Tough question. First, I’ve only been to Boston a few times for beer related things and secondly, on the East Coast (especially in the Albany area) we only get the most widely distributed West Coast beers you guys have to offer so I’m not sure I’m going to be able to help you as much as I’d like with the comparison to West Coast and and East Coast beer, but I’ll try the best I can.
If you’ve done any reading around here you know I’m a big fan of northern Vermont and its beers, and luckily you’re in one of the three cities that get irregular distribution from The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids, although Lawson’s usually only shows up for Boston Beer Week. It’s tough to say when they’ll drop in your city but keep a lookout on BeerAdvocate’s New England forum and you should be able to get a heads up. Boston is about the same distance away from Northern Vermont as I am, so if you ever feel like taking the trip up there, check out a few pointers I had for a previous “Ask” here.
Speaking of BeerAdvocate, since they’re based out of Boston they do several festivals in your new city throughout the year. For example, The Night of the Funk (this year will be my first time) and Belgian Beer Festival is coming up on the 7-8th, and they have an even larger festival (American Craft Beer Festival) during the beginning of the summer, plus random special events at local bars throughout the year. Definitely check that out.
You’ve got a couple of new breweries that are making a splash in Boston right now: Idle Hands and Nightshift Brewing. They’re both just outside the city, and while I haven’t had much from either I’m hearing good things. Make sure to give Cambridge Brewing Company a shot, too. My buddy Merc had a bad experience there recently, but all other accounts I’ve heard have been good. You’re also going to get some great beer from High and Mighty, Jack’s Abbey, and Pretty Things out your way. Keep an eye out, you can’t go wrong with most of their stuff. You’re also going to get some decent distribution of some nearby breweries like Maine Beer Company, and Portsmouth Brewery is definitely worth a day trip. For a more detailed breakdown on what you’re new distribution is going to look like, check out SeekABrew and compare MA to CA.
A couple of obvious suggestions for pubs are Lord Hobo, Publick House and one my personal faves, Sunset Grill. (They has some 100+ taps and 300 bottles on their beer list, and while some brewpubs with huge menus like that do so because they don’t have a decent “beer sommelier” I’ve never had a bad experience at Sunset and have always found something decent to drink.) Don’t forget Deep Ellum right by Sunset, too. Also, just a heads up, I’m not sure how it is in California but in NY I’m used to a 4AM closing time for bars. In Boston it’s 2AM. Be aware of that and prepare yourself if you’re used to late night drinking. I was caught off guard one of my first nights in Boston. It’s worth mentioning that Armsby Abbey in Worcester is only about an hour away and 100% worth the trip, especially on an event day. I’ve been to StoutFest before, and will be heading to their Hill Farmstead Dinner at the end of the month.
Bottle shops are where I’m going to be a little stumped. I haven’t done much other than festivals and barhopping in Boston but I’ll try my best here. Granite Liquors is about 20 minutes outside the city and is rated something ridiculous like 100/100 and is touted by many as the best bottle shop in the state. A little closer is Craft Beer Cellar. I’ve been following them on Facebook for a while and looks like a great shop. This is another area where SeekABrew will help.
OK, that’s all I’ve got until I make my trip to Boston in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll have some more help for you after that. If any of you other guys have some more advice for moderndayclassic please fill him in. Thanks!