After drinking at one of the more established craft breweries in Harpoon, I’m set on exploring the smaller and up-and-coming breweries in and around Boston. The Cambridge area of Boston has fantastic craft beer bars and breweries and that area will be the main focus for the next couple of days. I also want to mix some great food and Boston culture in between brewery and bar excursions. There are some non-negotiable things one has to do when they are in Boston. Eating really great Italian food, hearing the duo of 8 angry car horns followed by any of the 7 words you can’t say on the radio per second, and seeing a game at one of Major League Baseball’s most revered and hallowed institutions. I first set foot at Fenway park back in 2007. I remember vividly how my body endured chills as I walked from out of the concourse into the area of seating to see the mythical “Green Monster” and the vibrant green that seemed to be everywhere I looked. This historic ballpark is a the baseball equivalent of St. Peter’s Basilica. The history, fan base, and nightlife around the ballpark make it not just a game, but an experience.
My Boston travel companion, Chris, was going to see Fenway for the first time and I told him to emotionally prepare to have the baseball fan in him brought to a higher level of spiritual transcendance. I also knew that to endure such emotional arousal, we would need copious amounts of pasta and seafood. Luckily, Giacomo’s is ten minutes from our hotel and their food is insanely good. We arrive shortly after they open so seating is plentiful. After perusing the menu, our stomachs are growling and we are drooling like two tree huggers in a redwood forest. We decide on the crab cakes, calamari, and since we both share the same mind when it comes to food, the frutti de mare for our entrees. Everything is incredible and I was hoping that the open weeping would wait for Fenway, but I was in such a state of bliss thanks to the mussels, scallops, and shrimp in my pasta, that I asked for another cloth napkin to dab my eyes. Across the table, Chris was making wedding plans with the house made red sauce. In between bites, he was muttering feverishly things like, “a nice place in the the suburbs where our children can play,” and “my safe word is xylophone.” I had to get Chris to fresh air quick because he is on the verge of something that could require a grief counselor so we pay our check and head for the game.
We meandered down the streets and it was easy to get there because the steady flood of fans making their way to the stadium flowed down every street. We got our tickets and began to hear and smell all the things that make baseball great. As we filed into the park on Yawkey Way, we kept smelling the wonderful smells of grilled sausages and peppers. I looked over and Chris was entranced and muttering again. My only hope is that the housemade red sauce from the restaurant wouldn’t find out that he suddenly had eyes for another. We got into the park and beelined it for the concession stand. The selection of craft beers at Fenway is decent, but definitely not extensive. I daresay this is a category where Target Field trumps Fenway Park. I got a can of Harpoon IPA and Chris got a Harpoon Camp Wannamango. We made our way to the seats and immersed ourselves in the energy of the near sellout crowd. Between David Ortiz hammering a cookie into the right field stands to the Fenway cult favorite, Sweet Caroline, it was an amazing evening.
As The Standells “Dirty Water” is playing and we exit the stands, our focus turns to finding some celebratory beers. Since it is close, we head right across the street to Boston Beer Works. I order a Kölsch and then a Witbier. After all the highs of Giacomo’s and Fenway, this craft beer tasting experience has all the titillation of getting an unenthusiastic massage from an overworked TSA agent. We finish our drinks and see what else is around. Bukowski’s Tavern pops up and since it is close to the hotel, we head there to cap off the night. We arrive and see lots of local craft on tap. They also have tater tots with gravy and melted cheese. This appeals to us since we really want to see how much the ventilation system of the hotel can handle. I get an Idle Hands Check Raise Stout and it has a great roasted malt character along with chocolate and a little bit of sweetness for balance. As we sit at the end corner of the bar, the music changes from speed metal to Wu Tang Clan and Chris is in heaven. We also notice that locals are coming in slowly but surely to chat with the bartender. We chat with a guy who works at the Trader Joe’s in Cambridge about sports and beer. This is why you always need to sit at the bar. That is where the locals drink. We realized that it is getting late and we head back to the hotel.
