“Eat your view.”
“Consume grass-fed, free-range, small batch, homemade foods.”
These are the battle cries that we have heard in recent years, and many of us have responded by buying produce at farmer’s markets and paying more attention to how or where our food is produced. Eating locally is equally great for the environment, our regional economies, independent businesses and our bodies. And these same benefits can be seen by drinking locally.
Massachusetts is awash with a kind of local-brewed, grassroots spirit in companies like Cisco, Rapscallion, and Berkshire Brewing Company, cutting down the distance that our beer travels. But with all this great beer flowing, it’s tough to stand out. One local company has tried to do just that by having great quality beer paired with outstanding bottle designs and make-you-wonder beer names.
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is a small-scale, local company that brews really exceptional beer. Instead of brewing specific styles of beer, brewer Dann Paquette is inspired by “times, places, people, ingredients.” While Paquette and his MIT-scientist-wife Martha live in Cambridge, they currently brew their beer in Westport, Massachusetts.
The couple is also known for their intriguing bottle artwork and beer names, like Jack D’or, St. Botolph’s Town (my personal favorite and a nice reference to the origins of the name “Boston”), and their spring seasonal beer, Baby Tree. You have to smile when a beer company says that inspiration for their spring beer comes from “springtime, lambs, Yorkshire and babies-in-trees.” Their winter seasonal brew, a dark “woodland” stout called Babayaga, is named for an old witch from Russian folklore, and features a bottle adorned with a picture of her forest hut standing on chicken legs straight out of a frightening fairy tale.
Running my own very official beer tasting, I tried this stout on a blustery Boston evening after dinner. With its chocolate-y smooth undertones, the Babayaga succeeded as a stand-in for dessert. I followed beer expert directions and let the bottle’s temperature warm a bit, which allowed the taste to fully develop. In our first sips, we noticed a smoky smell, a nice smooth taste and a surprisingly medium bodied character. I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about dark beer is that it is heavy and bitter. This was definitely not the case with Babayaga. It is a strong beer at 7% alcohol, and is not something I would want to drink loads of in one sitting, but it was a perfect warming beer for that cold, calm night.
With beer of this caliber and a team of brewers this creative, drinking local beer is one virtuous act that results in positive benefits for all. If you’d like to support Massachusetts-brewed beer, check out this list. Learn more about the environmental impact of drinking non-local beer.