Below is a transcript of a live online panel discussion on local beers and wines (and where to find them), which took place on Thursday, February 10, 2011. The panel included several panel members, with food and wine writers, bloggers, and liquor store owners participating. The hour-long chat included talks with the panel on favorite breweries and wineries/vineyards in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England, and also included viewer participation. [Note: The original discussion can be replayed at the following link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/online-discussion-0211.html and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Hello, all! Welcome to a discussion on local beers and wines, including the places in which they are produced, and where they can be found.
Marc H.: This is our ninth discussion, and as always, we have several people on our panel who you might know of. Before we start, maybe we should have some introductions. I'll begin--I'm Marc, the founder and owner of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and the news-based blog Boston Restaurant Talk.
Michelle: Hey Marc! My name's Michelle, and I'm a food writer and blogger for The Economical Eater (www.theeconomicaleater.com)
RichardPF: I am Richard, the Passionate Foodie (http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com)
Christine Liu: hi, i'm christine. i live in somerville, work for urbanspoon, freelance, and wax poetic at http://discreethedonist.blogspot.com
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: I am Jeremy Kirkpatrick, owner of Grand Trunk Imports, specialty food market along with craft beer and wine located in Newburyport, MA
Rebecca: Hi All - it's Rebecca, Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits/Wine & Gourmet
Marc H.: We have a big panel today! Still waiting for one or two others. By the way, to our viewers, welcome, all, and we'll explain how this works in a minute!
Michelle: Great group here!
RichardPF: Hi Rebecca, glad to see you here.
Rebecca: Same to you Richard! :)
Marc H.: Even though we're waiting on others, I think we can start....
Marc H.: For today's chat, we are going to be focusing on local beers and wines. I'd like to start close to Boston, then work our way out into the rest of New England, going back and forth between breweries and wineries/vineyards. For each specific topic, I'd like to talk about the place itself, the products they put out (including your favorites), and what restaurants/bars/liquor stores carry them.
Marc H.: As always, I'd like to concentrate more on lesser-known places (in keeping with the "hidden" theme), so while I love beers from places such as Sam Adams and Magic Hat, for example, I'd rather not focus on them. (I suppose on the wine end, Westport Rivers Vineyards and Winery would also fall into this category.) If you do want to talk about them, however, that's fine, as long as we don't spend too much time on them.
Marc H.: And as always, for each topic, we will talk first with the panel, then we will open up the topic to our viewers.
Marc H.: So let's start with breweries in the Boston area (let's say within Route 495, give or take). Have you visited any? Do you have any favorite beers from them? I recently went to the Blue Hills Brewery in Canton, and while the place itself is nothing to write home about in the atmosphere department, I was bowled over by a couple of their beers, including their Dunkelweizen Winter Wheat, which was smooth and not bitter at all, and had a very slight chocolate flavor even though it wasn't a particularly dark beer.
code_pig: cape ann brewery is awesome
Marc H.: Hi, code_pig! We'll be opening up each topic to our viewers after the panel has finished with each topic, but thanks for posting! I haven't been to that brewery. Has anyone on the panel been?
Rebecca: I carry Blue Hills intermittently; while you suggest their place is nothing to write home about - its tough to get orders in because sales staff is apparently short. That being said, I love love love their Imperial Red. It's absolutely delicious and was one of my best sellers. I carried approximately 3 of their "flavors" at one point.
Marc H.: Rebecca, one of my friends got the Imperial Red while we were at a tasting there. I agree--it is really good.
Michelle: I was just going to mention Cape Ann Brewery! I was there last summer, and they only have a few beers on tap at a time - but there is a wide variety, from crisp, light refreshing beers to darker stouts/porters
Michelle: I also loved the atmosphere - big, wooden picnic tables with loads of board games. I could have easily spent the day there!
Rebecca: Pretty Things is another really fantastic small crafter.
Marc H.: Where is Pretty Things based? They are a "gypsy" brewery, correct?
Rebecca: I believe it's Wesport, technically - or at least according to their label...
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: Visit Haverhill Brewery often. They have some excellent seasonals that we are fond of: La Damme de Peronne, Three Graces, Joshua Norton. We carry many of the beers they offer
Michelle: Jeremy, I'm with you - I love the Haverhill Brewery.
