Brewery Name: Beara Irish Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: 2800 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, NH. They’re just off Route 1, so if you follow that road you can’t miss them.
Facebook: Beara Irish Brewing Co.
Background: Beara Irish Brewing was founded on the premise of brewing beer with a pure Irish barley base. They import many of their ingredients directly from Ireland, while just about everything else comes from local sources.
Growlers: Yep. You can also buy 22 oz bottles of whatever they have on hand, which gives you an even greater selection of beer to choose from.
The Beers: You can pretty much always count on Beara to have six beers on tap, and I sampled all of them. I grabbed a 22 oz bottle on my way out the door as well, so I was able to get the full spectrum of Beara’s current offerings.
Vibe: This is tough for me because, unfortunately, I visited Beara at an off-peak time, resulting in a fairly empty brewery. That was a little disappointing, because I know Beara is known for being a lively place, with live music often playing and sports on the televisions all around the tasting room. Sadly, I came by in the middle of rainstorm, which no doubt kept many potential patrons from venturing out of their homes.
That said, I couldn’t have felt more welcome. I enjoyed talking to the patrons there (clearly regulars), and the fellow behind the bar was only too happy to talk about the brewing process and the history of the brewery. It’s a small location, but they do a great job making the most of the space they have, with tables and chairs scattered across the space and a bar that seats five or six more. From the bar, you can see a bit into the brewing area, which looks to be fairly spacious.
Dogs: I’m not sure, but I doubt it. Beara does offer some food options, so my guess would be that dogs should stay outside.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$ / $$$. Beara’s tastings are pretty affordable, but the bottles will run you in the $7 or $8 range. That’s not a bad price by any means, but you should know what you’re getting.
Food: You won’t mistake Beara for a fine dining restaurant, but they have more than enough food options to keep you happy while you drink. Grab some pretzels at the bar or order some chicken tenders! It’s classic bar food for the most part, which should keep just about anyone happy.
Brewery Rating: 7/10. I’d love a little bit more space to stretch out, but it’s hard to complain about an Irish brewery that features Irish music, Irish beer, and a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Beara's beers are solid across the board (even though the Buffalo beer might not be my thing, I could EASILY see others with a more favorable view of that style loving it), and the staff is friendly and welcoming--as are the brewery’s regulars. They seem happy to talk to new patrons and tell you all about their beers. If you’re in Portsmouth, I recommend stopping in for a flight!
Brewery Name: Fieldwork Brewing Co.
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: Berkeley, CA
Facebook: Fieldwork Brewing Co
Instagram: @fieldworkbrewingco (private account)
Background: Berkeley is a hidden gem of breweries that I had no idea existed until arriving on the West Coast. North of Oakland and South of wine country, Berkeley is a really great representation of laid back Cali lifestyle, but remains a quick Bart trip out of the city. I was invited out with a friend (who deserves credit for introducing me to several East Bay breweries now), and Fieldwork was the first stop. I had recently tried and fallen in love with their Convergence IPA at an Oakland beer garden, Lost & Found, so I was pumped to get a chance to visit the brewery!
Growlers: You know it! They offer growlers and crowlers of most beers on tap. They keep a couple off that list, presumably based on quantity (or maybe nitro tap), but there's a ton of beer available so there is surely something to fit your fancy.
The Beers: Fieldwork seems to rotate beers quite a bit, and there are always a whole bunch of beers on both sides of the spectrum. As per the norm of a West Coast brewery, there are tons of IPAs and Pale Ales available, but they also have one of the better showings of dark beers that I've seen out here. I highly recommend the Convergence, which I had tried previously, but here are some of the others I grabbed while on site:
Vibe: LOVE the setup of this place. It's got every type of spot you could want when visiting a brewery. Plenty of bar space, a big outdoor seating area, couches in a small lounge section, tables and high tops throughout their space, all with a view of the taps and/or the brewing backdrop.
There's a clear laid back California vibe to the space, the staff, and most of the people there, which makes for a nice experience when you just want to sit and enjoy good brews. It's a bit tough to get to without a car and isn’t much to look at from the exterior, but, after all, it's what's on the inside that counts right?
