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Category Archives: Craft Beer

craft beer tasting party at home

How to Throw a Great Craft Beer Tasting Party at Home

This blog was originally posted on February 1, 2017, and has been updated to reflect our inventory.

With the ever-increasing varieties of beer on the market, you may not want to buy a 6-pack of every new beer that catches your eye. Aside from the expense of buying so many six packs, you don’t want to end up with an abundance of beer that you may not enjoy. Instead of buying a bunch of new beer in bulk, try throwing a craft beer tasting party at home. Beer tasting parties are a great way to gather your friends and broaden your beer horizons. Here are our recommendations for throwing a great craft beer tasting party.

Party Themes

Before you start getting a smorgasbord of beer, you should know what you want to get out of this tasting. Are you looking to try a wide range of ales and lagers? Are you just looking for a sampling of one particular type of flavor? Here are a few ideas for beer tasting “themes”:

  • Region-specific beers (New England, Midwest, Pacific Northwest)
  • Country-specific beers (Belgium, Germany, Ireland)
  • Porters vs. Stouts
  • Hefeweizen vs. Witbier
  • Pumpkin beer. Our recommendations: Southern Tier Imperial Pumking and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin.
    southern tier imperial pumking
  • Sampling the lineup of one brand. There are plenty of new breweries popping up every year. Or, maybe you want to try multiple beers from a brand you’ve never tasted before. Our ‘Specials’ page has ‘all varieties’ of several different beer on sale each month — take your pick!
  • Hard cidersOur recommendations: Citizen Cider, Stormalong Cider, and Prospect Ciderworks.
    citizen cider variety

How Much Beer?

Once you’ve figured out the theme of your beer tasting party, you have to figure out how much beer to purchase. While there isn’t a hard and fast rule, consider first how many different beers you want to try. Generally, we recommend sampling between 4-7 different beers in a given party. After all, you don’t want to bore your guests with too few beer samplings or overwhelm their taste buds with too large a variety. Be sure to have at least 2 full beers of each variety for each guest at your party.

Other Things You’ll Need

Comfortable party guests are happy party guests, so it’s important to put in the effort to ensure you’re properly hosting your guests. While beer is the main focus of the party, you’ll want the first beer to taste as unbiased as the last. Here are some things you should consider:

  • Proper glassware: If you are sampling 5 different beers, be sure to serve them in 3 oz. or half-pint glasses to keep cost and incidence of inebriation low.
  • Palate cleansers: Plain crackers, bread, or pretzels are great for absorbing beer and will clean any residual flavors between each beer.
  • Water: Keep your guests hydrated!
  • A comfortable setting: If you’re in a cramped room, nobody will enjoy their beer. Set up shop around a table so everyone can see each other and feel encouraged to talk.
  • Pen and paper: This one is helpful for keeping it social. Have everyone write down their initial thoughts after the first taste. It’s an easy way to keep the discussion going since everyone can compare notes and record their unbiased first impressions.
  • A fun attitude: At the end of the day (or party), you’ll want to make sure you have fun!

Where to Start?

If you’re not sure where to start, keep your audience in mind. If one of your attendees is notorious for hating IPAs, you should probably leave those out. Ultimately, not all of your guests will love each of the beers they sample, but a little consideration will go a long way in ensuring everyone enjoys the party.

Wachusett Wine & Spirits has an expansive (and ever growing!) craft beer and craft cider inventory that is sure to have everything you need to host an amazing craft beer tasting party. Stop by, say hi, and let us know what you’re looking for! (Pro tip: If you’re looking for a particularly rare craft beer and don’t see it on the shelf, just ask us. We’re known for keeping select rare brews in our private stocks!)

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best sour beers

The Best Sour Beers To Close Out Summer

While we’re acknowledging the end of summer, we’re certainly not excited to announce that summer is ending. We hate to be the bearer of bad news. But there’s a silver lining here, which is that sour beers are still going strong! Between the We’re Funk’d Festival and the rising number of sour beers that are being released every year, we’re confident that this trend won’t end anytime soon. And that’s a great thing! Because there are so many to choose from, it’s easy to break into these refreshing sour experiments. We’ve already written about the best summer beers in general, but as a cheers to the end of summer, we’ve compiled some of the best sour beers to help you close out the season in style.

