After too many months enduring the fickleness of New England weather, nothing beats the simple pleasure of a beer outdoors. The days are longer, the sleeves are shorter, and the patio spaces of breweries across the North Shore open up for beer drinkers to take full advantage. The simple pleasure of imbibing in the sun is not lost on Jay Bullen, the owner of Amesbury’s Brewery Silvaticus.
“For most of us, the long New England winter builds anticipation and appreciation for the warmer months,” he says. “Nothing tastes quite as invigorating and satisfying as that first gulp of lager beer while soaking in the sunshine shoulder to shoulder with other revelers in the beer garden. If fresh air, fresh libations, good company doesn’t make you happy, well then there may be no saving you.”
Plus, having a beer outside should be relaxed, informal, and communal. So says Notch Brewing’s founder Chris Lohring.
“Unlike a restaurant patio, no one is trying to turn your table or handing you a check to move you along,” he says. “You don’t even need to consume food, just grab a beer and hang. . . . You can move around from table to table to see friends.”
New England is home to some of the country’s finest breweries. On the North Shore, there is no shortage of spots to link up with some beer-drinking buddies, take the family for an afternoon adventure, or just roll solo. All this can be done in pursuit of some of the areas finest in lagers, IPAs, sours, and stouts.
Here are five we love to visit:
Brewery Silvaticus, Amesbury
In Amesbury, Bullen and his wife, Michelle Riaz, have attempted to faithfully recreate the atmosphere that emulates an afternoon spent at a European beer garden.
“[We offer] good music, great service, communal seating, and authentic lager beer,” says Bullen.
Silvaticus’s porch is situated upon the Powwow River, nestled next to the beautiful brick facade of the brewery. On any given day, the scene could include families, dog lovers, and newcomers, as well as regulars. All of the beers are a reflection of the Old-World drinking scene: mostly low-ABV lagers like Quintessential, a German-style pilsner; Belgian-style ales like Sabotage, a farmhouse pale ale; and a Radler, which is a pilsner mixed with lemonade.
9 Water St., Amesbury, 978-504-2337, silvaticusbeers.com
Great Marsh Brewing Company, Essex
Along the same road where fried seafood reigns in Essex is Great Marsh Brewing Company, where you’ll find an extensive tap list covering bases from hop-forward IPAs to roasty brown ales to crispy lagers. For the non–beer drinkers, there’s a lineup of craft hard seltzers.
The pristine facility on the Essex River boasts beautiful scenic views from the deck. Check out some tacos or some pizzas while you’re visiting.
99 Main St., Essex, 978-890-7827, thegreatmarsh.com
Notch Brewing Company, Salem
Notch Brewing is the standard-bearer for Old World beers in New England, if not the country. Located on the South River in Salem, Notch is the ultimate nod toward the Bavarian beer gardens: crushed gravel, beer garden tables, and seasonal flowers and hops.
“We are one of the few [breweries] to serve liters,” says Lohring. “So you can sit there for a long time without needing a thing.”
The vibe at Notch is stereotypical Salem. That is, “weird in all the best ways imaginable,” says Lohring. “We also don’t have giant Jenga or cornhole, as those are distracting if you are there to chill out, and that is what we want people to do, just chill out.”
Most of the beers range from 4 to 6% ABV. For Czech-styles, try The Standard. If it’s Bavarian beer you’re after, keep an eye out for the Hefe Weisse or Dunkel Weizen.
283R Derby St., Salem, 978-412-7674, notchbrewing.com
Riverwalk Brewing Company, Newburyport
Riverwalk Brewing Company has been a stalwart in the Newburyport beer scene for more than a decade. Owner Steve Sanderson has created a welcoming atmosphere at the brewery, which includes a large outdoor section that’s constantly packed on weekends with families filling up on pizzas and true-to-style ales and lagers.
Riverwalk’s tap list is as diverse as any brewery's and can find a style for any beer drinker. Yacht Rocker is a 5% ABV wheat ale that’s certain to quench a summer thirst after a day of shopping on State Street; Granite Crush is another low-ABV sipper that’ll satisfy both hopheads and casual drinkers.
40 Parker St., Newburyport, 978-499-2337, riverwalkbrewing.com
True North Ale Company, Ipswich
On Route 1A, True North Ale Company is a BYOF (bring your own food) brewery. Often, too, beer drinkers will be able to grab something from the wide array of food trucks at the brewery to take back to the porch to enjoy alongside their beer and a new friend.
“We encourage guests to mingle at our large, shared tables,” says Gary Rogers, the brewery’s founder. “We have worked very hard to make our taproom a place for community.”
True North’s tap list includes a number of hazy, New England–style IPAs, including Northern Haze, which won the bronze medal at the prestigious Great American Beer Fest. Another beer, Cerveza, a Mexican lager, won gold at the same festival. Still, Rogers beamed at trying the flight of fruited sour beers.
116 County Rd., Ipswich, 978-312-6948, truenorthales.com