Boston has an illustrious brewing history. Founding father Samuel Adams was also a brew master, and throughout the 19th century the city had more breweries per capita than anywhere in the United States. Though the 18th Amendment put a stop to that, the last couple of decades have seen a resurgence of the craft. Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain was at the forefront of the local trend when it was founded in the 1980s. A tour of the facility (including samples) is among the best things to do in Boston, but if you’re looking for a bar to sip suds from around the world or around the block, try one of these ten Hub-area craft beer bars.
RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars
Boston craft beer guide
It’s the only Scottish bar in the city, and the only place you can get Kelpie with your Haggis. Kelpie blends seaweed and chocolate flavors, and is as dark as the blackest porter. But it’s got a brisk, light taste, tinged with ocean salt. Other Haven perks include Brew Dog on tap and deep-fried chocolate bars. The atmosphere is immersive: Belle & Sebastian on the soundtrack, tartan curtains, antler chandeliers and a bathroom plastered with obscure Scottish comics. Signature brew: Skull Splitter, a strong 8.5% wee heavy.
Enter through dark curtains and your attention is immediately drawn to the bar, with its 40 taps raised up in the center like an altar to the god of hops. Here, the bartenders are more than happy to introduce you to the delicious and obscure—such as a pale ale lovingly brewed by a Belgian father and son in their spare time away from their day job at a big brewery. Signature brew: Cantillon Vigneronne, aged with Italian Muscat grapes, smooth yet lightly bubbly.
Named for the booze-loving author, the Bukowski is all attitude. The style reflects the interests of the beer-slinging crew: Sex Pistols on the jukebox and a beer menu that lists “Ales,” “Lagers” and “Funky Shit”—which includes a Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and a Blanche De Bruxelles Wit from Belgium. The usual local suspects, such as Pretty Things and Magic Hat, are also on tap. Signature brew: Deus De Flanders, aged for 2 years, and clocking in at a hefty $45 a bottle.
CBC is a veteran of the Boston beer scene. It certainly has the merchandising down: hats, T-shirts and pint glasses are all for sale. Founded in 1989, it’s the oldest brewery-restaurant in the city, and the first in the country to produce a Belgian-style beer: the Triple Threat. The room itself is spacious and comfortable, with lots of long, shiny pine surfaces. The brewing tanks are visible from every seat in the house, but the best tables are to be found on the front patio. Signature brew: Cerise Cassee, a tart, barrel-fermented ale made from sour cherries.
Former bartenders from the Bukowski decided that they could beat their alma mater at its own game. The result is a cozy bar replete with exposed brick, dim lighting, a summer porch and very knowledgeable staff. Deep Ellum stocks a stylish collection of everything from Abbey-style craft beers, for the adventurous and well-heeled, to PBR, for the bike messengers, students and other low-budget hipsters who flock here. Signature brew: G. Schneider + Sohn “Aventinus” Weizen-Dopplebock, a strong, dark German wheat beer.
Sunset is the true granddaddy of all the draft beer purveyors in town. You won’t get sublime atmosphere or an exhaustive selection of obscure brews, but this place has by far the most taps running at once: more than 100. It has all the ambiance of an amusement park, with beer signage and memorabilia crowding the walls and BU students and sundry Allstonians crowding the tables and bars. It's a good spot to go when you’re feeling rowdy. Signature brew: Goose Island Fleur, a flowery Belgian-style ale brewed in Chicago.
Beer Works' two locations draw tons of tourists, thanks to its proximity to monster sports venues. One has a view of Fenway Park and the other is a stone’s throw from TD Garden. Both brewpubs feature the same multi-tiered, gridded aluminum look and oblique angles, which will have you thinking you’ve stumbled into a space station that happens to serve alcohol. Once you get past the Beer Disneyland aesthetic, you'll discover some great beer. The in-house brews have Boston-y names like Paul Revere Rye Lager and Boston Garden Golden. Signature brew: Blueberry beer, which has a light, fruity taste; but it’s really all about the optics, as the blueberries waft up and down like sea monkeys.
The name comes from a dour Russian play, and the theme is life in the pits of despair—a concept trumpeted by a huge mural depicting such famous depressives as Sid Vicious and Patti Smith. Join the mug club and you get six months to drink one glass of all 163 available beers, which works out at nearly one a day. The prize? A 25-ounce mug. You can fill it anytime, in case you haven't lost your taste for the brown stuff. Signature brew: a rare Belgian Duvel (“devil”) Triple Hop, with a champagne-like effervescence and sugary taste.
This is the place where bartenders from all of the other bars in town will send you if they don’t have a certain obscure Belgian Trappist Chimay Rouge or Affilgem Blonde on hand. Here, authenticity is key—and the collection of Trappist and Abbey ales is astounding. The highlights: Belgian (strong, dark to white), Hefeweizen, Schwarzbier, Scottish Ale, Oatmeal Stouts, Sweet Stouts. Publick also uses beer in its dishes, which are equally varied and delicious. Signature brew: Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Red, tart and good for sipping.