On a recent trip to Boston, I had a chance to stop by Night Shift Brewing for a tour and tasting, and was extremely impressed. I made sure to hit all of the breweries I could find in the Boston area, and at the end of the day, Night Shift was easily my favorite of the bunch.
If I had to pick a favorite brewery right now, it would be Almanac Beer Co. I think their Farm to Bottle approach is awesome, their branding is spot on, and their beers are flavorful and unique.
I mention Almanac because I was reminded of them when I visited Night Shift Brewing. I imagine them as long lost brewery brothers, living on either end of the United States, and both brewing incredible beers that define what the microbrew movement is all about.
To see why I made the comparison, consider the following:
Almanac adds seasonal ingredients like blackberries, plums, and oranges, sourced from local, sustainable farms; Night Shift adds unique ingredients like habanero peppers, rose hips, and cacao nibs to their beer, giving each a unique and very distinctive flavor.
Almanac just released a Honey Saison; Night Shift has a Bee Tea that’s made with orange blossom honey.
Almanac uses distinct labels that bring each beer’s story to life; Night Shift uses distinct labels that have the ABV, batch #, and bottled on date all written on by hand. (Note to other breweries: Both Almanac and Night Shift put the recommended glass type on the label. This is extremely helpful, and I encourage other breweries to follow their lead.)
I mention all of these factors because, if it wasn’t for the fact that I live on the opposite end of the country from Night Shift, it would easily rank alongside Almanac as my favorite brewery.
Night Shift Brewing was founded by three friends that decided to turn their passion for nocturnal brewing into a profession. They started out in a Somerville, MA kitchen, and eventually moved to a nanobrewery in Everett, MA, just outside of Boston.
The brewery itself is located in a… questionable part of town, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you could easily miss it. To get there, you basically drive through a run-down, industrial area of the city, and then you turn down a small alley and keep your eyes peeled for a sign on the door.
Once inside however, you’re greeted with a beer lover’s paradise, and it’s obvious that the three friends behind Night Shift have a passion for great beer. The bar isn’t huge, the tap handles aren’t outlandish, and the cups are plastic, but the guys pouring your beer are the same folks that spend the rest of their days brewing it, and you get the feeling that they could talk about beer every hour of every day and never grow tired of it. Plus, they’re more than happy to give you a tour of their brewery and walk you through the process they use to bring their unique flavors to life.
The warehouse they’re in also houses another brewery, Idle Hands Craft Ales, and there’s room for a few more nanobreweries to move in there as well. I can easily imagine the warehouse eventually becoming a home for the mad scientists of the brewing world, working on wild and crazy beers before unleashing them on an unsuspecting public.
As for the beers that Night Shift had on tap, each one was impressive, and I continued to be pleasantly surprised as I worked my way down the tasting list.
There was Taza Stout, brewed with chicory root and ginger and then aged on cacao nibs from Taza Chocolate, which had an impressively chocolate finish, and went perfectly with the bar of Taza Chocolate we also bought from Night Shift.
Then there was Rose, a Saison brewed with rosemary, rose hips, and honey, then aged on crushed pink peppercorns, which resulted in a fragrant, flowery aroma and a nice, spicy finish.
Then there was Bee Tea, a wheat ale brewed with sweet orange peel and orange blossom honey, then aged on organic, loose, gunpowder tea leaves, which results in orange and honey aromas, a sweet flavor, and an herbal finish that brings the tea side of the beer to life.
Finally there was Viva Habanera, a rye ale brewed with agave nectar and aged on habanero peppers. This beer was no joke, and the habanero peppers added quite a bit of kick to the finish, challenging you to take another sip.
My only disappointment of the trip was when I learned that they don’t distribute outside of the Boston area just yet, since it means I’ll have to wait till I make a return trip to get another taste. I did pick up a few bottles for the trip home however, and packed them in my suitcase for a long flight back to the West Coast.
If you’re in the Boston area, I highly encourage you to seek out Night Shift and take the tour. (Just make sure you get good directions first.) It’s a peek into where I hope the brewing world is going, with bold flavors, passionate brewers, and a fun environment that welcomes anyone and everyone to try a new beer and go beyond the basic brew.