Sales of craft beers have been skyrocketing for the past decade. And that has meant a dramatic increase in breweries. Since 2009, the number of breweries in the United States has tripled, and there are now more than 5,000 across the country. New England could be called the birthplace of microbreweries. The D.L. Geary Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine, founded in 1983, is considered New England’s first microbrewery, while there are so many breweries in Burlington, Vt., that Yelp ranks the city’s top 10.
The craft beer craze is now flowing on Cape Cod, with taps pouring everything from amber ales and stouts aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels to Bavarian lagers and, of course, Cape Cod reds. Not long ago, the only brewery in town was Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis, which opened in 2004 as the Hyport Brewing Co. on Main Street before relocating to its current site in 2006. But today, you can literally embark on a Cape Cod Brewery Trail, stopping to sample a locally brewed beer less than one mile after crossing over the Sagamore Bridge and not taking your last taste, if you dare, until you reach Orleans.
Along the way, you’ll experience distinctive and often juicy brews — blueberry, citrus, raspberry, and mango-flavored beers are just a few of the offerings — in a variety of settings, large and small. Actually, it’s a little surprising that it took so long for craft breweries to begin sprouting on the Cape. Cooling off with a cold beverage after a day at the beach or on the golf course seems only natural.
Currently, there are seven operating breweries on the Cape; the seventh, Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery in Falmouth, just opened. And there are three more in the planning stages in Falmouth and Bourne.
During a recent heat wave, I hit the trail.
The tour began at the 6A Brewing Co. in Sagamore, which was transformed from Flynn’s Irish Pub and opened last June. The brewery’s centerpiece is a communal table that stretches the length of the tasting room. A flat-screen television hangs over a gas fireplace, and there are also high-top tables and a bar that seats four. For those seeking a bit of privacy, there is a walled-off room with Irish-style pub chairs and couches.
There are five to 10 beers on tap at any time. One of the unique offerings is Tailgater, a rarely attempted white lager that combines Witbier and lager and is brewed with grapefruit, among other things. Their flagship lager, Sundown, is crisp and refreshing, but my favorite was Endless Night, a silky-smooth peanut butter-tinged stout.
About 10 minutes away is Naukabout Brewery and Taproom in Mashpee, which is perched on a hill and tucked in the woods on the site of the former Flume Restaurant. The brewery’s name was inspired by the father of co-owner Brook Conley, who used to tell his children when he came home from work that it was time to change from his “work-a-bouts” into his “nauk-a-bouts so we can go out and have some fun.”
On cool summer days, people gravitate to the 5,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden with four terraced patio areas, where food trucks serve wood-grilled pizzas and Texas barbecue. At night, head inside, where a long wooden bar, a brick fireplace, exposed beams, and wooden railings and tables evoke the feeling of a cozy cottage.
Live music plays nightly. Country is big, but on the night I visited, I was treated to a local duo playing soulfully acoustic versions of Pink Floyd, Cream, and Tom Petty.
Among the unique beers are the Milkshake Pina Colada IPA with coconut and pineapple; the Outdoor Shower, which has sweet lemon and ruby red grapefruit; and the green pear and gooseberry IPA.
From Mashpee, it’s a short drive down Route 28 into Hyannis, where both Cape Cod Beer and Barnstable Brewing are located. Cape Cod Beer is the granddaddy of Cape breweries, while Barnstable Brewing opened in 2017.
Even on a sunny midweek afternoon, prime beach time, Cape Cod Beer is packed with customers who fill the tented, outdoor beer garden, the retail store, and the spacious taproom. There are communal tables for gathering and making new friends, and beer barrels to stand around that a provide a more private experience. There is a pop-up kitchen in summer, but customers are also welcome to bring their own snacks or order delivery from a local restaurant.
There are up to 15 beers on tap at any given time, and no Cape brewery offers more variety, from a coffee-flavored stout to a carrot cake ale to a blonde ale aged on Pablano, Serrano, and Jalapeno peppers.
Barnstable Brewing is a decidedly smaller operation. Until last year, it brewed small batch beers on a one-barrel pilot system, was only open a couple of days each week, and regularly ran dry of beer. That changed in 2018 when founder Peter Connor installed a fully automated 30-barrel steam brewhouse. Now, the family owned business is open six days a week and offers samplers, flights, pints, and cans to go.
It also offers the coziest, most comfortable tasting room, with wood flooring and earth tones throughout. A long granite bar with two TVs seats 12, and there are four high-top tables that each seat four, along with one long table running parallel to a bench that can accommodate another eight. There is also an outdoor beer garden with tables and Adirondack chairs. But the best spot to sample the local brews — which run the gamut from a blueberry ale and creamy American Pale Ale to a coffee vanilla milkshake IPA and a roasted barley stout — are the three plush leather couches.
Tucked away off the beaten track in a South Dennis industrial park is Devil’s Purse Brewing Co. The atmosphere is nil, but the beer is superb. The eclectic offerings include a German-style Kolsch, a classic IPA, an Oyster stout, and a berry ale.
The final stop on the trail, Hog Island Beer Co. in Orleans, features an expansive Bavarian-style beer hall that includes numerous table games, such as foosball, shuffleboard, and ping-pong. There are two bars, one for beers and another for food, wines, and spirits. The food menu includes lobster rolls, chowder and hot dogs, lobster corn fritters, locally grown veggie pizzas, and Bavarian pretzels. In season, there is live music nightly.
Outside, there is a family-friendly atmosphere on the patio, with lawn games and picnic tables. A doublewide custom garage-style door opens the interior to a large pergola patio, where children play cornhole and their parents settle into Adirondack chairs. Befitting their location, there is currently a White Shark Wheat on tap, along with a Moon Snail Pale Ale and an Outermost IPA.
It’s approximately 35 miles from the 6A Brewing Co. in Sagamore to Hog Island Beer Co. in Orleans, with about a 10-mile detour to Mashpee and Falmouth. But in that stretch, there are around 50 beers to choose from, each unique and brewed on location. Clearly, the craft beer craze has come to Cape Cod.