One last point--I'm not sure which section this belongs in but the flight tray and glasses deserve special mention. The tray is just sheet metal but for whatever reason you feel like a boss when carrying it back to your table. The flight pours all come as generous servings in normal size glasses, which help you feel like you got a whole bunch of beer without looking like mostly empty drinks.
Dogs: Seemed to be cool in the outdoor area at least. Wasn’t clear about inside but there were treats and water bowls so I’m going to go ahead and assume yes.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. Flights were very fair, and full pours mostly come in between $6 and $8. Their to-go prices on crowlers and growlers and right about the norm for what I see in California.
Food: Yep! They do a series of puff pastry items in a few different styles such as bacon cheeseburger, cornish beef, and chicken with ginger and garlic, to name a few.
Final Thoughts: Really impressively wide spectrum of beer styles and an amazing space!
Shane: Honestly, I didn’t think I could top the last batch of beers I selected, but it seems like New England is just a never-ending fountain of incredible beer. I’ve been telling Pete and York that Khaos is my favorite Garrison City beer for quite some time, and it’s been frustrating for me to not be able to include it in a post yet. Finally, FINALLY I have managed to get my hands on some, and I’m very excited to see what these guys think. Also included are a couple of beers that represent something a little different: Rising Tide’s Maine Island Trail Ale is probably my favorite session IPA of all-time, Bissell Brothers’ Bucolia is a different take on a classic amber style, and Henniker’s Sour Flower is a sour that packs a punch of floral flavor. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the two beers here that I never thought I’d be able to get my hands on: Nothing Gold and JJJULIUSSS. Nothing Gold was a special release from Bissell Brothers in honor of their new brewery location, and it spawned the single longest line I’ve ever seen at a New England beer release (luckily I have learned to get there extremely early). JJJULIUSSS...well, I never thought I’d see the day JJJULIUSSS made it into cans. I’ll talk a little more about that when we get to it, but suffice it to say that York will finally get the introduction to Tree House that he deserves.
York: Lots of wishlist beers in this batch! Shane has been mercilessly talking up Khaos and JJJULIUSSS to us right from the get go. I’ve been even higher on the Garrison City beers than Shane so far, so I’ve got really high hopes for the DIPA from them. I also really enjoyed the Rising Tide beer we had a few batches ago and of course really dig the beers that our friends at Henniker make so a sour from them has me extra excited. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’m typically less enthused with Bissell than the others (this is a VERY relative statement of course) so I’m glad to be getting access to a few more from them to really figure out what the disconnect amongst the three of us is. Talk about a powerhouse of summer beers - can’t wait to get started on these!
Pete: Shane and I play an interesting game every Friday. Every Friday we check twitter to see what Tree House is canning because if it’s good sometimes Shane will throw caution to the wind and drive down to get it. The last few weeks, they brewery has really been pushing their release time back to when Shane won’t want to drive to Tree House just to get something he’s already had. Then they drop a huge beer by releasing an amped up version of Julius, their much admired IPA. Guess Shane had to drive to Tree House that day. And I am glad he did. I also really like the collection of IPAs here. Nothing Gold is very intriguing because I have not seen a new Bissell beer in a while. And more Garrison City and a great collection of New England IPAs isn’t a bad thing.
Brewery Name: The Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 30 Germania St, Boston, MA 02130
Facebook: Samuel Adams
Background: Everyone knows Sam Adams at this point. They were one of the original “craft breweries” that helped bring craft beer into the mainstream. Forget Miller, forget Budweiser...Sam Adams made it “cool” to drink small-batch craft beer. Since then, they’ve grown into an empire, brewing and selling dozens of different beers and introducing many Americans to their very first beer that doesn’t say “light” on the side (although it’s worth noting that Sam Adams Light isn’t half bad either). Sam Adams made it cool to be a craft brewer, and today’s craft beer scene owes a lot to what Sam Adams started doing over three decades ago.
Growlers: Yep. You can buy growlers in the gift shop. Often, you can get growlers of beer at the brewery that you just can’t find anywhere else (when we went, Sam Adams 26.2, the beer they brewed in honor of the Boston Marathon, was still available).
The Beers: One of the best things about touring the Sam Adams brewery is that it ends with a tasting. And I don’t mean they pour you a pint of Boston Lager and call it a day. They sit you down (if it’s nice weather--and it was for us--they even bring you outside to their beer garden) and walk you through what beer tasters look for in a beer, and how they judge them. It’s very cool experience that adds an educational component to the whole thing. No one can judge you for drinking too much beer if you’re learning while you do it, right?
