So much beer. So little time.
I know this is touristy but someone has to help you choose between the Sam Adams and Harpoon breweries right?
My first stop was the Sam Adams brewery which is located a bit outside the city center but still accessible by the T. The tour is free but they do ask for a suggested $2 donation for charity. Tours begin every 40 minutes to an hour and last about an hour including a tasting at the end. Yay for free beer!
What I found most fascinating was that Sam Adams beer was not created by our forefathers. The actual Sam Adams was not drinking his homemade beer with George Washington. Nope. Some dude named Jim started Sam Adams beer in 1984. I had no idea!
Also, most of the Sam Adams beer is actually made in Pennsylvania so the brewery in Boston is really just a tourist trap. But hey, you do get a free Sam Adams cup with your tour. You can read my sister’s more intelligent review of the Sam Adams brewery tour here!
My highlight from the Sam Adams tour was the real fun that started afterward. The party bus to Doyle’s! Doyle’s is an Irish pub near the brewery and was the first bar to serve Sam Adams on tap. The bar has a free trolley that will take you from the brewery right to the bar. They pack people in, blast music and you can even bring beer onto the trolley! The driver is a hilarious guy with a thick Boston accent who told us there are two important things in bean town: chowdah and Doyle’s. It was a really fun addition to our trip to the Sam Adams brewery.
Overall, I enjoyed learning about the history of Sam Adams since it was completely different from what I thought!
I wasn’t super jazzed about the Harpoon brewery the way I was about Sam Adams because I had never actually had a Harpoon beer before. I’m not a big IPA fan and for some reason I had in my mind that Harpoon did only IPAs. But with my Bostonian friend as my guide, I headed to the brewery in Boston’s Seaport District.
Unfortunately I didn’t actually take a tour of the brewery. I’ve done several tours in my life and was with a group who weren’t too excited about the idea so we decided to skip.
But one thing that sets the Harpoon brewery apart from Sam Adams is the beer hall! So instead of the tour, we decided to do our own tasting in their giant hall. There were tons of beer options from pilsners to wheats to IPAs. They also had trays with a couple different beers to do your own tasting. And don’t forget the amazing pretzels (both savory and sweet). You can order all of this at the bar or with a waitress at a table. The long tables make for a great set up to meet other people but they are first come, first serve so you have to wait and pounce when someone gets up.
When we arrived on a Saturday at about 3pm in November, the line was LONG to get in. We waited about 45 minutes, maybe even an hour. If the line is long, they will allow you to go inside and buy tickets for the next available tour but you can’t go in until 15 minutes before your tour starts. If you only want to buy something and leave, you don’t need to wait in line, they’ll allow you up to the store area. But if you just want to use the beer hall, be prepared to wait! The guy at the door said the line is an hour wait almost every day.
If I had to choose, I would pick the Harpoon brewery. Even though I didn’t take the tour, I loved the beer hall. It’s a cool space where we could do our own mini tasting with different flights of beer and drink as long as we wanted (but not for free without a tour!). Sam Adams didn’t have something similar unless you did the tour. Although I loved the Doyle’s party bus and history, I enjoyed the beer hall more!
And with six dipping sauces to choose from, the pretzels at Harpoon alone are worth it!
Bonus pro tip! If you just want to have a Sam Adams in Boston but not do the whole brewery thing, try drinking a cold Sam Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams! The Beantown Pub, near the Freedom Trail, is the only pub in the world where you can sit and have a Sam Adams pint while looking at the graveyard where THE Sam Adams is buried.
Cool or creepy? You decide!