A Local’s Guide to a Day in Boston

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and last weekend I was finally able to embrace fall in Boston. Fall is my favorite season and the crisp bright sunny days are perfect to enjoy this walkable city. While out and about last weekend I noticed that many of the people I passed on the street were tourists, presumably here for some New England leaf peeping before the harsh winter sets in.

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city is to take a break from the textbook touristy stuff. I like to check out some places and events that locals love, so I thought I would come up with local’s guide to Boston.

Boston is a fun, young, vibrant city full of life and culture. On any given day you can find things to do. One of the best things about Boston is that if you’re not familiar with the city, you can still be in the know. When I’m looking for something to do in Boston, I check out Eventbrite, a website that gives you information and access to some of Boston’s best events and allows you to create your own.

shop small small business welcome mat

I’m a big lover of small businesses so first on the agenda for a day in Boston would be breakfast or brunch at the South End Buttery. One of my favorite brunch spots, the South End Buttery is nestled on a cobblestoned corner in Boston’s South End. I ate New Year’s Day brunch here last year and my world has been changed ever since.

brunch south end buttery restaurant boston

If you’re up for a walk, take a stroll from the South End to Copley Square, through Boston’s beautiful Public Garden and the Boston Common. The country’s oldest public gardens are immaculately kept, year round, and a great spot for taking pictures and enjoying the outdoors.

boston public garden

Continue your walk through Government Center to Haymarket where you’ll find the Boston Public Market.  The year-round public farmer’s market opened just this summer and is host to dozens of local small business. Here you’ll find everything from locally sourced honey and bath products to fresh produce and baked goods.

From there head to the North End, Boston’s “Little Italy” and the most historic neighborhood in Boston. It’s where Paul Revere lived (you can visit his house) and made his famous Midnight Ride warning the colonists of the British Invasion. Check out the Old North Church, the site of the lanterns that alerted Mr. Revere to the incoming Red Coats and take a tour of the historic site. I recommend touring the creepy yet informative crypts then visiting Captain Jackson’s Chocolate Shop for something sweet.

old north church boston

Photo Credit: Old North Church

If you’re thirsty from all of the walking, the next obvious stop is the Harpoon Brewery and Beer Hall. Located in the Seaport, a trip to the child-friendly Harpoon Brewery and Beer Hall gives you the chance to ride the country’s oldest subway, called the “T”. There’s nothing more local to Boston than riding (and complaining about!) the T. In addition to beer, Harpoon’s serves up spelt grain pretzels made from the leftover beer grains and flights of their finest brews. If you’re into beer, you’ll appreciate that you can try Harpoon Leviathan IPA, an imperial IPA only on tap at the two Harpoon breweries. Harpoon hosts events throughout the year, so check to see what’s happening when you’re in town.

pretzel and beer harpoon brewery boston

For dinner I recommend venturing over to Harvard Square to Alden & Harlow, an American family-style restaurant with an eclectic menu that boasts a “secret” burger and some of the best cocktails in the city. Walk around Harvard Square as evening falls, perhaps grabbing a cup of coffee at Crema Cafe.

If you’re up for more walking, a haunted ghost tour is the perfect evening activity in the fall. Boston Intuitive offers a Spirits of Charlestown Ghost Tour that will leave you pondering the afterlife and maybe even afraid of the dark.

From there you’re on your own to relax after a long day of enjoying some of Boston’s finest small businesses and eating your way through town!

American Craft Beer Fest Boston 2015

Last night was the night that all beer geeks in Boston have been waiting for – American Craft Beer Fest. As it’s known by it’s cult followers and hashtag users, ACBF is the East Coast’s largest craft beer fest. Put on by Beer Advocate and Harpoon Brewery, the fest boasts over 640 beers on draft from 140+ breweries and draws over 15,000 beer drinkers. It’s basically the Super Bowl of beers and it was awesome.

american craft beer fest 2015 boston

Although I had been to beer fests in the past, this was my first time at American Craft Beer Fest.  I knew it was going to be a great night of delicious beers so I prepared accordingly for the occasion by hydrating during the day. My boyfriend and I made the standard pretzel necklaces to snack on in between tastings. This proved to be a good move, not only in terms of palate cleansing, but it also kept us from having to wait in the long line for food.

beer fest pretzel necklaces

Usually a proponent for drinking local, I employed the opposite approach at ACBF and sought out breweries from out West. With over 140 breweries, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hit them all so I filtered the options based on availability in Massachusetts and the selection of beers being poured.