Jack’s Abby Cranberry Berliner

jack's abby cranberry berliner

Jack’s Abby calls their Cranberry Berliner their “ode to summer”, so why not drink it before summer ends? Because it is a Berliner Weissbier at heart, you can expect a low alcohol content (only 3.5%) which makes this an easy sipper for fans of tart tastes. Pair this with your last few grilled burgers this season and you won’t regret it.

Avery Apricot Sour

Careful with this one… At 7.3% ABV, this sour beer is certainly heavier and sharper than the others that appear on this list. Because of it’s alcohol content, Avery Apricot Sour makes a big first impression and packs a tart punch (or pucker). Regardless, it is still delicious as it bursts with juicy apricots. This isn’t Avery’s only sour beer, and we always look forward to seeing what other tart treats they release. The Apricot Sour is a success in our books.

Brewery Ommegang Pale Sour Ale

For newbies to the sour niche, the Pale Sour Ale is a great choice to ease you into this new world of beer. Luckily, if you like it, you can get it year-round. Tart and crisp, this is a well-balanced beer that will pair well with meats and heavier foods. Brewery Ommegang made a smart move by adding this golden beer to their core lineup.


Allagash Nancy

Allagash continually wows us with each release. Nancy is no exception. This sour red ale is the cherry on top to a fun-in-the-sun summer day – literally. It is created with Maine cherries and Brettanomyces (sometimes known as “brett” – and don’t worry, this is a funky bacteria you’ll want in your sour beer.) It contains an excellent balance of sweet, fruit, and tart. With a good, sour bite, you might want to save this one for other sour fans like yourself.

Upland Peach

upland peach

If you like peaches, you’re in for a treat: Upland Brewing doesn’t beat around the bush with this concoction. With an aroma of oak, sourdough bread, and– of course– peaches, this is sure to win over any fruit beer lover. If you like sour, you’re in for an even bigger treat: this beer has a sharp and dry finish. Ready to try it? With a great balance of tanginess and peach, this might become your new favorite sour.

The only sour face we like is the one right after you have a sip of these sour beers. From fruity and sweet to sharp and tart, we’ve got plenty of the best sour beers on our shelves. Want to see if we still have a certain one in stock? Contact us today and ask about our inventory! Or better yet, swing by our store. We would love to help you find the perfect sour beer!

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best summer beers

The Best Summer Beers for Backyard Barbecues

The sun is shining, the burgers are grilling,  and your buddies ask what you brought to drink after tossing your 6-pack into the cooler.   “Did you bring the usual?”  Confidently you reply, “Nope, not today my friends.”  Today, you branched out and got something perfect for this barbecue.  With so many choices for craft beer (especially in New England), you’ll want to pick the right beer for the right season.  If you want to raise some eyebrows and crack some smiles, we’ve gathered our top picks for the best summer beers.  When the weather gets a little too warm, your friends will thank you for bringing a summer beer that’ll cool them off.

Harpoon Camp Wannamango

In India, a basket full of mangos is a sign of friendship. But we think a basket full of Harpoon Camp Wannamango is a close second.  When it comes to this beer, there’s no escaping the refreshing mango aroma and taste.  You’ll also get a blend of passion fruit and subtle hops. If you’re looking for something light and easy to drink, this pale ale could quickly become your summertime favorite.

Dogfish Head Sea-Quench

Pucker up for a summer romance with this sour ale.  Sour beers are continuously becoming more popular every year and Dogfish Head’s Sea-Quench Ale is a great example of one.  Made with lime peel, black lime, and sea salt, be prepared for a unique taste when you take a sip of this ale.  It’s tart, it’s refreshing, and it’s excellent for anyone who wants to take a dive into the world of sour beer.

Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge

sunny ridge

Summer marks the return of beachy days, long nights, and Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge.  This pilsner is loaded with European hops but still contains a traditional flavor.  It has a light, golden hue and is extremely drinkable.  For any pilsner fans, you can’t go wrong with this one.  It’s perfect to bring along to barbecues, out to the docks, or even just out to the porch.

