Boston's brewery scene has really exploded in the past few years, with lots of really neat local brewers popping up all over the city and suburbs.
We’ve had a lot of fun trying out lots of them since we’ve lived here, and are excited to share our recommendations with you!
- Trillium (Fenway or Seaport locations, summer pop-up on the Charles River Esplanade) Pioneers of the local New England IPA style, Trillium also makes amazing sour beers, pastry stouts, Euro-style lagers, ales, and other beer. Trillium is definitely up there, if not our outright favorite.
- Harpoon Beer Hall (Seaport) Harpoon rocks– one of the OG brewers in the area, they’re employee-owned, make amazing pretzels with their leftover beer byproduct, and opened a really fun beer hall in the Seaport a few years back. Definitely sign up for their brewery tour. It costs $5 and includes some time at the end for unlimited samples! Some flavors to try (keep in mind they’re seasonal): Flannel Friday, Georgia Peach, UFO.
- Brato Brew House (Allston-Brighton) Yummy beer-and-food pairings here, like homemade sausages and grilled cheese!
- Night Shift (North End or Everett, right outside Boston, summer pop-up on the Charles River Esplanade) Night Shift is also one of our top favorites, well worth a trip out to Everett to their brewery or to their new beer hall in the North End. Check out their Oktoberfest event!
- Lamplighter Brewing Company (Cambridge) Lamplighter is a super fun place to hang out with friends, with lots of seating and a fun, open atmosphere. They have a cafe in their space during the day, and also brew kombucha.
- Sam Adams (Brewery in Jamaica Plain, Beer Hall Downtown) This is definitely touristy, but worth a visit if you’re visiting Boston for the first time. The tour is free (reserve ahead of time), and it’s fun to see how one of the country’s largest breweries operates. You get samples and a free small glass with your tour.
- Aeronaut (Somerville, summer pop-up in Lower Allston) Similarly to Lamplighter, we really enjoy the Aeronaut space, as well as the pop-up food vendors and board games on loan.
- Democracy Brewing (Downtown) As two people who work in politics-adjacent jobs in addition to running this blog, all the democracy puns are just too fun.
- Dorchester Brewing Company (Dorchester) Check out their rooftop beer garden, the first in MA! Opening 2020.
- Jack’s Abby (Framingham, on the commuter rail) The flights here are a definite fan favorite, and it’s located right by the commuter rail stop if you’re fancying a little day trip outside Boston.
In addition to breweries, Boston also has a fantastic bar scene, from time-honored Irish townie bars to elegant wine bars and jazz bars.
Fun (or not so fun) fact: Boston doesn’t have happy hour. In fact, it’s actually illegal!
The story varies– some say it’s an old Puritan law that Massachusetts still has on its books (from back when it was the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s), while others say it’s more of a Footloose situation, where too much drinking and driving led to an ironclad ban.
Whatever the reason, drinking in Boston can get pricey fast. This was a big adjustment for us when we moved here from Washington, DC (arguably the happy hour networking capital of the universe.)
However, we’ve still tried a decent amount of Boston’s bars in the years we’ve lived here, and compiled our 10 favorites below at a variety of price points.
- Drink (DIY, Seaport) Drink’s concept is so fun– you sit down at the bar, tell the bartender what combination of flavors and liquors you like (e.g. vodka and citrus, or “drinks that don’t taste like alcohol,” or rum and bitter), and they make you a surprise. It can be a bartender invention, or an obscure combination– you never know! We strongly recommend getting here right when it opens. Before the bar gets crowded, the bartender will chat with you about why they decided on the flavor combination they did, and it’s fun to experiment.
- Yvonne’s (Fancy, Downtown) Yvonne’s is probably our favorite upscale bar in Boston (not that we’ve been to too many!) With its gorgeous decor, swanky lighting and seating, and delicious cocktails, it’s worth the splurge on your night out. Note that even the barstools here are by reservation.
- Lolita (Fancy, Copley Square or Fort Point/Seaport) We love the “dungeon-glamour” vibe at Lolita, and we really love their frozen margaritas. The interior is dark, smoky, and a heavy black and red color palette, with delicious food and cocktails and complimentary cotton candy with food orders. They also bring you a palate cleanser of dry ice and tequila! We recommend the Back Bay location.
- The Beehive (Fancy/Jazz Bar, South End) We don’t really recommend the food here– we found their Jazz Brunch to be really expensive and overrated (in fact, we had to send our food back because it was raw in the middle!) However, their cocktails are delicious and the vibe here in the evenings is really classy and fun. The live music is fantastic, and the decor brings a distinctly “Roaring 20s” vibe.
- The Black Rose (Irish, Downtown) Live Irish music every night, Guinness flowing from its own tap, what more could you want? The Black Rose is a Boston institution, and our favorite Irish bar by far. You’ll always have a good time here.
- Biddy Early’s (Dive Bar, Financial District) Biddy Early’s gets jam-packed pretty much right after work, but the super-cheap beers, dart tournaments, and fun dive-bar vibe make it a great place to spend a winter evening.
- Tiger Mama (Funky, Fenway) The food here is good, but we’re not crazy about Thai food served in small plate format– it gets pricey really fast. The decor and cocktails are amazing, though (photo above right!) Definitely try their Mai Tais on your first visit.
- OAK Long Bar (Fancy, Copley Square) Located inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza, one of Boston’s ritziest and most exclusive hotels, the vault ceilings and chandeliers will make you feel like you’re in a vintage movie.
- Trina’s Starlite Lounge (Kitschy/Dive Bar, Somerville) A little grungy, a little hipster, mega kitschy– Trina’s serves comfort food (think chicken and waffles DIY mac ‘n’ cheese, that type of thing) with really fun cocktail options!
- The 21st Amendment (Old-School, Downtown) Similar to Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, DC, the 21st Amendment is where all the who’s-who of Boston politics hangs out, from the aides to the elected officials themselves. The stories abound here– rumor has it this is the place where all the deals are made.
Have you been to any of these places? Any we missed? Let us know in the comments!