My short list of breweries included almost 30 “must visit” booths. I knew with all of the excitement and crowds it would be a challenge to ensure that I hit every spot, so I did the most sensible thing I could think of and customized the ACBF Map with my short list. My helpful boyfriend helped navigate and checked each brewery off as we sampled.

american craft beer fest map

Public WIFI wasn’t available, or at least the password wasn’t written anywhere, which put my Untappd obsessed self into a tizzy. Thankfully this didn’t last long, as I quickly realized that the event program included an alphabetized list of breweries with each beer they were pouring and a box to rate the beers. Crisis avoided.

american craft beer fest beer list program

Best Beers of the American Craft Beer Fest

The beers were great! There was an unsurprisingly strong presence of West Coast IPAs for hop heads to sink their nose into, enough Stouts and Porters to transport you back to those cold winter days, and a surprising showing of Sour, Gose, and Wild Ales to make your mouth water. I love IPAs but I tried to steer clear of the hoppy pissing contest to preserve my taste buds. There’s nothing worse than a numb mouth at a beer fest.

I go to beer fests to try new beers but often I find myself trying the same types of beer. The sheer number of beers and breweries at ACBF enabled me to go further outside the comfort zone of my palate. My standout beers of the night were a pleasant surprise to me and included:

21st Amendment: Down to Earth (Session IPA), Anderson Valley: The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose (Gose), Anderson Valley: Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout (Stout), Bear Republic: Tartare (Berliner Weissbier), Boulevard: Ginger-Lemon Radler (Fruit), Founders: Mosiac Promise (American IPA), Four Quarters: Misery (Sour), North Coast: Puck (Saison), Rogue: Fresh Roast (Brown Ale), Shilling: Poppy Moonship (Gose), Southern Tier: Choklat Oranj (Imperial Stout), Stone: Cali-Belgique (Belgian IPA)Unita: 22nd Crooked Line Birthday Suit (Wild Ale), Victory: Sour Monkey (Wild Ale)

Disappointments

I was unimpressed by Fiddlehead, which was sad considering the accolades I had heard. I want to tell myself it was because I tried their Wild Ales at the end of the night but I was blown away by Schilling Beer Co.’s Poppy Moonship right after.

Although there were more than enough breweries to enjoy, I was really annoyed to find that Fort Collins Brewing Co. didn’t show up! It was on my short list of breweries to try, so I was pissed to walk up to their booth and find it empty. I hope they made a showing for the Saturday show so that others don’t share in my disappointment.

Another disappointment of the night, and likely everyone else’s favorite part, was the line for Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Spanning almost the entire width of the beer fest, it was obviously American Craft Beer Fest’s most popular brewery. I wish I had the patience to wait in line or the forethought to go to their booth first, but I don’t and I didn’t and my ACBF experience did not include Lawson’s.

I was also a little bummed at the t-shirt selection but we can’t have everything. All in all, Beer Advocate’s American Craft Beer Fest was an awesome craft beer experience and everything I wanted it to be.  If you get the chance, definitely get tickets to the next ACBF—I can’t wait for next year!

The Awkward Transparency of Writing a Blog

One of the most difficult things about writing a blog is being transparent.

By virtue of writing a blog, my life is on the internet. Stating the obvious, I know. But seriously, it’s weird and self absorbed.  I’m not that important that people actually care what’s going on in my life, yet I write anyway, pretending they do. Ok, according to Google Analytics there are some people who do – the rest are probably my mom and ex-boyfriends.

The part I struggle with the most is exactly how much of my life to put online. Ironically, I share enough on my social media accounts for someone to find out my full name, place of employment, and daily caloric intake. If someone cared enough, they could probably follow me around Boston – but shouldn’t because I carry pepper spray and have a super loud voice while screaming for help and that’s just weird.

When it comes to my blog though, I’m more reserved. I have friends who blog about depression and eating disorders and medical issues and I’m over here writing about choking on hard boiled eggs. This is my space for travel adventures and beer tours and funny stories about my life in Boston. You know, fluff.

While fluff is funny and self deprecation is endearing, it lacks personality. My actual self – my insecurities, my dating life, the fact that I will likely die with law school debt – isn’t on here. Possibly because my ex-husband who loved to censor my writing online. Months after our divorce I received a cease and desist letter from him for referring to him as a douchebag on a quasi-anonymous dating blog I wrote. Not the smartest moment but also not legally actionable since:

  1. Truth is a defense to defamation, and
  2. I never used his name.

I’ve been so worried about putting too much information about myself online that I never considered that the person I was showing was just a shell. When asked what I write about, I point to stories that show pieces of my life instead of a person with feelings who embraces you when you enter the site. And I don’t like that.

I don’t like that my personal brand, for lack of a better term, is merely a series of disjointed events pulled together by an affinity for carbohydrates peppered with complaints about the weather and my old career. So I’m changing that, to the best of my ability, while still maintaining a sense of propriety and protecting the privacy of others.

Divorce made me closed off from others. Ironic because I’m a chronic oversharer, but it made me vulnerable and afraid of these things called feelings. It’s been a while since I’ve really shared myself with people. My job as lawyer left me miserable and embarrassed about having stagnated my career for dreams of love and happiness that turned into a cold pile of crap. So I didn’t write about my feelings or deep thoughts or aspirations for the future. Not anymore.

