Let’s raise our (small) glasses to Boston...
The measures may be short but DAVE LAFFERTY is in craft ale heaven enjoying the US beer brewing revolution
BOSTON is fond of revolutions. Back in 1773 a group of disgruntled locals famously hurled some chests of tea into the harbour, an act which eventually led to the American revolution and the colony’s independence from Britain.
Since then, the ‘r’ word has become synonymous with this vibrant east coast city from the various revolution-themed bars and coffee shops to the local ‘soccer’ team which is called, yes you guessed it, the New England Revolution.
So it’s no surprise that this Massachusetts powerhouse should find itself at the centre of the latest revolution to sweep America, that of craft beer.
Britain is rightly proud of its brewing heritage and can lay claim to having shipped its expertise to many countries, but in recent times the Americans have taken our brewing know-how and crafted their own flavour-packed beers which have sent hop-lovers wild around the globe.
In fact, they’ve become so popular that British brewers are now taking the Americans’ know-how and developing their own heavily-hopped versions to export back across the pond.
There are now around 3,500 breweries across the US while back in 1984 there were less than 100. This phenomenal growth is mainly centred around the east and west coast regions and many believe the movement’s spiritual home lies in New England, of which Boston is the undisputed dominant city.
So it’s fitting that each year Boston plays host to a number of beer festivals, the biggest of which is the American Craft Beer Fest, held each May at the Seaport World Trade Centre.
This is a huge event with 140 different brewers serving up more than 640 different beers. Make no mistake, this is major league drinking and only the hardiest should attempt the pilgrimage.
The Americans do festivals differently from us, their version involves paying a flat fee ($50 in this case or just more than £30) and then drinking as much as you like. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Five-thousand people attend each of the three festival sessions and you are allowed to sample the beers in what amounts to a measure equivalent to a double whisky and the queues at the more popular brewers’ booths can stay long for the entire four-hour session (although you can always send a member of your party to another booth to keep ‘hydrated’ while you queue!).
The atmosphere is super-friendly and there’s little danger of the beer running out. We sampled brews ranging from 12% super IPAs (India Pale Ales) down to delicate champagne-like Berliner Weisse, with American Amber Ales and smooth chocolatey porters and stouts to mix things up bit.
If you’re a craft beer geek like me then this is simply heaven and a must-visit event. Just make sure you have a hearty breakfast and lunch before you get there.
If beer’s not your thing then you needn’t worry, Boston is packed with activities to keep you amused from the wonderfully roomy Boston Common in the heart of the city to the Freedom Trail, which is basically a red line built into the pavement which weaves its way around all the significant historical sites, of which there are plenty.
And if shopping’s your thing then you couldn’t go wrong starting off at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The Hall was once the rallying point for resistance against the British but it now features street performers of a different kind against the backdrop of shops and stalls and the many varied eateries of Quincy Market.
And there are lots of choices of places to stay to suit each and every budget.
We chose the new boutique Hotel Nine Zero, a newly-renovated building at one end of Boston Common. Its location is simply superb, situated right next to the Boston subway system (known as the ‘T’).
Nine Zero is a modern boutique style hotel and is currently the talk of the town.
So much so that on a Friday night the local fashionistas head in their droves to the hotel’s Highball Lounge for the evening. If you don’t stay at the hotel and fancy a night here, make sure you drop in early as the queues can be lengthy.
If you do decide to stay at the Nine Zero then expect to be spoilt. The hotel’s 190 rooms are all superbly appointed and some have amazing views over the Common and the city’s impressive skyline. Little touches abound from free wi-fi to a complimentary newspaper each morning. The temptation is to relax and enjoy the hotel’s many attractions but that would be remiss given the wonders a short walk outside.
After all, once the sun’s over the yardarm, then there are plenty of pubs and craft beers to explore...
●● The Boston skyline and, below right, Boston is one of the powerhouses of craft beer brewing