Salem Beer Works

Beer Works Logo

3 straight months dominated by 12-hour work days nearly drained every bit of my goodwill toward humanity (which tends to be on short supply to begin with), so last week I cashed in some vacation days and hopped a plane to Boston. Ostensibly, I was there to visit family and friends, but, obviously, my true motivation was beer. East coast beers don’t appear on WI shelves in the same abundance as west coast beers, so this trip offered a prime opportunity to explore some exotic refreshments.

As the hometown of Samuel Adams, one might naturally assume that Boston is a happening spot for brewing. Unfortunately, it is not. While there are some great breweries in the area (Ipswich, Clown Shoes, Slumbrew), there are only a handful in the city proper. Aside from Sam Adams, the dominant force is Boston Beer Works, a “brewpub” with 7 locations in the Boston Area. I had the good fortune to visit the Salem location not once, but 4 times in the same day.

Witch History Museum. This animatronic doll is way creepier than an actual witch.

Salem, MA, famous for hanging, pressing, and stoning some folks a few years back, is both a quaint and charming seaside town and a tacky tourist trap. Nestled among Colonial-era homes and storefronts are classy gems such as the New England Pirate Museum, whose front window features a 6-foot diorama that looks to have been constructed in the late 1960’s, and the Witch History Museum, which conveys the story of the witch trials using life-size animatronic dolls.

Though my traveling companion and I set out with the intention of visiting some of these highly educational cultural establishments, it quickly became clear that we weren’t really in the target audience for any of them. Instead, we decided to go on a boat trip. We failed at getting on the boat several times, though, and instead ended up going to the Salem Beer Works four times:

1. Lunch, while waiting for the first boat trip to depart

Pumpkin Works Ale: An amber ale, more or less, brewed with pumpkin pie spices; fairly pleasant, as far as these things go – not too sweet and pleasantly low in alcohol (5% ABV) as compared to many pumpkin concoctions.

RIPA: Imperial pale conditioned with rosemary. My travel companion likened this to drinking a Christmas tree, but I thought it was delicious. The rosemary’s savory, herbal flavors contrasted the sweetness of the high-alcohol (7% ABV) Imperial nicely, and (in my opinion) were not too strong at all. I should caveat this by mentioning that I’m known to ward off colds by eating whole cloves of raw garlic and drinking tea laced with oregano oil, so my ability to identify unpleasantly strong flavors is likely a little suspicious.

2. Waiting for the second boat trip to depart, after missing the first one

Custom House IPA: A pretty standard, yet solid, IPA. Fairly hoppy, but well-balanced and suitable for mass consumption.

3. Meeting a Salemite friend, after missing the second boat trip

Black Bat Stout: A smooth, velvety oatmeal stout; not too sweet and pretty delicious overall.

Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale: I typically find fruit beers appalling, but I this one looked so bizarre that I had to try it. Who care what it tasted like – this beer has whole freakin’ blueberries floating in it! And they come out of the tap! Amazing!

4. Waiting for a ride after missing the train back to Boston

Things get a little murky at this point. We’ll assume that beers were had. There was also a minor zombie attack.

The facts:

Salem Beer Works

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Location: 278 Derby St, Salem MA
Established: 1996
Specialties: Training blueberries to flow out of beer taps without anyone losing an eye
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My TAKE: Large selection of surprisingly great beer, including some creative offerings like rosemary IPA. If you’re going to miss a boat trip and/or a train in Salem, this a great place to do so.