It’s no secret that Boston, MA is one of the great beer cities our country has to offer. Though our beer reputation has long been plagued by a certain March holiday and its synthetic green beer, old bean town has become craft beer town over the course of the past decade or so.
A Little About Our Boston Beer Tours
Now, every beer tour business runs things a little differently, but our tours can be customized for a range of activities, including bachelor and bachelorette parties, corporate outings and birthday celebrations. There’s also a selection of tours you can join by paying for a seat.
These tours, each named for a notable Boston native, offer different experiences. For example, the David Ortiz tour is a daytime option for your Saturday, while the Uma Thurman is an after-hours tour where you’ll explore Boston’s favorite brewpubs by night. There’s also the Lobster Tour that takes things up north to Maine for a different experience that’s equal parts seafood and craft brews.
All of our tours provide a hefty dose of swag — think koozies, bottle openers and tote bags — plus a meal and plenty of beer samples. Everything is included, from tour and tasting fees to water and more. Should you wish to purchase additional items from the breweries, however, you’re on your own.
What If You’ve Never Done This Before?
Okay, so you’ve decided to go on a beer tour. Great! You’re in for a real treat, but keep in mind, there are some definite dos and don’ts you need to know before you head out for your first beer tour.
While the brewers themselves realize there are going to be some novices here and there, you’ll feel better if you know what to expect right out of the gate.
6 “Must Know’s” of Brewery Tours
Don’t fret too much about boning up on your beer facts, but you will want to make sure you’re prepared for several hours of sampling beers and walking. Here are some things to consider before hopping on the bus:
Yes, our tours go by bus — or van or limo — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be as comfortable as possible. Leave the stilettos at home and wear flat, comfortable shoes instead. Speaking of shoes, please make sure you select a closed-toe option. You’ll be walking through brewing areas packed with equipment. For your safety, skip the flip flops and protect your toes
Beyond that, there’s no dress code.
Know Where to Go
Because we want you to enjoy your experience responsibly, we always meet at a designated pick up location ahead of the tour. When you book with us, be prepared to arrange for transportation to and from the meeting place. Your best bet may be calling a cab or asking a designated driver to take you home.
10 Terms to Know
During your tour, you may come across some unfamiliar words — beer vocabulary you likely don’t use on a day-to-day basis. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 10 terms you need to know before you go. Have a quick look so you can follow along:
- Amber: This refers to a medium-colored beer, hovering between a pale ale and a dark beer.
- “Big” Beer: This term refers to the mouthfeel and flavor that comes from malt.
- Body: The body refers to the texture and weight of the beer on your palate, or the way the beer feels in your mouth.
- Cask: This is a metal container used to hold beer as it ferments. The beer begins as an uncarbonated liquid, but time spent in the cask results in carbonation from the yeast. So-called “cask beer” is traditionally served at slightly warmer temperatures than draft beer.
- Depth: The beer’s depth refers to the different notes found in the beer, as well as the overall flavor.
- Finish: This is also known as the beer’s aftertaste.
- Haze: The haze is the cloudy appearance caused by yeast suspension.
- Hoppy: This is a beer with a high volume of hops. Beers like IPAs are a good example of a hoppy beer.
- Infection: Sour ales are “infected” with wild yeast, which produces the signature tartness of the unique brews.
- Oxidation: The older the beer gets, the greater the chance it will be exposed to oxygen. In beer, this can lead to some unwanted flavors like wet paper or rotting fruit. However, in some stouts or barleywines, oxidization may be desirable.
Ask Good Questions
You know the adage: Ask a stupid question — get a stupid answer. Well, we’re not into question-shaming by any stretch of the imagination, but still, you don’t want to feel embarrassed for asking questions like, “Is this where the beer is made” or, “How do you make beer foam?”
Here are some examples of things you can ask your brewer tour guide:
- What’s unique about your beer — are you using any unusual techniques?
- How is your beer connected to the Boston area?
- What is the difference between a pale ale and an IPA?
- Is the foam head there for a reason?
- How do I find beer and food pairings?
- How do you come up with new flavor combinations?
- What are your brewing processes?
The point of these beer tours is that you get a little peek behind the curtain and come out with more knowledge than you had before getting on that bus.
Breweries are an extension of the communities they operate within, and as such, they want to engage with the locals or those visiting.
Proper Brewery and Tasting Room Etiquette
If you’re concerned about acting a fool in the taproom, channel Miss Manners and bone up on your etiquette. A quick hint: How you behave in the taproom isn’t quite the same as a bar.
Your beertender is there to serve you, but they also have a wealth of information — like how to pair beer with different types of food, what kind of notes you should be looking out for and so on.
