The History of Beer in New England


The founding of the beer-making industry in New England was an accident, as the beer-brewing pilgrims who stayed in the area more than 400 years ago were intending to move to another location other than New England. But the booming beer business in the region is not an accident since it is achieved through decades of hard work by the owners and the employees of the beer companies and the dedication to their craft have allowed New England to turn into one of the top producers of great-tasting beer in the United States.

To know more about how the beer in New England accidentally came to be, let’s dive into the amazing history of many people’s favorite alcoholic beverage in the region.

The Pilgrim’s Beer

When the pilgrims from England traveled to the southwest and into what will eventually be known as the United States of America, they were supposed to continue sailing aboard the Mayflower to the south of the Hudson River until they reach Virginia.

However, during the middle of their travels, they have started to run out of beer to drink. You would think that the pilgrims were just a bunch of drunkards who wouldn’t survive without drinking beer for a day, but it is believed during that time that beer is much safer to drink than water, as the alcoholic beverage has gone through a lot of filtering and pasteurizing compared to regular water, which is typically unprocessed. In addition, beer goes well with a lot of food that they brought for storage during their trip, so that’s why it is vital for them to have plenty of beer in their ship.

Since they are unable to get ingredients while they are on the Mayflower ship, they decided to stop their journey in Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 1620. During their stay in Plymouth, some pilgrims were able to grow and gather ingredients used for making beer, and then they started to sell or distribute their creations to other pilgrims and neighbors.

Also, during the period of their settlement in Plymouth, beer-making was considered a prosperous profession among settlers, as the beverage was high on demand, and the breweries would never run out of customers. It was through beer brewing that many colonists in New England became wealthy, which helped them expand their business.

The Boston Beer

Boston financial district

When the colonists expanded their area of influence in North America, the city of Boston (established in 1630) was one of the first areas where beer brewing became prominent in the New England colony. Four years after the founding of Boston, a settler named Samuel Cole acquired a license to open up a tavern in the location, and through this license, he was able to not only own a building in Boston but also to brew beer in his tavern.

More taverns began to pop up in several parts of Boston in the years after 1634, particularly in the docks where beer can easily be transported to other areas of New England as well as Europe. The docks where the pubs are located will eventually be named the Financial District. Thanks to the excellent placement of taverns and breweries in the city, the beer-making industry in Boston began to flourish.

The Hazy New England Beer

For many years, the beers in New England taste and look exactly the same as the ones you would find in Texas and other beer-brewing states and regions in the United States, but this will all change when one beer brand in New England took the risk of changing the American beer formula and make their beverage stand out among the others.

The brand is named Heady Topper, which is owned by The Alchemist that is located in Stowe Vermont. Before the founding of The Alchemist, a man named John Kimmich started living in Vermont in 1994 in order to learn more about the art of beer brewing. He began to take lessons from Greg Noonan, a renowned beer brewing expert in New England, and soon after, Kimmich worked as the head brewer at the famous Vermont Pub and Brewery.

It was while working at the pub where Kimmich met his future wife Jen, who helped him start a brewpub called The Alchemist in November 2003. He began serving the Heady Topper occasionally at his pub, and it slowly gained recognition over the years, which prompted Kimmich to establish a production brewery in 2011 in order to meet the demand for the Heady Topper.

It is interesting to note that The Alchemist and the Heady Topper didn’t have any kind of marketing and advertisement in Vermont, and its popularity was only gained through multiple drinker recommendations as well as top ratings from reviewers in beer-focused websites.

The Heady Topper beer is famous for its hazy appearance compared to other beers in America that are almost crystal clear. Its taste is also quite different from other beers, as the Heady Topper has a pronounced bitterness with a smoother and juicier flavor.

Due to many people considering the Heady Topper as one of the best beers in the United States, many breweries in New England decided to copy the formula for Kimmich’s beer in order to replicate the Heady Topper’s success, which resulted in the creation of the term New England IPA (NEIPA) to name the popular hazy beer.

Today, breweries in New England offer new and exciting ways to drink beer for those who want to discover beers that are different from the ones they usually drink. The “haze craze,” as some people outside New England would call the hazy beer fad, will not fade away until a brewery tops the Heady Topper’s innovation in the beer industry.

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