To those who thought the beer craze would eventually come crashing down, the wait continues, as breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms are hotter than ever now. This is due in part to the fact that so many of them thought on their feet as the pandemic wreaked havoc in the restaurant/bar industry and are now seen as not only places to go for a pint or two, but also as places to go for lunch or dinner as well. And while the Greater Boston area has some big names that continue to flourish (think Trillium, Night Shift, Lord Hobo, and Jack’s Abby), a number of others fly under the radar and in some cases are so little known that they almost act as local watering holes. Some of these hidden spots include the ones below, with all having outdoor patios, which is more and more important as the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to make indoor spaces less appealing for at least the time being.
Vitamin Sea Brewing, Weymouth
There’s no need to bother saving the best for last in this case, as this South Shore brewery is indeed seen by some as having the best beer in the Greater Boston area if not all of Massachusetts. Vitamin Sea is hidden away in a commercial and industrial part of Weymouth (and is actually located a short walk away another brewery—Barrel House Z) and is known in part for its sublime New England IPAs, while its stouts, fruited sours, and cream ales are also among the best of the best. The brewery previously had only an indoor taproom inside its garage-like structure, but in light of the pandemic, some outdoor seating can now be found as well.
Vitamin Sea Brewing, 30 Moore Rd., Weymouth. vitaminseabrewing.com
Lookout Farm Brewing & Cider Co., South Natick
A sprawling spot just outside of South Natick’s charming village center, Lookout Farm is often considered a fall destination for those who love apple picking, but the place also makes its own hard cider as well—and perhaps even lesser-known is the fact that the business also includes a brewery. Because it has so much space, social distancing is easy to do here, and on a nice day people can either sit at picnic tables in the fields and enjoy catching some rays or under huge tents if they’d rather be out of the sun. Options for beer at Lookout Farm include stouts, IPAs, German-style beers, and more, and food is available as well, including pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Lookout Farm Brewing & Cider Co., 89 Pleasant St. S, Natick. lookoutfarm.com
Shovel Town Brewery, North Easton
A brewery that’s so hidden that you almost need to expect to get lost looking for it unless you use your GPS, Shovel Town is your archetypical under-the-radar spot that is mainly frequented by those in the local area and that’s about it. The business is housed in an old shovel factory (North Easton was once famous for its shovels, which may or may not help you in a future trivia night), and the interior certainly has an industrial feel to it, but its patio is where it’s at when the weather cooperates, especially during these times. Some beers worth checking out include a silky peanut butter stout, two very solid New England IPAs, and a thirst-quenching Mexican-style lager. Food options include flatbreads, panini, and pretzels.
Shovel Town Brewery, 50 Oliver St., North Easton. shoveltownbrewery.com
BearMoose Brewing Company, Everett
Everett is home to the Fermentation District, an area just north of the Revere Beach Parkway that is home to two breweries and a distillery, but right on the parkway is a much lesser-known (and relatively new) brewery that gets overlooked, in part because when you’re on the parkway, your main goal is not to get into a spectacular car crash. BearMoose resides in an anonymous-looking space just east of the Broadway and Main Street intersection, with the inside of the place having a distinctly industrial feel complete with wooden beams, hardwood floors, and exposed pipes, and both indoor and outdoor seating are available. Beer is the main focus over food at BearMoose, with a variety of IPAs offered along with options for lovers of stouts and fruits/sours.
BearMoose Brewing Company, 1934 Revere Beach Parkway, Everett. bearmoosebrewing.com
Springdale Beer Co., Framingham
While Jack’s Abby is known throughout the Greater Boston area and beyond, its lesser-known sibling in the same building near Framingham’s downtown area isn’t nearly as much of a household name, which makes it a real find for those who like less traditional and more eclectic brews. As of this writing, the facility is closed to the public due to the pandemic, but some of Springdale’s beers are offered at Jack’s Abby, including via its takeout shop and at its spacious indoor beer hall and outdoor beer garden areas. So while we wait for the facility to reopen—and it’s a fascinating space, including its almost surreal-looking barrel room—you can still enjoy Springdale’s sours, IPAs, witbiers, and more next door.
