Having already explored Boston’s historic Freedom Trail, we decided that on this visit to Boston we would seek to explore the tastes -- and taps -- that are beginning to make new history.
Our first seafood adventure!
Our adventure by the bay began with a visit to one of the city’s newest nightspots, The Merchant.
Like so many of the taverns and restaurants in Boston, the bar has a big screen televisions showing the big game, which makes perfect sense because Bostonians are crazy about their sports teams.
However, the food was anything but sports bar fare.
<-- Smoked sea trout with crispy brussel sprouts
We dined on oysters fresh from the nearby waters, smoked trout that could make any salmon jealous, a creamy baked gnocchi with mushrooms, and a hearty seafood stew.
It all paired nicely with a glass of white wine and a local brew.
<-- Fisherman's stew
As our server said, "Our place is for real people who love really good food." We couldn't have agreed more.
Brewin' up big fun!
Breathing in the fragrant hops at the Samuel Adams Brewery
Bright and early the next day we joined up with the City Brew Tour.
Yes, we were setting out at ten in the morning to spend the next six hours swilling -- we mean tasting -- the best that Boston brewers have to offer.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Learning the anatomy of a beer barrel!
Our designated driver and beer guide, Andy, began the tour with a brief history of beer.
He explained the basics of brewing, and how it all may have started with a happy accident.
There is archaeological evidence that around ten thousand years ago some lucky hunter-gathering guys left a clay pot full of grain out in the rain. When they returned a few weeks later, the concoction had fermented and beer was born.
A different kind of chocolate malt!
They liked it so much that they found a way to grow the grains instead of wandering in search of them. This led to settling down, farming, creating societal groups, and perhaps even civilization as we know it.
Wow, all thanks to beer!
Through the years, the process was refined and the end result became much more flavorful.
Then yeast was discovered and beers were separated into two groups. Andy explained how all beers are either lagers or ales, dependent entirely on the type of yeast used.
In ales the yeast works on top of the tank, fermenting faster and is happy with a warmer temperature. Lager yeast likes it cooler, works on the bottom, and takes twice as long.
By the time Andy finished filling us in on all of this beer background we had arrived at the Samuel Adams Brewery.
This struck us as the perfect place to start since the name has practically become synonymous with Boston.
The real name behind the name is Jim Koch, who began brewing his grandfather’s recipe in his kitchen in 1984.
That brew became Samuel Adams Boston Lager, named for the city’s famous patriot who, like Jim, inherited a brewing tradition from his father.
With that tidbit of information tickling our brains, we continued with some hands-on touching, smelling, and even tasting of the ingredients used in the various varieties of Sam Adams.
Then it was time to sample the finished product of the malted barley, yeast, water, and hops.
In the tasting room, we began with the famous lager, and then moved on to their seasonal wheat beer called Cold Snap.
The fruit flavors of orange peel and plum made this taste like spring in a bottle. To finish up we tried an Irish Red.
From the big dog of Beantown brewers, we made our way to an upstart that technically isn’t actually a brewery, but more Veronica's cup of tea -- or cider -- the Downeast Cider House.
Founders, Ross Brockman and Tyler Mosher, became quite renowned during their senior year of college for taking cast off apples from the family orchard and fermenting up batches of cider in their dorm room.
Before long the operation outgrew not only the room, but the orchard as well.
Now it is run out of a warehouse on the waterfront with tanks, canning machines, workers, and a couple of dogs, all sharing the same space.
After sampling several varieties, we asked about the group gathered around a table in the kitchen area, “that’s marketing and management,” was the answer.
Even though the old orchard can’t supply enough apples anymore, Downeast always insists on using only fresh pressed apple juice from local growers, no concentrates ever, and the result is a taste that even Granny Smith would love.
But wait, cider is most certainly not beer! Well, it fits into the tour because Downeast uses ale yeast to facilitate fermentation, so we guess we could still call it a brew.
Lunchtime found us at Mead Hall, and with over one-hundred beers on tap it was the perfect fit.
The name harkens back to the large gathering buildings of the Norse and Germanic tribes centuries ago, but the beer is crafted in every corner of the world.
The food was perfectly paired to go with a good brew too, meatloaf, chicken wings, fries, salad, and hummus. When we finished eating Andy took us downstairs for a look at the logistics involved in serving one-hundred varieties of draught beer.
A special refrigerated room was built directly below the bar to keep the suds from having to travel very far from keg to glass. This way the beer stays cold, and there is much less wasted from being poured out because it goes stale sitting in the hoses.
Our last stop was Night Shift Brewing, another success story of friends that turned their passion for brewing into a business.
What began as home brew in a 5-gallon pot has grown into a thriving brewery serving the entire Boston area.
We began by trying Pfaffenheck, their pilsner, the only one of that style we had all day. It was crisp and light, yet still very flavorful.
Then on to a Whirlpool, their most popular pale ale, and a Lowlander, a Scotch ale with a hint of smoky flavor, but we were most intrigued by the sour beer that Andy had mentioned on our way over.
We ordered a glass of Mainer Weisse, aged with Maine wild blueberries and cinnamon sticks, to share with some of our new friends from the tour.
At first taste we thought that it wasn’t our cup of Boston tea, but it grew on us. In fact, once we stopped thinking of it as beer, we decided that it might just be a fine replacement for tea on a chilly night.