Get your sandals and brush up on your cornhole skills because in this feature we’re looking at some of the best breweries with beautiful outdoor spaces in New England.
For the past two years we’ve spent a lot of time brewery hopping while researching Erik’s recently released book Buzzed: Beers, Booze, and Coffee Brews, Where to find the best craft beverages in New England. Some of our fondest memories were from breweries with great beers as well as great outdoor spaces. In the list below we’ve picked the cream of the cr(h)op of outdoor breweries we’ve been to. These five breweries are the perfect place for intrepid New England travelers to soak up suds and sun.
#1 Cisco Brewers, Massachusetts
The outdoor space: A one-of-a-kind almost entirely outdoor taproom, where local wine, beer and spirits are available and live music is often performed during the summer.
Of all the breweries we’ve visited none have been more fun than Cisco which is enchantingly located on Nantucket and is the site of Triple Eight distillery and Nantucket Vineyard. The outdoor taproom is on the grounds of a stunningly scenic vineyard and fresh sea air and summer vibes are always in abundance. One bar specializes in beers made with cocktails, another offers beer, another wine, another just spirits. During our visit a reggae band played, providing the perfect island soundtrack to this island brewery experience.Cisco Brewery offers some excellent year’round beer such as the Grey Lady Ale. They’ve also got a barrel aged series that produces some excellent mildly sour beers including the Lady of the Woods. Grab your beverage of choice, find a chair, kickback and relax.
#2 Stony Creek Brewery, Connecticut
The outdoor space: A waterside oasis with two expansive outdoor decks and beach-like-river-side area with games.
This new eye-catching Connecticut brewery has a major wow factor. Located on the Branford River, a tributary of the Long Island Sound, Stony Creek is the only brewery I know of that you can get to via boat (there are a number of spaces for docking). The brewery, which we always recommend to brewery travel newbies, has a lineup of approachable beers that are by no coincidence perfect for summer on the water. Dock Time, the brewery’s lager that claimed a gold medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup is an excellent Belgian-style wheat beer. Veteran beer geeks will want to try some of the breweries experimental and extreme beer offerings including a rotating lineup of nitro beers and the Blood Orange IPA.
#3 Long Trail, Vermont
The outdoor space: A riverside brewery space where guests can wade in the water with beers in hand.
At this well-established Vermont brewery guests can hang outside on a deck overlooking the Ottauquechee River. They can also keep a hold of their beers as they cool off by dunking their feet, or more in the river. Despite its large size and big distribution reach, Long Trail maintains a smaller brewery’s laid back feeling. The lineup of popular beers include their Long Trail IPA as well as rotating offering of the Smuttlabs series . Long Trail is most popular in the winter, during ski season, but it’s an excellent summer destination as well.
#4 Oxbow Brewing Co., Maine
The outdoor space: A laid back farmhouse brewery with a rustic wooded setting.
And on that farm there was a brewery…an excellent one. About an hours drive outside of Portland, Maine in a residential but sparsely populated spot in Newcastle, ME is this not-so-hidden-anymore gem of a brewery. Located on a farm owned by one of the brewery’s owners this small taproom is low key in all the best ways. Grab a flight of beers and a plate of local cheese then head outside and rest under the trees that form a natural canopy. You can play cornhole, go for short walk or just chill. It feels like visiting a friend who not only has a great piece of property, but is also a world class home brewer. The farmhouse ales offered include Grisette style brews and a Smoked biere de garde. If you’re up for an experience that feels even more like visiting a friend, check out the Fat Friar Meadery. It is just a few minutes away, located in the basement of a residential house. Despite our initial fears, the signs outside the house are not a ruse to kidnap unsuspecting tourists and the Fat Friar offers some great meads.
#5 Smuttynose Brewing Co., New Hampshire
The outdoor space: A sprawling campus that is home to the brewery, hiking trails, an outdoor restaurant and a nine hole disc-golf course.
This is one smut house we always want to visit. In 2014 Smuttynose Brewing Co., one of the older statesmen of the New England Brewing world, opened a mammoth new brewery on Towle Farm in Hampton, NH. The land the brewery is located on is a playground for adults. There are hiking trails that span the property for a post-tasting stroll. After taking a well-conducted tour that ends with a tasting, you can hang out on the campus which also includes the Hay Seed Restaurant where Smuttynose beers are always on tap. Try classics from the Smuttynose lineup such as the Finestkind and Bouncy House IPA’s.