Porstmouth NH & Boston, MA: Portsmouth Brewery, Sam Adams, Harpoon, Lord Hobo

Before heading into Boston, I took a stop at the Portsmouth Brewery. I’ve always heard of their legendary beer “Kate The Great” but haven’t ever tried anything from their brewery. When getting there, I learned that they typically only sell bottles at the brewpub and that they also have some sort of affiliation with Smuttynose.

Portsmouth Brewpub
Portsmouth Brewpub

It was a Friday night when I got there so the place was packed from wall to wall. I was lucky enough to find a seat at the bar. With still having another 45 minutes to drive, I figured it would be best to just order one beer – Black Cat Stout. Although the place was busy, the bartender was still very attentive. My food and beer arrived within less than 10 minutes.

I wish that I had more to write about this place. Although the beer was good, I just couldn’t hang out for too long because of the busy crowds. I was also really looking forward to getting into Boston and passing out for a while. Eight hours of driving in total for a day will wipe you out. I went into the gift shop, picked up a Smuttynose shirt and headed to Boston.

I feel that although Boston doesn’t have a ton of breweries it is still a great city to visit for beer travels – more so than a lot of other cities in the North East. When arriving there, I had immediately gone to one of my favorite restaurants/sandwich shops of the area – The Parish Café. This is a small café that has two locations. I typically go to the location on Massachusetts Ave because it’s a lot more laid back than their other one. It feels almost light a neighborhood restaurant. Good service, a nice tap list, and some of the best sandwiches in Boston.

Just about everything on the menu is great, but the real centerpiece is the sandwich menu. Roughly 10-15 sandwiches designed by some of the best chefs in Boston. I typically get the Regal Regis, but have still tried almost all of them on the menu. Another plus is the tap list. Every time I’ve been there, they’ve been serving Berkshire Brewing Company’s Coffeehouse Porter on nitro, and they’ve had a fairly decent amount of other local beers there as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a beer bar by any means, but they certainly have something for almost everyone.

Leaving there, I headed over to the Sam Adams tour. I have some friends that have been on the tour, and I sort of felt that even though I haven’t heard incredible things, the visit is long over due and I might as well just go. One word of advice – If you’re planning on going there, either get there early, or make sure to bring a book to read. I got there at around noon and had to wait until 2:30 for the next tour. Although they provide free water and have a free museum/historical presentation inside the waiting area, you’ll get bored with it pretty quick. And just like most other breweries, they’re not located in a fairly interesting area, so you’re really left with few options.

Sam Adams Tour Parking Lot  Barrel Room

Once 2:30 came, the tour started immediately. Just like any other brewery tour, they went through the motions and told how beer was made. They gave out some roasted barley for us to taste and hops for us to smell. I wasn’t really paying much attention because I was staring at the new barrels of Utopia that were aging in the room and the barrel room that was set up as well.  The tour ended with a tasting which started with a lesson on how to enjoy beer, and then into a sample of Sam Adams Lager, Octoberfest and then Revolutionary Rye. One plus is that you got to keep the tasting glass that they provided.

Sam Adams Bottle Collection

All and all, it was decent and worth going to, but I just wish that I didn’t have to sit there for so long while waiting. My mistake will be in your benefit if you listen to me and check it out somewhat earlier. Another word of advice is to wait until the end to purchase any paraphernalia from Sam Adams. You don’t want to walk around carrying that throughout the tour. It could be a pain in the ass. Well, next stop is Harpoon.

Harpoon Brewery wasn’t too bad of a distance from Sam Adams. It took me roughly 10 minutes by car. I was in a rush because I wanted to make it to their 4:00pm tasting session. Since I was there on a Monday, I completely missed the tours which only occur on the weekends. Regardless, this was probably a better deal anyway. I was just able to go and try everything I wanted. I pulled up to the parking lot across the street and ran in just in time. They were just giving the first pour as I walked into the room.

The tasting room is also their gift shop/retail store. I had no intentions of buying any beer or shirts because I can get Harpoon fairly easily where I live. I was just there for the beer. At first I thought that the tasting was going to be structured – and it was at first. But after the people behind the bar told us about the brewery and the different styles that they were serving, it was pretty much a free for all. I tried almost everything there including a couple of the Leviathan Series, and 100 Barrel Series beers.

What I found interesting was that anyone working at the brewery can submit their recipe for the 100 barrel series beers, and if theirs is selected then not only does their beer get produced, but they also get to sign the bottle. A lot of those bottles will only be released once. Harpoon also has a facility in Vermont. I wish that I had looked into that while visiting Hill Farmstead.

Next stop:  Lord Hobo. I’ve heard a lot of this place from BeerAdvocate. I’ve subscribed to their twitter and will read notifications of them being at Lord Hobo for various events. I knew I had to find it and check it out while in the area.

Lord Hobo is in Cambridge and is roughly a 10 minute drive from Harpoon. It’s located in what seems like a quiet neighborhood on a corner. You wouldn’t expect it from the outside, but they boast an incredible tap selection of beers from all over the world, but predominately feature American craft beers and local beers from the Boston area. I wound up picking up Bear Republic Mach 10 and a burger.

What I like about this place is that it’s very laid back and casual. It seems like it attracts a good crowd of beer lovers as well. While I was sitting there, an elderly woman walked in and ordered the same beer as me and enjoyed every sip of it. I was stunned and had to talk to her. She said that she was in her 70s, and has been drinking beer for decades. She’s even taken road trips hitting every brewery she could on the way. I imagine that for someone of that age, it has to be incredible to imagine the changes she’s seen in the industry over the years. Yet here she is at this bar drinking a hop bomb.

Next to her sat two of the brewers from the Cambridge Brewing Company. I had overheard them talking about different techniques and styles of beer and thought they must be in the industry, but wasn’t sure. It wasn’t until I talked to the bar tender that the Cambridge people introduced themselves. I had picked up their first bottled batch of beer earlier in the week while in Rhode Island, so it was sort of funny meeting them less than a week later. They discussed how different it is now that they have become a brewery that produces bottles and how difficult it was to find an artist that was able to make a design that represented their brewery and what they stood for.

Hearing this from the brewery themselves was a real eye opener into the future of beer. I had always thought about how craft breweries had battled against the guys (Anheuser Busch, Miller, Coors) to get shelf space. However, now with so many craft breweries appearing, it becomes a matter of being recognized on a shelf and differentiating yourself from your peers.

The afternoon was well spent in Lord Hobo. I’ll definitely be stopping there next time I’m in Boston, but I really needed to get back to my hotel and get some much needed sleep.

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About Erik

I started this blog in 2011 to share my experiences traveling across the country visiting different bars, breweries and other beer related places. Check out the blog if you would like to read about some awesome places visited and beers I've tried.
This entry was posted in Boston, Destination Beer, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Portsmouth, Where I'm Drinking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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