Marc H.: I haven't visited the Haverhill Brewery, but love their beers. Jeremy, do you do tastings for their beers in your store?
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: We do. John Curtis (Head Brewer, Haverhill) has conducted tastings here. And we open their beers occasionally. We always taste something on the weekends for the public to enjoy.
Michelle: Anyone been to Watch City in Waltham? Their plum beer is wonderfully fruity and crisp - served in the summer months, usually
Marc H.: A friend of mine used to be the brewmaster at Watch City a long time ago. I do like their beers--went there a couple of months ago, actually.
code_pig: plum beer? Is it an Ale or a Lager?
Michelle: Code_pig, it's more of an ale with hints of vanilla and plum - really delicious, and not overly fruit-flavored, which I like
Kathleen Pierce: Hi Marc, sorry to be late. I've had great brew lately at Boston Beer Works in Lowell. Espresso stout is on tap all month. Coffee and barley works in my book. I like it bitter. Anyone else?
Kathleen Pierce: Pretty Things is a Cambridge outfit, which calls to mind Cambridge Brewing Co. We can't discuss local beer w/o giving them a hearty shout-out!
Marc H.: Kathleen, I agree. I actually go to Cambridge Brewing to play chess there over a beer or two (what can I say, I'm a geek). It's great in the summer with the outdoor patio.
Kathleen Pierce: yes at the CBC used to have an outdoor fire pit. Great for a post movie ale!
Marc H.: Before we move on to local wineries, do any of our viewers have favorite beers from breweries inside Route 495?
Rebecca: I sell Boston Beerworks - but I believe only three of their brews are available for retail.
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: I agree, Watch City has some very nice beer.
Kathleen Pierce: Mayflower Brewing Co. in Plymouth is worth a sip
Marc H.: Kathleen, we bought some Mayflower beers recently, I think at Julio's in Westborough. I was very impressed--definitely need to do a tour there soon.
code_pig: oh I agree Kathleen- the Mayflower Porter is amazing, I had it at a tasting
Rebecca: Ahhh, Mayflower. That's another I've sold. Only their IPA seemed to pick up, but again - from a retailer perspective, tough to get sales calls.
Michelle: Mayflower Porter is one of my favorite beers!
Rebecca: Michelle - I loved the Mayflower Porter personally; but for some reason, slow consumer response.
Busa Wine & Spirits: has anyone ever tried Opa Opa
Busa Wine & Spirits: it's really good
code_pig: Busa- is that a brewery?
Busa Wine & Spirits: nope Busa is a local chain of stores
Rebecca: I've gotten a few requests for Opa Opa. They self distribute, no?
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: Yes Opa Opa self distributes. Their beer are very good
Marc H.: I seem to recall having Opa Opa, possibly at Publick House in Brookline?
Busa Wine & Spirits: we carry Opa Opa & Mayflower Beer
code_pig: I'm looking for a blackberry beer, anyone know of one?
Marc H.: Long Trail Blackberry Wheat (Vermont) is outstanding, IMO.
code_pig: I want to brew my own, and I need something to test it against
Kathleen Pierce: Code Pig try Incredibrew In Nashua, N.H. you can brew up some wile batches
Kathleen Pierce: chocolate beers anyone? It's almost Valentines Day ...
Laurin: brooklyn chocoate stout!!!
Busa Wine & Spirits: Opa Opa is a chocolate beer
Busa Wine & Spirits: i think harpoon makes a chocolate stout too
code_pig: Rebecca, do you carry Opa Opa?
Rebecca: I don't - I believe Busa does though. I've been meaning to contact them for a rep, I've had some customers ask for it.
Busa Wine & Spirits: Busa Wine & Spirits carries Opa Opa
Busa Wine & Spirits: you can order on our website
Marc H.: Ok, we need to move on to wines right now....
Marc H.: How about vineyards and wineries close to Boston? We can expand this one beyond Route 495, since there are very few close to the city--perhaps everything east of Worcester, including Cape Cod. Last summer we went to the Truro Vineyards on the Cape--I thought the wines were pretty good overall, but the atmosphere was what made it memorable to me, as it is this little vineyard squeezed into the narrowest part of Cape Cod with ocean seemingly on all sides of the place, yet it felt like we were many miles away from the water.