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin

Ballast Point has found a way to incorporate grapefruit into their beer for a refreshing take on their classic Sculpin.  With an ABV of 7%, this beer should be sipped a little slower than the others on this list – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t easy to drink.  Although technically an IPA, it wouldn’t be such a wild idea to give it to someone who isn’t usually a fan of them.  The grapefruit adds a beautiful aroma and tart taste that makes this an unforgettable beer.

Bonus: Downeast Aloha Friday

aloha friday

Beer isn’t for everyone, and cider isn’t just for fall.  In fact, the masterminds at Downeast have concocted a special summer drink to prove it.  Aloha Friday is bursting with refreshing and juicy pineapple.  This is the cider that will make you look forward to relaxation. We think they did a pretty good job naming it.

Not only is there an ample amount of seasonal summer ales, there’s also a lot of year-round beer perfect for the warm weather.  Have something else in mind other than what’s on this list?  Stop by to check out our ever-changing inventory!  Or, if you want to see if we have something in stock before swinging by, contact us today!

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our favorite New England breweries

5 New England Breweries You Should Know About

Narrowing down a list of our favorite New England breweries is a tall order. There are so many to choose from, all with their unique history and atmosphere. But that’s what’s great about them. Each tour is as unique as their brew. If you’re curious, you can take a tour of their facilities and learn about their processes. Check out some of our favorites as you make your way into the craft beer scene.

1. Allagash

As if a tour of the Allagash Brewing Company doesn’t already sound great, it’s also free! The renowned brewery out of Portland, Maine offers free tours several times everyday. Not only that, but you can get a few free samples for simply visiting the brewery. If you want to take it a step further, you can book a Grand Cru Tour and get an in-depth look at how the brewery functions. This includes tasting beers straight from the barrels. When else do you get a chance to do that? Although the Grand Cru Tour tour isn’t free, proceeds go towards an Allagash charity partner. You might recognize Allagash for their White, Black, and their newest Hoppy Table Beer. Don’t have time to take a trip to Maine? We carry most of their brews in-store.

2. Harpoon

Located near the Boston waterfront, Harpoon Brewery offers tours seven days a week. The $5 tour includes a beer tasting of as many beers as you want! And, if you’re not a huge fan of beer, they also have hard cider on tap. If you make your way over to their beer hall, you can buy handmade pretzels that are boiled in their Harpoon IPA. While they may have close to 20 beers on tap, we carry their poplar Harpoon IPA and UFO White.

3. Samuel Adams

How could we not mention this classic brewery? Right in Boston, Samuel Adams offers free tours every day of the week except for Sundays. You’ll get to experience the craft brewing process and learn the history of this 30+ year old brewery. Not to mention tasting some of their famous beers. Samuel Adams also offers a “Morning Mash-In Tour,” running every morning of the week. Here, you can taste exclusive experimental brews and more. This tour is $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends, which is a small price to pay for the experience. The Boston Lager and Rebel IPA are two popular ones that you’ll see on our shelves.

4. Jack’s Abby

Jack’s Abby has been making quite the name for themselves in New England. Located in Framingham, MA, their brewery is complete with a beer hall and kitchen. From there, you can get a view of the operations. They offer free tours on Sundays, but are open all other days of the week except for Mondays. Learn about their brewing process and then get your hands (and taste-buds) on some exclusive releases. Before you take a tour, stop by Wachusett Wine & Spirits to try the House Lager and the Hoponius Union.

5. Night Shift

For a rustic, relaxed atmosphere, you’ll want to head to Night Shift Brewery out of Everett, MA. For food, there are food trucks that frequent the brewery almost every day of the week. But you can also pack your own picnic. If gourmet food trucks don’t pique your interest, then maybe a free tour will? They offer tours every day of the week, where you can learn about their facilities and equipment. Some of their well-known beers are Awake and Furth, both of which you can find on our shelves.

There are dozens of New England breweries which are just a stone’s throw away. While you ponder which one to check out first, get a head start by visiting Wachusett Wine & Spirits. We have a large inventory of craft beer, which is always expanding. Stop by each week to check out our new shipments.