Anyway, while Boston Lager is the leadoff beer in their four-beer tasting, what makes this so cool is that they also include a couple of experimental beers. These are beers that the brewers are playing around with, and which might later make it into the regular rotation. When Pete last visited the Sam Adams brewery, he was able to taste a beer that would later go on to become the first beer in Sam Adams’ lucrative Rebel IPA series--now a staple in beer stores throughout the country. This time, we were able to taste:
Boston Lager: The classic. The beer that started it all. It’s hard to go wrong with Boston Lager. It’s a drinkable and enjoyable staple, and you’ll rarely find a moment where there isn’t at least a six-pack in my fridge. There are other Sam Adams beers that I like better, but there aren’t many that are as versatile. It’s a gameday beer, it’s a barbecue beer. It’s a summer beer, it’s a winter beer. It’s just solid across the board.
Summer Ale: I’ve consumed a lot of Summer Ale over the years, and it always seems to find its way into my cooler come summer. It’s got a lemony sweetness to it that makes it a drinkable beer even for people who don’t usually drink beer, and those that do drink beer will find it a sweet and refreshing beer perfect for cooling down on a hot day.
Berliner Weisse: The first of the experimental beers that we had, this was a little bit of a surprise. Kind of off the beaten path for Sam Adams, it has a little bit of tartness that creeps up on you on the back end. Although I admit that I (and I think York, our resident lover of sours) would have liked to see a little more sourness in this, it’s hard to deny that it’s a drinkable beer.
India Pale Lager: With IPAs being all the rage these days, it was pretty cool to see Sam Adams take a crack at a something a little different (besides, Sam Adams already conquered the IPA market with the Rebel series--so why not try to grab the IPL market as well?). Malty in character and surprisingly light for a dark beer, this was an interesting take on a style that not a lot of breweries are making a priority right now.
Vibe: The Samuel Adams brewery offers a different sort of experience: whereas some of the breweries we’ve reviewed have been centered around offering patrons a place to kick back and relax for a few hours, Sam Adams is more about giving you an authentic brewery experience--and really letting you know what Sam Adams is all about.
The earliest tour offered by Sam Adams kicks off at 9:40 in the morning--which turned out to be the perfect time for us, since we met up in the city extremely early. The entryway to the brewery is actually pretty cool. It’s lined with awards that the brewery has won, contains a case filled with old bottles from past beers they have brewed, art made with bottle labels, and so on. It really is a celebration of the storied history of Sam Adams, and that was pretty cool.
The tour itself is relatively self-contained: most of the tour takes place inside the brewing area, where you can see the tanks and equipment used to brew Sam Adams beer. The Boston location isn’t the main brewery, but instead is used to produce a lot of Sam Adams’ experimental and small-batch beers. As the tour progresses, you can see the brewers moving in and out of the area, checking gauges and performing quality control. It’s pretty cool!
During the tour, you’ll also learn a lot about beer. You’ll learn about how beer is flavored, what role hops have in the brewing process, and even get to sample some barley. The guides break things down pretty effectively, and even I felt like I came away from the tour with a better understanding of what makes the brewing industry tick. Fun as it is to just drink beer, it’s also nice to be able to feel like you’ve learned something.
Dogs: Sadly, no. The brewery isn’t really a place to hang out for a long period of time anyway, though.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$ (although it’s free if you just do the tour)
Food: No, but you can find Doyle’s around the corner, which was the first location to carry Samuel Adams beer.
Final Thoughts: If you go in with the right expectations, Sam Adams offers one of the most unique brewery experiences around. Few breweries are so open about their brewing process--let alone willing to let you walk around the area where it actually takes place. The fact that they offer you a free tasting of some of the newest experimental beers to cap things off is just awesome. So while this isn’t a place to hang out and spend the day, it’s a place worth visiting and a tour WELL worth experiencing. If you’re in Boston, I recommend giving it a try!
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
Heady Topper. Focal Banger. What Could Be Better than a Trip to The Alchemist?
The Hills Are Alive (with Incredible Beer) at von Trapp Brewing
Get Out of the City and Into Woods Beer Co.