RichardPF: Travessia Winery in downtown New Bedford. Uses MA grapes, makes some very good wines, from Vidal Blanc to Chardonnay.
Marc H.: Downtown New Bedford? I knew of wineries nearby in Westport, Sakonnet, RI, etc., but didn't know there was one in New Bedford.
RichardPF: Travessia is an urban winery, and the owner Marco is a great guy
Michelle: Yes, Travessia has great wine! We're expecting to bring some in "hopefully" in the next three to four weeks. :)
Marc H.: Looks like I need to make a trip to New Bedford.
Rebecca: I'm still dreaming of our Paso trip Richard. But will try to focus
RichardPF: Ah, Paso!
code_pig: Where is Travessia?
RichardPF: Travessia wines are being carried in more and more local wine stores now
bondirpjg: We carry Truro Vineyards here at our Restaurant (Bondir, Cambridge), the Estate Grown is superb
RichardPF: Turtle Creek Winery, in Lincoln, MA, makes good wines, including some with grapes they grow on their own vineyards.
Rebecca: I've got Turtle Creek; their Late Harvest Zin is a delicious product.
RichardPF: In Harvard, MA, Still Rivers Winery makes a delicious apple ice wine from local apples.
Michelle: Richard, I've also tried Still Rivers' apple ice wine - so refreshing, and not overly sweet.
RichardPF: There are close to 30 wineries in MA, though most see little distribution outside of the winery
Michelle: Right, I was going to say the same thing Richard; tough to find local wine that distributes for retail.
RichardPF: More and more local wine stores are starting to carry local wines, which is a very good thing.
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton makes a slew of different wines. Although we prefer the beers and cider...
Marc H.: I love visiting Nashoba Valley for so many reasons. Not only do they have wine, but they also have their own beers, a couple of which are really nice. And they have their own cognac. Oh, and apple picking in the fall. :-)
Kathleen Pierce: Jeremy, I've never been overly impressed w/ Nashoba Valley, although I love the concept.
Kathleen Pierce: You can make your own wine in South Boston at http://www.bostonwinery.net/
Kathleen Pierce: Nantucket is producing some nice juice.
Rebecca: Nantucket Vineyards, I carry their Sailors Delight & the Chard... Sells better in the summer though. :) Must be a "Summer state of mind".
Busa Wine & Spirits: i tried a sav. blanc from there
Busa Wine & Spirits: at the phantom gourment wine fest last year
Kathleen Pierce: anyone headed to the Nantucket Wine fest in May?
Michelle: Kathleen, I've never been to the Festival but would love to go - have you ever been?
RichardPF: Westport Rivers does deserve a least a mention for producing some good wines, especially their sparkling wines.
Busa Wine & Spirits: i tried a sav. blanc from there
Busa Wine & Spirits: port is excellent for Valentine's Day
Busa Wine & Spirits: we ship anywhere in Mass
Kathleen Pierce: Zoll Cellars is made by a local distributor in Shrewsbury
Marc H.: We need to move on (lots of info here to look through here!). Before we go back to beer and breweries, do any of our viewers have any favorite wines from places in Eastern MA?
Rebecca: I have a delicious Chocolate Zin - Trentadue Chocolate Amore. To die for....
Rebecca: Oh wait that's not local. Sorry.
Kathleen Pierce: Michelle, I went a few years ago.. woa chocolate zin?
Rebecca: Yes, and it's natural dark chocolate - not artificial. GOOD STUFF.
code_pig: Any good Shiraz around here? I know it's not common in this climate
RichardPF: Code, I am unaware of any Shiraz being grown in MA
Kathleen Pierce: cranberry wine, you mean? no thanks
RichardPF: Should note that not all local wineries use local grapes. Some import them from places like NY and CA.
Marc H.: Definitely a good point, Richard!
Marc H.: Let's go back to breweries, this time focusing on the rest of Massachusetts as well as Rhode Island and Connecticut. Which breweries, if any, have you been to in these areas? Have you tried any beers from any of these areas? One brewery that puts out some great beers is Cisco, which is located on Nantucket. Their Winter Woods is really interesting, as it has a sour and slightly wild yeast taste and it can be aged in the bottles for years.
code_pig: Berkshire Brewing Company has an amazing coffeehouse porter
Kathleen Pierce: Code pig I was just going to mention the BBC. Steel Rail Ale all the way!
