Beer drinkers and mornings rarely mix, but they did recently on a Saturday, when Boston Brew Tours was gathering its group in front of a Starbucks in Back Bay. Affable guide Max Snelling didn’t seem miffed by the 15-minute delay as eight of us headed out in a van to three local breweries and a gastropub.
The first sudsy stop is Harpoon, on the South Boston waterfront. On the way to the brewery that holds Massachusetts brewing license #001, Snelling offers a history of beer, starting in ancient Sumeria and connecting the dots to the Mayflower, Prohibition, and the state’s current bustling craft scene. In the van, each of us gives our name and favorite beer style, met with friendly responses like “Hiiii, Erica.”
Chad Brodsky founded Boston Brew Tours last year after building up a similar operation in Burlington, Vt., in 2008. The idea for the Burlington tours started organically. “You’d see the same people at one brewery get in their cars and go on to another,” he says. It is similar to how tourists go from vineyard to vineyard in California tasting wine.
Among those on our tour are a couple from Reading with children old enough to take the tour themselves. Another couple, from Stamford, Conn., are celebrating their recent engagement with Boston friends. “We always like to try a new brewery when we travel,” says the bride-to-be, Jules Funicella. The four-hour-long tour costs $85, which includes lunch and all tastings.
A year out of college, tour guide Snelling found his job on Craigslist. He writes the “Beer in my Belly” blog. He tells us that some people schedule the tour as a celebration. “We did a 60th birthday party tour that was awesome,” says Snelling. “They were all beer geeks.”
The Harpoon stop includes a full brewery tour heavy on education. But after a run through the tap lineup, the conversation back in the van turns from educational to friendly chatter among the participants.
At the Kendall Square gastropub Meadhall, the group sits communally over a lunch of salad, chicken wings, meatloaf, pita and hummus, and Belgian frites. We take our beers to the restaurant’s basement for an explanation of how they keep 100-plus tap lines clean.
Then the group heads to two Everett breweries, Idle Hands and Night Shift. One woman in the van sets her iPhone to Pandora and cranks the volume and no one seems to mind. They ask Snelling questions ranging from “Why do people order draft beer over bottled beer?” to “Do you have any secret dance moves?” In addition to his answers, Snelling points out locations where scenes from “Good Will Hunting” and “The Town” took place.
At each stop a brewer takes the group aside for detailed explanations of beers on tap, passing around handfuls of grain to sniff. “There are a lot of tourists, but many of the tourgoers are actually locals,” says Idle Hands cofounder Chris Tkach.
“We get all types of people,” says tour founder Brodsky. That includes home brewers, beer geeks and other passionate about their brews, and people who have never had a craft beer.
Boston Brew Tours 617-453-8687, bostonbrewtours.comGary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.