It was day stalking on Twitter that lead me to Lauren Clark, author of recently released Crafty Bastards: Beer in New England, From the Mayflower to Modern Day, which details the region’s long and sometimes tumultuous relationship with beer. In light of DigBoston‘s forthcoming craft beer issue, I rapped with Clark about her new book and some of the aspects of the Northeast’s boozy history that she finds most fascinating. Call it a teaser to the fun to come.
“With the current wave of new craft brewers in the region, it seemed like a good time to connect what’s happening today, which is really interesting, with New England’s beer history,” says Clark, former assistant brewer at Cambridge Brewing Co. and a longtime beer writer who founded the massively popular site DrinkBoston.com.
Clark chronicles New England’s centuries-long intoxicating history, beginning with the Pilgrims who dropped anchor in Plymouth essentially because their suds supply was tapped out (#priorities), and continuing into present day, highlighting the “crafty bastards” currently re-inventing the perfect pint (see: Somerville’s Pretty Things).
“New England has just about the oldest beer culture in the United States,” says Clark, who as a homebrewer appreciates that New Englanders were instrumental in legalizing homebrewing, and defining modern beer styles we still see today.
Making beer in New England hasn’t always been easy—it still isn’t. But early brewers were resourceful, according to Clark. They brewed with whatever raw ingredients they could find (think: molasses). The Puritans included beer as a dietary staple (yeah, us too) and in the end wrote laws like the “Act Against Intemperance, Immorality and Profaneness, and for Reformation of Manner,” a 1712 mandate enforcing some modicum of temperance amongst the swilling Puritan sinners tippling in the shadows of a supposedly abstinent society.
Throughout Crafty Bastards, resilience is a common theme. Clark dubs it “Yankee ingenuity” and uses farmhouse ale-focused Trillium Brewing, found crammed into a tiny space in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood with an old dairy tank housing their brews, as an example of a modern brewery that has made enormous strides despite dealing with harsh regulations, codes, and red tape (it took more than a year to secure a license to pour samples). “They still do it, [and] they don’t give up,” says Clark.
You can get a signed copy and sample some beers on July 26 at Partners Village Store in Westport, MA with Nancy Crosby and Pat Baker (both featured in the book) and July 27 at Watch City Brewing Co. in Waltham, MA.
CRAFTY BASTARDS. AVAILABLE IN BOOKSTORES AND ONLINE NOW.