Rebecca: Cisco, Cape Ann, Wachusett.
Kathleen Pierce: Rapscallion was great, brewed in Concord, then Lowell. What happened?
Busa Wine & Spirits: they have Rapscallion at Not Your Average Joes
Guest: they are still around- on tap many places in Boston
code_pig: also on tap at Whiskeys
Marc H.: I've had Rapscallion at Not Your Average Joe's in Cambridge, but not for a few months.
Busa Wine & Spirits: in Arlington MA- i'm not sure about the other locations
Kathleen Pierce: but they did away w/ their cool glasses... Makes a difference don't you think?
Rebecca: Wachusett Milk Stout is fabulously delicious. Not to be confused with Magically delicious. ;) (Just a little humor....)
Michelle: Northamption Brewery is supposed to be great, but I've yet to go - anybody been?
Busa Wine & Spirits: No but I want to
Marc H.: Me too!
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: Berkshire Brewing, as mentioned earlier, makes some great beer, big, bold, and rich.
code_pig: BBC on tap @ The Mission, brigham circle
code_pig: Rebecca, tell me more wachusett milk stout
Michelle: Ipswich Brewery's ales are decent - not the best I've ever had
Guest: New England Brewing Company has a lot of nice brews. Just had their 'Sea Hag' Ipa. very good
Kathleen Pierce: No one's talked about Cape Ann and the Fisherman's Ale out of Gloucester? I'm hooked
Marc H.: Ahhh, Fisherman's Ale. I first discovered that at a down-and-dirty seafood joint in Marshfield called Haddad's. One of my favorite beers.
Busa Wine & Spirits: Not Your Average Joes sells Hoppy Feet a local Lexington/Arlington brew
Michelle: I lived in CT for years, and I can't think of a single brewery there....
Marc H.: Michelle, how about Thomas Hooker in Bloomfield?
Michelle: Ah, yes! Forgot about Thomas Hooker. I'm familiar with the brand, but have never tasted their brews, unfortunately.
Rebecca: Sorry - had to fill the beer cooler. LOL, Wachusett Milk Stout is like a creamy, vanilla guiness.... delicious.
code_pig: Cape Ann's Oyster Stout is amazing
Marc H.: Before we move back to wines, do any of our viewers have any favorite beers from breweries in the rest of Southern New England?
Kathleen Pierce: I don't like the name, Clown Shoes from Berman's in Arlington, but has anyone tried it?
Busa Wine & Spirits: yes
Busa Wine & Spirits: don't like
Marc H.: Oh, where did I have Clown Shoes....it may have been Cambridge Common. I believe it was a white ale...
Busa Wine & Spirits: no- it's really dark
Marc H.: Clown Shoes has several beers out now--I'm almost positive I had a white ale. I'll have to check their site.
Rebecca: LOVE Clown shoes. Brown Angel - can't keep it in stock. Hoppy Feet everyone loves. Clementine - slow mover.
Rebecca: I believe their Clementine is white; Hoppy Feet is dark.
Marc H.: Yup, it was a white ale: http://www.clownshoesbeer.com/clementine/
Michelle: Clown Shoes is....mediocre, in my opinion
Busa Wine & Spirits: The Hoppy Feet is a favorite of a lot of people
Kathleen Pierce: Blue Hills Brewery!
Busa Wine & Spirits: has anyone had Oskar Blues?
Rebecca: Dale's Pale ale does well for me... Oskar blues.
Michelle: Love Dale's Pale Ale, too!
Kathleen Pierce: Isn't Providence busting out any suds?
code_pig: If you head far south, there's my favorite- Yuengling lager from pennsylvania
Marc H.: Hah, I've been to the town where they make Yuengling. Used to get their Black and Tans at Woodley's in Cambridge for a buck.
code_pig: do they still have the Black and Tan!??!
Marc H.: Not sure. It has been awhile!
Kathleen Pierce: Rebecca, your store is in Melrose, correct? Sounds like you've got a killer selection.