To help you navigate uncharted territory, here’s a look at how you can approach your first tasting like a pro —without offending anyone in the process:
- Keep an open mind: Beer tasting is equal parts learning and fun. Even if you think you only like IPAs, you might find that porters and stouts are pretty great, too. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
- Don’t harp on the beers you don’t like: You’re not going to enjoy everything you try, but try to acknowledge the work that goes into each beer. Pick up on the notes and consider why you might not like something. Is it challenging, or are you just not into Belgian Ales? That’s fine, but try to respect the craft and refrain from hurling insults at the brew. You don’t have to finish anything.
- Don’t get wasted: This tip should probably go without saying. Alas, many people forget that the tasting atmosphere isn’t exactly party city. Yes, a beer tour should be fun, and you’re bound to get a little tipsy —but acting like a drunk boor isn’t appropriate here.
- Do remember to tip: While this isn’t a bar situation, you do want to make sure you’re acknowledging the service provided by the staff, as well as the person giving the tour.
- Ditch the perfume: Strong odors, good or bad, mess with the beer-tasting experience. Skip the smells and stay as “scent-free” as possible. In the taproom, you’ll be on the lookout for subtle scents and different tasting notes, so now is not the time to test drive your new perfume.
- A tasting room is different than a bar: Doubling down on the “don’t get wasted” tip, the tasting room is not a bar. As such, remember to help out and return your glasses to where they need to go when you’re through with them.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Brewers and beertenders love answering questions. It shows that you’re interested in the goings-on behind the scenes, and there’s nothing beer geeks love more than talking about beer. If you’re curious about where certain tasting notes come from or want to learn more about the process, now is the time to bring it up.
Get Brewery Swag
Our tours do include some beer swag. You’ll get a tote bag, some souvenir glasses and your bottle opener. But, if you want to purchase anything from the brewery — think growlers, six-packs or t-shirts documenting your visit — you’ll have to buy those yourself.
Where to Go: The Best Brew Tours in Boston
This town is teeming with beers at every turn, and we’re lucky to be living in the midst of so many great breweries. Here is a look at some of the local favorites — some known for their bites and others for creating a fun place to hang:
This is the oldest brewpub in the Cambridge/Boston area. The CBC is also the Gold winner of the World Beer Cup and a mainstay on the Zagat list of Boston’s best beer restaurants.
This pub boasts a mix of small plates, pizza, burgers, nachos and more.
One of Boston’s top breweries, Harpoon boasts several limited-edition “UFO beers” they sample out during tours. UFO beers are pilot beers you can’t purchase in the store. Instead, the brewery tests their latest creations on tour members.
As it stands, Harpoon is offering a Snickerdoodle Stout, a Georgia Peach UFO and more — time to fill up those growlers, if you ask us.
Beer giant Sam Adams has long been a Boston standby. The brewery is known for its comprehensive tours —guests love the experience, on Yelp and beyond, because the tours are very hands-on and cover a range of beers.
Sure it’s one of the bigger brew spots on the map, but it’s one of our favorite tour stops.
Mystic Brewery is a hip, Chelsea-based brewery and taproom — with cans that look like they were taken directly out of a graphic design magazine.
In addition to their beer tastings and tours, Mystic Brewery partners with local bakeries as well as area favorite, Ciao Pizza and Pasta.
GrandTen Distilling, as the name suggests, is more than just a place to get a beer. This South Boston gem is better known for their spirits — offering house-distilled vodkas and Friday Night Flights (cute) in which you can try a variety of new liquors.
For over 20 years, a little company in Westminster, Massachusetts has been known for cranking out some of the finest craft beers around. That company is the Wachusett Brewing Company, founded by Peter Quinn, Ned LaFortune and Kevin Buckler, three outdoorsmen who met at WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and discovered a shared love of beer.
The Mayflower Brewery was founded over ten years ago by a direct descendant of the beer barrel cooper from the Mayflower, John Alden. The Mayflower Brewery continues that proud American tradition today by producing fine craft beers using the same water that the Pilgrims drank back in the 1600s.
Up-And-Coming Breweries in Boston
Gone are the days when Boston beer was defined by Harpoon and the big guy, Sam Adams. These days, greater Boston boasts a deep lineup of smaller breweries well worth a try. Here’s a look at our picks:
Lamplighter Brewing is a Cambridge hotspot and one of our favorite stops — they are always brewing up something interesting. Brewers are working with notes like spruce, brown bread, grapefruit, cloves and more.
While the brewery doesn’t offer food, they don’t mind if you bring your bites.
Bone Up Brewing is run by a husband and wife team out of Everett, MA. Their beers are “made from ingredients,” and their menu features a lot of one-off brews, experimental beers and the usual offerings of IPA, stouts and ales.
It’s a fun spot with snacks, board games and beer flights.
The name and the beers are the only cold things about this brewery in Westborough, Massachusetts, which is infected by a warm and friendly atmosphere that makes a day at the Cold Harbor Brewing Co. something to be savored, along with the great beers they brew.
