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The History of Beer in Boston

In 2015, throngs of hard-working people end the day at Boston brewpubs, restaurants and bars. Just as it is elsewhere in the country, beer is big business in Beantown. Our love for suds is hardly a new phenomenon, though. This November, we’re celebrating the beloved libation by recounting the history of beer in Boston.

  • First tavern license issued
  • Beer made commercially
  • Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon
  • Commercial beer production scales up
  • Original Boston Beer Company is oldest U.S. brewery
  • Modern Boston Beer Company produces Sam Adams
  • Beantown brewpubs flourish

Cups of Beer with Dinner in Boston, MA Although off-the-books ‘ordinaries’ had already been serving food and ale, Samuel Cole was granted Boston’s first tavern license in 1634. Beer was most likely brewed on the premises, and a number of other beer-makers opened their doors around this time. Robert Sedgewick began brewing beer commercially, and the city made it official with a brewing license in 1637.

Area pubs and breweries supplied Europe-bound ships with beer, and ship captains joined the trade by opening breweries near the harbor in Boston. Although most beer made by commercial brewers was exported, area taverns still made beer on a similar scale to that of brewpubs in 2015. One such place, theĀ Green Dragon, served as a meeting spot for the Sons of Liberty. Sadly, the Revolutionary War landmark was demolished for the widening of Union Street in 1828.
Hamburgers with a mug of beer in Boston, MA In 1789, the ‘Act To Encourage The Manufacture & Consumption Of Strong Beer, Ale & Other Malt Liquors‘ helped spur larger-scale commercial beer production. However, it wasn’t until 1828 that big beer-making really took off. The Boston Beer Company — not the same company that makes Sam Adams — shipped its product well outside the region.

The company survived Prohibition alongside the Haffenreffer brewery well into the 20th century. In 1984, Jim Koch opened another Boston Beer Company and began making Sam Adams beer. Not all of BBC’s beers are made here, but the former site of the Haffenreffer brewery houses its Research and Development department. You can also book a November tour here. In 2015, there’s no better way to pay tribute to the history of beer in Boston.

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