The past year has been an awakening for me. A change of career and perspective has made me happy and motivated. I’ve even turned into a hugger. Ok, Startup Institute is really to blame for that – those team-building, feeling-cultivating, happiness-making, group-hugging people. They totally killed my tough guy street cred.

And so this is where I find myself now. In this awkward place on my blog, trying to figure out what to say to people who probably haven’t even read this far. If you have, thanks for letting me get that out. Come on, bring it in for a hug.

tinafey hug gif

Townie: Night Shift Brewery

Last weekend I participated in one of Boston’s newest “cultural” experiences–the taproom at Night Shift Brewing.  Although the brewery has been around since 2012, the taproom is brand spanking new, as it just opened on May 22.  Some people might not think of a taproom as culture, hence the air quotes, but I’m pleased to report that in terms of craft beer, this was a decidedly awesome experience.

I headed out to Night Shift with a self-described food nerd friend.  While he doesn’t exactly share my love of malted hops, he has a car, and my charm was enough to convince him to chauffeur me to Everett, MA in search of the Boston area’s newest taproom.  The ride to the taproom was super easy considering I was the passenger, but my chauffeur insisted that it was fairly convenient and in close proximity to Costco, a fun fact that I refused to let him act upon.  While I may be desperate for a ride, I do have standards and trolling for food samples on a Saturday isn’t my cup of tea.

The taproom felt straight out of Denver, Colorado.  No stranger to drinking establishments, I had visited the Denver Beer Company while out West for a wedding last year and Night Shift was creepily reminiscent of that great experience.

From the picnic tables to the bathroom placement, it was like I had been transported back to Colorado a year later, almost to the day, complete with a beer drinking selfie in a blue striped shirt. Weird.

The only thing missing was outdoor tables (thanks Massachusetts blue laws), a dog friendly space, and board games.  There’s hope for at least one out of the three.

I got a flight of 4, which for $8 was a good deal for 16oz of beer.  There were 6 beers available to taste and 7 if you’re a member of their club.  However, only 4 of the 6 were available as part of the flight.  I tasted them all–Trifecta, En Garde, Viva Habanero, and Jojo…and then I got a 4oz sample of the Ever Weiss and Simple Sour…and brought home 5 bottles.  I was in a sour beer mood and took advantage of the three sour beers on the menu (En Garde, Ever Wisse, and Simple Sour) although the Viva Habanero was also a favorite solely for being the first habanero beer to ever grace my palate.

Other tasters commented on the Trifecta which appeared to be a taproom favorite.  While it did have a good flavor, I’m not the biggest Belgian style fan unless it’s a triple or a quad.  If you’re going to throw a beer at me that will sit like a stone, you better make it count.  For those who don’t drink or who were suckered into driving, there are non-alcoholic options as well.

Current laws prevented there from being food at Night Shift so they have a BYOF policy.  I wish we had gone there on a day when there were food trucks, as I could have used some sustenance, but no one ever went to a taproom to eat.  That being said, I can’t wait to go back to drink.

Beer Party Preparations

Several weeks ago I was inspired an awesomely hilarious night at Kate’s house to throw a beer tasting party.  That and my friends always tell me they don’t like beer (which I cannot understand) and I have set a goal to prove each and every one of them wrong.
So today I’m having a beer tasting party for a bunch of my friends, and several people I barely know…the more the merrier, right?!  
I usually host small get togethers but after mentioning the idea to three different groups of friends, they all wanted in. At first I thought about hosting three smaller get togethers–one for blog friends, one for volleyball team friends, and one for law school friends.  Then I remembered that I’m lazy and want my friends to all meet each other, so I’m mixing groups.  Cue panic attack!  To top it off, a few friends of friends are attending.  Cue bigger panic attack and feverish attempts to clean the house!
It’s not that I don’t love all of my friends and think they’ll all get along famously, but there’s a certain anxiety that you have by putting together people who knew you in school for years, people you met over the internet, and people you sweat with…and even more anxiety when you realize that all of these people will be judging you on your candied bacon making abilities.
Since only small groups of people know each other I had to figure out a way to invite people.  Emails get annoying, I’m crazy about Facebook lockdown, and mass texts are the bane of my existence (unless they’re pics of my niece and nephew–keep those coming!).  I thought Evite was long past its prime, but it fit the bill for such an occasion.
I created an adorable invitation, complete with a little rhyme.  Yes, I’m that cool.
Join me on a holy day for a wannabe Pinterest-worthy beer tasting par-tay! I’ll fill your tummies with fun things to eat, you provide an alcoholic treat! Just bring a brew that you want to try–lager; stout; IPA; amber; pilsner; lambic; hefeweizen; porter, oh my! 

I think I’m ready for the party.  There is cheese, bacon, beer, tasting glasses, a burlap table runner, and dog beds disguised as floor pillows because I don’t have enough seating in my apartment.  My only hope is that people drink enough and don’t realize there’s a bike in the corner of my apartment and a spacebag of clothes behind the door.

Cheers to the weekend!