Exhibit A, 2017’s Best New Brewer as per RateBeer, is certainly one of the coolest new Massachusetts breweries. Beers come with whimsical names like the Goody Two Shoes and the Sunday Paper.
The brewery also hosts events like oyster shucking classes, live music and a rotating cast of food trucks.
Dorchester Brewing runs regular beer tours and caps their taproom at ten guests at a time. Luckily, if you sign up with us, there will be no waiting around for people to wrap up their flights.
Dorchester features their house brews alongside other local flavors on their 20-line tap system and plays host to local food trucks in case you’re craving a small bite.
What to Expect — The Tour-Specific Stuff
Since we’re talking Boston beer tours here, let’s get down to business. As we may have mentioned, we have a few main options open to the general public. Things like corporate events or birthday parties are more of a custom experience. You must, of course, be 21 or over to participate in any tour
Here’s a look at a few of your options:
- The David Ortiz: This tour takes place on a Saturday during the day. You’ll explore a handful of Boston’s famous breweries like Sam Adams, Harpoon and Mystic Brewery.
- The Uma Thurman: An after-hours bar hopping adventure, the Uma Thurman makes about three stops on a Friday or Saturday night. While most brew tours take place during the day, this option has a hip, underground type of feel. Though the brewery lineup changes, riders can expect to visit some of our favorite spots like Jack’s Abby, Cambridge Brewing Co. and Mayflower.
- The Mark Wahlberg: The Mark Wahlberg tour is a leisurely Sunday romp through three locations. A chill way to kick off the impending work week, the Mark Wahlberg tour includes lunch and stops at Castle Island Brewing Company, Boston Harbor Distillery and Old Colony Brewing.
The breweries mentioned above are just a sampling of what you might expect. We do like to change things up sometimes. Instead, we might stop by Blue Hills, Lamplight, Dorchester or Exhibit A.
Boston has so much to offer when it comes to beer, and we don’t plan on getting stuck in the same routine when there’s more to explore.
Tour Travel Options
If you’ve cruised through our site, you may have noticed that the specifics of our Boston beer change depending on the size of your group and the type of excursion you’ll be going on. Boston beer tours can be taken by bus, by van, by charter or party bus.
One of our vehicle options is a 14-passenger transit van. The van is our standard option, but we offer a couple of larger options for bigger groups.
The party bus seats up to 37 riders — probably your best bet for a custom tour with a large group of friends. The charter bus holds even more beer enthusiasts. This option is most appropriate for a company outing or maybe a family reunion.
Finally, for the beer drinkers who wish to take on the brew scene in style, you’ve got the option of our six-person Escalade — a VIP tour of sorts, or the classic stretch limo.
Additionally, our vehicles come equipped with Yeti coolers — you know, to keep those take-home brews nice and chilly while you move on to the next stop.
What Is Covered at Each Brewery Destination?
Our brewery tours are all-inclusive — we’re not taking that back. That said, every tour is different, so if you’ve gone on these types of things before, well, you’ve probably had to pay for some incidentals.
Some group tours show low prices but hide the fact that all you’re getting is the transportation. Our tours include getting you to and from the breweries as well as everything else you’ll need.
Our tours are based on a few factors — namely, duration and time of day. For example, our Lobster Tour is $229 a person, but it’s an all-day affair. Our driver will take you from Boston to Maine, and lunch is paid for. The Uma Thurman, on the other hand, is an after-hours Friday or Saturday night brew tour, which includes dinner.
Additionally, all tours come with free Wi-Fi, Poland Springs drinking water, snacks and your bottle opener, so you don’t have to ask around for someone else’s.
What’s more is that we don’t just drop you off in front of a brewery and expect you to pay your way twice. All tours include entrance and tour fees, sample and tasting fees, souvenir glasses and a brewmaster meet and greet.
Tours are led by a trained tour guide who will take you to every stop on our list. At each stop, the brewmasters will take it from there and show off their equipment and brew processes, and they will field all your beer-related questions, too.
While pretty much everything is included — and we promise, it’s not some “too good to be true” kind of pitch — what we don’t cover is the gratuity for your tour guide.
Bring some extra cash to show your appreciation — otherwise, you’re not on the hook for anything other than that initial lump sum. Pretty good, right?
What Are You Waiting For? Explore Boston’s Craft Beer!
If you’ve made it this far, you know we love beer. We’re guessing you love it, too. No matter what you’re celebrating, we’ve got tours for all occasions and a vehicle to match — whether it’s a limo, party bus or Escalade is up to you.
If you’re in Boston or plan on visiting sometime soon, there’s no better way to get a taste of our long, beer-soaked heritage — from founding fathers to the artisan craft hipsters of today. We’ll explore a varied range of tasting rooms, where you can taste your share of flights from IPAs to stouts, porters and seasonal treasures you can’t find just anywhere.
Ready to set things up? Get your reservations booked today. Have questions? We’re happy to answer those, too.