Some things are meant to go together, like salt and pepper, and cream and sugar. And when it’s summer in New England, it’s hard to beat the pairing of fresh local seafood with micro-brewed beer. On a recent day we tasted our way through breweries, clam shacks, and lobster joints north of Boston.
CAPE ANN BREWING CO.
For a brew with a view, nothing beats Cape Ann Brewing Co.’s location overlooking Gloucester harbor. This family-owned business makes more than 30 types of beer a year, including always-available and seasonal brews, and offers a dozen on tap at any time. Pub fare is available inside or out at communal beer-hall style tables.
“Beer is basically made from four ingredients: malted barley, water, hops, and yeast,” said Jeremy Goldberg, who owns the business with his father. On a tour of the facility, he handed out sandwich bags with dry ingredients for visitors to smell.
Goldberg was bit by the brewing bug after having a “midlife crisis at 28.” Ditching Wall Street to work on a friend’s documentary, “American Beer,” he toured 38 craft and independent breweries in 40 days before opening his own brewery, in 2004.
All the draft beers in his collection are made on premises, including the signature Fisherman’s Brew, an American amber lager. Recent specialty brews offered bold flavor twists to traditional tastes, such as Fisherman’s Dead-Eye Dipa (“the mother of all hoppy beers”), Fisherman’s Tea Party (with smoky tea notes), and Fisherman’s Rockporter (medium-bodied porter with distinctive chocolate and caramel flavors).
Goldberg is getting ready to open a new off-site brewery exclusively for canned beers. “We are very proudly and excitedly bringing brewing back to Gloucester,” he said.
Cape Ann Brewing Co., 11 Rogers St., Gloucester, 978-282-7399, www.CapeAnnBrewing.com. Beer on tap $4.50-$5.50. Free tours Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on request; weekends, call ahead to schedule.
J.T . FARNHAM’S
Originally opened in 1944, J. T. Farnham’s operated as a simple fried seafood shack for 50 years until Terry Cellucci and her husband Joe took the helm.
“We took over 20 years ago and added grilled fish, haddock, salads, and homemade chowders,” said Cellucci.
Located next to the Essex River, you can dine inside in rustic style or outside at picnic tables with views of the tidal Eben Creek. In addition to all manner of fried seafood and sides — clams, strips, oysters, calamari, scallops, onion rings, French fries — this seafood shack offers lobster rolls, homemade crab cakes, hot dogs, and burgers. Popular sides include the house-made Mediterranean pasta salad with fresh cucumber, onion, and feta, and no-mayo coleslaw with pineapple, vinegar, and celery seed.
Farnham’s is also known for its four types of homemade chowders, including standard New England clam, Manhattan spicy-scallop, Nana’s haddock, and a rich seafood chowder filled with clam, haddock, shrimp, scallops, and lobster. Even with all these extra tasty offerings, fried seafood is what most attracts the crowds from March through late November.
“Our most popular item is fried clams. Followed by scallops and haddock,” said Cellucci.
J. T. Farnham’s, 88 Eastern Ave, Essex, 978-768-6643, $3.95- $32.95
SALEM BEER WORKS
Zandy Zeiser studied music in college before getting hooked on craft beer. He is now a brewer for Salem Beer Works, one of five spin-off breweries of Boston Beer Works, founded in 1992. Each location has its own nano-brewery, creating over 55 styles a year that they share among locations.
“We’re more seasonal than other beer works. People come in around Halloween for our pumpkin works ale. In the summer, it’s for watermelon ale,” said Zeiser.
The stylish interior of Salem Beer works draws crowds for its full menu of fresh foods (there’s no microwave in the kitchen) as well as a changing roster of 16 brews on tap. A recent tasting included Baker’s Island Blonde (Bavarian lager), Salem Amber Hefe (super cloudy brew with clove and banana flavors), and Custom House I.P.A., (hoppy and crisp ale).
Although the Salem location has only four fermenters, a tour of sorts (more like a beer-making lecture) can be arranged by calling in advance. Kids of all ages enjoy locally made root beers from Boylan’s and Virgil’s.
