana…but it’s all so restrained that it’ll go great with whatever you’re serving.

Can’t get this one? Try a few different saisons! Almost every region has at least one brewer making one now. What do you suggest?

Mystic will be at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest in downtown Boston on July 12 & 13. Get your tickets and come on by to try more than 80 beers by them and 24 other New England brewers!

Wormtown MassWhole Hefeweizen - Traditional, Yet Different From Your Normal

Wormtown Brewing MassWhole Hefeweizen

Someone once said, “there aren’t enough Hefeweizens in craft beer!” OK, that someone was me. But it’s true. Check this one out and then tell me it’s not. Banana and clove are in your nose as you bring the glass to your mouth. It’s effervescent, minerally  and dry from the wheat. It’s full on your tongue, yet doesn’t coat it nor is it overwhelming. This may be the perfect hot weather beer! Interesting, yet it doesn't get in the way. And this particular version is chock full of local ingredients, including wheat from Valley Malt, in Hadley, MA which we love! The local grain gives an especially neat distinctive component to the flavor.

Can’t get this one? Try a few different hefeweizens! Almost every region has at least one brewer making one now. What do you suggest?

Wormtown will be at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest in downtown Boston on July 12 & 13. Get your tickets and come on by to try more than 80 beers by them and 24 other New England brewers!

Founders Brewing All Day IPA - The All Day Drinker, Plus Hops

Founders Brewing All Day IPA

OK, OK! We hear you, you want hops! Well if you like citrusy, juicy, flavorful hops without an overwhelming bitterness, then this is your cookout beer of choice my friend. It smells like a bucket of those delicious flowers that give beer its bitterness and flavor, yet, it’s not 1000+ IBUs. Honestly, I just want to go get another one now because it’s so good. Tropical fruit flavors will cascade down your tongue as you drink this elixir. “But,” you say, “there’s tons of great IPAs…why this one?” Well, because it’s only 4.5% abv. Which makes it great for hot weather and outdoor drinking over long periods of time. Am I right?

Can’t get this one? Try a few different pale ales! It’s a fairly ubiquitous style...just watch the alcohol as it can rise quickly! What do you suggest?

The Tap Intergalactic Acid - And Now for Something Completely Different

Tap Brewing Company Intergalactic Acid

2013 is a year that will go down in history here at Drink Craft Beer…it’s the year that The Tap Brewing Company in Haverhill, MA started bottling their amazing berliner weisse. This is a beer that Devon and I usually go to the brewpub every summer to drink by the pitcher (it’s only 3% abv, so we each get one), then we bring several growlers home. This beer means summer here at Drink Craft Beer! And now you can drink it at home. It’s mildly tart and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day. We’ve heard of this style being sold as “Belgian Lemonade” at some brewpubs in other areas and, with the acid, slight citrus notes and tartness it makes sense. Traditionally you can put raspberry of woodruff syrup into the beer to temper the tartness, but we say try it plain!

Can’t get this one? You might be out of luck...this style is rarely made. Have you had a good local version? What do you suggest?

The Tap will be at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest in downtown Boston on July 12 & 13. Get your tickets and come on by to try more than 80 beers by them and 24 other New England brewers!

Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale - Bonus Beer!

Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale Stovepipe Can

Yes, we know this is the seventh beer in a six-pack article. Consider it a baker’s six-pack? Or a bonus beer. Basically, we know we don’t need to tell you have great Dale’s Pale Ale is. It’s bitter, it’s grapefruity hoppy, it’s delicious! If you like IPAs then this beer is for you. We’re not here to tell you how good it is…we’re here to point out that they have a new stovepipe can! Almost 20oz of this brew, all for you. Yeah, sometimes you just want a big can of hops to the face while you’re walking around the yard on a 90° day. And, when that happens, this is the one you should check out.

Let’s be honest...almost everyone can get Dales Pale Ale. If not, there are several other local IPAs in cans throughout the country. But you may be hard pressed to find it in a stovepipe can.

So what are your summer suggestions? Live in New England, well then what did we miss? Live somewhere else? Let us know some alternatives, what’s in style for our recommendations? Cheers, and enjoy the heat! And, if you're in Boston for July 12 & 13, come down to Drink Craft Beer Summerfest (at Space 57 in Downtown Boston) to sample 80+ summery beers from 25 of New England's best brewers! Get the info here.