Every so often, I’ll find myself in a drinking slump—frequenting the same few bars every week, rarely trying anything new—and while I do love this city dearly, sometimes you need to stretch your drinking legs. There is a solution to this: Go west. Head far enough west (about, say, 100 miles from Boston) and you’ll stumble on a mess of beer bars and brewpubs that will lure you in for a pint or two, and after three will have you searching Craigslist for sublets in the area. The only hold-up is the sheer volume of spots to hit—I spent a day there and only crossed a few spots off my list—but here are a few must-visits.
PUT BACK PINTS @ THE DIRTY TRUTH
It’s hard to walk past this spacious bar on Northampton’s Main Street and not stop in, with its tall ceilings, open windows, shiny unicorn heads protruding from bright red walls, Cantillon bottles and Russian River growlers filled with flowers, slim bartenders with cuffed jeans and sculpted facial hair (one with a mini-Salvador Dali stache). Then there’s the beer: 40 draft lines, two casks, as well as a short, but excellent, bottle list including sour offerings like Gueuze Tilquin, Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze, and seven different bottles of Cantillon. As it was midday, we stuck with session beers—Bluebird Bitter from the UK’s Coniston Brewing Co. (4.2 percent ABV) and Massachusetts’s own Blatant Session Ale (3.9 percent ABV), as well as dry, refreshing glasses of Saison Dupont and Julian Cider. [29 Main St., Northampton. dirtytruthbeerhall.com]
FLY HIGH @ NORTHAMPTON BREWERY
I remembered reading something about this brewpub having a roof deck, but I was not prepared for it to be a bungalow brewery of sorts. Located just off the main drag, Northampton Brewery lets you escape and feel like you’re drinking beers in a tree house. We ordered flights to taste everything they had to offer, plus a few guest taps. The Bliss IPA and the Decadent Ale (an English-style Strong Ale originally brewed to commemorate their 10th anniversary) were the favorites. As I overheard the two guys next to us talk about homebrewing, it became clear that this was a favorite place for locals to idle away an afternoon.
ALSO VISIT: Paper City Brewery hosts an open house (read: party) on Friday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., where $7 buys you beer from the taps for two hours, live music, and a bunch of new friends. [108 Cabot St., Holyoke. papercity.com]
FILL YOUR FRIDGE @ TRÜBEER
This compact, cozy, and well-stocked beer store is a haven for the indecisive drinker: The shelves are organized by style so you can easily mix your own six-pack or snag a few single bottles. With more than 400 different beers in stock, including Western Mass locals like Element Brewing Company and People’s Pint, as well as a broad European selection, finding some kind of beer to bring home won’t be a problem. The staff was friendly and helpful—employee Tyson Holob was working the store, rather heroically, after having celebrated the store’s one-year anniversary the night before.
ALSO VISIT: Should you find yourself Amherst-side, Spirit Haus is also known for its impressive craft—local and otherwise—selection, with the added bonus of a walk-in cooler. [338 College St., Amherst. spirithaus.com]
An earlier version of this article referred to this region, known as the Pioneer Valley, as the Berkshires. It has been changed to reflect that correction.