Every time I visit an area restaurant, bar or retail store, I am faced with a new brewery or a new offering by an established brewery. I keep saying to myself that the craft beer market in Central Massachusetts cannot possibly support much more in the way of breweries or variety, but I am continually proven wrong by you rabid fans of the craft suds! But I am not complaining. Cheers!

Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine, 8% ABV
There was a time, not long ago, when you had to travel upwards of four hours to Vermont to find this beer. It wasn’t just the travel, but only certain places stocked it and it sold out almost immediately, so you had to plan your trip around obtaining this beer. With expansion, distribution was increased, first to Connecticut, now to Massachusetts. This is one of the finest New England IPAs on the market. Unlike most of the style, it’s not hazy, but nearly transparent. The aroma is filled with grapefruit, tropical fruit, orange and a bit of pine. Careful with this one, it goes down easy. If you prefer a lighter IPA, Super Session #2 should be on the shelves, and it packs less of a wallop at 4.8% ABV. You cannot go wrong with either.

Wachusett Brewing Company Wally, 7.0% ABV
I have been a huge fan of Larry from Wachusett and was pleasantly surprised to hear that this local pioneer brewery had joined the New England IPA trend with Wally. It’s hazy, filled with the flavors of orange, tropical fruit and a touch of pine. This is another one that will sneak up on you if you are not careful. I must admit, this is my favorite beer from Wachusett. Wachusett also makes a lesser version, appropriately named Wally Jr., with a similar flavor profile at 4.5% ABV.

Lefty’s Brewing Company
Up until recently, only a handful of retailers nearby carried this Greenfield brewer’s offerings. It was primarily seen in the western part of the state or at poured at events like Brew Woo. If you were to find it in a package store, you were limited to 22-ounce bottles. That is about to change. By the time you read this, Lefty’s will be canning. I’ve gone over the benefits of canning in previous articles. What this means to you is that more retailers will be receptive to carrying these beers. Bean’s Brew Coffee Stout, Mystery Box IPA and the Irish Style Stout are some of my favorites, but if you get the chance, mix a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and a Graham Cracker Stout in a glass 50/50. You’ll have yourself a delicious S’mores beer!

New Belgium Brewing Fat Tire, 5.2% ABV
We all have that friend that just wishes IPAs were just a little less hoppy. This is a great beer for them to try. New Belgium recently began distributing to Massachusetts. There will be other beers coming I am sure, such as Citradelic and Ranger IPA, but Fat Tire is the flagship beer. It is an amber Ale, so it has a stronger malt profile and a lesser hop profile than IPAs.

Stone Cow Brewery
Located at the same address (500 West St., Barre) is Carter and Stevens Farm. At this location, you have a farm stand selling farm-fresh meats, raw milk, deli items, seasonal vegetables and fruits, an ice cream stand in season, and an outdoor wood-fired barbecue in season. Oh, by the way, there’s a kick-ass brewery here, too! You can get full 16-ounce pours or growlers to go. The IPAs are absolutely on par with the best in the area. The burger I had, as well as the ice cream cone after, were impeccable. Take a cooler and stock up; there will be things here you didn’t know you needed.

Worcester’s Three Breweries
Instead of looking for the next big thing, save some time and some gas and stay close to home. Everyone knows that Wormtown Brewing is at 72 Shrewsbury St. Not many folks know that Worcester has three breweries. There is also 3Cross Brewing at 26 Cambridge St. and Flying Dreams at 455 Park Ave. All three have taprooms that you can visit. All three have seasonal and special offerings that are difficult to predict. I would recommend Be Hoppy or Bottle Rocket from Wormtown, Green Dreams from Flying Dreams, and Single Speed from 3Cross. If there is something that catches your eye, by all means order it. Above all else, these three are quality local breweries and you owe it to yourself to give them a try. You just might find a new favorite close to home.

Kerry Cyganiewicz