Salem Beer Works, 278 Derby St., Salem, 978-745-2337, www.beerworks.net, Beer on tap $4.50-$8
LOBSTER POOL RESTAURANT
For no-frills dining with spectacular views, lobster-lovers flock to the family-owned Lobster Pool Restaurant overlooking Ipswich Bay in Rockport. Open from April through the end of October, owner Myalysa Tedesco estimates they serve more than 100 lobsters and 160 lobster rolls on an average summer Sunday.
It’s strictly self-service here: order at the counter and then find a seat indoors, or dine al fresco at picnic tables. Patrons often arrive with their own chairs and picnic blankets to enjoy the sunset on the lawn near the bay. Known for their “lobstahs,” as Tedesco pronounces it, other popular items include a lazy lobster pie (lobster meat baked with butter and Ritz cracker crumble), seafood quesadillas, homemade fishcakes, as well as grilled and fried fresh seafood. The Lobster Pool doesn’t serve alcohol but you can bring your own.
April Hobbs and her husband Bob — cleverly disguised as a local in a Red Sox shirt — were visiting from Cincinnati and enjoying the fisherman’s plate, a fiesta of fried clams, shrimp, haddock, sole, and scallops.
“My dad lived in the area long ago,” said Hobbs. “He always said, ‘For the best seafood at the best price, go to places that look like a shack.’ And he was right!”
Lobster Pool Restaurant, 329 Granite St., Rockport, 978-546-7808, LobsterPoolRestaurant.com, $3.95- $32.95
Started in 2012 by three friends who love making beer, Night Shift Brewing has already expanded from its 90-square foot taproom to a spacious microbrewery in Everett. Specializing in small batch creations made with wild yeast and ingredients from as many local sources as possible, including spices, chocolate, and wild Maine blueberries, Night Shift brews, ferments, and bottles everything in-house.
“Wild yeast can provide funky or citrusy flavors that you don’t always find in a beer,” said Michael Oxton, one of the founders.
The newly opened, 2,500-square foot taproom is party-ready with high ceilings, cement floors, pale pine picnic tables, and fanciful brightly colored lights. Sit at the long bar and sample the changing brews available on tap.
A recent tasting included Simple Sour (Berliner Weisse-style sour ale), En Garde (malty and tart biere de garde with sweet honey finish), Art #21 (barrel-aged dark saison fermented with blueberries and wine must), and their most popular brew, Viva Habanera (rye ale brewed with agave nectar, aged on habanera peppers).
Open every day except Sunday, Night Shift offers visitors free potato chips and pretzels, and — even better — allows you to bring in your own food. When the food trucks arrive on Friday and Saturday nights, the brewery gets packed.
“The transition has been wild — but fun,” said Oxton.
Night Shift Brewing, 87 Santilli Hwy, Everett, 617-294-4233, NightShiftBrewing.com, Free tours Fri-Sat on odd hours. Beer on tap $2.50-$7
WOODMAN’S OF ESSEX
Celebrating its 100th year in the same location, Woodman’s of Essex serves a selection of seafood and shellfish including fried clams, New England lobsters, steamed clams, shrimp, and scallops. From its humble beginnings, when Laurence “Chubby” Woodman first opened his concession stand for business, to today’s expanded self-service restaurant, function hall, and grounds large enough to accommodate tour buses and weddings, Woodman’s has been synonymous with its most popular item, fried clams.
“My grandfather was given the distinction in 1916 as the inventor of the fried clam,” said Steve Woodman.
Open year round, visitors also stop by for creamy — and very clammy — clam chowder and Nana Bessie’s Famous Clamcakes. The batter on fried items (except onion rings and clamcakes) is one hundred-percent corn flour, meaning most everything is gluten free. Woodman’s features a raw bar in summer months, as well as serving up scoops of Gifford’s of Maine ice cream. Beers on tap include local brews from Ipswich Ale and Newburyport Greenhead I.P.A.
Woodman’s of Essex, 121 Main St., Essex, 978-768-6057, www..woodmans.com $2.95- $39.95Necee Regis can be reached at necee
firstname.lastname@example.org and www.necee.com