Reasons to Drink Craft Beer

The Top 5 Reasons to Drink Craft Beer

Remember when you were in college and drank mass market beer and bottom shelf vodka so that you could have a weekend of fun on the cheap?  So do we.  As your palate becomes more discerning, though, we recommend putting the days of mass market beer behind you in favor of something far better: Craft Beer.  Here are five of the best reasons to drink craft beer.

  1.  It Tastes Better. Whether your chosen craft beer is sweet, bitter, dark, or something else, craft beers are uniformly flavorful.  This is because craft beer companies use high quality ingredients that you can really taste.  Inexpensive, mass market beers often taste watery—not a desirable beer flavor!

  2.  It’s Got More Alcohol.  Looking for a nice buzz to take the edge off of a long day?  A craft beer is the way to go.  While craft beers vary greatly in shape, size, taste, ingredients, and brand, they all boast a higher percentage of alcohol!  A typical craft beer ranges from 5-10% alcohol by volume (abv), but certain craft beers can reach over 20% abv.  Mass market beers, conversely don’t pack as much of a punch, containing an average of 2.5% abv.

  3.  You Can Mix It Up.  Craft beers break up the monotony of life.  With over 1,600 craft breweries throughout the US alone, there is never a shortage of options for your next libation.  Craft beers also have seasonal options that give drinkers something to look forward to with each coming season.

  4.  It Gives You an Excuse to Get Away.  Everyone loves a long weekend away, right?  Did you know that drinking craft beer is the perfect reason to take a weekend getaway?  That’s because breweries encourage their fans and beer aficionados to stop by, see their facilities, and enjoy a beer tasting.  With so many breweries in the US, visiting a new brewery can give you a great excuse to take a trip virtually anywhere.  Not looking to venture too far from home?  Not to worry!  Most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, so day trips are another great option!

  5.  They Give You Something to Talk About.  Craft beers can be a huge conversation beers.  From drinks called “Arrogant Bastard Ale” to “The Great, Big Kentucky Sausage Fest” to “Yeastus Christ,” just the name of a craft beer can make you smile and serve as a conversation piece.

The reasons listed above are some of our favorite reasons to drink craft beer.  Looking to try a craft beer for the first time?  Are you a craft beer drinker looking to broaden your horizons?  Wachusett Wine & Spirits has a 1,000 square foot Beer Cave that has an enormous selection of craft beers sure to satisfy your particular tastes.  Stop by and have a cold one today!

For the love of beer

Our “Top 5” Craft Beers from Extreme Beer Fest

Mike with Dogfish OwnerExtreme Beer Fest (EBF) is one of the most highly anticipated annual beer festivals in the United States and we are lucky enough that its home is in Boston. EBF is sponsored by Beer Advocate and Dogfish Brewery.  This year it was held in late March at the Seaport Trade Center and we were fortunate to be able to attend.
EBF brings in many of the best breweries from across the country. We had a great local representation with Sam Adams (Boston), Jack’s Abby (Framingham) and Tree House (Monson). However, many of the breweries like the widely acclaimed Cigar City from Tampa, Florida don’t regularly distribute in Massachusetts so it’s a treat to be able to try some of their fabulous brews.  EBF encourages craft brewers to bring beers that truly push the limits of brewing.  Many of the beers that were being poured were from small batch or one-off series.  They varied in style from Stouts to Berliner Weissbiers to Double IPAs. With over 300 beers to choose from you certainly had to pick and choose which ones that you wanted to try.  We also had to be careful to stay away from any potential “palette wreckers” until the end. We shared our pours so that we were able to try more beers throughout the afternoon.
Here are my “Top 5” from EBF

  1. Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, Funky Buddha Brewery (FL)
  2. Plasma – American IPA, Element Brewing (MA)
  3. Mexican Standoff – Porter , Due South (FL)
  4. Biere De Chard – Farmhouse Ale/Saison, Cigar City (FL)
  5. Map of the Sun – American Wild Ale, The Rare Barrel (CA)

Our afternoon was filled with GREAT beers and a few pretzels – what’s not to love? I can’t wait for next year!