Springdale Beer Co., 102 Clinton St., Framingham. springdalebeer.com
Widowmaker Brewing, Braintree
Vitamin Sea may be the darling of South Shore beer nerds, but Widowmaker has also made a name for itself since opening a few years back. Another one of those breweries that’s hidden away in a commercial and industrial area, Widowmaker boasts an attractive space with plenty of room indoors and huge open windows out back that help bring in fresh air, while a small patio can also be found out front. One of the best New England IPAs in the region can be found here in Blue Comet, but it’s possible that the lesser-known Ecstasy of Gold may be even better. As is the case with many breweries, Widowmaker’s food options come from various vendors which set up shop here, so expect different food items from day to day.
Widowmaker Brewing, 220 Wood Rd., Braintree. widowmakerbrewing.com
Faces Brewing Co., Malden
If the name sounds familiar, well, it should, as a dance club called Faces used to sit alongside Route 2 in Cambridge many years ago. And the same family behind that spot now runs a brewery and brewpub by the same name in a historic bank building right in the heart of Malden’s downtown area. Faces has plenty of space both inside and out, with its indoor area sitting along Pleasant Street while its outdoor space is actually down the hill a bit, being found at the corner of Middlesex Street and Exchange Street, helping make the patio feel like a standalone spot. IPAs and stouts are the name of the game here, while food options are plenty, including wings, poutine, pretzels, burgers, chicken sandwiches, pizza, steak frites, and more.
Faces Brewing Co., 50 Pleasant St., Malden. facesbrewing.com
True West Brewing Co., West Acton
Inside Route 495, there are few town centers more New Englandy than West Acton with its beautiful old homes and buildings, tiny village green, and winding tree-shaded streets, and this all forms the backdrop for the type of farm-to-table restaurant and brewery that you might find in Vermont. True West is certainly worth the drive for its rustic, rural-feeling vibe and community feel, and the fact that it uses solar power to produce beer only adds to the uniqueness of the place. Speaking of beer, you’ll find IPAs and European-style brews here, while food options include some restaurant-quality dishes, including artichoke cakes, a blackened salmon sandwich, beef on weck, fish and chips, risotto, ribs, and smoked chicken.
True West Brewing Co., 525 Massachusetts Ave., Acton. brewtruewest.com
Black Hat Brew Works, Bridgewater
Industrial parks are great places for breweries, and it sure works for Black Hat, which is just off Route 24 on a street that is not unlike Wood Road in Braintree (where the aforementioned Widowmaker can be found), winding its way past squat commercial buildings before simply petering out. And much like Widowmaker, you probably wouldn’t happen to come upon this brewery unless you were lost and attempting to turn around, which helps give you a sense of discovery when you arrive. Black Hat is a small family-run brewery that has a no-frills feel to it, offering a small but varied list of beers that people can drink on the laid-back outdoor patio, while food trucks onsite offer everything from ramen to BBQ to burgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches.
Black Hat Brew Works, 25 Scotland Blvd. Unit 1, Bridgewater. blackhatbrewworks.com
Spicket River Brewery, Lawrence
There’s something special about drinking on an island, be it the Florida Keys, Hawaii, maybe Nantucket or the Vineyard, or… Lawrence? Yup, this historic industrial city north of Boston is home to North Canal Island, a small piece of land between the Merrimack River and the North Canal that history buffs will love for its fascinating old mill buildings, one of which is home to this brewery. Spicket River almost has the feel of a community center, featuring works from local artists throughout its charming space while its outdoor area has a cozy feel, being tucked away among the massive brick buildings that surround it. Here you’ll find a good number of IPAs (and the cans themselves continue the artistic theme) while food options include pizza, tacos, fried plantains, and wings.
Spicket River Brewery, 56 Island St., Lawrence. spicketriverbrewery.com
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.