Saturday night is all about Cambridge. We decide that rather than chance another encounter with the world’s worst Lyft driver, we are going to take the subway. Little did we know that there was some construction on the Longfellow bridge and it would take us nearly three times as long to get off the train to our destination. Our first stop of the night was Aeronaut Brewing Company and there is quite a line out the door. We see other people lining up after us and we hope that it moves fairly quickly. The couple behind us in line are talking about beer and we ask them about other recommendations for things to do in the area. We get to talking and tell them that we are visiting from out of town. They are more than happy to chat with us while the line moves. It turns out that Erin and Kevin are very much in the know when it comes to the local beer scene as well as what is happening in Burlington, VT. They are nice enough to allow Chris and I to share their table since the taproom is packed. The vibe at Aeronaut is vibrant and hip. There are old school Nintendo games being projected on the wall and we see visions of our childhoods in the form of Contra and Super Mario Bros. 3. We order a couple of tasting flights and immediately go to work chatting and sipping. Erin and Kevin are telling me all the places I need to go in Vermont to get the most out of my time there when it comes to craft beer. I cannot say how important it is to talk to locals when traveling for craft beer. They are giving me information that will definitely increase the efficiency and quality of my experiences in Burlington and Stowe. We chat about the local scene more and continue to enjoy the Aeronaut beer along with a few laughs about the weather and what it is like living in Boston. Overall, we really enjoy Aeronaut’s beer. Tonight there are six offerings on tap: Pale Ale, IPA, Kölsch style, French Saison, Brown Ale, and Imperial Stout. This list has something for everyone, but I like the Brown Ale, Imperial Stout, and the Kölsch the most. The Brown Ale had a robust and roasty malt aroma and flavor that I usually find lacking in most iterations of that style. The Imperial Stout is luscious, bold, and balanced. The Imperial Stout has a depth of roasted malt that kept it far from the edge of sweetness and the aromatics only build as it warms. The Kölsch is clean and crisp and is the perfect summer beer. As it often happens, the time allotment for great conversation and companionship is never enough and we have to move on to our next stop. I thank Erin and Kevin profusely for hanging out with us and I feel very fortunate that our train was delayed so long or we never would have had the pleasure of meeting this great couple.
We order up the Lyft and it shows up within minutes. Our next stop is Cambridge Brewing Company for dinner and more craft beer. There is really nothing quite as soothing as a calm rainy night in Cambridge silhouetted by the dulcet tones of Eastern European Rap. We are in the car for a couple minutes and then our driver lets us off. I say a little prayer that this is the place because there is no Cambridge Brewing Company in site, however, it turns out that he just let us off behind the building rather than in front by the door. He must have sensed that we are men of genius and love a navigational challenge. We walk into Cambridge Brewing Co. and see that they are very busy. We also see that they don’t let you stray from their predetermined flights. We each order different flights and then some food. The crab cakes that this place has are some of the best ever. They came on an refreshing bed of corn kernels and lima beans, giving you a contrast in textures and flavors. My fish and chips is good, but not great. The calamari comes with equal parts squid and banana peppers, which leaves us disappointed. The beer is average at best, with the Charles River Porter being the belle of the ball in the flavor category. The Cream Ale, Pale Ale, and Amber are all pedestrian to me and since they are really busy, we decide to move on to next destination: Lord Hobo.
The Lord Hobo, in addition to being a funny name because of the visual that my imagination created in my head, is a highly-rated craft beer bar. Located on the corner of a residential area of Cambridge, it is unassuming on the outside. Inside, the space is packed and we grab the only two spots at the bar. The tap list is extensively populated with guest beers along with Lord Hobo’s own brews, of which there are three. I order the Lord Hobo flight of Boomsauce (Double IPA), Hobo Life (Session IPA), and Steal This Can (American IPA). I find it curious that they are all so similar in style and flavor. My favorite is Boomsauce, but I am quick to start looking for something else on the tap list.
The atmosphere is dark and it is very much a younger crowd. We start chatting with Merriam, a local who is also very tapped into what is going on in the local beer scene. She is from Quebec and lives a few blocks from Lord Hobo. She has not only heard of MN, but has a friend there and compare notes on breweries that we like from there. She is going to a release of Lechedor, an apple brandy barrel-ag ed milk stout with poblano pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the morning and we are all jealous of her. A beer release sounds a hell of a lot better than being stuck in a conference all day. Lord Hobo is a great neighborhood bar, I liken it to The Muddy Pig in St. Paul because of their tap list and low-key nature. The bartender is extremely knowledgable and friendly and we are sad that the time is getting away from us. We head back for the night and await to see what beer adventures the next day will bring.
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