Rebecca: Thanks Kathleen - yes I'm in Melrose. I shake it up every week... :)
RichardPF: Kathleen, Rebecca's store has some great gourmet food too
code_pig: Anyone here have a store in Boston?
Rebecca: I have another store in Beacon Hill as well...
code_pig: Oh i didn't know if those stores were related. I love the boston location, I live on Beacon st
Marc H.: Back to wine! How about vineyards and wineries in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Central/Western Massachusetts? One of my favorite places to visit is Sharpe Hill in Pomfret, CT (in the Northeast corner). The wines are decent, they have a rustic outdoor patio where you can sample the wines, and the hilly, wooded surroundings give the feel of being miles from anywhere.
RichardPF: Jonathan Edwards may be my fav CT winery.
Marc H.: Where is that, Richard?
RichardPF: North Stonington http://www.jedwardswinery.com/
Kathleen Pierce: I hear there is a great CT wine trail. http://www.ctwine.com/
RichardPF: Most of the wines of RI and CT really don't impress me much
Kathleen Pierce: Red Oak in Middleton, MA is a small batch winery that is fun to visit
RichardPF: Kathleen, I think Red Oak is out of business.
Jeremy Kirkpatrick: Yes Red Oak disappeared several years ago.
Kathleen Pierce: RIP Red Oak
Michelle: CT Valley Winery in New Hartford is really impressive. They also have tastings and dinners!
Kathleen Pierce: I thought Jonathan Edwards was a folk singer. He makes wine too?
Marc H.: I guess he gets around. ;-)
Rebecca: And thanks Richard... (she says as she's selling a duck breast to a customer, LOL)
Marc H.: What do folks think of Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, RI? I love to visit the place mainly for the scenic surroundings, but I don't always love their wines.
RichardPF: I am not crazy about the Sakonnet wines either.
Rebecca: I've only had their Vidal Blanc... it was good. That's the only one I've had the opportunity to try.
Kathleen Pierce: I like anything straight outta Compton! It's all about the whites here
Busa Wine & Spirits: Busa has a store in Lexington- but we also deliver
Busa Wine & Spirits: and you can shop our store online
Busa Wine & Spirits: http://www.busawineandspirits.com/
code_pig: thanks busa. I'm looking for tastings though
Busa Wine & Spirits: in boston?
Kathleen Pierce: Central Bottle in Cambridge is the bomb! Code Pig they have a Thursday night wine bar you must attend
code_pig: Thanks Kathleen, I'll have to remember that
Kathleen Pierce: http://www.centralbottle.com/
Marc H.: Gordon's in Watertown might work for you as well, code_pig. Or Ball Square Wines in Somerville.
Busa Wine & Spirits: or in general?
code_pig: In or around.
Busa Wine & Spirits: we have weekly tasting at our store- check out the calendar section online
Michelle: code_pig, The Urban Grape in Chestnut Hill has tastings all of the time - for beer, too!
code_pig: excellent, thanks Michelle!
Marc H.: Back to the beer....What are some interesting breweries in Northern New England? I personally know that Vermont has a number of them, including the cult-ish Switchback Ale in Burlington, VT, which is a classic small-batch spot.
Marc H.: And I know it's not a small, little-known place, but I LOVE going to the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater, VT. Such a nice location, and love the beers.
Kathleen Pierce: Elm City lager is straight out of the Nutmeg State
Kathleen Pierce: Portsmouth Brewery is always too packed to visit, but I suspect it's right up there
code_pig: I was just there kathleen- couldn't get a seat
Kathleen Pierce: Woodstock Inn and Brewery brews their own in the Granite State http://www.woodstockinnbrewery.com
Michelle: Oh man...Moate Mountain Brewery in North Conway, N.H. is incredible
Marc H.: And Moat Mountain also has some great BBQ!
Michelle: You need to wash down your beer with their flatbread and hummus appetizer, too!
code_pig: Bar Harbor, Maine has a great brewery
Marc H.: Yup, Bar Harbor Brewing Company. Love their Cadillac Stout. Also Atlantic Brewing Company, which makes Coal Porter, one of my favorite porters.
Rebecca: For some reason - I struggle with LongTrail and Tuckermans
Marc H.: Tuckerman's Headwall Alt beer is one of my favorites, but I know people who don't like it at all.
Busa Wine & Spirits: I love Long Trail Beer
Kathleen Pierce: Two words: Gritty McDuffs
code_pig: The gritty mcduffs restaurant in Portland, ME is amazing
code_pig: HELL YES GRITTYS
Rebecca: For some reason, they don't move. Gritty's does well for me though.
Busa Wine & Spirits: Gritty McDuffs sounds like the perfect place to cheat on a diet!
code_pig: it is- their german sausage is friggin amazing.
Kathleen Pierce: I think Maine crushes VT in this department
Kathleen Pierce: Red Lobster Ale from Belfast is quite snappy!
Busa Wine & Spirits: is there a place to stay near the area?
Marc H.: Which area, Busa?
Busa Wine & Spirits: Long Trail Beer in VT
Marc H.: I tend to stay in Ludlow at the Okemo resort, which is maybe 20 minutes south. Also, Killington and Woodstock are minutes away.
Michelle: Shipyard Brewery is in Maine, too - I love their Export Ale
Marc H.: All right, we need to quickly move on to our final topic for the day (back to wine)....
Marc H.: Any vineyards and wineries in Northern New England that stand out? I've been to a few, including Honora in Jacksonville, VT, which is in a location that is so beautiful that I'd go there even if I weren't sampling their wines (which are pretty good, by the way).
Kathleen Pierce: New Hampshire's growing viniculture includes Jewell Towne and LaBelle winery, all quite good
Kathleen Pierce: Winenot opened in Nashua N.H. recently. Small shop, great wine
RichardPF: I have tasted wines from about 12 VT wineries. Only a handful use VT grapes, and mostly hybrids. Best wine was from Boyden Valley Winery (www.boydenvalley.com). They have an amazing red ice wine made from Frontenac. Shelburne Vineyard also makes some very good wines (http://shelburnevineyard.com)..
Marc H.: Richard, not to get too far off track, but you and I had been talking about the annual cheese festival in Shelburne, VT. I assume that some of these wineries are there as well?
RichardPF: Yes, there are about 18-20 VT wineries and breweries at their fall cheese festival.
Marc H.: I really can't wait to go to that. It's a borderline bucket list event for me.
code_pig: mmm.... cheeese.....
Rebecca: I am hoping to make it there...
Kathleen Pierce: Let's face it, the best wine in this country is on the West Coast. Washington State is my new fav. Diamond winery, check this one out.
Marc H.: If we're going to talk about outside of New England, I'll go with wines from Mendocino, CA. And being there is half the fun--so nice out there.
RichardPF: Kathleen, I would disagree. NY is producing some amazing wines now.
RichardPF: The Shelburne cheese festival is a must see event.
Busa Wine & Spirits: is there a bucklist for wine/beer events around?
Michelle: cheese festival?! I need to be there.
code_pig: Has anyone tried any Arizona wines?
code_pig: I know Caduceus started the trend of making wine down there, but I'm not sure how good it would be
RichardPF: VT Cheesemakers Festival will be July 24. http://www.vtcheesefest.com/
Kathleen Pierce: Thanks, that was fun. Cheers all!
Marc H.: Thanks for participating, Kathleen! And Richard, thanks for the link. Hopefully we can meet up there.
Michelle: Thanks Richard!
Marc H.: Well, that was a quick hour, wasn't it?
Rebecca: Thanks for having me. Hope you think of me again....
Marc H.: Thanks, Rebecca! We'll be having chats once a month, so I'll definitely get back in touch!
Marc H.: And thanks to all of you on the panel, as well as our viewers! It was a lot of fun - tons of info to look through this afternoon!
Michelle: Thanks Marc - this was great!
RichardPF: Thanks all. Was fun as usual.
Busa Wine & Spirits: this was very cool thanks for the invite
Rebecca: Sounds good.... have a great day all.
code_pig: that was fun
code_pig: Thanks- you need to host a tasting!
Marc H.: Heh, maybe someone else can do it. :-b
Marc H.: By the way, if any of you have any ideas for future discussion topics, please email me at this page, thanks! http://www.hiddenboston.com/contactus.html